Sunday, August 31, 2014

JAMS 67/2 (Summer 2014)

Volume 67, no. 2, of the Journal of the American Musicological Society—or JAMS, as it is familiarly known—is now live online. All four articles include embedded multimedia; two of the four are dedicated to the memory of Pierluigi Petrobelli (1932–2012), a much-admired Italian musicologist who was a Corresponding Member of the Society.
Subscriptions to the Journal of the American Musicological Society are included with AMS membership; the online version is available through JSTOR.
Here is the table of contents of the new issue, followed by abstracts of the four articles.

Journal of the American Musicological Society 

VOLUME 67 · NUMBER 2 · SUMMER 2014

Articles
Allegorical Architecture in Scivias: Hildegard’s Setting for the Ordo Virtutum
MARGOT E. FASSLER

“In the Church and in the Chapel”: Music and Devotional Spaces in the Florentine Church of Santissima Annunziata
GIOVANNI ZANOVELLO

Tartini and the Tongue of Saint Anthony
PIERPAOLO POLZONETTI

Winning and Losing in Russian New Music Today
WILLIAM QUILLEN

Colloquy
Studying the Lied: Hermeneutic Traditions and the Challenge of Performance
JENNIFER RONYAK, Convenor; BENJAMIN BINDER, LAURA TUNBRIDGE, WAYNE HEISLER JR., KIRA THURMAN, JONATHAN DUNSBY

Reviews
Josquin’s Rome: Hearing and Composing in the Sistine Chapel, by Jesse Rodin
JULIE E. CUMMING

The Organs of J. S. Bach: A Handbook, by Christoph Wolff and Markus Zepf; J. S.Bach at His Royal Instrument: Essays on His Organ Works, by Russell Stinson; and Bach’s Feet: The Organ Pedals in European Culture, by David Yearsley
ERNEST D. MAY

Opera in the Age of Rousseau: Music, Confrontation, Realism, by David Charlton
GEORGIA J . COWART

Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical, by Todd Decker
TIM CARTER

ABSTRACTS

Allegorical Architecture in Scivias: Hildegard’s Setting for the Ordo Virtutum
MARGOT E. FASSLER

Hildegard of Bingen's Ordo Virtutum has come to occupy a major role among Western European dramatic musical works, with scenes widely anthologized, multiple studies in print, and several recordings. I argue that the “setting” of Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum is the allegorical architecture created in her first major treatise, Scivias, written in the 1140s and early 1150s. In this period, while Hildegard was composing the play and writing her first major theological work, she was also designing a complex of new monastic buildings, which helps explain her concentration on architectural themes and images. Hildegard has situated the main “acts” of the play within allegorical towers, and the musical dimensions of the play are driven by its unfolding within this architectural understanding, including the “climbing” through the modes and the development of longer processional chants that link the action in one tower or pillar to that of another. We can see that the particular characters chosen for the play from a broad array of possibilities, underscore themes that relate to the lives and governance of Benedictine nuns. Hildegard's work provided parallels for her community between the allegorical architecture of Scivias, the play and its music, and the new church whose building was overseen by Hildegard.

“In the Church and in the Chapel”: Music and Devotional Spaces in the Florentine Church of Santissima Annunziata
GIOVANNI ZANOVELLO

Detailed payment records and notes preserved in the Archivio di Stato di Firenze allow us to reconstruct the relationship of music and space in the Florentine church of Santissima Annunziata. In the late fifteenth century different musical styles and repertories came to define ritually the composite space of the church, one of the main houses belonging to the mendicant order of the Servants of Mary. This special role of music came into focus in the early 1470s and even more in the 1480s, when subsequent priors increased the musical activities, possibly to negotiate the new spatial features of the church after a consequential remodeling. Music thus helped organize key areas that had undergone architectural transformations, linking each part of the building to the specific rituals performed there through special sounds directed at the likely participants. The remodeling also involved a shift in the balance of power, with private patrons coming to control the virtual totality of the church. Music helped address this problem as well, by acoustically marking and reclaiming certain spaces as the friars' dedicated ritual sites, but also creating in its variety a nuanced representation of the community—both ordained and lay—that frequented the building.

