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Early Music!
Last post Sun, Aug 18 2019 by fatis12_24918, 11 replies.
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Posted on Fri, Aug 02 2019 14:04
by Itchy
Joined on Sat, Feb 18 2017, Posts 30

So happy to see SE7 ...with baroque traverso & serpent, especially. To have these available individually would be the best, but I’m positive that’s a very old/ common wish here. I’d be so grateful to anyone to kindly share any 16th or 17th C. work with me (advice & experience re: how you use VSL in this specific repertoire). I own a very good part of VSL’s “early” instruments (about 80%, I think), VE Pro 6 & 7, and VI Pro, but have only very basic actual experience tweaking artics with VSL (I’ve been through Beat Kaufmann’s tutorial). I’m a Sibelius user for ~15 years, Mac since ‘93 and an “armchair musicologist”. PM me & maybe we could share some mxl, sib, midi, etc.! Consort music most appreciated, but any sub-genre is great!

~Christopher
Posted on Sat, Aug 03 2019 14:53
by Itchy
Joined on Sat, Feb 18 2017, Posts 30
Posted on Fri, Aug 09 2019 11:43
by littlewierdo
Joined on Sun, Apr 24 2016, Posts 223

I plan on purchasing a license for SE 7 in a couple weeks. VSL tapped my limited funds releasing dim strings and dim brass back to back, and since I am a student working a nearly minimum wage job with classes starting in a couple weeks, college expenses are coming up due soon. I dont make money from writing music, this is all a very, very expensive hobby for me.

VSL will be getting alot of money out of me this year, I plan on MIR Pro if they ever decide to put it on sale again (which likely wont be in September, because I have a sneaky suspicion, Synchron Woodwinds is coming and / or possibly some variant of Dimension Woodwinds, the latter of which will mean a special edition of woodwinds... so much money *cries*... It isnt all bad, if they release a special edition dimension winds, I can finally write some mixed flute and oboe parts with more realism...).

Anyway, I have a newfound appreciation for 17th and early 18th century music, even if these composers only understood soft and loud with no other variants. Im really excited to get my hands on SE 7, and if they offered a demo, Id do the 30 day demo while I wait the two weeks until money once again comes in to buy a license...

Posted on Sun, Aug 11 2019 20:12
by fatis12_24918
Joined on Sat, Dec 16 2006, Posts 262
Originally Posted by: littlewierdo Go to Quoted Post
I plan on purchasing a license for SE 7 in a couple weeks. VSL tapped my limited funds releasing dim strings and dim brass back to back, and since ...
Anyway, I have a newfound appreciation for 17th and early 18th century music, even if these composers only understood soft and loud with no other variants. Im really excited to get my hands on SE 7, and if they offered a demo, Id do the 30 day demo while I wait the two weeks until money once again comes in to buy a license...


Well, actually these composers were understanding quite more than soft and loud πŸ˜‰ the fact they didn’t write dynamics and expressions at the detail of romantic and contemporary composers, is just due to the musical education: music interpretation was a relatively personal skill, a common practice in the professional environment and each player or conductor was giving life to music, with a mixture of rules and habits and improvisation, following the mood and lines or harmony inspiration.

This is not surprising: look to a page of the real book of jazz... is it meaning that jazz composers and players don’t know about polyphony or arrangement? The opposite, they assume you know so well, that is not requested to write all... same for early music. 😜
Posted on Mon, Aug 12 2019 14:31
by Acclarion
Joined on Sat, Aug 15 2015, Canada, Eh!, Posts 473

Originally Posted by: fatis12_24918 Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: littlewierdo Go to Quoted Post
I plan on purchasing a license for SE 7 in a couple weeks. VSL tapped my limited funds releasing dim strings and dim brass back to back, and since ... Anyway, I have a newfound appreciation for 17th and early 18th century music, even if these composers only understood soft and loud with no other variants. Im really excited to get my hands on SE 7, and if they offered a demo, Id do the 30 day demo while I wait the two weeks until money once again comes in to buy a license...
Well, actually these composers were understanding quite more than soft and loud πŸ˜‰ the fact they didn’t write dynamics and expressions at the detail of romantic and contemporary composers, is just due to the musical education: music interpretation was a relatively personal skill, a common practice in the professional environment and each player or conductor was giving life to music, with a mixture of rules and habits and improvisation, following the mood and lines or harmony inspiration. This is not surprising: look to a page of the real book of jazz... is it meaning that jazz composers and players don’t know about polyphony or arrangement? The opposite, they assume you know so well, that is not requested to write all... same for early music. 😜

Well stated, Fatis :)

www.dearvillainmusic.com - music for live performance by David Carovillano

www.acclarion.ca - concert accordion & clarinet duo
Posted on Tue, Aug 13 2019 03:26
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5401

That is a good point by fatis to compare it to jazz.  You get a chart and do it.  

