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Is Performance practice relevant?

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 10:39:42 -0800 (PST)
From: Todd Michel McComb
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

I cannot resist making some more remarks on this subject. My
apologies if they are getting tiresome.

First, I don't think there is any question that Ensemble Organum's
interpretations are not "authentic" in many cases, and so I have
started from this position to examine what value they may have
aside from "historical education" (which I see as the inherent goal
of "authenticity" per se). This education has done a great service
for "music as art" and so these two forces usually align, for now.

That said, I must disagree at least partly with the point of Peter
Niedermueller that "authenticity sells." Yes, the "authentic" (or
"HIP" as we now say in English) performances are driving classical
sales. But is it because they are proclaimed to be authentic? I
think not. I suggest that it is because they are new, and that
"authentic" has become a convenient label for "new in this way."
When such things are no longer new, ah, then it gets interesting!

Hence my remarks on Ensemble Organum jumping into this "post-authentic"
phase early, although I am quite certain there will be much more of
this....

A further set of remarks on "HIP" i.e. "Historically Informed
Performance":

We have taken to saying "HIP" so as to avoid the connotations of
"authentic" and suggesting that other performance traditions are
"inauthentic." There is perhaps an implication that, once "informed,"
someone will proceed in a certain way, yes? I would suggest that
Peres is "informed" and so is an example of a real divergence in
the concepts of "HIP" and "authenticity" in a way perhaps not
intended by the original substitution of terms.

Ah well, aesthetic theory is my bread & butter... I hope my remarks
are easily accessible in other languages.

///////////////////////

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 21:35:57 -0500
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: "Matthew Westphal"
To: "Todd Michel McComb" ,


Todd McComb wrote:

>I cannot resist making some more remarks on this subject. My
>apologies if they are getting tiresome.

I think this topic is fascinating, and I doubt I'm alone in thinking so. (I
do wonder, though, if we should also bring this up in rec.music.early.)

>First, I don't think there is any question that Ensemble Organum's
>interpretations are not "authentic" in many cases,

There's no question for those of us who follow early music closely enough to
be on this list, but I wonder about the broader public (which isn't all THAT
large, granted) which attends his concerts or listens to his recordings. I
don't know what research, if any, he has published in journals, but his
program notes for his records rarely explain how he comes to the conclusions
he does or what evidence he bases those conclusions on. With any given
program, he tends to simply state the basic assumption from which he
proceeds as if it were fact (not even really acknowledging that it is an
assumption) and carry blithely on from there.

[snip]

>That said, I must disagree at least partly with the point of Peter
>Niedermueller that "authenticity sells." Yes, the "authentic" (or
>"HIP" as we now say in English) performances are driving classical
>sales. But is it because they are proclaimed to be authentic? I
>think not. I suggest that it is because they are new, and that
>"authentic" has become a convenient label for "new in this way."
>When such things are no longer new, ah, then it gets interesting!


Very good point. However, I can't help thinking that HIP performance is
driving classical sales (in the relevant repertory, at least) in large part
because THE MUSIC SOUNDS BETTER THAT WAY. Personal preference, to be sure,
but a preference most members of this list probably share.
>
>Hence my remarks on Ensemble Organum jumping into this "post-authentic"
>phase early, although I am quite certain there will be much more of
>this....

If Peres gave any indication that HE thought of his work as
"post-authentic", I'd be thrilled. But so far as I can tell, he doesn't.
(Rather the opposite, I think.)

Can Todd or anyone else give any other examples of "post-authentic"
performance? Would Bimbetta qualify? The collaborations between Jan
Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble and between the Orlando Consort and
Perfect Houseplants? Female ensembles singing music generally considered
to have been written for men's voices and vocal ranges (Musica Secreta
singing Palestrina or Anonymous 4 singing the Monpellier Codex)? The
Mediaeval Baebes?

>A further set of remarks on "HIP" i.e. "Historically Informed
>Performance":
>
>We have taken to saying "HIP" so as to avoid the connotations of
>"authentic" and suggesting that other performance traditions are
>"inauthentic." There is perhaps an implication that, once "informed,"
>someone will proceed in a certain way, yes? I would suggest that
>Peres is "informed" and so is an example of a real divergence in
>the concepts of "HIP" and "authenticity" in a way perhaps not
>intended by the original substitution of terms.


The problem is that we're not really certain how informed our mad genius M.
Peres is -- and we can't tell from what he tells us.


///////////////////////

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 18:57:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: Todd Michel McComb
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Matthew Westphal writes:
>I do wonder if we should also bring this up in rec.music.early.

All of these aspects have been raised of late there, although
admittedly not in the same thread. They will be again, I'm sure.

>I can't help thinking that HIP performance is driving classical
>sales (in the relevant repertory, at least) in large part because
>THE MUSIC SOUNDS BETTER THAT WAY.

Well, I don't really agree.... Most of the medieval & Renaissance
music was not performed at all prior to HIP, so there isn't much
to compare. For the rest, I have no clear preference either way,
frankly. I'm definitely interested in the "historical education"
aspect though, and I think that's a clear benefit.