Tartini and the Tongue of Saint Anthony
PIERPAOLO POLZONETTI

This article explores the nexus between Giuseppe Tartini's concertos for violin and orchestra, written for the Franciscan Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, and the devotion to this Saint's tongue, still preserved as a relic. Anthony's tongue, hagiographers write, was the instrument of a rhetoric that transcended verbal signification, able to move people of different languages and even animals. Soon, the tongue of Saint Anthony became a powerful symbol of universal language. In the eighteenth century, the Catholic Church, and especially the followers of Saint Anthony, revitalized their global mission to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers. Commissioning orchestral church music was part of this strategy. Like Anthony's preaching, Tartini's music was informed by the utopian goal to reach out to a pluralist community. His music and ideas attracted the attention of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Charles Burney, both engaged in contemporary debates on the quest for universality of music in a multicultural world. Newly discovered evidence sheds light on the liturgical context of Tartini's violin concertos, as well as on religious rituals of music making and listening that left long-lasting traces of sacrality in the secular rites of production and consumption of instrumental music.

Winning and Losing in Russian New Music Today
WILLIAM QUILLEN

This article examines some of the organizational changes shaping Russian new music from the collapse of the USSR in 1991 to the present and their consequences for composers active in Russia today. The Soviet collapse triggered significant transformations in how new music in Russia is funded, where and by whom it is performed, and how it is promoted and distributed. These developments have affected the opportunities available to contemporary Russian composers, their strategies for career success, and how they envision their place vis-à-vis other composers or within society at large. More significantly, such changes have shaped individual composers' creative practices: as composers moved into new collaborative networks after the Soviet collapse; as the resources at their disposal changed; and as they composed for new performers, markets, or patrons, so, too, did their styles change. In explaining musical developments from an organizational perspective, this article draws upon theories from the sociology of culture literature, in particular Howard Becker's idea of “art worlds” and the production-of-culture perspective developed by Richard Peterson and others. The article also considers factors other than organizational ones affecting Russian music today, including the generational shift presently underway as members of post-Soviet birth cohorts enter the professional ranks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Flashmobs, cont'd.

Mark your calendars?



We are informed that:

“On J. S. Bach’s 330th birthday, Saturday, March 21, 2015, musicians around the world will unite to perform Bach for free in subways and public spaces, throughout the day and night, to celebrate our art and to sow the seeds for future generations of classical music lovers.
          
Musicians, organizers, and everyone else who wishes to spread the joy of Bach are invited to join us!  Solos, ensembles, flashmobs and Bach marathons are all encouraged.

Join us as we fill the world with Bach!
For more information visit www.bachinthesubways.com, facebook.com/bachinthesubways, or twitter.com/bachinthesubway.

Write to us at info@bachinthesubways.com.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

Music for Soccer

by Mark Brill

The recently concluded soccer World Cup provided a compelling visual and aural spectacle, combining fine, engrossing, and at times even mordant soccer with music and sounds that were often just as interesting. Sporting competitions, and especially such international competitions as the World Cup, have long been venues for musical expression, though scholars have only occasionally commented on the musical contexts that accompany them.

A particularly intriguing aspect of the competition involves the soccer chants intoned in the stands, both by rabid fans and by casual spectators who invariably get caught up in the excitement. The website FanChants.com has catalogued over 26,000 soccer chants, an enormous repertoire that invites more musicological study.<1> One characteristic of these chants, and indeed of soccer in general, is the way they are divided according to either club or country affiliation. Bitter rival fans within a league (for example those of Barcelona–Real Madrid in Spain, America–Cruz Azul in Mexico, or Flamengo–Fluminense in Brazil) will adopt chants that support their team and denigrate the opponent. But these same fans will temporarily shed their rivalry and join together to support the national team in international competitions, begetting a whole other category of chants.

