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Music and Transfiguration

Ignorance is Bliss: Historically Informed or Not?

Yesterday, I heard part of a recording, from the 1950s I think, of Bach's Mass in B minor. As I understand it, this places the recording a couple of decades before historically informed performances became a big to-do in the music world. Compared to Robert Shaw's 1990 recording that I own, this older recording was strikingly fresh. Now, Shaw's recording is quite spectacular in its own way, and I'm not knocking it at all, but, as for me, I've never been a big fan of the historically informed performances.


Treasure Hunt

In just about any subject, particularly if you're studying it from a historical perspective, it doesn't take long before you start to realize that the really juicy stuff, the knowledge that you can really sink your teeth into, is sometimes not easy to get to. In music, for example, C.P.E. Bach's Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments was long neglected, even in Germany, and did not appear in an English translation until the 20th century. Other treatises have suffered similar fates.


The Second Question: "What is Music Theory?"

Following up from my previous post, the remaining question to be answered is, "What is music theory?" At the time that I had written my paper, this was a rather intriguing question. It was a chance to voice my opinion of what I believed to be the most important factors of what music theory is. In part, music theory is exactly what I described in my response to the question of why we need it. It is the conceptual knowledge that makes up a piece of music and it's equally applicable on both sides of the fence.


The First Question: "Why do we need music theory?"

The past few days I've been doing a little bit of early spring cleaning on my computer. In the process, I found a paper I had written back in college. It was for one of my theory courses and the purpose of the paper was to answer the questions "What is music theory?" and "Why do we need it?" After reading through the paper, I realized my thoughts have to some degree changed.


Ayn Rand's "The Romantic Manifesto"

This is an outstanding book written by one of the greatest authors and philosophers of the past century. The book is exactly what it's title suggests: a declaration of what Romanticism was and Romanticism ought to be. It begins by dealing with the basic question of "What is art?" From there, Rand deals with the basic issues of each the arts: literature, sculpture and architecture, music, and the performing arts. The largest part of Rand's book is directed toward her own field, literature.

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Where's Waldo? Almost to the top at Amazon.

Now this is almost unbelievable and I haven't seen it discussed much yet. Yesterday I posted a little bit about Waldo de los Rios and his interpretations of standard classical works. From what I can gather, and I may be wrong about this, but he is more or a less a borderline obscure artist. Wednesday morning his top ranked CD was in 136,000th place on Amazon. Yesterday afternoon radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh played de los Rios’s performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor during his show. As of right now, de los Rios has jumped to 28th place on Amazon.


The Classics and Waldo de los Rios

Usually, I don't care much for the pop remixes of classical works. More often than not, the remix is so far removed from the spirit of the original work that it amounts to nothing more than a mauling of a great work of art. However, I was introduced to the performances of Waldo de los Rios. The album is simply called Classics, and to be honest, I was quite surprised at these remixes. Just listening to them was fun and, for the most, they remained fairly true to the character of the work.


A Chance Discovery

Over the weekend, I chanced upon Bach's Prelude and Fugue in G minor BWV 535. It is not one that I ever remember hearing before, but I have become quite attached to this piece. It has proven to be quite an interesting and fun piece to study and full of all kinds of compositional goodies. Most striking is the middle part of the prelude. Chromatically descending diminished seventh chords and fundamental sevenths create a tonally ambiguous section more typical of late Romanticism than Baroque music.


In Pursuit

He that hawks at larks and sparrows, has no less sport, though a much less considerable quarry, than he that flies at nobler game: and he is little acquainted with the subject of this treatise, the understanding, who does not know, that as it is the most elevated faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater, and more constant delight, than any of the other. Its searches after truth, are a sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great part of the pleasure. - John Locke


When in Doubt, Follow the Great Composers

"If one has the talent it pushes for utterance and torments one; it will out; and then one is out with it without questioning. And, look you, there is nothing in this thing of learning out of books. Here, here and here [pointing to his ear, his head and his heart] is your school. If everything is right there, then take your pen and down with it; afterward ask the opinion of a man who knows his business." - Mozart to a boy who asked him how to learn composition

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