>If Peres gave any indication that HE thought of his work as
>"post-authentic", I'd be thrilled.

I don't have any of his remarks at hand, but if one reads them as
if he might think this, and in the sort of French postmodern idiom
he uses, I don't find the idea so difficult to believe. Perhaps
I read too creatively?

>Can Todd or anyone else give any other examples of "post-authentic"
>performance?

Hmm, a good question....

Do you know Sour Cream's _Passion of Reason_? That's one I can
think of off the top of my head. The remarks by Kees Boeke are
rather interesting as well. I made some other comments on it in
my web column, under the title "Recorder Consorts" if you want to
look. Sylvain Bergeron also did an interesting dramatic program
around Reis Glorios. There are other examples... but it is an
embryonic field.

>Would Bimbetta qualify? The collaborations between Jan Garbarek
>and the Hilliard Ensemble and between the Orlando Consort and
>Perfect Houseplants? Female ensembles singing music generally
>considered to have been written for men's voices and vocal ranges
>(Musica Secreta singing Palestrina or Anonymous 4 singing the
>Monpellier Codex)? The Mediaeval Baebes?

I want to answer these, at least to clarify what I meant by the
term. Perhaps others will revise the definition.

Bimbetta I do not know. I would call Hilliard/Garbarek as simple
"fusion" and not post-authentic at all, and the same for the Orlando
Consort. Female ensembles would be a more straight-forward
adaptation, and again not what I would call "post-authentic" at
least in the examples you cite. The Mediaeval Baebes I do not know
either, but I might guess from what I've heard that they are pop-HIP
fusion.

There are always various boundary cases, of course, where things
become less clear.

>The problem is that we're not really certain how informed our mad
>genius M. Peres is

I disagree. He is very informed. Look at the erudition of his
sources, etc. That is information... in other words, informed.
Does he make "rational" choices? Perhaps not, but I would argue
that it is a different thing. I do not see rationalism as integral
to art. There are repercussions to that remark.


///////////////////////

Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 09:57:29 +0000
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: Peter Wilton
To: Matthew Westphal
Cc: Todd Michel McComb , med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

In message <005701be181c$6e740240$5df24e0c@computername>,
Matthew Westphal writes

>There's no question for those of us who follow early music closely enough to
>be on this list, but I wonder about the broader public (which isn't all THAT
>large, granted) which attends his concerts or listens to his recordings. I
>don't know what research, if any, he has published in journals, but his
>program notes for his records rarely explain how he comes to the conclusions
>he does or what evidence he bases those conclusions on. With any given
>program, he tends to simply state the basic assumption from which he
>proceeds as if it were fact (not even really acknowledging that it is an
>assumption) and carry blithely on from there.
>
Of course, he doesn't always make a "Greek Orthodox" sound, does
he? The Cistercian Chant record, for example, sounds reasonably
"conventional", and in fact much more conventional than Ensemble
Gilles Binchois usually does. (Though I assume that EGB would be
considered "historically informed" by more people?) What exactly is
the nature of Peres' departure from authenticity/HIP? A few vocal
ornamentations not in the neumes in Old Roman chant? Is this not
feasible, given that one of the possible explanations for the differences
between Old Roman and the Frankish "Gregorian" version of it, is that
the Roman chant continued to change and develop after a version of it
had already been fixed in the "Gregorian" Frankish kingdom? And then
there are signs which some believe, even in "Gregorian" suggest that
pitch was not entirely fixed as we now know it...

>
>Very good point. However, I can't help thinking that HIP performance is
>driving classical sales (in the relevant repertory, at least) in large part
>because THE MUSIC SOUNDS BETTER THAT WAY. Personal
>preference, to be sure,
>but a preference most members of this list probably share.

But if they do, that is merely because it has become the convention, and
19th century musical conventions have come under attack not only in
early, but also in popular and 20th century "classical" musics (e.g
Taruskin's comments). If the music "sounds better that way" to the
people on this list, that cannot be for any absolute reason. Personally, I
wish people would encourage themselves to be more open in their
tastes. We may live in an age of musical pluralism, but in the case of
many people it ifteb seems to be a pluralism of remarkably closed
groups. John Potter's recent book points out that when Rossini first
heard the "modern classical voice", he hated it. Potter goes on to
suggest that the HIP early music voice and the classical voice are both
variants of each other, and that "early" singing would have sounded
much more ordinary and text oriented, rather than oriented towards
melodic line (amongst other differences). As for "sounding better",
when I came to make a choice for the purchase of a S. Matthew
Passion, I decided it would be refreshing to go for a large orchestra and
chorus with soloists of the Shirley-Quirk/Pears era. I'm very pleased
with it!