Also, Bach wrote one of the greatest pieces of music in history - the Art of Fugue - with no dynamics, no orchestration, not even an instrument.   Just the music. 

Or as Jack Webb might have put it, "Just the notes, ma'am."

Posted on Tue, Aug 13 2019 15:03
by littlewierdo
Joined on Sun, Apr 24 2016, Posts 223

The only part of this I would debate is, wasnt the entire point of written music to more accurately play the piece as the composer intended? I will grant you that taste is an important aspect to this, but this is definitely going to be in conflict when multiple players are involved and while a conducter has a large role to play in this, it still leads a very big window of interpretation and vaguery to it all.

Of course, forte is loud, but what exactly does that mean? Of course, that interpretation is up to each player, but that is why more nuanced dynamics were developed, so that the composer could be a bit more specific in that he meant just a little quieter than loud, thus, mezzo forte.

Things like crescendos and decrescendos were developed to create more emotion. I mean, after all, this is one of the defining differences between the Renaissance and Romantic era is more emotion in music. In fact, if you discount Beethoven, who was ahead of his time by a quarter of a century, the entire notion of soft and loud is all composers knew. Composers like Haydn even wrote pieces that literally toyed with the extremes, for example, Haydn composed two specific pieces that toyed with dynamics and tempo: "Surprise" and "Joke".

I dont know, I might be totally off base, I admit, my knowledge of music from this era is not as good as it could be, but it seems to me, I can generally tell the difference in the two eras simply by asking, is there varied tempo or dynamics? If there is, it likely came from the Romantic era (along with the other question of what instruments are here that didnt exist in the Renaissance era).

Posted on Wed, Aug 14 2019 06:08
by Itchy
Joined on Sat, Feb 18 2017, Posts 30

Hey guys! A few basics (I’m sure you may already know) re: tempo changes, dynamics, expressive playing, and conductor-led, composer-dictated rendition vs. the performer's art of interpretation…

Considering that Early Music —pre-Mozart— involved relatively smaller ensembles, the chef/ conductor might well have been one of the ensemble performers. Also, importantly, in those times larger venues didn’t exist strictly for the purposes of musical performance. Generally speaking, as audiences gradually became larger, so did the venues …and so newer instruments developed to suit the setting.

Professional chapel & court musicians of the time were quite skilled in harmony, interpretation, and instrumental technique. Perhaps it’s too easy to assume lots about music was simpler, less refined, or even less touching than in later periods. My advice is to (try to) not hold an opinion, remain open, & check it out.

J.S. Bach’s favorite instrument was the intimate clavichord. Maybe you didn’t know that, unlike the harpsichord/“clavecin” (which plucks the string & then must reset itself before “striking” again), the clavichord’s keys cause a metal “tine” to contact the string for as long as the key is depressed, so it’s (a) capable of vibrato! by wiggling one’s finger on the key, and (b) capable of a range of dynamics by striking the keys harder or softer. In spite of it’s flexibility, it’s such a quiet instrument, I don’t think it was intended for public performance.

The recorder really sank into the background when the transverse flute, with it's greater dynamic capability, came into it’s own; and the poor cornetto and it's dubious intonation (except in the hands of the most skilled) was eventually passed over for the violin. (Also, the plague wiped-out a significant number of cornett players in the early 1600’s!) 

If certain renaissance motets or madrigals, for example, or some intimate Marin Marais played by viola da gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall can bring us to tears, and some early baroque "stylus fantasticus" (Schmelzer!, Biber, Farina, etc.) wow and amaze you with their constant changes of tempo and varying dynamics… how can it be said one period of music is "more than”, or that another one "doesn't contain" a certain musical element?

Musical rhetoric/ "the art of delivery" (and more) was part & parcel of Baroque music. You'll discover the performer was expected to improvise ("spontaneously compose") on the written *roadmap* of sheet music, and also every bit as much trained to squeeze out emotion through their instrument in order to convey the passion of the moment to the audience (much as a skilled orator, once upon a time, was trained to affect a sympathetic audience). 

Last, the art of variation/ "divisions", and embellishments in general, in certain Renaissance instrumental music will blow your mind. Google/ Youtube Bruce Dickey or Jean Tubery (both virtuoso cornetto players), or "recorder" and "van Eyck". Maurice Steger and Dorothy Oberlinger are just two recorder virtuousos who might have us reevaluating what early instruments are capable of.

HTH!

~Christopher
Posted on Wed, Aug 14 2019 13:19
by littlewierdo
Joined on Sun, Apr 24 2016, Posts 223

Dont misunderstand, I didnt mean to imply earlier music was less refined. It was just that music had rules that were set by the Catholic church. Madrigals came long after chants, which were originally monophonic (one note per syllable) and later developed into polyphonic and imitative polyphony. It wasnt until later, when different churches wanted to be different that they began to break the rules and try to be different. This is actually what set Notre Dame apart from other churches. Since the only rule for chants from the Catholic church was that they sing the words that were written on the page, Notre Dame, in order to be different, extended each syllable into ridiculously long and changing notes per syllable, but there was no concept of dynamics. Then, early instrumentation was introduced, instruments like the organ and clavichord and later, the harpsichord were introduced that have no ability to change dynamics were introduced.

