Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: the Stats

Happy New Year!

Here are the 2013 statistics for Musicology Now, formally launched in August 2013.

as of 12:00 noon PST, December 31, 2013

Pageviews: 30,215
Daily hits: roughly 250

Audience by country:

United States
2900     (给来自于中国的读者:我们竭诚欢迎你们的到访。)
United Kingdom

Top 10 reads:

     Robert Fink, Aug 25, 2013

     Carol Hess, Nov 15, 2013

     Bonnie Gordon, Sep 28, 2013

     Ryan Minor, Oct 22, 2013

     Marian Wilson Kimber, Nov 27, 2013

     Byron Adams, Nov 23, 2013

     Paul Banks, Nov 22, 2013

     Robert D. Pearson, Nov 3, 2013

     Andrew Dell'Antonio, Oct 7, 2013

     David B. Levy, Oct 16, 2013

 Musicology Now invites submissions, now, for 2014. See "Directions to Contributors."

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Perséphone was a mélodrame (with speakers, vocal soloists, chorus, dance troupe, and orchestra) premiered at the Paris Opéra on 30 April 1934 by Ida Rubinstein's ballet company. The libretto was by André Gide, with music by Stravinsky. Perséphone was directed by the celebrated Jacques Copeau (18701949), founder of the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, with choreography by Kurt Jooss (1901–79). (Also on the program was the premiere of Ibert's ballet Diane de Poitiers.)

Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone by Tamara Levitz (Oxford UP, 2012) explores this collaboration through what she calls a “microhistorical analysis of the premiere”: how the collaborators “used the myth of Persephone to perform and articulate their most deeply held beliefs about four topics significant to modernism: religion, sexuality, death, and historical memory in art.” Her website offers a comprehensive introduction to the book.

Here Levitz writes, in part:
I tried to capture Stravinsky's intimate and private life as a composer by going back to countless original archival sources, and by observing Stravinsky from close range in one, controlled, situation (the premiere of Perséphone). Rather than document his life historically, ... I wanted to capture how he felt about love, sexuality, gender politics, music, religion, death, and hope, by exploring in very minute detail his approach to setting the myth of Persephone. By concentrating on a day-to-day description of Stravinsky's life in 1934, I hoped to escape some of the clichés that have plagued the literature on this composer to the present day.

André Gide fascinates for different reasons. He was an immensely courageous writer, who single-handedly transformed the discourse on pédérastie and homosexuality in his time. Gide resisted the symbolic reduction of human life and simple solutions to moral problems with all his might; he believed that human beings were complex creatures whose motivations and intentions could not be summarized in simple terms. I wanted in my book to describe in detail Gide's battle to have homosexuality accepted in his time, because I think the story can teach us a lot about similar battles taking place today.
Tamara Levitz
Levitz is Professor of Musicology at UCLA.

Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone won the American Musicological Society's 2013 Otto Kinkeldey Award, given annually “to a musicological book of exceptional merit published during the previous year.” It is the longest running of the society's awards, having been presented since 1967.

The citation notes how Levitz's work “departs from the conventions of music historiography by addressing in depth a single work of the early twentieth century, unsuccessful in its own time and thereafter consigned to the historical margins. Created by an international and unhappy collaboration of artists, each of them determinedly but differently modern, it inspires the book’s compelling, provocative, and nuanced reflections on the histories of twentieth-century music, literature, dance, psychology, religion, and sexuality. The author considers the work’s conflicting modernisms, its music and text, staging and audience, and the dynamics of personality and process, from a breathtaking array of theoretical perspectives, supported by rigorous examination of the material traces of creative activity. More than a model of microhistorical method, the book is a pathway to moving encounters not just with the historical protagonists, Igor Stravinsky and André Gide, but more broadly with images of the modern self, engaged in its struggle for realization and cultural validation.”

Otto Kinkeldey
The Kinkeldey Award is funded by the estate of Otto Kinkeldey (1878–1966), founding member of the Society, President from 1935–36 and from 1941–42, and Honorary President until his death in 1966. Kinkeldey occupied the first chair in musicology in the United States, at Cornell University,  between 1923 and 1946, where he was also Cornell University Librarian. He held the BA from City College of New York (1898), MA from New York University (1900) and Ph.D. from the Royal Academic Institute for Church Music in Berlin (1909). In 1910 he was appointed Royal Prussian Professor at the University of Breslau, then served in the United States Army at the beginning of World War I and was named head of the Music Division at the New York Public Library (1915–23).

