William Bolcom: Wide-Ranging Influences, Theatricality, and Fun

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Cabaret Songs and Piano Rags

by William Bolcom

Featuring faculty artists Charles Abramovic, Lawrence Indik, and Cara Latham

Wednesday, February 6th

12:00-12:50pm

Paley Library Lecture Hall

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.


 

William Bolcom

Like many other American composers who studied composition in universities in the middle of the 20th century, William Bolcom began his career composing serial music, the musical style most commonly associated with “atonality.” At that time, serialism was often seen as necessary tool to help composers avoid a tendency to recreate familiar patterns that represented a failed, oppressive system (Brindle 2003). Yet Bolcom gradually shifted toward employing a wider variety of compositional styles, often influenced by popular music. Today, composers and “new music” listeners and performers may see being forced into an academic, atonal style of writing as oppressive.  As a result, many of today’s younger composers have followed Bolcom’s lead into music that incorporates a wide variety of stylistic influences. Bolcom’s music, influenced by other forms of music, became the music for which he is known.  In this concert, we will hear some of his cabaret songs along with rags for piano performed by Boyer faculty.

In this 21st century, his work is still described as “running the gamut” of popular and classical musical styles (Lister 2006, 37). In an interview in The Opera Quarterly, Bolcom shares some fascinating details of his views on music:

“I’ve always been interested in character. I think pure voice is something that compels a certain sort of opera buff, along with the admiration of singers as athletes. And that’s okay; but I’ve always been interested in opera as theater.” (Horowitz 2006)

Bolcom could be seen as a rejection of the typical 20th century conservatory ethos, of music as an end in and of itself. Even today, many of those of us who are music students have been told at some point in our lives that to be a good musician means to engross ourselves in “pure” music and to ignore the “extra-musical” aspects of our lives, as well as to see popular music as inherently artistically inferior. One could trace this back to the 19th century German debate over so-called “absolute music,” essentially the idea that music should transcend life and exist only for its own, purely aesthetic pleasure. To be fair, vocal music was not usually framed as “absolute music;” it typically has text which suggests something “extramusical.” But in recent decades, musicologists and ethnomusicologists have noted that “absolute music” was never really a thing at all. For example, Henry Kingsbury’s influential 1988 work—which was published by Temple University Press—shows how the very idea of classical music is itself always part of the construction of a social and cultural system. Bolcom’s embrace of the theatrical rather than holding on to some idea of sanctity of “pure” academic music is one of the things that makes his music especially fun.

The rags, too, of course, reflect influences beyond the world of classical music. Ragtime music is characterized in particular by its distinctive syncopated rhythmic structure. A 1992 review by Barry Hannigan, then a professor at Bucknell University, writes that “care and craft distinguish the [Bolcom] ragtime pieces, giving evidence of Bolcom’s classical training” compared to other ragtime composers. Hannigan’s attitude seems remarkably condescending toward the earlier ragtime composers, and I am inclined to wonder if there is a racial dynamic here, since ragtime is a historically African American musical form, and Bolcom appears to be white[1] and trained as a composer in a historically predominantly-white musical genre. Nevertheless, while I would argue that ragtime’s traditional “care and craft” should not be measured by its adherence to contemporary classical music values, it is noteworthy that Bolcom incorporates traditional rhythmic ideas of ragtime, and uses them in more classically notated ways. For example, Hannigan notes that there is a higher precision in the way expressive directions are notated on the page than in traditional ragtime music. While I would not argue that this makes the music automatically superior—after all, as I argued in the case of Couperin in my blogpost for the first concert of last semester, level of notational detail in keyboard reflects social and cultural factors—it does give us something else to listen for. As in most music of the 20th and 21st century, there is clearly a lot to consider. Yet behind this all is a concert sure to be accessible and fun!

References:

Berlin, Edward A. 2001. “Ragtime.” Grove Music Online. 10 Dec. 2018. https://doi-org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.22825.

Brindle, Reginald Smith (1987) 2003. The New Music: The Avant‐garde since 1945. London: Oxford University Press.

Hannigan, Barry. 1992. “William Bolcom, ‘Piano Rags’.” Notes 49, no. 1 (September): 369.

Herwitz, Daniel. 2006. “Writing American Opera: William Bolcom on Music, Language, and Theater,” The Opera Quarterly 22, 3-4 (July), 521–533. https://doi-org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1093/oq/kbn001

Johnson, Steven, and Lars Helgert. 2013. “Bolcom, William.” Grove Music Online. 7 Dec. 2018. https://doi-org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2248409.