Edith Bers, professor of voice at Juilliard, explained in a recent Smithsonian article by Max Kutner that most chants are fairly easy to remember and to sing. They “stay within the speaking range,” that is, a five- or six-note ambitus, and contain very few leaps. In the same article, Kay Kaufman Shelemay noted that many soccer chants are contrafacta, where new words are inserted into preexisting songs. Thus, a popular chant of the English club Manchester United is “United Road Take Me Home,” based on John Denver’s “Country Road.” Shelemay also explores some of the psychology of soccer chants. The music, she says, “makes it possible for people to express support, to compete with supporters of the other team, to urge their team on. It has a lot of implications that are way beyond music and sound.”

Perhaps the most popular soccer chant in the world is “Olé, Olé, Olé.” The exclamation “Olé,” derived from the Arabic invocation of Allah, has traditionally been used in Spanish bullfighting whenever the matador makes an elegant pass. It was subsequently adopted by soccer spectators, often when a series of interesting passes is made between teammates, or to cheer on a particular player. Not surprisingly, these are particularly popular in Spain and such Spanish-speaking countries as Mexico and Peru, which also have strong bullfighting traditions. In 1982, the exclamation was converted into a melodic chant in Spain, and was subsequently adopted by soccer fans worldwide, regardless of nationality or club affiliation, and even became popular among fans of sports like hockey and rugby.

Yet not all chants are simple, repetitive, and easy to perform. Particularly at the national level, fans will often intone a more complex nationalistic song (usually other than the national anthem) to display ethnic or national pride. Thus, Mexico fans often sing “Cielito Lindo,” with its famous chorus (“ay, ay, ay, aaaaaaaaayyyyy!”), to encourage the players and establish a sense of national pride. This chant has become so successful and prominent that it has even drawn a corporate sponsorship. Perhaps the most touching singing was heard at the 2012 Euro Cup, when the Irish fans, their team already eliminated from the competition, began singing in their final game a melancholy rendition of “The Fields of Athenrye.

Another musical feature of the World Cup (and almost all sports competitions) is the performance of the national anthem prior to kick-off, to engender in the players and fans a sense of national pride. (This also is a facet of the Olympic Games, though there the performances occur at the end of the event rather than at the beginning, and, in the United States at least, these are now rarely broadcast on television unless the gold medalist happens to be from the U.S.) For many fans watching the recent Cup on television, one of the highlights was hearing and comparing the various national anthems. It is an integral part of the experience to listen to new arrangements of the very familiar anthems from England, Germany or France, to revel in the martial character of the anthems from Mexico or Chile, or to enjoy the operatic qualities of the Italian and Brazilian anthems. Indeed, the national anthem of Uruguay, “Orientales, la Patria o la Tumba,” written by the Romantic composer Francisco José Debali in the 1840s, sounds like it comes straight from a Donizetti opera.

During the recent Cup, the performance of the anthems was particularly striking when Latin American sides were involved, since just about every team was accompanied to neighboring Brazil by legions of fans. In matches that included Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, and (especially) the host Brazil, the organizers would play the accompaniment of the first verse of the anthem over the public address system, and then would often mute the music, leaving the players and tens of thousands of fans singing the second verse a cappella, thus de facto turning the national anthem into a soccer chant, an otherwise rare occurrence. The result (for example this performance of the Colombian anthem) was powerful and often spectacular, particularly for those who identified nationally with these countries or who otherwise had an emotional connection to the music.

Many of the competing countries, of course, have had significant—and often uncomfortable—historical relationships, lending another level of intrigue to many of the matches. (The historic 1986 match between England and Argentina, four years after the Falklands War, is often cited in this context.) The national anthems accentuate these associations, particularly among countries who have been historical enemies (England–Germany, France–Germany, or Russia–Germany, but also U.S.–Iran, Honduras–El Salvador, Chile–Argentina, or Brazil–Argentina), as well as those who have had long colonial relationships (Brazil–Portugal, Spain–Mexico, or France–Algeria).