///////////////////////


Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 09:03:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Reply: RE: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: "Rob C. Wegman"
To: Nick Sandon
Cc: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

On Fri, 27 Nov 1998, Nick Sandon wrote:

> Sarum chant
> Drones: why?
> rhythmic groups: why??
> Byzantine sounds: why???
>
> Perhaps you have evidence to support this approach;
> otherwise it seems thoroughly misconceived. What is the
> intention?
>
These questions irresistibly call to mind Richard Taruskin's essay 'The
Pastness of the Present', of which the following passage in particular
seems worth quoting:

A performance simply cannot merely reflect the sketchy state of objective
knowledge on a point of performance practice, it must proceed from the
conviction that a full working knowledge is in the performers'
(subjective) possession. While generations of scholars chew over [Arthur]
Mendel's seven pages of problems, what is the poor performer who wants to
sing some Josquin des Prez to do? Wait till all the evidence is in and all
the articles are published? He will probably never open his mouth. Rejoice
that the answers have not been found and he is free to do as he likes?
That is certainly one solution--but he who would do so risks rebuke these
days from scholars whose implicit attitude seems to be, 'Shut up until we
can tell you what to do.' This kind of destructive authoritarianism is
rampant in reviews of performances of medieval and Renaissance music,
where just about any performance at all is open to the charge of 'mixing .
. . musicology and make-believe', if that is the kind of tack the reviewer
wishes to take. Professor Mendel himself, sad to say, made a habit of
giving performers, in Grout's words quoted earlier, a 'bad conscience'
about what they were doing, by challenging them to justify it on hard
evidence. He presided over a terrifying workshop at the Josquin Festival
Conference in 1971 on the performance of Josquin's Masses, and used the
positivistic inductive method as a veritable stick to beat modern
performers. No matter what they did, Professor Mendel could find some
theorist or source to say them nay. Nor can I ever forget the time
Professor Mendel travelled up to New York to hear Nikolaus Harnoncourt
lecture at Columbia about his ideas on Bach performance. The professor
played the grand inquisitor: 'But Mr Harnoncourt, do you *know* that's
true?' he intoned again and again. Mr Harnoncourt could only splutter.

From: 'The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past', in
Nicholas Kenyon, ed., Authenticity and EArly Music (Oxford, 1988),
137-207, at 202.

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 13:42:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Reply: RE: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: Nick Sandon
To: Rupert Damerell
Cc: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Sarum chant
Drones: why?
rhythmic groups: why??
Byzantine sounds: why???

Perhaps you have evidence to support this approach;
otherwise it seems thoroughly misconceived. What is the
intention?

On Fri, 27 Nov 1998 13:15:56 -0000 Rupert Damerell
wrote:

>The Burgundian Cadence is performing Sarum Chant.
> We shall be using drones (sung) during the full sections of
> chant, while the verse sections are pure monody. Rhythmic
> groups are the impetus behind the phrasing, and a brisk
> tempo does evoke the Byzantine sounds.
>

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 11:30:45 +0000
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: Peter Wilton
To: Matthew Westphal
Cc: "R.A.Howe" , med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

In message <001c01be1961$0776c960$46c44e0c@computername>,
Matthew Westphal writes
>**It doesn't mean that the sound is that of the fourteenth
>century,** but it's something different from the standard tradition that
>we're used to hearing nowadays.

I'm also pleased to see this phrase in particular. I suppose what I had in
mind when talking about Peres' chant recordings is something that
David Hiley (_Western Plainchant_, p. 385) said when talking about the
notation of chant rhythm: "...our experience of the rhythmic
characteristics of music outside the tradition of Western art-music has
opened our ears to the possibility of much more flexible patterns than
can be recorded easily with conventional Western notation. One has
only to look at transcriptions of, say, the chant of the Coptic church
(NG 4, 731, col. 1) to become suspicious of simple 'equalist' or
'mensualist' interpretations. Might not the singing of the ninth century be
equally difficult to capture in modern written form?"

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 10:43:43 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum (fwd)
From: Geoffrey Chew
To: Subscribers to list

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Richard Widdess

In case anyone wants to pursue the Corsica connection, may I recommend an
article by Caroline Bithell: "Polypohnic voices: the recording of
traditional music in Corsica", British Journal of Ethnomusicology 5
(1996), pp. 39 - 66. It might provide some context for the attempt (in
itself surely laudable) to experiment with Corsican ways of singing. For
example: "Musical elements which are seen to be most quintessentially
Corsican or most exotic can be exaggerated. Melismatic figures in
particular tend to be elaborated by younger singers who have not yet
understood that, in the words of one older singer, 'one is not meant to be
spectacular'...Melisma is further identified by some as a specifically
oriental feature and so comes to play an important part in establishing
pedigree and in maintaining distance from the main body of Western
European music." So that cuts both ways! And later: "At the same time, a
conscious effort is being made by some singers to produce a sound which
audiences will not find alienating. Many feel that if they used the
quality of timbre commonly found in older recordings, 'people would
laugh'." What price authenticity?!

I should make it clear that I hugely enjoy the one CD of Ensemble Organum
that I possess.

///////////////////////

Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 17:04:30 +0000
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: Peter Wilton
To: Matthew Westphal
Cc: Todd Michel McComb , med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

In message <000c01be195b$626ecee0$46c44e0c@computername>, Matthew
Westphal writes

>Well, just to cite one of Peres' more notorious departures, the use of
>Corsican ornaments and vocal timbre in Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame...