Kingsbury, Henry. 1988. Music, Talent, and Performance: A Conservatory Cultural System, Temple University Press.

Lister, Rodney. 2006. “Review: William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.” Tempo 60, no. 35 (January), 37-39.

[1]To be clear, I cannot actually find any explicit mention of his race, and am saying this based on photos of him.

Ben Safran is a Ph.D. candidate in music at Temple University, where his dissertation focuses on contemporary classical composers’ uses of social justice and political themes within concert music. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles and musicians across the United States.

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Temple University Percussion Ensemble: watch, consider, enjoy!

Temple University Percussion Ensemble

Phillip O’Banion, Director

Wednesday, December 5th

12:00pm – 12:50pm

Paley Library Lecture Hall

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

photo of xylophoneWatching a percussion ensemble can be unlike watching any other type of concert! For one thing, there is the physicality of seeing musicians move around between instruments. While we often think of music in more abstract terms, there is increased interest in the twenty-first century among music scholars in thinking about the physical relationship with a musical instrument (Abbate 2004; Le Guin 2006). The visual element of seeing musicians move around among elaborate set-ups of instruments contributes to the fun of the performance. Another exciting difference is that while most Western music tends to prioritize thinking about pitch over other aspects of music, percussion music celebrates and can help us listen more carefully to other elements of sound, such as rhythm, timbre, and volume. Of course, there is plenty of pitch in percussion music as well.

The composers represented in the program are Jason Treuting, Ivan Trevino, John Cage, Bob Becker, and Minoru Miki. Of these, John Cage is probably the most well-known. Cage is especially appreciated for his aleatoric works, compositions in which elements are left up to chance. He is also known for prepared piano music, in which performers place objects inside the piano before the concert to alter the sound. This concert will include music for prepared piano. While Cage is sometimes credited as the inventor of the technique, Liang Deng argues that the practice of preparing a piano actually dates to early keyboard music of the 17th century (2015).

photo of percussion performanceAll four of the other composers on the program are known for founding or co-founding their own percussion ensembles. Treuting is a percussionist and member of percussion ensemble Sō Percussion. The ensemble is known for performances of Cage and of Steve Reich, and their original music is described as influenced by those composers but also very distinct (DelCiampo 2015). Trevino is also a percussionist and member of Break with Reality, a cello and percussion quartet, and also a founder of The Big Trouble, which he describes on his website as “a songwriting collective focused on creating music for percussion and vocals in an indie-rock aesthetic.” Miki was a composer known for uses of traditional East Asian percussion instruments. In 2008 he published a book on composing for Japanese instruments [available at Paley]; he died in 2011. Miki too was an organizer of an ensemble; the Ensemble Nipponia was founded in 1964 and played music for traditional Japanese instruments (Kanazawa 2001). He composed a large body of works including a number of operas plus works for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles. Finally, Becker co-founded the ensemble NEXUS in 1971 (Beck and Strain 2012).

All told, this concert features composers with roots from Japan [Miki] to Mexico [Trevino], while Cage and Becker were both heavily influenced by East Asian and South Asian sounds (Ruby 2017; Brett 2009). This makes sense. While the origins of most instruments in the orchestra may be fascinating and complex but are most commonly Eurocentric, the origins of instruments in the percussion section are especially diverse. There exist commonly used percussion instruments in modern and contemporary classical music from most populated corners of the world.

photo of xylophone and drum performanceSuch intercultural borrowing deserves close examination. Neil Ruby critiques Cage specifically as Ruby argues that “contemporary music often perpetuates pervasive attitudes and assumptions regarding the relationship between spirituality, Asia, and artistry that are historically amnesiac, culturally reductionistic, and perversely antithetical to the progressive egalitarian values typically associated with musical interculturalism” (2017). On the other hand, Philip Brett speculates how alternative instrumentations, tuning systems, and Orientalism itself might have held a special allure for gay American composers of the 20th century, including Cage. While noting that Orientalism is still problematic, Brett sees it as a potential strategy used by queer composers for escaping the traps of western cultures. This building of musical “alternate worlds” that Brett suggests—perhaps friendlier to those on the margins of society—through reference to non-Western culture can also be done through instrumentation, specifically the construction of less familiar, more adventurous ensembles.

