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.
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.
The folk revival movement is the result of the common folkness of the folk and the supposedly non-folk surfacing in cities. In the meantime the folk has been doing what it has always done: appropriating all of the non-folkness it could.
Perhaps non-folkness is that which tries not to be folkness, while folkness is that which has not discovered more non-folkness than it could assimilate. The two categories may not be mutually exclusive; they may be two aspects of the same entity.
This according to “The folkness of the non-folk vs. the non-folkness of the folk” by Charles Seeger, an essay included in Folklore and society: Essays in honor of Benj. A. Botkin (Hatboro: Folklore Associates, 1966, pp. 1–9).
Above, Charles plays the harmonium for a family musicale in 1921, with his son Pete on his lap. Below, Pete’s half-sister Peggy Seeger performs The foolish frog, a traditional song with a story that Charles made up to entertain his children.
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.
When he coined the term sonorystyka in the 1950s, Józef Michał Chomiński (1906–94) considered sonoristics a new branch of study centered on the sound technique of a composition. Discernible as early as certain works by Debussy, sonoristics involves a whole new layer of a musical work that emphasizes its actual sound, transcending older approaches in which structural elements were considered independently of their sonorous realization.
Among his expositions of his sonoristic theories, Chomiński showed how the first six measures of Webern’s Die Sonne (op. 14, no. 1) present no traces of melody or harmony in the traditional sense; rather, they embody a full transformation of both concepts into a sonic universe regulated by timbre, rhythm, and register contrasts.
This according to “Rediscovering sonoristics: A groundbreaking theory from the margins of musicology” by Zbigniew Granat, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history. Below, a performance of Webern’s op. 14; Chomiński’s example begins the set.
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).
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).
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 , 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.
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
Although the pedagogue and author Wilhelm Heinrich von Riehl (1823–97) was not formally trained in music, he wrote extensively about the social significance of music making, and he argued for an approach that treated music history as cultural history. He criticized music histories centered on great composers, and advocated a more inclusive cultural approach that appreciated the unsung heroes and everyday life of the past.
Riehl was even more critical of his own time, lamenting the costs of transforming Germany into a modern industrial society; while he called for a more encompassing definition of Germany’s musical heritage, he rejected all of the art music of the day, and particularly railed against the works of Wagner. Riehl, therefore, is an ambiguous figure: He championed the idea of music as culture, but he explicitly rejected a future for music as art.
This according to Sanna Pederson’s “An early crusader for music as culture: Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl”, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.