A television commentator before an Algeria game in the recent Cup pointed out (although I have not been able to verify this) that the Algerian anthem is the only one in the world that verbally attacks another country specifically by name. (“O France, this is the day of reckoning / Get ready to receive an answer from us!”) Awkward post-colonial moments such as these are further complicated by the intricacies of our modern, globalized world, in this case by the fact that many players on the French team are naturalized citizens of Algerian origin, while many players on the Algerian team are Frenchmen who decided to try their luck with the Algeria team after not making the French squad. Thus do 21st-century political realities clash with the vagaries of soccer, all commented upon by national anthems where the nationalistic message is often anachronistic.

The World Cup is also surrounded by official, semi-official, and impromptu musical performances. The players themselves often contribute to the festive atmosphere, with any number of spontaneous (and not-so-spontaneous) celebrations on and off the field, as was the case recently when the Colombian team performed a stylized cumbia after each goal.

FIFA, the organizing soccer body, has historically promoted official songs and anthems that are performed at the soccer venues themselves, and especially on television and other media. To emphasize the world-wide nature of the World Cup, FIFA has often chosen non-European musical performances, even when the Cup is held in Europe. Latin American and U.S. pop stars are called upon to sell the exotic character of the event to the world, but with a special eye toward its European audience. Thus, when the Cup was held in South Africa in 2010, the organizers chose not a European or even a South-African pop star (of which there are many) but the Colombian singer Shakira, whose song “Waka Waka (Esto es Africa)” became an instant world-wide hit. The incongruity of having a Colombian star promote a soccer event in Africa didn’t seem to bother anybody. (The other song chosen by FIFA for the 2010 Cup, “Sign of a Victory,” by R. Kelly leading the Soweto Spiritual Singers, achieved a fraction of the popularity of Shakira’s song.) Previous exotic performances (exotic to Europeans anyway) include Ricky Martin’s “La Copa de la Vida,” and “Hot Hot Hot” by the Caribbean soca artist Arrow, both of which incorporated the “Olé, Olé, Olé” chant. U.S. pop and R&B singers also have performed official Cup songs, including Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull (2014), Toni Braxton (2006), Anastacia (2002), and Hall and Oates (1994). One has to go all the way back to the 1982 Cup in Spain to find a truly representative European musical performance: Plácido Domingo singing “El Mundial.” (A compilation of all the World Cup songs since 1962 can be found HERE.)

The differences between musical depictions of the orient and the west are well known and too numerous to discuss here, but are adequately summarized by Bart Moore-Gilbert as follows: “The East is characteristically produced in Orientalist discourse as—variously—voiceless, sensual, female, despotic, irrational and backwards. By contrast, the West is represented as masculine, democratic, rational, moral, dynamic and progressive.”<2> The East is further perceived as decadent, luxurious, enticing, intoxicating; the West is ordered, civilized, virtuous. These characterizations have to some degree been extended to the soccer realm. The World Cup’s music and dance performances often include well-established signifiers of the exotic other, including non-European scales, rhythms and instruments, nubile scantily-clad women, and exotic locations.

Conversely, the epitome of all-European soccer, the Champion’s League, has an official anthem that is staid, serious and solemn, with unmistakable Baroque characteristics. The European anthem was written by the English composer Tony Britten (who adapted it from a Coronation Anthem by Handel), was performed instrumentally by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and sung by the chorus of the Academy of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields. It represents the height of European (read: white male) civilization, a stark contrast to the decidedly non-European atmosphere of the World Cup, an atmosphere epitomized by a young Colombian woman of Lebanese descent performing beguiling dances in exotic locations.

Also, World Cup soccer has vuvuzelas.

Shakira Performing at the 2010 World Cup
(Wikipedia)


Mark Brill is Associate Professor at the University of Texas-San Antonio. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California-Davis, with a specialization in music from Renaissance and Baroque Mexico. He has written a textbook titled Music of Latin America and the Caribbean (Pearson, 2010). An avid soccer fan, Brill has presented and published essays on music in colonial Oaxaca, music of the ancient Maya, popular music, and the film scores of Bernard Herrmann, Leith Stevens, Maurice Jaubert, and James Newton Howard.

