Welcome to the new site! Big props and thanks to Richard Sweeney, lute player and web site designer extraordinaire, for his great work on the site. Richard is not only the guy you want to build your website or design your CD cover, he’s also the guy you want to consult regarding the proper roles of bowed bass and theorbo (respectively) in 17th-century instrumental chamber music, or the performance of 18th-century continuo in an historically-informed manner. Last but certainly not least, he’s also the dude you want to call to play the lute for you, especially if historically-informed, and — most importantly — extremely-well-played lutenizing is your bag.
When Richard first suggested that I should have a blog, I agreed completely. However, I soon realized that there could be some potential problems with maintaining one. Primarily, I couldn’t (and still can’t) quite figure out how to find the time to keep up with it; secondly, I could all too easily see my blog inevitably slip into the usual pit of rambling, ego-centric pretentiousness (I am, after all, a harpsichordist). Giving the situation some thought, however, I have decided to go ahead, with a concerted effort to avoid rambling and to avoid being pretentious. Postings will be infrequent, but what I hope to do is to offer a “series” of sorts relating to the state of the historical performance movement: where are we, where are we going, why do we do it, and where should we go from here? I apologize in advance if I annoy anyone; I do hope, however, to have some interesting and cool discussions with colleagues, friends, and fellow travelers. So, by all means, please join in!
Over my years performing and participating in the wonderful insanity that is early music, I have come to realize something about myself, and I state this as a confession of sorts: I am an early music purist. I love researching performance practice, and I love musical experimentation with the purpose of trying to figure out what we’re doing “wrong” (from an historical standpoint) and what we could do better. I also love to waste time obsessing over the aesthetic and philosophical issues behind the probable folly of what I love doing. It is my hope that these random blog postings will not only reflect this obsessing, but will also inspire debate. In the past I have been accused by more than one of being a member of the “performance practice police,” and justifiably so. While I don’t apologize for being an early music purist — after all, someone has to be one — I do apologize if my opinions ever offend anyone. I shouldn’t have to state this, but there are, of course, many approaches to playing early music, and I really don’t want to promote the view that an historically-informed approach is “better” than one that isn’t. People make compromises regarding performance practice issues for a variety of reasons: for instance, one may decide that a personal creative impulse should supersede a commonly understood historical fact in a particular instance, or one may have the desire or need to put on a concert despite being hampered with limited resources, financial or otherwise. I like to think that a purist approach is just one of many perfectly valid options for performing earlier music in the context of contemporary society and modern concert culture. In the immortal words of the Big Lebowski, any opinion on such matters is ultimately “just, like, your opinion, man.” That said, the movement did start with the goal of performing earlier music in a manner closer to what may have done historically. If we are now in a situation where there are many “valid” options / approaches / methods in HP practice, I guess my own concern is that the “purist” approach to early music performance has, in my view, become all at once unpopular, corrupted, co-opted, and misrepresented.
My postings will be infrequent and in no sort of organizational structure. I hope you enjoy them — and apologies for already rambling and being fairly pretentious!