The term ‘baroque’ (=imperfect pearl) was once an used in a negative way: ‘baroque music is that in which the harmony is loaded with modulations and dissonances…’ or ‘bizarre and uselessly complicated’. These qualities that were once criticized are the ones in which we find the beauty of this music. A perfect pearl astonishes by its uniformity, smoothness and symmetry, but, for how long is it interesting to watch, and will there always be something new to discover in it? On the contrary, the changing surface and irregularity of an imperfect pearl mesmerizes us with its many faces and possibilities, as does baroque music. Asymmetry, variation, and irregularity are not negative qualities for us, but intriguing concepts where we find personality, emotions, and discovery.
The creative aspects for musicians from the early music epochs (Middle ages, Renaissance, Baroque) included improvising, diminuting, ornamenting, arranging and composing. Studying the mentioned parts of music making from the original treatises, and thus obtaining knowledge on style, harmony– and counterpoint rules and respecting them, allows the early musician to create himself, but without abandoning HIP and without entering the world of music fusion.
The active creative part of early music deserves a specific name, as it is a specific subject, and a growing part of the early-music-world-habits.
I don’t live in the right place (Seville, in the very south of Spain), I know that, but where should I go?
There are many very good early music professionals in Seville, but I’m missing professional players my age who want to play, play and play! Who want to rehearse for the sake of playing, of getting better, of working on projects as a group (I think, sometimes, collective intelligence ends up in a deeper and more interesting result than one working on his own).
I want to go out for some beers and talk with friends about the music from, for example, the Odhecaton. Where are viol and lute players who, apart from Marais and Kapsberger, are in love with music by Rogniono, Agricola, Ghiselin or Cabezón? The easy answer for this one could be Basel, but Basel is incredibly expensive.
I want to go to early music concerts, as many as I can. Where is early music alive, or as alive as possible?
Where are young early music professionals who are fighting to make a living playing music, who don’t mind playing one day in a concert hall, and another day in a bar or restaurant?
I found the pretty melody of The Begger Boy in John Playford’s The Dancing Master (1651). It is a very short melody and dancers and musicians would have gone crazy if they played it the same way round and round. Here must have come into play variations/improvisations — for sure.
So I decided to convert it into a trio, to add tenor and bass lines, counterpoints and variations on the melody. When I did this, I first thought of my recorder consort Vox Tremula, but it does work just as well for a melody instrument and a polyphonic instrument etc.
Please feel free to download and share these music scores!
J. Playford & M. Cord-to-Krax — The Begger Boy: [download id=”40″], [download id=”41″]
When a recording gets published by a a record label, they reserve all the rights on that recording — to them. In most of the cases you got to pay for the recording (a lot), you studied, practiced and rehearsed the music, it was your idea, your project. Then you probably have to buy the CD’s yourself (at a little cost but still) in order to sell them at your concerts or send them to festival/concert organizers. Supposedly the good part is, that people get to know you, they will listen to you, because you appear in the catalogue of new publications etc. But does that really happen? I mean, on a big scale? Maybe it does, if you get published by a big label like, let’s say Harmonia Mundi, but that again will probably not happen until you’re 40 and famous, and if you get there, then you might not need that publicity anymore, as you could have build an audience that follows your activities, especially if you use internet.
Anyway, what you want to happen to your recording is that it gets heard, right? The more, the better! So, what you should want people to do, is to share it, show it to their friends, recommend it, copy it. Maybe someone even likes your recording so much, that she/he wants to use it for their own artwork, a short film, exposition etc. Would you like that? Probably yes, because it means that your music means something to someone, that it is useful, it can make another creative work more beautiful or interesting, and your music gets to a wider audience. All this is not allowed under a traditional “all rights reserved” license, it will normally have a cost (which many people aren’t able to pay) and a need for permission. The very fact of having to ask for permission will take away people’s initiative in the very first place. Copyleft solves this problem: “Copyleft is a strategy of utilizing copyright law to pursue the policy goal of fostering and encouraging the equal and inalienable right to copy, share, modify and improve creative works of authorship.” — copyleft.org
Of course you will not get a copyleft license on your recording if you get published by a record label.
Now some people may say that your music is your work, and you really should not give it away for free. But, have you ever asked a well established musician how much they earn on royalties? When did you buy a CD the last time? There’s always exceptions but they just prove the rule. People do not want to pay anymore to listen to recordings. But, if they listened to you because it was easy and free, and they liked it, they might buy a ticket to your concert, which is where musicians do earn money. And after that concert, only then, if you played really well, they might want to buy the physical CD as a memory of that concert.