I might justify (or not!) experimentation with vocal timbre by
suggesting that the standard way early music is sung in the 20th century
is our (20th century) way of imagining how the music might have worked.
We can't really be sure what vocal timbre was like (and Potter suggests
that the modern "classical" voice influences what is acceptable in our
reconstruction of the "early" voice). I see no reason why non-
Northern/Western Europaean timbres shouldn't be accepted as a
possibility.

As to ornamentation, I would suggest that in chant, we can't be sure how
closely a "score" was adhered to, or what ornamentation there was.
There are neumes which probably denote ornaments, but we don't know how
they were performed. This might, however, suggest that ornamentation
was defined, and that it is unlikely that other, unnoted sorts of
ornamentation could have been added as well. As for later music, I
agree Peres' experiments seem rather absurd, particularly making baroque
neo-Gallican chant sound Eastern Orthodox!

///////////////////////

Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 12:20:09 -0500
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: "Matthew Westphal"
To: "R.A.Howe" ,

Rob Howe wrote:

>Just in case anyone's interested, there is a transcript of Marcel Peres
>in interview at the following site:
>
>
>
>Although it typically doesn't reveal very much of what we are interested
>in here...


Thank you for sending this!

It was very good to read this -- especially the following passage:

* * * * * * *

These [Corsican] singers bring first, an art of ornamentation in polyphony,
secondly, a different way of approaching the music, since they're used to
working only by ear. I love working with them. I think it's now an open
field. **It doesn't mean that the sound is that of the fourteenth
century,** but it's something different from the standard tradition that
we're used to hearing nowadays. Very quickly we go back into our usual
routine, preconceptions. We are so used to hearing these English singers
doing very good musical things, like the Hilliard Ensemble, Gothic Voices -
it's a preconception of vocal production that works, but it's not at all
sure that this was the sound of the middle ages. It's important to break the
preconceptions. The way to perform this music was a hearing way - we're much
too linked to the scores, now. When you look a the scores from the
fourteenth century, there are plenty of errors. That means the singers were
not really reading, they were correcting the mistakes by ear. Working with
singers who are used to working by ear brings you a new approach to this
repertoire, even if it's more tedious.

In musicology, like in the sciences we must have experiments. Too many
people are looking for the truth. The truth is not possible, but we can try
to see our preconceptions and go further in our reflections. All the
performances you can hear are only what the musicians have been able to
imagine about the aesthetic of the music they are doing. That's why it is so
important to get as much information as we can about a specific time, always
bearing in mind that what we present is only the fruit of our imagination.

* * * * * * *

I wish I had read this before (or shortly after) I heard that Machaut
concert in New York (where audience members were actually shooting each
other looks of appalled disbelief).

(I'll give Peres and his singers credit, though. There were perhaps two
coughs from the audience during the entire concert -- an extraordinary
achievement for a fall or winter concert in New York.)

My favorites of Peres' records are those of later chant -- in particular the
18th-century chant from Auxerre and from Paris. That is a sadly
under-explored area of the chant repertory. (I'd like to hear some concerts
or records of Zelenka or Haydn masses in liturgical context!)

///////////////////////

Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 11:30:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: "Matthew Westphal"
To: "Peter Wilton"
Cc: "Todd Michel McComb" ,

Peter Wilton wrote:

>Of course, he doesn't always make a "Greek Orthodox" sound, does
>he? The Cistercian Chant record, for example, sounds reasonably
>"conventional", and in fact much more conventional than Ensemble
>Gilles Binchois usually does. (Though I assume that EGB would be
>considered "historically informed" by more people?) What exactly is
>the nature of Peres' departure from authenticity/HIP? A few vocal
>ornamentations not in the neumes in Old Roman chant?

Well, just to cite one of Peres' more notorious departures, the use of
Corsican ornaments and vocal timbre in Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame...



>But if they do, that is merely because HIP has become the convention, and
>19th century musical conventions have come under attack not only in
>early, but also in popular and 20th century "classical" musics (e.g
>Taruskin's comments). If the music "sounds better that way" to the
>people on this list, that cannot be for any absolute reason.

Hence my use of the word "preference".

>Personally, I
>wish people would encourage themselves to be more open in their
>tastes. We may live in an age of musical pluralism, but in the case of
>many people it often seems to be a pluralism of remarkably closed
>groups. John Potter's recent book points out that when Rossini first
>heard the "modern classical voice", he hated it. Potter goes on to
>suggest that the HIP early music voice and the classical voice are both
>variants of each other, and that "early" singing would have sounded
>much more ordinary and text oriented, rather than oriented towards
>melodic line (amongst other differences).

In secular (e.g., trobador/trouvere) repertory that seems very credible; in
Renaissance polyphony (and even more melismatic styles of plainchant) it
seems less so.

>As for "sounding better",
>when I came to make a choice for the purchase of a S. Matthew
>Passion, I decided it would be refreshing to go for a large orchestra and
>chorus with soloists of the Shirley-Quirk/Pears era. I'm very pleased
>with it!

I think Beecham's Messiah is a blast! But I would not want it to be the
only Messiah on my record shelf, and I would not represent it as anything
other than Beecham's *arrangement* of Handel (along the lines of
Bach/Stokowski).