Friday, December 27, 2013

Festschriften 2013

by Michael Accinno

Friends, pupils, and colleagues honored, during 2013, three distinguished American musicologists with Festschriften saluting lifetime achievement.

pic name
Jane Bernstein
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Ellen Rosand
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Thomas Kelly

Music in Print and Beyond (University of Rochester Press), edited by Craig Monson and Roberta Marvin, honors Jane Bernstein. It includes a baker's dozen essays on topics ranging from Hildegard of Bingen to Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, IRCAM and Abbey Road. Publisher's webpage HERE.

Bernstein, a former president of the American Musicological Society, is Austin Fletcher Professor of Music at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Her books include Printing in Renaissance Venice: The Scotto Press (1539–1572) (Oxford UP, 1998), Print Culture and Music in Sixteenth-Century Venice (Oxford UP, 2002), and Women's Voices across Musical Worlds (Northeastern UP, 2004), as well as numerous editions of sixteenth-century music.

Words, Image, and Song (University of Rochester Press), a two-volume set edited by Rebecca Cypess, Beth Glixon, and Nathan Link, honors Ellen Rosand. Publisher's webpage HERE.

The first volume, Essays on Early Modern Italy, explores the numerous connections between music, poetry, and the visual arts in the early Modern period (separate webpage HERE).

The second volume, Essays on Musical Voices, considers the notion of  “musical voice” in repertoires ranging from the Baroque cantata to the nineteenth-century autograph albums of Charlotte de Rothschild (separate webpage HERE). Some 30 contributions, altogether.

Rosand, Professor of Music at Yale University, is also a former president of the American Musicological Society. A noted authority on Italian opera from Monteverdi to Handel, her books include Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (University of California Press, 1991) and Monteverdi's Last Operas: a Venetian Trilogy (UC Press, 2007).

City, Chant, and the Topography of Early Music (Harvard University Department of Music: Harvard Publications in Music, book 23), edited by Michael Scott Cuthbert, Sean Gallagher, and Christoph Wolff, honors Thomas Forrest Kelly. The collection examines the ways plainchant and other musical genres are shaped by their connection to culture, geography, and politics. Publisher's website HERE.

Kelly is Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music, emeritus, at Harvard University. His work has focused on plainchant but also includes the celebrated First Nights book (Yale UP, 2000) and popular undergraduate course. (More video: Harvard's Great Teachers: Thomas Kelley.)

Fun Festschrift fact: musicology makes an “unusual” appearance in the Wikipedia article on "Festschrift" (We swear we had nothing to do with this.) Happy New Year!

Michael Accinno is a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the University of California, Davis, and assistant editor of Musicology Now.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dear Abbé


It's that time of year again... Sugar Plum Fairies... Messiah... holiday concerts (with and without celebrity readings of The Night Before Christmas—by the way, there's an app for that) and, yes, holiday lists:
Meanwhile Abbé means to while away those long winter nights here at the Madonna del Rosario by hunkering down with:

  • Donald Greig [sic]: Time Will Tell (Thames River Press, 2012), in which Ockeghem is prominently featured. Scholarly notes: the university in Tallahassee, through which the book's main character regularly accesses the Internet for research, should be The Florida State University. Our colleagues at the University of Florida are down the road in Gainesville. And Columbus, OH, is in the same time zone as JFK airport.
  • Donna Leon, The Jewels of Paradise (Grove Press, 2013), which features, not Commissario Brunetti, but rather Caterina Pellegrini, Venetian musicologist of 18th-century opera returning home from Manchester. Castrati, etc.
  • Longtime resident of Venice, Leon is herself an Italian opera enthusiast and patron, and, I have heard, a fan of Alan Curtis. (The first Brunetti mystery was Death at La Fenice, 1992). [Euro-residents: don't miss the tv series; tourists: take the Brunetti walks, etc.]
  • Peter Lovesey, The Tooth Tattoo (Soho Crime, 2013). In Peter Diamond Investigation 13, the suspects are members of a string quartet. Review in Washington Post.
  • Margo Miller, Murdering Tosca: An Opera “Shocker” (PublishAmerica, 2008). Why have the singers died in the order and manner of their stage characters?
  • Arthur Wenk, Quarter-Note Tales #4: An Axel Crotchet Trilogy (iUniverse, 2013). Crochet, bearded musicologist-at-large, stumbles into murderous intrigue amid church politics and academic amphigory, where tempers run so high because the stakes are so low. “Cat's Paw,“The Carcassonne Codex,” and “If Thine Eye Offend Thee.
Special thanks to American musicologists Vivian Ramalingam, Douglass Seaton, Alexaner Silbiger, Pamela Starr—and AMS executive director Bob Judd, who, to no one's surprise, keeps a list of musicology fiction).
Fun fact: E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime (Random House, 1975) is on President Obama's holiday list.