You could also think that all of this sounds very nice, but the wide audience of, in my case, Early Music does not use internet in that way, and that Festival Directors rely on musicians with traditional careers —Publications in important record labels, winners of music competitions, your photo on the front page of a music magazine (for which you probably had to pay) etc etc. But traditions and audiences change and the future of record labels is uncertain.
I leave you with a TEDx Talk by Nina Paley: Copyright is brain damage.
I am quite proud and kind of pleased to present my first professional recording — my own arrangement of J.S. Bach’s lute suite BWV 995/cello suite Nr. 5 BWV 1011 for a melody instrument and basso continuo.
I realized this arrangement for my final exam at Seville’s conservatory, Conservatorio Superior de Música de Sevilla, which took place in September 2015. It was a bit tricky, for being the original piece for one solo instrument, and me wanting it to become a piece for an ensemble. This is why I approached my work from the lute version instead of the cello version (the composer himself arranged the lute suite from the cello suite Nr.5 BWV 1011), as Bach included many bass lines in BWV 995. So, after transcribing the piece from the original facsimile, I separated bass and upper line, octavated where necessary and composed parts to the bass line in order to supplement it where it was too empty. I sticked to baroque style all I possibly could, and respected the implicit harmony.
Why this suite? And why arrange a piece which is not for my instrument?
I fell in love with this suite listening to Rolf Lislevand’s interpretation, especially of the Sarabande, which for me is one of the most astonishing melodies in Bach’s repertoire. So, I wanted to play this music, but not for solo recorder, which already had been done very convincing- and successfully by Marion Verbrüggen and others. I felt like doing a different, a accompanied version.
I didn’t pretend to achieve a better version than Bach’s BWV 995 and 1011, as well as I didn’t pretend that an ensemble version of this composition could work better than the solo versions. I simply felt free to live out my idea on a repertoire which nowadays is sometimes treated in a very strict way, while this music hasn’t been treated in that way at all when it was contemporary. As Vicente Parrilla pointed out to me one day, arrangements, improvisation, diminutions etc. are justified and desirable if we, as interprets of early music, want to do what the musician from earlier epochs would have done, and not only what we know what they have done. Compositions were not considered a closed, genius art work as in later epochs. Musicians were supposed to be creative, to improvise and ornament and arrange. This means for us, as early musicians, that a finite repertory passes to infinite possibilities. And, ‘the harder we work to imitate the past, the more personal and contemporary the results will be.’ —Bruce Haynes in The End of Early Music
Soon I’m going to publish the sheet music of my arrangement with a creative commons license, so that anybody who may want to play my arrangement or just have a look at what I exactly did, can do so. It can, of course, be played by any melody instrument (violin, oboe, recorder, traverso…) and b.c. Critics and suggestions will be very welcome 🙂
The very act of recording
As I said, this has been my first professional recording, and… I don’t like recording! I feel it is an unnatural thing, in an unnatural surrounding. It makes me very nervous, even though I know I can repeat the same thing many times. It doesn’t quite seem to get the same emotion and excitement to it as live performed music in front of an audience.
I will write a post on some of my thoughts and feelings about recording in general very soon, of course to be published here on this website.
This suite forms part of a program on J.S. Bach’s music, next to an instrumental version with my own variations on the song Komm süsser Tod and a canon from The art of Fugue. I’ll think about recording the rest of it and finish a whole CD, but that again depends on money and on how things go this year.
Now, I’m going to start working on a new program, I’m going to be diminuting! 🙂 Hopefully to be recorded next summer, this time a whole CD for sure!
I am incredibly lucky and thankful for all the help I received, without which this work wouldn’t have been possible, or at least with loads more difficulties and a far worse result.
Thank you so much to Ventura Rico and Alejandro Casal for all their generosity as much when they were my teachers at Seville’s Conservatory, as in the recording, as for helping me with the arrangement, as in the rehearsals!
Thank you to Bárbara Sela for being there for me, and for her artistic direction, without which the recording would have been much longer and chaotic!
Thank you to Adolfo Castilla for his work and the nice atmosphere in the studio!
The biggest thank you though will always go to Vicente Parrilla. In this case as well for all his help as my tutor for the arrangement and the paper for my final exam, but still more so for everything he taught me when he was my teacher, for his knowledge, technique and musicality, his philosophical point of view on music and so many more things.
Last thank you to Ruth, Roland & Hanna! Just for everything!
As in the early music scene we like to point out the similarities between early music and jazz in terms of conception of the music (improvisations, variations, creativity, openness of the repertory…) would/should this statement have to refer to us as well?
‘If a Jazz musician plays someone else’s tune, he has a responsibility to make a distinct & original statement’ —Todd Boyd