Category Archives: Musicologists

Tovey’s marginalia

Donald Francis Tovey left thousands of marginal comments on the sheet music he owned, dating from different periods of his life.

Here and there one finds a score that is chock-full of pencil scribblings, critical, historical, personal—clearly remarks that Tovey meant for his own eyes alone, though it is impressive that he often wrote complete sentences with full punctuation. Most commonly he sang the praise of some compositional marvel in words of simple rapture: “Splendid!” “Magnificent climax!” “Wonderful!”

But Tovey was at his wittiest with composers he didn’t much like. Muzio Clementi came in for some particularly choice remarks, such as “Silly little beast in bad Mozartian style with one or two idiotically difficult bits of pianistics.” A passage in Clementi’s op. 50, no. 3, subtitled Didone abbandonata, elicited the comment “and here comes the Bishop, or the Pope with triple crown.” This whimsy is petulantly crossed out, and below, in a different but equally Toveyan hand, are the words “Pretentious NONSENSE” (see above). Where the theme is inverted he wrote “Here Dido stands on her head.”

This according to “Tovey’s marginalia” by Raymond Monelle (The musical times CXXXI/1769 [July 1990] pp. 351–53). This journal, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Today would have been Monelle’s 80th birthday! Below, the jovial finale of Tovey’s Sonata for two cellos.

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Filed under Classic era, Curiosities, Humor, Musicologists

A Knud Jeppesen resource

Sponsored by  Det Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen, the free online resource Knud Jeppesen (1892–1974) presents lists of the composer’s works, his music editions, his musicological writings, and literature on Jeppesen, along with a discography and portraits.

Jeppesen was one of the 20th century’s foremost musicologists, and as such he gained an international reputation. Professionally, Jeppesen worked as an organist at Sankt Stefans Kirke (1917–32) and Holmens Kirke (1932–46), both in Copenhagen, as a teacher at Det Kongelige Danske Musikkonservatorium (1920–47) in Copenhagen, and as the first professor of musicology at Aarhus Universitet (1946–57). Jeppesen, who was a pupil of, among others, Thomas Laub and Carl Nielsen, produced many compositions, most of which were both performed and published.

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Resonanzen: Basler Publikationen zur Älteren und Neueren Musik

In collaboration with the Musikwissenschaftlichen Institut der Universität Basel, Schwabe Verlag inaugurated the series Resonanzen: Basler Publikationen zur Älteren und Neueren Musik in 2011 with Jacques Handschin in Russland: Die neu aufgefundenen Texte.

Edited by Жанна Викторовна Князева (Žanna Viktorovna Knâzeva), the book presents texts, reviews, correspondence, and biographies written by Handschin during his years in St. Petersburg (1909–22).

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Musicologica slovaca

In 2010 Ústav Hudobnej Vedy of the Slovenská Akadémia Vied revived the scholarly periodical Musicologica Slovaca: Časopis Ústavu Hudobnej Vedy Slovenskej Akadémie Vied (ISSN 1338-2594), thereby providing a standard platform for publishing the most recent results of domestic music scholarship in a peer-reviewed, biannual journal. In 1992 its predecessor, the irregularly issued Musicologica slovaca et europaea, replaced the original Musicologica slovaca, which started in 1969. The renewed Musicologica Slovaca, starting as volume 1(27), maintains the continuity of the previous volumes.

The journal’s broad orientation, with topics including music history, ethnomusicology, and systematic musicology, reflects traditions of interdisciplinary communication among specialized disciplines of music scholarship in Slovakia. Musicologica Slovaca is edited by the ethnomusicologist Hana Urbancová, the Director of the Ústav Hudobnej Vedy SAV. It is published in Slovak with English abstracts and keywords.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Musicologists, New periodicals

PianoForum

The 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 2010 inspired the launch of a new Russian-language quaterly dedicated to piano, PianоФорум (PianoForum). Published by Международная Муызкально-Техническая Компания (International Music-Technical Company) and edited by the musicologist, pianist, and pedagogue Vsevolod Zaderackij, the journal covers diverse aspects of contemporary pianism, including instrument building, piano repertoire and interpretation, piano competitions and festivals, and piano pedagogy from the beginning level to professional training. A description of the contents of issue no. 3 (2010) in Russian is here.