NOTES

<1>The few studies of soccer chants that have been published include John Kerr, Understanding Soccer Hooliganism (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1994),and Donna A. Buchanan, “Soccer, Popular Music and National Consciousness in Post-State-Socialist Bulgaria, 1994–96,” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 11, no. 2 (2002): 1–27.

<2>Bart Moore-Gilbert, Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics (London: Verso, 1997), 39.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What I Do in Musicology

by Janie Cole
NOTE: The AMS Newsletter of the American Musicological Society features a series of reflections from musicologists who have pursued non-tenure-track careers. We are pleased to co-publish this essay from the August 2014 Newsletter.
I am the founder/executive director of Music Beyond Borders (MBB), an organization that focuses on research, cultural-heritage preservation through oral-history archives, publications, and film documentaries of contemporary music history where crimes against humanity and socio-political conditions of repression, violence, protest, and freedom are critical. MBB seeks to uncover how those suffering oppressive regimes use music to protest human-rights violations and advance social justice globally. MBB aims to capture the rich cultural and musical heritage and diversity of the human experience by transforming real stories into instruments that promote public awareness and incite civic engagement to defend humanitarian values and human rights on a global level.

My move into the realm of public musicology was sparked by a new research project upon which I embarked after being awarded the 2010 Janet Levy Prize from the AMS for travel to South Africa. Having spent the previous fifteen years working on late renaissance and early baroque Italian music and cultural history and lecturing at various American universities in Florence, I had begun to explore new research interests in the field of music and human rights. This evolved into a book project about music during the anti-apartheid struggle and its critical role as a tool for resistance, survival, and propelling social justice by political prisoners, especially at the notorious Robben Island prison (which held Nelson Mandela for eighteen years) and the women’s jails. In South Africa, I worked on various archival collections of liberation-struggle materials and started to record oral testimonies and music by surviving political prisoners of the apartheid prisons.

Thenjiwe Mtintso, former deputy secretary general of the African National Congress
and current South African ambassador to Romania,
being interviewed about her experiences in the women’s apartheid jails
by Janie Cole, filmed Ted Bogosian.
The importance of recording the oral histories of unknown foot soldiers of the struggle and crimes against humanity before time runs out (struggle veterans are aging) led to the founding of Music Beyond Borders as a platform for reaching a wider audience through different media, for building a board of scholars and advisors, for fundraising, and for developing social media. My transition from writing academic books to being an activist in music and cultural-heritage preservation has developed the project into various other mediums for scholarly research and teaching, which will include a documentary film, multimedia museum exhibitions, and a unique digital oral-history archive. These auxiliary outcomes provide the potential for the preservation of rare historical evidence in different formats and for future musicological research and development. The processes of filmmaking and production, for example—involving shooting, scripting, editing, securing rights, post-production, social media, and affiliated web sites—become important components that transform the nature of musicological research.

Through public musicology, a wider following can be reached, and a difference can be made. Recording oral histories acts as catharsis and creates positive change in the survivors’ lives and communities. Future screenings of our powerful visual narratives at international film festivals, higher-educational institutions, and academic conferences and seminars can ultimately stimulate social engagement and create a learning tool for future generations, while preserving a unique cultural heritage.

To conclude, I inadvertently now find myself in a brave new world of public musicology with a challenging mission in cultural heritage preservation and developing new mediums for musicological research. I also fully intend to continue to straddle both public and academic spheres through papers, publications, and teaching in the hope of captivating wider audiences, raising interdisciplinary awareness, and inspiring and fostering a new generation of musicologists who will carry forward our discipline.