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 98 16:12 EST
Subject: Re: Re: Reply: RE: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: Richard_WEXLER@umail.umd.edu (rw25)
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Rob C. Wegman quoted Richard Taruskin as saying (in part):

>... This kind of destructive authoritarianism is
>rampant in reviews of performances of medieval and Renaissance music,
>where just about any performance at all is open to the charge of 'mixing .
>. . musicology and make-believe', if that is the kind of tack the reviewer
>wishes to take. Professor Mendel himself, sad to say, made a habit of
>giving performers, in Grout's words quoted earlier, a 'bad conscience'
>about what they were doing, by challenging them to justify it on hard
>evidence. He presided over a terrifying workshop at the Josquin Festival
>Conference in 1971 on the performance of Josquin's Masses, and used the
>positivistic inductive method as a veritable stick to beat modern
>performers. No matter what they did, Professor Mendel could find some
>theorist or source to say them nay. Nor can I ever forget the time
>Professor Mendel travelled up to New York to hear Nikolaus Harnoncourt
>lecture at Columbia about his ideas on Bach performance. The professor
>played the grand inquisitor: 'But Mr Harnoncourt, do you *know* that's
>true?' he intoned again and again. Mr Harnoncourt could only splutter.

But this is silly (and I thank Rob Wegman for affording an opportunity
to respond to it). I was at that session in 1971 and have no
recollection of feeling terrorized by anything Arthur Mendel was
saying. Mendel, of course, didn't have the means to browbeat anyone
and probably never had any intention of doing so in the first place.
He merely was pointing out that certain assumptions then well
entrenched should not be mistaken for facts. This, it seems to me,
is nothing other than good musicology. If Harnoncourt was unable to
account for what he was doing, he had no one to blame for that but
himself.

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 13:39:23 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: Todd Michel McComb
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Richard Wexler suggests questioning the factual basis for any
assumptions:
>This, it seems to me, is nothing other than good musicology.

Rob Wegman also asks:
>Why is a musical approach "thoroughly misconceived" when there
>appears to be no "evidence to support" it?

I think there is no question that disputing all aspects and
questioning every assumption is good musicology. But is it good
for performance? The answer is "sometimes" and we must ask, given
that the two are separate endeavors, whether performance is at the
service of musicology or the other way around, or indeed whether
either is at the service of either.

I suggest that, although the goals of these two disciplines have
aligned closely for some time, this is becoming less true. At
such a point, cooperation is achieved by understanding what is
being attempted in each case, and the onus is on the musicologist
to do that understanding. It is not up to the performer, because
insisting that the performer be able to explain himself is
counter-productive to art.

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 98 20:09 EST
Subject: Re: Re: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: Richard_WEXLER@umail.umd.edu (rw25)
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Todd McComb wrote:

>Richard Wexler suggests questioning the factual basis for any
>assumptions:
>>This, it seems to me, is nothing other than good musicology.

>I think there is no question that disputing all aspects and
>questioning every assumption is good musicology. But is it good
>for performance? The answer is "sometimes" and we must ask, given
>that the two are separate endeavors, whether performance is at the
>service of musicology or the other way around, or indeed whether
>either is at the service of either.

I'd say that both are in the service of the music. The musicologist
learns what can be known and then makes it available to the performer
by way of publication. The performer then reads those findings and
makes a decision concerning whether or not to take them into account.
The music is only well served when the performer in fact reads what
the musicologist has to say. Isn't that what's meant by "historically
informed performance"?

>I suggest that, although the goals of these two disciplines have
>aligned closely for some time, this is becoming less true. At
>such a point, cooperation is achieved by understanding what is
>being attempted in each case, and the onus is on the musicologist
>to do that understanding. It is not up to the performer, because
>insisting that the performer be able to explain himself is
>counter-productive to art.

How is it becoming less true that the two disciplines are aligned?
I just don't see it happening. In my opinion, the onus is on the
performer to know what it is he or she is doing. What's counter-
productive to art is ignorance, and witless performance results in
inherently inferior art.

As for Harnoncourt, I don't have a great deal of sympathy for him.
Surely he knew that the forum where he would be speaking at Columbia
was to be musicological in some way. If Arthur Mendel then showed up
and asked him some difficult questions, perhaps he ought to have been
prepared enough to do more than "splutter."

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 17:58:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: Todd Michel McComb
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Richard Wexler writes:
>I'd say that both are in the service of the music.

This is a big statement. What is the music? I claim that, from
one perspective, the music is what the performer creates and what
the musicologist studies. Note the pre- and post- placements of
the disciplines, although of course the interaction between the
two makes it not so tidy.

>The music is only well served when the performer in fact reads
>what the musicologist has to say. Isn't that what's meant by
>"historically informed performance"?

I agree that this is what is meant by "HIP". But how informed is
"informed" to be? At what point does the performer stop reading
and start performing? There can be no easy answer to this question.

Although I agree that this is basically what HIP is, I do disagree
that this is the only means by which music is well-served.