  • Sound City (Variance Films, 2013). Critically acclaimed documentary on Sound City Studios in Van Nuys.
  • Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (Sony, 2009). A sometimes believable and always intriguing evocation of the way it was from The Rite of Spring in 1913 through Chanel No. 5 in 1919. Steamy.
  • Mary Poppins: 50th-Anniversary Edition (Disney, 2013).That about says it all. Not steamy.
  • The Wizard of Oz: 75th-Anniversary Collector's Edition (Warner, 2013). Maybe. And maybe the lunchbox.
  • Family Dog at the Great Highway: San Francisco, CA 4/18/70. Exclusively at dead.net. Lost Grateful Dead show resurfaces; check out the coverage at Rolling Stone.
  • Vladimir Horowitz: Live at Carnegie Hall boxed set (Sony, 2013). 42 discs, $100-ish. But do I still have a CD player?

... Now, it's your turn. Share your own holiday ideas for music lovers in the comments box below.

Season's Greetings!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just For The Love of It

Amateurs, Professionals, and the British Early Music Movement

by Nick Wilson

Many aspects of the British early music movement (“Early Music”) continue to intrigue. One thinks of the authenticity debate; the relationship between high culture and commerce; the incubating role of the BBC; or even what I refer to as “re-enchanting art”—the capacity we have of discovering “old” music through performance, as if for the first time. One fascinating aspect that all too often gets overlooked is the role of the amateur. By the 1960s the territory of classical music performance had become deeply divided. The increasing dominance of the music “profession” had effectively severed ties with everyday music-making, tradition, and ritual. A gulf had opened up between performing classical music “just for the love of it” and the serious “business” of classical music concert performance. It would not be overstating things to suggest that such a gulf remains to this day. 

Though characterized as an ideological movement borne out of a scholarly obsession with recreating the past, Early Music also appealed to amateur musicians, not least because it offered an exciting “new” world of sound. There was also the alluring possibility of getting up-close and personal with the fascinating instruments that produced these sounds. In the infant years of the early music revival, “early” really meant early. A whole array of bizarre medieval and Renaissance instruments—cornetts, crumhorns, dulcians, nakers, rebecs, regals, sackbuts, and many other “buzzers and whiners” dating at least as far back as the fourteenth century—was suddenly let loose on an otherwise conventional audience, conjuring up altogether “other” times. The sound of a familiar Bach concerto played at Baroque pitch on period instruments prior to many of the “original” instruments being mastered, was shockingly new. This aural landscape was genuinely exciting for many musicians who had come to feel classical music performance had lost its way. The performances and subsequent recordings of medieval, Renaissance, and early Baroque music by the likes of Michael Morrow’s Musica Reservata and David Munrow’s Early Music Consort of London (founded “to present authentic and uninhibited performances”) in the 1960s, were crucial in catalyzing interest in historical performance. But more than this, amateur musicians quickly found themselves being able to join in, as copies of old instruments became widely available. Before long, enthusiasts could construct affordable historical instruments from DIY kits, encouraging an even closer allegiance with this form of music-making. Such “early adopters” of early music were central to its subsequent success—forming its audience and fan-base.

It would be wrong, however, to imply that amateur musicians began their love affair with early music only in the 1960s. In the first decades of the 20th century, an appetite for performing “old” music was already being satiated in a variety of informal gatherings across Britain. The most famous of these performances were undoubtedly the ones held by the Dolmetsches. It is striking that even today, Arnold Dolmetsch's pioneering work as a performer, instrument-maker, and scholar is labeled as “amateurish.” As one early music performer puts it, Dolmetsch was met with “the patronising indifference of the majority of the music profession.” He was surrounded largely by amateur musicians and instrument-makers at his Haslemere workshop, and what he was doing was regarded by many as unnecessarily specialized for its time, and too cut off from the professional music mainstream.