Janie Cole is Executive Director of Music Beyond Borders.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Four-Handed Monsters

by Adrian Daub

It seems strange to talk about four-hand piano playing as a lost art or a forgotten practice, given how frequently those of us who make music or think about music professionally still sit down at the piano together. And yet, one look at journalism, literature, and visual art from the nineteenth century makes clear how much more universal four-hand playing was then than it is now. Everybody played with everybody—Queen Victoria with Carl Czerny, Nietzsche with Wagner, Mozart with Johann Christian Bach. Everybody wrote about it, thought about it, painted it.

Today when we look back at the music this boom produced we tend to emphasize those aspects and forms of four-hand playing that we still recognize from the way we make music today—four-hand scores as a tool for instruction, as a tool for composition and practice, as a way for educated music-lovers to reproduce orchestral pieces within the comfort of their own home.

It is the basic contention of my book Four-Handed Monsters: Four-Hand Piano Playing and Nineteenth-Century Culture (Oxford UP, 2014; first published in German, Würzburg, 2009) that that is a partial view of the phenomenon, one that makes invisible several factors the nineteenth century itself often seems to have tried to repress about the phenomenon: that four-hand playing, which often demanded close contact between the players, almost necessarily had erotic undercurrents in the prudish atmosphere of the bourgeois parlor; that the mass of four-hand transcriptions meant that it was far more closely connected to the market and to capital than attendant musical phenomena;  that it seemed to play with categories of subjectivity and personhood that fascinated the nineteenth century.    


Marta Argerich and Nelson Freire,
referenced on p. vii of Four-Handed Monsters

In writing the book, I constantly found myself hitting upon modern-day comparisons that didn’t stem from the field of music-making at all, and instead came from the field of hobbies and games—four-hand piano playing was the nineteenth-century equivalent of the CD, the nineteenth-century equivalent of the stamp collection, the nineteenth-century equivalent of Twister, and so on.

What makes the topic so fascinating is that four-hand piano playing could be both a kind of parlor trick—essentially a novelty act, a fun social game to play after dinner—and could function as a conduit for serious thinking about music and an essential part of the transmission of musical expertise.

And usually composers, critics, players, and literary authors refused to make a distinction between one kind of four-hand playing and another. It was an inescapable part of any serious musical consumer’s repertoire, but it was that part he most frequently suspected of being less-than-serious.

The music critic Eduard Hanslick for instance was as passionate a four-hand player as they came. But when he discusses it in his criticism, it’s never quite clear how seriously he takes the practice—one moment he’ll talk about one’s relationship to “my four-handed person” (i.e., his duet partner) as a kind of marriage, the next he’ll compare their consumption of scores to playing cards.

The sense that there was something all-too-private about four-hand piano pervaded nineteenth-century depictions of the practice. The Austrian novelist Arthur Schnitzler regularly played his way through scores with his mother—but when he restaged that scene in one of his stories, he took the scene out before publishing it.

It is this difficulty the nineteenth-century public had in placing four-hand playing, this inability to decide how serious or how frivolous it is, how public or how private, how much it constitutes art and how much it resembles labor, that makes the practice such a fascinating lens through which to analyze the musical world of the bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century.



Here, at the margins of the musical canons, central questions were debated. When painters, writers, journalists, philosophers, musicians and composers watched  the play of two pairs of hands on a single keyboard, they were deciding, re-deciding and contesting what counted as music, what counted as musicianship, what counted as a person, a community, or a country.

Adrian Daub is Associate Professor of German Studies at Stanford University. In addition to Four-Handed Monsters (published with a subvention from the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment), he is author of  Uncivil Unions: The Metaphysics of Marriage in German Idealism and Romanticism  (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2012) and Tristan's Shadow: Sexuality and the Total Work of Art (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2013).

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dear Abbé

Professional musicologists offer answers and advice. Free.


DEAR ABBÉ:

I was recently working at the Boston Public Library and spotted fifteen familiar names hewn in the stone of the Central Library Building. But who are Reynolds and Turner? Not musicologists, I hope.