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Filed under Instruments, Musicologists, New periodicals, Pedagogy

A Renaissance sense of history

Pietro Gaetano’s Oratio de origine et dignitate musices (ca. 1568)—“an almost unknown text from an almost insignificant individual”—illuminates relationships between music and a sense of history in the Renaissance. Unlike Tinctoris, Gaetano tried to integrate a notion of organic evolution into music historiography, along with a sense of periodization—both concepts that added substance to a historical view that was already dominated by the idea of a lineage of great composers and their works.

This according to “To write historically about music in the 16th century: Pietro Gaetano” by Philippe Vendrix, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history. Above, the first page of Gaetano’s manuscript (I-Vmc, Provenienza Cicogna, MS 1049; click to enlarge).

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Postmodernism and performance

According to “Changing the musical object: Approaches to performance analysis” by Nicholas Cook, broad cultural developments associated with poststructuralism and postmodernism have placed an emphasis on reception—on performance rather than on inherent meaning—but the reflection of these developments in musicology has been skewed by that discipline’s retention of the concept of music as written text.

Cook argues that just as writings about music influence performances, so performance style has an impact on musicology, creating the prospect of a historiography predicated not on compositional innovation but on music as it is experienced in everyday life.

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson further explores the process wherein developments in performance precede changes in verbal interpretation in “Musicology and performance”; his examples are drawn from Schubert’s lieder and Boulez’s Le marteau sans maître. Both essays are included in our recently-published Music’s intellectual history.

Below, a performance of the final section of the Boulez work by the Montreal-based group Codes d’Accès.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Musicologists, Performance practice, Reception, Romantic era

Baroque birdsong

Along with its wide-ranging discussions of theoretical topics, the 1650 treatise Musurgia universalis by the German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) includes what may be the first transcriptions of bird songs.

The illustration gives the nightingale’s song followed by those of the chicken, the cuckoo, the quail, and the parrot; the latter says χαίρε (“hello”). Vox cuculi is notated as the familiar falling minor third heard in cuckoo clocks (see below).

A facsimile edition of the treatise has been issued by Georg Olms (Hildesheim, 1970; reprinted 2006).

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Filed under Animals, Baroque era, Musicologists, Nature, Notation, Science, Visual art

A museology manifesto

While he is well known among organologists and ethnomusicologists for the universal instrument classification system that he established with Erich von Hornbostel in 1914, Curt Sachs (1881–1959) was also a pioneer in music museology. When the Nazi regime dismissed him from his positions in Berlin in 1933 he was invited to collaborate with André Schaeffner at the Musée d’Ethnographie in Paris (now the Musée de l’Homme) on classifying their instrument collection; he worked there until he left for New York in 1937.

During his tenure at the museum Sachs wrote and published “La signification, la tache et la technique museographique des collections d’instruments de musique” (Mouseion xxvii–xxviii [1934], 153–84), a manifesto for instrument museums and restoration deontology that established basic music museological principles. He argued for the primacy of the exhibition over the collection, and built a theory of the musical object that has never required updating. Many of Sachs’s propositions far exceeded the aesthetic concepts of Western music, reflecting the concerns of a universalist musicologist well before the codification of ethnomusicology.

This according to “Curt Sachs as a theorist for music museology” by Florence Gétreau, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Instruments, Musicologists

Macunaíma and brasilidade

In Macunaíma, o herói sem nenhum caráter (Macunaíma, the hero without character) by the Brazilian musicologist, ethnomusicologist, poet, and cultural activist Mário de Andrade (1893–1945), the title character leaves his home deep in the jungle for a mystical quest to São Paulo to retrieve the muiraquitã, an amulet said to embody all of the history and traditions of his culture. Macunaíma succeeds in his mission, but in the process he undergoes a series of dramatic transformations; finally, he is changed into a constellation. He leaves for the firmament with a cryptic remark: He was not brought into the world to be a stone.

The story can be read as a metaphor for the cultural developments that Andrade helped to shape: He advocated bringing the jungle to the city to create the modernist aesthetic of brasilidade that informed the growth of the Brazilian creative arts and the parallel development of musicology and ethnomusicology there. Like Macunaíma, Brazilian modernism did not come into the world to be a stone, with all its implications of rigidity, contour, and well-defined boundaries—rather, brasilidade relishes improvisation, exploration, and fluid boundaries that can be perpetually transformed.

This according to “Macunaíma out of the woods: The intersection of musicology and ethnomusicology in Brazil” by James Melo, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

Related article: Tropicália and Bahia

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Ethnomusicology, Literature, Musicologists, South America