This brings us back to the question of how percussion ensembles are different from others that perform “classical” music. The best way to find out will be to experience the concert firsthand, and to focus on the aspects of music that we normally think about less, from timbre to rhythm to the visual of performers’ movements on stage.

 

References:

Abbate, Carolyn. 2004. “Music—Drastic or Gnostic?,” Critical Inquiry 30: 505-36.

Beck, John H., and James A. Strain. 2012. “Percussion music.” Grove Music Online. Accessed November 7, 2018. http:////www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-1002225030.

Brett, Philip. 2009. “Queer Musical Orientalism.” Echo: A Music Centered Journal 9 (1).

DelCiampo, Matthew. 2015. “So Percussion and Grey Mcmurray, Where (we) Live. Cantaloupe CA21087, 2012, CD.” Journal of the Society for American Music 9 (4): 515-517. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1017/S1752196315000462.

Deng, Liang. 2015. “On the Debate over Whether ‘Prepared Piano’ was the Invention of John Cage.” College Music Symposium 55.

Le Guin, Elisabeth. 2006. “‘Cello-and-Bow Thinking’: The First Movement of Boccherini’s Cello Sonata in E-flat Major, Fuori Catalogo,” Boccherini’s Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 14-37.

Kanazawa, Masakata. 2001. “Miki, Minoru.” Grove Music Online. Accessed 7 November 2018. http:////www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000018649.

Miki, Minoru, and Marty Regan. 2008. Composing for Japanese Instruments. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Ruby, Neil. 2017. “Spirituality and Orientalism in Contemporary Classical Music.” M.A. thesis, University of California, San Diego.

Sō Percussion. Accessed 7 November 2018. https://sopercussion.com/people/jason-treuting/

Trevino, Ivan. “Bio.” Accessed 7 November 2018. https://ivandrums.com/biography/

Ben Safran is a Ph.D. candidate in music at Temple University, where his dissertation focuses on contemporary classical composers’ uses of social justice and political themes within concert music. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles and musicians across the United States

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Shannon Merlino, Baroque Violin, and Music from our Childhoods

Music of Bach and Vivaldi

Led by Shannon Merlino

Wednesday, November 14th

12:00pm – 12:50pm

Paley Library Lecture Hall

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

 

Photo of Merlino playing viola

Shannon Merlino

Violinist and violist Shannon Merlino, a Philadelphia native, describes the theme of this recital as revisiting Baroque violin music that is most often used for pedagogical purposes for students first learning to play violin. Merlino references Itzhak Perlman’s album Concertos from my Childhood. That album consists of the famous virtuoso violinist’s performances of didactic pieces composed for violin students.

There are many pieces that were originally composed to be teaching tools or most commonly used as such, but that still can be captivating as concert pieces. I have my own experience of this, having taken my first piano lessons as a college student, in which I learned to play several of J.S. Bach’s 2-part inventions and Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, works written for students. Having already studied music theory certainly made my interpretation of these pieces different than they would have been if I had learned them as a child. Still, my interpretations were limited by my technical skill. These pieces have all been recorded by esteemed professionals, who bring new interpretations. While originally for pedagogical purposes, these works continue to attract the attention of scholars in the 21st century for non-pedagogical reasons (see, for example, Väisälä 2009; Hajdu 2008).

1870 painting of Bach and his family

Johann Sebastian Bach accompanies his family at the harpsichord. Toby Edward Rosenthal , 1870.

None of this is to belittle the joy that children and their families and friends can feel from learning these pieces their own way, even if their interpretations are often less nuanced. On some level, one can argue that these pieces should not require such nuance. Unlike a typical classical concert, a youth recital is more about celebrating the performer than it is about the composer. And much music written for students is not intended for performance at all, but rather as a means for one to practice a specific skill.

But it is another matter the repertoire for this recital, which will consist of Baroque music which was intended to have specific performance practice that is not often followed when students learn the music today. Merlino notes that “beginning players learn Baroque music, and without performance practice – ornamentation, continuo, and the like – the repertoire is relegated to “didactic” status.” In the Baroque era, musicians were often expected to add their own embellishments, such as trills or other flourishes (Although some, such as Couperin who was featured in a Beyond the Notes concert earlier this season, did provide their own.) So when children learn to play violin by using these pieces without such embellishments, not only is there less complex interpretation, there are fewer notes. In this program, we can expect to hear these pieces performed with a more historically informed practice, which should make them especially exciting.