>How is it becoming less true that the two disciplines are aligned?

For some time, there were no performance traditions of "med-and-ren-music",
and so it could not be approached at all without the aid of the
musicologist. There was no sense of what even the notes & rhythms
meant. This is now mostly untrue, and instead we argue about
ornamentation and other aspects (which I do find interesting
historically as well as in other ways). It is especially untrue
that there is no longer a performance tradition for med-and-ren-music
and so, quite blatantly, the performer can follow that tradition
without speaking to the musicologist at all.

>What's counter-productive to art is ignorance

I disagree with this. Art requires insight, but it does not require
a cosmopolitan completeness of scope. For instance, their isolation
is precisely one reason that native traditions in other cultures
can be so stimulating to us today.

Again, regarding the alignment, it has been generally true that
more informed performances have simply been better... more nuanced,
more emphatic, simply more interesting. Now we see performances
which are also interesting but not as authentic, as per the subject
of this thread. In other words, aesthetics is falling out of line
with musicology. It does not say that musicology no longer has
anything to contribute, but I do think that the two major triumphs
of musicology have been both the historical education (which I
regard as inherently good, but orthogonal to art as such) and most
especially the rediscovery of some *very good ideas* used in the
past. These ideas are good for "the music" because they are good
ideas, and for no other reason.

More familiarity with the music, as jump-started by musicology,
facilitates "good ideas" forming from other directions. This is
what happens, and it will go on happening. What makes these ideas
good is precisely the same nebulous human interaction which makes
any art good, and the only sense in which "authenticity" is above
the fray is the very restrictive sense of "historical education".

>As for Harnoncourt, I don't have a great deal of sympathy for him.

I have no particular knowledge of this scene, and so do not mean
to imply that I am discussing it. I agree that in a musicology
conference, one should be prepared to discuss within the framework

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 98 23:47 EST
Subject: Re: Re: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: Richard_WEXLER@umail.umd.edu (rw25)
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Todd McComb responded:

>This is a big statement. What is the music? I claim that, from
>one perspective, the music is what the performer creates and what
>the musicologist studies. Note the pre- and post- placements of
>the disciplines, although of course the interaction between the
>two makes it not so tidy.

I didn't intend to make any sweeping claims in saying this. I only
meant whatever the music at hand happens to be. But the musicologist
doesn't very often study what the performer creates. More usually
it's what the composer creates. Since most of the time neither the
performer nor the musicologist is present at the creation, it becomes
the task of both to discover a coherent interpretation. The
musicologist seeks evidence of some kind that can be presented to the
performer, while the performer uses imagination and perhaps even
experimentation to develop a performance that might inspire the
musicologist to look in new places for evidence. I hope that's the
kind of interaction you're getting at.

>I agree that this is what is meant by "HIP". But how informed is
>"informed" to be? At what point does the performer stop reading
>and start performing? There can be no easy answer to this question.

But the answer is indeed very easy, I think: Fully informed. When
the performer runs out of things to read, the performance can begin.
There isn't so much written about any particular repertory that at
least the basic literature on it is too much to take in.

>Although I agree that this is basically what HIP is, I do disagree
>that this is the only means by which music is well-served.

And I don't disagree with you about this. There are many
interpretations I continue to enjoy hearing despite their being not
tremendously well informed historically, usually because they sound so
musically intelligent. Glen Gould's Bach, for example. But there are
also many things not in that category.

>>How is it becoming less true that the two disciplines are aligned?

>For some time, there were no performance traditions of "med-and-ren-music",
>and so it could not be approached at all without the aid of the
>musicologist. There was no sense of what even the notes & rhythms
>meant. This is now mostly untrue, and instead we argue about
>ornamentation and other aspects (which I do find interesting
>historically as well as in other ways). It is especially untrue
>that there is no longer a performance tradition for med-and-ren-music
>and so, quite blatantly, the performer can follow that tradition
>without speaking to the musicologist at all.

This sounds plausible, but in reality I don't think it is. Did Arnold
Dolmetsch have ready access to musicologists? (Well, maybe Fuller-
Maitland, to some extent.) Who supported Nadia Boulanger during the
recording of the _Anthologie sonore_? What musicologists did Noah
Greenberg consult? I think he may have modelled the NY Pro Musica on
what Safford Cape was doing in Belgium. But I wasn't saying I thought
performers ought to *speak* to musicologists -- and I believe they
mostly haven't. What I'd like them to do is to read what we publish.
Then, if they disagree with what we're saying, let them follow their
own muses. But at least they'll be informed.

>>What's counter-productive to art is ignorance

>I disagree with this. Art requires insight, but it does not require
>a cosmopolitan completeness of scope. For instance, their isolation
>is precisely one reason that native traditions in other cultures
>can be so stimulating to us today.

The analogy between the recreation of mostly forgotten historical
traditions of performance and the native traditions of other cultures
has limited validity, it seems to me. If a performer of medieval or
Renaissance music chooses to adopt performance practices of other
cultures, I want to know why he or she considers it appropriate. I'm
sure there are good reasons for sometimes doing this kind of thing,
but it's not enough to imply that that's the way they do it in
Corsica, which everyone knows is a backwards place. (I may well be
badly misrepresenting Marcel Peres in saying this, but I hope you can
see what I'm getting at.)