This is one example of one of these chants, written by Hildegard. The many notes per syllable was used to differentiate and distinguish churches from one another.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-xhStMloyo

Even madrigals do not feature dynamics other than loud and soft (forte and piano, denoted in the score by f and p, for those that dont read music). As a side note, my favourite madrigal... it makes me laugh every time I hear it... Fair Phyllis :) The part that makes me laugh, the last line *giggle*...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE_7aqtgquo

This is a fantastic resource I am sure ya'll are aware of, imlsp. They have original scans of scores for, well, any pre-modern era song I have ever looked for, as well as midi and mp3 recordings, you can verify what Im saying about pre-romantic era music, and yes, they even have chants you can look up.

https://imslp.org/

It isnt that early music was bad, its that was much more tightly structured and as such, lacked variety. Heck, this is what composers in the modern era were trying to get away from is this tight structure. I would argue, much of these attempts were complete garbage, Schoenbergs later atonal music sounds like noise to me, but Debussy,, while his music lacked much structure, was at least tonal and pleasant.

My point is, music has developed since its origin. It doesnt mean chants are not beautiful, it means they lack complexity and dynamics. As music developed, the idea of loud and soft were introduced, and later, even more nuanced dynamics were introduced.

The intrinsic question is, who is the person that defines the originality of a piece of music? For classical music, it is the entire point of having the score. If the score only has piano and forte, then those are the only two dynamics that should be used if following the score. Anything outside of that is interpretation. Its like reading a book out loud. If I add my own words, am I still reading the book? Since books lack any way to tell the reader how loud or soft to read the words, or how quickly or slowly to read the words, or with what vocal inflections to read the words, that is left to the reader to determine. However, since scores do actually indicate piano and forte, it is reasonable to assume that if a passage is denoted as piano, it should not be played as pianissimo or mezzo piano, it should be played as piano.

Posted on Thu, Aug 15 2019 19:53
by Itchy
Joined on Sat, Feb 18 2017, Posts 30

You make a couple good points, littleweirdo. I think some of our concepts of early music might apply more specifically to very different centuries. Hildegard’s not my bag but my wife digs her music. And again, I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here...

Of my taste & preference, I can only really comment on European music from around 1550-1750. For me, the pull toward those 2 centuries of early music seems to offer some reassurance & sense of order against the chaos of our present world. Also, some of the older musical instruments can make wonderful, uncommon sounds. Early music becomes interesting for me at the points of major change from earliest Renaissance into later Renaissance, and into early Baroque & then Baroque. Maybe into the Galante just a bit.

So, we should clearly differentiate time periods & sacred/ secular. I’d appreciate a reference re: the Church setting rules for music. (Here's where I think you're remembering much earlier lifetimes than my tastes wish for.) In general, of course church music has been & is more conservative than secular… and in the earliest times of written music history, sacred music is probably nearly the only sort of music we have documentation of. So, maybe sometimes the limits of empirical musicological research still leave us some special mysteries!  :) 

 2 interesting references you may dig:
[both are available for preview @ http://gen.lib.rus.ec]

  • Music Theory-Problems and Practices in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Lloyd Ultan, 1978)
  • The Notation Is Not the Music-Reflections on Early Music Practice and Performance (Barthold Kuijken, 2013 IU Press)
~Christopher
Tags: Early Music
Posted on Sun, Aug 18 2019 19:54
by fatis12_24918
Joined on Sat, Dec 16 2006, Posts 262

Yes... the very important point to remember is that even if we don't have any recording to really and objectively know how was a performance sounding, anyway we have a large literature of aneddocts and tales about the emotions and the "affetti" music was suscitating and expressing in both the players and the listeners.

But even more important , we have a large literature of treaties and theoretical or practical guideline for music interpretation, very precisely explaining several of the point littlewierdo was wondering about:

several rules were actually linking dynamics and articulations to melodic lines, and to the mood of the text, so the resulting performance of a line of music had "hidden" information for the musicians, and the habits/rules were so commonly accepted, that "being a good musician" was often measured by the amount of correct and universally accepted expressions and articulations you were able of implementing at first reading, beside the ability of introducing the expected, even if unwritten, diminutions (trills, embellishments etc.) to "finish" the music.

Actually some of the early music styles were so rich of emotions and expressions, that we have records of debates of thoerists about the "abuse" of expressions and dynamics, not the opposite.

Just a sterile and artificial misleading approach to ancient music caracteristic of the time from the early '900 to the '70s was pretty flat and unemotional. The modern school, after careful reading of the litterature is now going in the opposite dirction, just listen to music performed by modern specialists, and what you listen to is... MUSIC. In the real sense of the word. ;)

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