Revisiting music from our childhood is not just for musicians. Most of us have music that was meaningful to us as children, that we feel as if we have grown out of, but is still part of who we are. There is some Baroque music, such as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, which most likely many listeners would have grown up hearing, if only from commercials or soundtracks, whether or not they learned to play an instrument. There is still much to gained from taking it seriously the soundtracks of our childhoods and listening in more closely.

Children’s music itself has so far received somewhat limited attention from musicologists and music theorists. This may be changing, however. In fact, there is an effort is currently underway to start a Childhood and Youth Studies Study Group within the American Musicological Society. It seems then, that this concert is coming at the perfect time!

Bios:

Born and raised in the greater Philadelphia area, Shannon Merlino began violin studies at the age of nine, earning her Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance at Rutgers University as a student of Matthew Reichert and Lenuta Ciulei. She continued her violin studies as a scholarship student at Mannes College, earning a Master of Music degree while studying with Lewis Kaplan. Finally she completed doctoral coursework under Mikhail Kopelman at Rutgers University. After making the decision to focus primarily on viola, she began private studies with Kerri Ryan and is now in doctoral studies at Temple University. Her competition awards include second place in both the Miami String Quartet and South Orange Symphony competitions, and her solo credits include several appearances with the Lustig Dance Company. She has appeared in recitals as both soloist and chamber musician throughout the New York City metropolitan area, and maintains an active freelance performance career in the Philadelphia area as both modern and Baroque violist. Ms. Merlino has also given pre-concert talks on viola technique and pedagogy, most notably at the Library of Congress. Ms. Merlino performs on a viola by Clifford Hoing and a bow by Malcolm Taylor of W. E. Hill and Sons.

References:

Hajdu, Andre. “A Galaxy Called ‘Mikrokosmos’: A Composer’s View.” Tempo 62, no. 243 (2008): 16-35. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40072752.

Väisälä, Olli. “Bach’s Inventions: Figuration, Register, Structure, and the “Clear Way to Develop Inventions Properly”.” Music Theory Spectrum 31, no. 1 (2009): 101-52. doi:10.1525/mts.2009.31.1.101.

 

Ben Safran is a Ph.D. candidate in music at Temple University, where his dissertation focuses on contemporary classical composers’ uses of social justice and political themes within concert music. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles and musicians across the United States

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Zach Brock, Jazz Violin, and Genre

Photo of Zach Brock.

Zach Brock, jazz violinist

Beyond the Notes Presents:

Boyer Artist-in-Residence Zach Brock, Jazz Violinist

Tuesday, October 23rd, 12:00pm – 12:50pm

Paley Library Lecture Hall

 

While a fixture of the classical concert hall, violins have also been used in Jazz since the 1930’s. In addition to amplification and a tendency toward bowing over plucking, jazz violin playing can also include extended techniques, strategies to alter or distort the violin sound that are not part of typical playing conventions. These have unique sounds that are often not at all traditionally “violin-like.”

Grammy-award-winning Zach Brock, who studied violin performance at Northwestern University, is regarded as among the top jazz violinists of our time. Yet Brock also incorporates musical ideas and techniques that may sound less like Jazz than like “classical” composers such as Bartok, with minimalist and post-minimalist sonic gestures as well. Some of Brock’s particular performance practices are uncommon among jazz violinists. For example, jazz violin often requires electronic amplification for purposes of balance with other instruments, but videos of Brock most often showing him playing without any amplification. In addition, note that jazz violin has traditionally been played with the bow [arco] rather than plucked with fingers [pizzicato] (Glaser et al. 2003), but a number of Brock’s performances do make use of pizzicato.

The ability to “cross over” between genres is not to be taken for granted. While jazzy sounds have been incorporated into American classical music since the early 20th century, and the tradition of improvisation within classical music stretches back many centuries, typical classical musicians who have not had experience playing Jazz would most likely find the transition to playing jazz difficult. Playing jazz requires a distinct skill set and technique. There are now a large number of teaching materials specifically dedicated to students learning jazz strings (Alibrio-Curran 2005). There are also sociocultural and especially racial implications to crossing over stylistic boundaries, which are increasingly attracting the attention of music scholars (James 2017).