                                                                 BEFUDDLED IN BOSTON



Reynolds: Charles Burney (1781)
SIR or MADAM:

According to this 1939 Index to the Persons Commemorated by Inscriptions . . . [at] the Boston Public Library, the celebrities in question are the famous English painters Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) and J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851).

Curiously Reynolds and Turner are buried next to one another at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Reynolds, moreover, did paint a fine portrait of . . . a musicologist: Charles Burney.

                             ABBÉ

Thursday, August 7, 2014

C. P. E. Bach (II):
Another Year, Another Anniversary

by David Schulenberg
Four years ago, while many of us were celebrating the two hundredth birthdays of Chopin and Schumann, a smaller number were observing the three hundredth birthday of another composer-keyboardist: Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the oldest surviving son of Johann Sebastian. Now in 2014 rather more attention is being paid to the life and music of Sebastian’s second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. In addition to the conferences and the festive German observations previously mentioned by Annette Richards on this blog (“C. P. E. Bach at 300,” Aug. 2, 2014), new books, articles, and editions have been published this year or are in the press. Among these are several volumes in the new collected edition being issued by the Packard Humanities Institute, as well as a special issue of Early Music (August 2014) and my own book The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Univ. of Rochester Press, 2014).

All this activity centered around one only moderately well-known musician suggests that individual composers, although no longer the focus of every current style of musicology, retain their interest and attraction not only for performers and the general public but for scholars. My book, although I call it a “compositional biography” unconcerned with CPEB’s personal life and circumstances, reflects my view that the individual composer remains a nexus within which society, culture, and environment connect to produce something that is unique and valuable: in this case, a repertory of about a thousand diverse works. As much as my own work has been shaped by academic trends and the admonitions of critics and scholars that favor focusing on the music itself and its cultural and historical context, in writing the book I have found myself considering what caused CPEB to write what he did; why he “swerved away” (as Peter Williams puts it) from the style of his father and emulated composers we consider far less significant, such as Hasse, Graun, and Homilius; how he could consider certain vocal compositions to be “masterpieces,” his own word for several late works that I find more problematical and less appealing than the well-known keyboard pieces; why in his later years he devoted what seems excessive effort to exercises in melodic embellishment and récherché harmony, never returning to the dramatic, sturm-und-drangisch style of certain relatively early compositions—the First Württemberg Sonata, the D-minor Concerto W. 23—that more readily captivate modern audiences and students.

One reason for the continuing focus on the individual composer must be the sheer human interest that, together with the music itself, remains the underlying motivation for so much contemporary work by performers and musicologists. The Bach family—or any family—automatically elicits a certain type of interest, and when we try to explain how one family member turned out as he or she did, producing a particular type of music or following a particular sort of career, we engage serious historical issues while establishing an imaginary yet genuinely empathetic connection with another human being. An austere view of musicology as a study of cultural products within a particular society or economy, or the equally austere concept of performance and analysis as dealing primarily with notes and their relationships to one another, certainly has its place within a learned discipline. Yet it doesn’t inspire many listeners or performers, and on its own it is unlikely to produce satisfying explanations for the aesthetic aspects of the music: how it moved its original audiences, how it does so today, what if anything it means.

Perhaps, then, part of the value of observing composer anniversaries lies in the reminder they provide—for both musicologists and the general public—that individual musicians of the past were historical figures, actors within a given time and place whose works manifest their own and their society’s values and experiences. What makes these musicians really interesting, however, is that by reading about them, or hearing their music in performance, those values and experiences mingle with our own; music history becomes musical presence. This, at least, seems to be one of my own motivations as reader, writer, and performer. A musicologist who shares this view could do worse than bearing it in mind when trying to communicate insights and discoveries to someone else.

David Schulenberg’s publications include the textbook Music of the Baroque (3rd edn. Oxford UP, 2013) and recordings of chamber music by Quantz, C. P. E. Bach, and Frederick II of Prussia on Naxos, Hungaroton, and Albany Records. Chair of the music department at Wagner College (Staten Island, NY), he also teaches in the Historical Performance program at The Juilliard School.