>Again, regarding the alignment, it has been generally true that
>more informed performances have simply been better... more nuanced,
>more emphatic, simply more interesting. Now we see performances
>which are also interesting but not as authentic, as per the subject
>of this thread. In other words, aesthetics is falling out of line
>with musicology. It does not say that musicology no longer has
>anything to contribute, but I do think that the two major triumphs
>of musicology have been both the historical education (which I
>regard as inherently good, but orthogonal to art as such) and most
>especially the rediscovery of some *very good ideas* used in the
>past. These ideas are good for "the music" because they are good
>ideas, and for no other reason.

If I were making a recording of medieval or Renaissance music, I'd
like to think I was aspiring to being more than merely interesting.
But, as you say, aesthetics is falling out of line with musicology --
and with everything else, for that matter. It seems to be
disappearing almost entirely as a consideration of any kind.

Regarding your remark about musicology's being responsible for the
rediscovery of some very good ideas, it seems to me you're be-
traying a certain lack of awareness of what musicology's real
accomplishment has been, that being nothing less that the rediscovery
of the music itself. Even I can remember (and I'm not that ancient)
when what well informed people thought of as music began and almost
ended with the "Three B's."

>More familiarity with the music, as jump-started by musicology,
>facilitates "good ideas" forming from other directions. This is
>what happens, and it will go on happening. What makes these ideas
>good is precisely the same nebulous human interaction which makes
>any art good, and the only sense in which "authenticity" is above
>the fray is the very restrictive sense of "historical education".

Here we're on the same wave length, I think.

>>As for Harnoncourt, I don't have a great deal of sympathy for him.

>I have no particular knowledge of this scene, and so do not mean
>to imply that I am discussing it. I agree that in a musicology
>conference, one should be prepared to discuss within the framework
>of musicology.

I wasn't there, but I don't think it was a conference. It may have
been instead a lecture he delivered to Columbia students, many of
whom, like Taruskin, would have been studying musicology.

///////////////////////

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 21:30:20 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum revisited...
From: Todd Michel McComb
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Richard Wexler writes:
>Since most of the time neither the performer nor the musicologist
>is present at the creation, it becomes the task of both to discover
>a coherent interpretation. ... I hope that's the kind of
>interaction you're getting at.

Yes, partly so, and partly it was an implication that while the
composer is not essential to making music, the performer is.

>But the answer is indeed very easy, I think: Fully informed.
>When the performer runs out of things to read, the performance
>can begin. There isn't so much written about any particular
>repertory that at least the basic literature on it is too much to
>take in.

Ok, basic literature is fine, but there is something new written
somewhere about nearly any repertory every week! I don't mean to
be rude, but I think it is naive to talk about being fully informed.
Surely Safford Cape & Noah Greenberg were quite ignorant of many
of the things we have discovered since, for instance.

>What I'd like them to do is to read what we publish.

I did not mean "speak" in a more literal way, so I am sorry for
any confusion on this point. Dolmetsch and the others of course
did their own musicology, as I see it... things were just less well
established in terms of what was what.

>The analogy between the recreation of mostly forgotten historical
>traditions of performance and the native traditions of other
>cultures has limited validity, it seems to me.

It has very limited analytical validity surely, but there are so
many details of a performance which we can never discover from
purely historical methods... there is something to be said for
living ideas, I think, simply as a source of inspiration if nothing
else.

Anyway, that was not really my idea at the time. I wanted to
suggest only that many artists, including those in other cultures,
manage to create very fine art without a broad knowledge, and so
in short that ignorance is not inimical to art.

A person has only so many skills... the more required for a task,
the fewer people who can possibly perform it. I only ask that you
look at what you are requiring of performers: good technical skill
to make music, creativity in that if they are to follow their muse,
good enough understanding of theoretical issues to read journal
articles, an excellent memory to correlate these references, and
last but not least a flair for rhetoric and disputation!

When I originally said "insisting that the performer be able to
explain himself" I referred specifically to the latter, a skill
which is essentially meaningless for performance itself.

And what of amateur music-making? Music must be seen as something
to be *done*, and one must balance maintaining an eye for what has
been learned against discouraging people who are attempting to
follow their muse or simply show music the ultimate respect by
attempting to perform it.

I see all of these things blending into a kaleidoscope of detail,
and while it would be excellent to have a world of musicians who
are technically sound, creative, and "fully informed", I do not
want to dismiss the others so quickly.

>[Aesthetics] ... seems to be disappearing almost entirely as a
>consideration of any kind.

Ha! Touche! This seems a good invitation to commiserate on the
state of society... maybe another time.

>Regarding your remark about musicology's being responsible for
>the rediscovery of some very good ideas, it seems to me you're
>betraying a certain lack of awareness of what musicology's real
>accomplishment has been, that being nothing less that the rediscovery
>of the music itself.