But genre lines are already fuzzy. What is “Jazz” as a genre? German philosopher Theodor Adorno clumped Jazz in with popular music ([1941] 2002); strangely, even though he acknowledged that Jazz is more complex in some ways—such as rhythm—than classical music, he nevertheless maintained that all pop music is nevertheless rigid and mechanical. Scott DeVeaux notes that Jazz has also been referred to as “America’s classical music,” and is sometimes seen, like classical music, as a dying art form ([1991] 1998). What gets to count as Jazz has always been up for debate. The modernist tradition of “free Jazz” is sometimes not thought of as Jazz at all (DeVeaux [1991] 1998), but why not? DeVeaux argues that Jazz’s present struggles and decline in popularity should not be thought of as a musical or aesthetic problem, but rather one of historical framing.

So how about Jazz violin? Jazz in textbooks is sometimes given a clear, linear history, in which it is oriented more toward African American than European culture (DeVeaux [1991] 1998). This is not wrong, but—like the related notion of seeing Jazz as synonymous with “Black art music”—it is too simplistic. Violin, of course, can be thought of as one of the most quintessential European instruments. So if we know that Jazz violin has been around since the 1930’s, that could be a clue to help us to revisit the history of Jazz as more complex than we would often acknowledge. Once we do that, instead of finding a clear way forward for the genre to proceed, we can accept that its future will be as divergent and multi-layered as its past.

 

References:

Adorno, Theodor. ([1941] 2002). “On Popular Music,” reprinted in Essays on Music, Richard Leppert, ed., 437-479. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Alibrio-Curran, Frances. 2005. “From Whence They Came: A Tribute to Early String Improvisational Materials.” American String Teacher 55, 1 (February): 68-70. https://doi-org.libproxy.temple.edu/10.1177/000313130505500110

DeVeaux, Scott. ([1991] 1998), “Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography,” Black American Literature Forum 25, no. 3 (Fall): 525-60, reprinted in The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 484-514.

Glaser, Matt, Alyn Shipton, and Anthony Barnett. 2003. “Violin, jazz.” Grove Music Online. Accessed 15 Sep. 2018. http:////www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-2000468100.

James, Robin. 2017. “Is the post- in post-identity the post- in post-genre?” Popular Music 36 (1): 21-32.

Zack Brock. n.d. “Home – Zack Brock.” Accessed 18 September 2018. https://www.zachbrock.com/home

 

Ben Safran is a Ph.D. candidate in music at Temple University, where his dissertation focuses on contemporary classical composers’ uses of social justice and political themes within concert music. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles and musicians across the United States.

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Start the Music! Let the Party Begin!

Joyce Lindorff at the harpsichord

Dr. Joyce Lindorff, Professor of Keyboard

 

Couperin Birthday Celebration!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

12:00pm – 12:50pm

Paley Library Lecture Hall

Light refreshments served. Boyer recital credit given.

 

 

 

The opening concert of the 2018-19 Beyond the Notes concert series, features Dr. Joyce Lindorff, Boyer Professor of Keyboard, leading a birthday celebration for François Couperin, marking 350 years since his birth.  François Couperin, like Johann Sebastian Bach, was part of a large family of music-makers. For example, Couperin’s uncle was also a noted composer, and his cousin Armand-Louis was especially noted as an organist, but François was sometimes referred to as “Couperin Le Grand” to set him apart from the rest of his family. Recognized as a leading French composer of the 17th century, Couperin’s musical textures have continued to inspire musicians and composers in the centuries since his death. For example, Ravel’s Le Tambeau de Couperin, a solo piano with an orchestral version, is a concert staple, and is likely more familiar to the typical concertgoer than any piece of Couperin himself. Nevertheless, music like the Pièces de Clavecin features a palette that is distinctive, lush, sometimes witty, and sometimes harmonically adventurous.

Picture of harpsichord

1742 Louis Bellot harpsichord, Paris. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Couperin is especially known for his music for harpsichord. Unlike its most famous successor the piano, the harpsichord is a keyboard instrument in which the strings are plucked rather than hit. In addition to an altogether different sound quality, a major difference is that when a musician presses a key with more or less force, it will not change the dynamic [volume] of the note as it does on the piano. This means that the composer and performer must control the feel of each section of music without having a direct means to control how loud or soft each note is. Instead, our overall experience of the music will be shaped by other means, such as texture and tempo (speed). The density of writing will shape our experience of the intensity of the music rather than volume.

