Sunday, April 12, 2015


Yesterday I read an article by Richard Todd on Wolfgang's Tonic summing up in his words the effect Lisitsa/TSO calamity had on Stewart Goodyear. I wasn't particularly interested on commenting directly on the feed since that usually grabs the attention of the wrong kind of people. I decided then that I would put it up here.

Obviously subjective judgments on pianists aside, I was a little unnerved by the term "free-speech radicals" used to describe an apparent subgroup who pushed Stewart Goodyear to dropping the gig. I don't condone the mob's actions, especially as they dealt with their frustrations by shooting the messenger, so to speak, but that term unfairly diminishes them and sets a dangerous precedent.

This is not the first time those words have been used to describe opponents to perceived 'censorship' issues in the arts - take the 2001 Death of Klinghoffer affair in Boston for instance. However, in the context of the online hysteria arising from the TSO blunder pidgeon-holing a cross section of misguided thugs as 'free-speech radicals' only opens the door for the people who really executed Lisitsa's dropping - those unnamed big time 'donors' - to gain standing. If donors have the power to affect the TSO's hiring policy so visibly, who's to say they won't try it again when it suits them while labeling opposition as 'radical'.

If the mob really wishes for this case never to be repeated then institutional change must be made across the board - a radical suggestion, perhaps? But that won't happen if personal attacks remain the norm on the one side, while the other has the establishment by the balls.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Choirboys Gone Wild

As I was digging yesterday I came across a composition treatise signed "Bar_____ G___n". It's a pretty nasty piece of work, actually. The pamphlet is attributed to William Hayes (1708 - 1777), Professor of Music at Oxford (1741 onwards), who clearly had it in for Birmingham organist Barnabus Gunn (d. 1753).

Gunn's supposed 'method' involved the first description of aleatory composition by use of what Hayes calls the 'Spruzzarino', a pen which spurted ink indiscriminately on the page. Hayes also makes a number of comments on Gunn's seeming lack of understanding of the foundations of music.
"As the Spruzzarino will not make Flats, or Sharps, you are to place them, where you think they will look best: no matter as to Propriety; the more odd, the more new and unexpected."
"As to Quick and Slow Movements,  no particular Disposition is required:  either with respect to Measure or Modulation; the Technical Italian Words do all."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Claiming Authority

As an Early Musician, I have come across numerous philosophies (or pseudo-philosophies) relating to performance. I'm not saying there should be a consensus, but I am troubled that many tacitly assume their reasoning is generally-accepted since there is no real medium for collective discussion on the broader HIP movement. Of those who do make their thoughts known, the most visible opinions on early music performance usually make a bold claim. 'Authenticity', 'correctness', or whatever they call it, is often touted by performers and their agents.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Subject and Deadline

It's funny how productive you can be, given the right framework. When I began this blog I wrote most often while I was commuting for lessons between Ottawa and Montreal. Writing while travelling has become so ingrained in me that I can't avoid thinking about it when I sit facing the back of another chair. Naturally, touring with EUBO allowed the experiences and time in transit to put my thoughts on to paper, so to speak. Those periods when I am not touring, however, often prove to be difficult for me. Except, it seems, when I'm approached to do it.

Just a few days ago I was asked to write a post for a new online publication and, after sitting down for a few hours, it has already been submitted. In the words of Leonard Bernstein, "to achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not enough time." In my case, to write something simple all I needed was to be given a subject and a deadline.

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