You mean the dusty old papers with the funny squiggles? What good
are they without some ideas to bring them to life? I think we mean
somewhat different things by "the music itself" but more or less
agree otherwise.

///////////////////////

Date: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 06:52:08 +0000
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: alexander.lingas@modern-languages.oxford.ac.uk (Alexander Lingas)
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Since Byzantine chant keeps getting mentioned, a few comments from the
perspective of New Rome might be in order:

Re: Marcel Peres and Byz. Chant
I think somewhere in this thread somebody mentioned the interview with
Peres in Sherman's "Inside Early Music," in which he is asked about his
collaboration with Lycourgos Angelopoulos (under whom I've studied Byz.
singing and performance practice). Peres responds to this question in two
ways:

1) By noting how very informative he found the perspective offered on
Christian liturgical chanting by someone who comes from an unbroken
monophonic tradition. This relates to some of the matters of perfomance
practice that have already been mentioned in this thread: e.g. vocal style
and ornamentation. As someone who has worked both sides of the street
(among other Western things, I've sung as an Anglican cathedral chorister),
I think that Peres is right about the way in which centuries of musical
development have both removed Western art music from its monophonic roots
and imposed a progressively more literal approach to the realisation of
musical notation (cf. the rather different conventions of the Baroque era).


Moving back to Peres, whatever I may think about his ideas regarding
clocks, I think his point to Sherman about liturgical time is
fundamentally valid. Most Western Christian liturgical services are today
nowhere near as long as their Eastern counterparts have remained. Even
without the extreme of an Athonite vigil before a major feast (vespers,
matins and Divine Liturgy lasting up to a total of 12 or so hours, the vast
majority of it occupied by singing), one only has to go to a more
traditional Greek, Ethopian, or even Russian (19th polyphony and all)
parish for a vigil or matins and Sunday Eucharist to experience a different
approach to liturgical time.

2) Peres also invokes the common Greco-Roman culture that was shared across
the Mediterranean for the first millennium of our era until that of
Northwest Europe swept South and eventually East with the Franks, Normans,
and Crusaders. Sherman doesn't seem to grasp the full importance of this,
but any Byzantinist who is aware of the Eastern Roman Empire's continuity
with the traditions of Late Antiquity will tell you otherwise (this is not
to say there were not substantial discontinuities, but sifting through them
is one of the things that makes Byzantine history and culture interesting).
A musical variation on this theme is Timothy McGee's recent and somewhat
controversial OUP book on the sound of medieval song. For those of you
who haven't read it, he uses medieval singing treatises and notation to
argue that a Roman (i.e. common Mediterranean) style of singing chant went
North, but was gradually abandoned everywhere, including Italy itself.


Re: Drones
Whilst the first report of Byzantine chanting with a drone comes some time
after the fall of Constantinople from a Western traveller, many
Byzantinists are no longer jumping to the conclusion reached by Wellesz:
i.e. anything that doesn't sound like Solesmes-style singing="Arabo-Turkish
influence." (The founders of the Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae seemed to
confuse the palaeographic acheivement of Solesmes with its performing
style, a common enough misconception. They also tried to trigger a
Solesmes-style restoration of medieval Byz. chant, but that is a story for
another day.) As Zev Feldman has noted, most Turkish music (other than a
few syncretistic Sufi genres) does not use an ison. Moreover, there are
references in Byzantine musical mss that could be interpreted as
instructions for the application of a drone. The absence of any references
in the theoretical treatises doesn't seem to mean much, because most of the
theory books of the last two centuries also say little or nothing about
ison-singing, leaving it to the realm of performance practice. Finally, I
should note that probably the first reference to isokratema is in a
medieval Western treatise: the Summa Musice, which refers to it as "organum
basilica" (pace Professor Sandon, here is the justification for the
Burgundian Cadence's use of drones in Western chant).

Re: Peres as "mad genius"
Although I'm well aware of his hearty laughter, I really find this
designation a bit patronising. Although he has had his hits and misses,
Peres works and studies very hard. He runs a centre for studying medieval
music at Royaumont abbey called CERIMM that is a sort of medieval
counterpart to IRCAM. He regularly hosts scholarly conferences on a wide
variety of subjects (Russian Old-Believer singing, various Western medieval
repertories, oral traditions of polyphony, Byzantine chant (in which I
participated), Jerome of Moravia, etc.), the proceedings of which are
published in the series Rencontres a Royaumont. He also has a series of
ongoing study projects employing top-ranked scholars, including one on
music in various medieval cities. In addition, some of his musical
projects take years of preparation. I have heard from Angelopoulos, for
example, that the Ensemble Organum has been working for some time on
singing ornamented chant according to the rules of Jerome of Moravia, all
of which Peres can quote by heart in rehearsal.

Granted, it is a big shock for people to hear for the first time a sound
completely different than the usual mix of Solesmes and English cathedral
singing. Nevertheless, I think that there is a lot more to Peres than
being a "mad genius" who has tapped into the modern market for
"authenticity."

///////////////////////

Date: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 13:02:07 +0100
Subject: Re: Ensemble Organum
From: Luca Ricossa
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

Le 28-Nov-98, Alexander Lingas a