 

CD Cover ArtDr. Joyce Lindorff, professor of keyboard at Boyer, released a CD earlier this year of her performances of Couperin’s L’Art de Toucher le Clavecin. Lindorff’s CD-liner notes offer information about Couperin’s attitude toward pedagogy and performance:

“Couperin is a commanding presence, providing precise fingering for difficult passages in his first book of Pièces de clavecin, keyboard exercises, and a detailed table of ornaments, which he insisted be executed exactly as he wrote them. Rather than trusting players of his unmeasured preludes to interpret the customary minimalist French notation, Couperin instead provides richly detailed templates to be played with freedom. And in marked contrast to modern teaching methods, he advises that young students never practice in the teacher’s absence.”

At that time, music students would have been trained in improvisation far more than now. The level of detail that a composer would notate would be far less, and the musician would be expected to know how to embellish and interpret the music that was written. Rather than playing merely the notes on the page, musicians would add ornaments, or musical flourishes, such as rapid alterations between adjacent notes. In today’s world, with so many styles of classical music in circulation and a lack of a common set of conventions in the music being written by contemporary composers, leaving so much up to the interpretation of the performer may not be practical. However, it is unusual that in the 17th century Couperin would have written out the ornaments that he wanted the players to include.

The extent to which a composer ought to exert influence over performers has been a subject of much debate in recent decades. For example, Christopher Small (1998) sees a hierarchical system of power within orchestral music with the composer at the top. This privileging of the composer allows for a sometimes-oppressive musical canon to emerge, from which composers with less privileged identities, such as most female and non-white composers, would be excluded (Citron 1992). In December, Dr. Lindorff hosted a symposium at the library on such issues, which are becoming an increasingly large part of the historical study of music.

What would this mean in the 17th century? A prevailing view is that the modern idea of the “master composer” is a product of 19th century German Romanticism (Chua 1999). While this may be true, listening to the music of Couperin gives us a chance to see how such issues and differences of opinion would have played out even in earlier centuries. While his attitude suggests an unusual degree of control for his time, when listening to [the CD of] Lindorff’s performance, the listener is struck by the sense of freedom, and often leisure, that manages to prevail. Could the effects of each piece have been achieved with less specificity from the composer? Would that have been better or worse? For sure, the identity dynamics I mentioned above are also worth considering for Couperin’s time as they are in later centuries: could a female composer at the time provide a table of ornaments and insist her pieces be executed exactly as she notated them, as he did? There is never a simple answer to the question of who gets to control art, but listening to Couperin can invite us to keep asking the question in different ways.

To some who have learned a musical instrument, the idea that one must not practice without the teacher present may be hard to fathom. Whether evidence of his desire for control, or perhaps his enormous generosity of time and patience toward his students, it seems that Couperin hoped that his work be played as he intended. No matter the rigidity or flexibility of the composer, Couperin likely did not envision his music being performed in a twenty-first century library lecture hall with a birthday cake in his honor. This performance invites us to experience his music in new and different manners.  So start the music! Let the party begin!

 

References and Further Information:

Denis Arnold & Julie Anne Sadie, “Couperin,” Oxford Companion to Music, Allison Latham, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Daniel K. L. Chua, Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge University Press,
1999), 1-28.

David Chung, “French Harpsichord Vitality,” Early Music, 41, no. 3 (August 2013), 525–527.
Marcia J. Citron, “The Canon in Practice,” Gender and the Musical Canon (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 190-232.
François Couperin, Art de toucher le clavecin (L’) / Pieces de clavecin, Book 2 – 6th, 8th Ordres (La Raphaèle). Joyce Lindorff, harpsichord. Affetto Recordings, Naxos Music Library, 2018.

Harpsichord [Fr. clavecin; Ger. Cembalo, Kielflügel, Clavicimbel; It. clavicembalo; Sp. clavicémbalo, clavecín].” The Harvard Dictionary of Music, edited by Don Michael Randel, Harvard University Press, 4th edition, 2003. Credo Reference, Accessed 04 Sep. 2018.

Christopher Small, Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening, (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1998), 1-29.

Richard Taruskin, “The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past,” Text & Act: Essays on Music and Performance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 90-154.

Ben Safran is a Ph.D. candidate in music at Temple University, where his dissertation focuses on contemporary classical composers’ uses of social justice and political themes within concert music. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles and musicians across the United States.

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