skipped the concert last night
I feel a little bad about not going to the concert last night. I was feeling poorly. I probably could have forced myself to attend, but when 5 PM rolled around I chose instead to have a martini and rest.
I actually dreamed that I was sitting with the conductor from last night’s concert (someone I do know in real life) and talking to him about it afterwards. He was discouraged. I told him it had come off well and that it was a big work.
I do know that a lot of my motivation to go was to support him and my friend Rhonda. Eileen told me she thought I needed to get out more (that’s the truth!), but maybe I was too ill to go. She also said that having a drink never helped her when she was ill. Again, the truth.
scylla and charybdis
I finished the second essay in Baroque Music by Peter Walls this morning. It was written by Frank Hubbard. Hubbard is harpsichord guy. His essay was called “Reconstructing the Harpsichord” and was originally published in 1984. In it, it talks about how he became someone interested in building harpsichords. He talks about meeting and working for Arnold Dolmetsch in England and then returning to America to set up a shop in Boston.
I have read some Dolmestch. Reading Hubbard’s story filled in some of the next steps in how harpsichords made a come back in the 20th century.
Peter Walls quoted this essay in his introduction: “One is always maneuvering between the Scylla of the mindless rationalization of everything for which one can find authority and the Charybdis of an arbitrary subjective judgment.”
Once they have passed the Sirens’ island, Odysseus and his men must navigate the straits between Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla is a six-headed monster who, when ships pass, swallows one sailor for each head. Charybdis is an enormous whirlpool that threatens to swallow the entire ship. As instructed by Circe, Odysseus holds his course tight against the cliffs of Scylla’s lair. As he and his men stare at Charybdis on the other side of the strait, the heads of Scylla swoop down and gobble up six of the sailors.
In other words between two equally horrible choices.
Hubbard points out the mistakes Dolmetsch made. Then he points out mistakes he, himself, made as he tried to make instruments that more reflected the way they were made originally.
I find it fascinating to learn about how the “authenticity” movement evolved. Walls calls it the HIP (Historically informed performance). This is funny because his big book that he has written on the subject is called History, Imagination, and the Performance of Music (2003). This also has the initials HIP but “Informed” is replaced by “Imagination.” I like that.
At another point, Hubbard says something that struck me. Speaking of over fastidiousness in craftsmanship he says: “In morality it is much easier to be correct than just, and in workmanship nothing is more difficult to recapture than that sort of secure and rapid expression given their concepts by old makers.”
I heard in that a small amount of sympathy for someone like myself struggling to make my old harpsichord workable again.
I also find it ironic that reading him inspired me to spend time with Bach suites on my harpsichord stop this morning. It’s hard for me to imagine him being sympathetic with that.
jupe’s musical self image
Today’s Writer’s Almanac poem for the day is 1960 by Billy Collins. It seems to be about making noise while music is being played. During my difficult little prelude yesterday by Francis Jackson, there was lots of noise and movement while I performed. This is not unusual at my church.
My reaction is to work myself deeper into the music if I can. I was able to do this yesterday and, of course, it helped. The piece is kind of big one and it ends loud (and wonderfully I think).
Here’s a recording in you’re interested.
Oops. This is not the entire piece. But anyway you get a taste of it. I think the writing in it is spectacular. Jackson weaves an entire piece out of the materials of the melody and throws in a dash of “At the name of Jesus” as well.
After I finished the piece I was in a stunned space and became vaguely aware that someone was clapping. I only wonder how they could hear the whole thing.
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