There is no doubt that the 20th-century early music revival owes much of its initial success to its ability to embrace the amateur musician. Arguably, this is just one particular facet of Early Music’s distinctive capacity to “join up” rather than to separate. Early musicians have been required to overcome many things, including unbridgeable barriers to past traditions and performance practices, and a fallible knowledge of composers’ intentions; They have also had to rely on working with instrument-makers, scholars, musicologists, and record company executives. However, in playing their part, amateurs unwittingly collaborated in Early Music’s professionalization and even its inevitable closure and narrowing in terms of repertoire covered. It is striking how little instrumental music from the Middle Ages, for example, now finds its way both to the concert hall and across the airwaves. 

The word “amateur” remains strongly divisive. While etymology reminds us that its meaning is derived from having a love of something (amator : “lover”), there is an enduring connotation of enthusiasm matched by lack of technical proficiency. Amateurs are often contrasted with professionals not just because the latter group earn money from their work, but because they are skilled and have reached a level that the former can only dream of. The unfolding story of Early Music admonishes us against readily jumping to any such simplistic conclusions.

Nick Wilson is Senior Lecturer in Cultural & Creative Industries at Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London, and a professional early music performer. The Art of Re-Enchantment: Making Early Music in the Modern Age is published by Oxford University Press (November, 2013).

Friday, December 13, 2013


Each year, the American Musicological Society names as Honorary Members longstanding members who have made outstanding contributions to further our objectives and the field of musical scholarship. This year there are five:

Karol Berger, Osgood Hooker Professor in Fine Arts, Department of Music, Stanford University. Berger's publications span the music of the Renaissance to philosophical issues of art in our world today. Musica Ficta (Cambridge UP, 2004) received the Otto Kinkeldey Award, and Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow (UC Press, 2008), the Marjorie Weston Emerson Award of the Mozart Society of America. Berger also won the 2011 Glarean-Preis of the Schweizerische Musikforschende Gesellschaft, for lifetime achievement.
Sarah Fuller, Professor of Music, Stony Brook University. Fuller's significant body of scholarly writings includes studies of Aquitanian polyphony of the twelfth century, the music of Guillaume de Machaut, and medieval and Renaissance music theory. Her research encompasses such disparate issues as Hucbald's modal practices, the definition of musical space in Machaut, aural perception in the late Middle Ages, and the possibility of gendered semitones in the 14th century. Among her many honors, she was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Alejandro Planchart, Professor of Music, emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara. Planchart's remarkable publications on tropes and on the music of the Renaissance, especially on the life and music of Guillaume Du Fay, have inspired a generation of scholars. Among his previous honors and prizes have been a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Howard M. Brown Award (Early Music America), and the Arion Prize (Cambridge Society for Early Music).

Craig Wright, Professor of Music, Yale University. Wright's significant body of scholarly writings range from archival studies of Notre Dame in Paris and music at the 14-century court of Burgundy to a study of the symbolism of the maze in architecture, theology. and music, to a widely used introductory text, Listening to Music. Among his honors are both the Alfred Einstein Award and the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society, and the Dent Medal from the Royal Musical Association.
Neal Zaslaw, Herbert Gussman Professor of Music, Cornell University. Zaslaw's numerous and influential books and articles on performance practice, and on Mozart and his music, have shaped the way a generation of scholars and music lovers understand this foundational figure, in this country and around the world. His Mozart scholarship now continues with his appointment as principal editor of the revised Köchel catalogue.

Corresponding Members are those who at the time of their election are citizens of countries other than Canada or the United States and who have made particularly notable contributions to furthering the stated object of the American Musicological Society. There is one new Corresponding Member:

Agostino Ziino. This honor recognizes Ziino's research and publications in the field of medieval and Renaissance Italian and French music, perhaps especially regarding the Lauda, but also his discovery of the Turin manuscript T.III.2 at the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria along with other musical manuscripts. His  scholarship also includes important work on the 18th-century festa teatrale in Naples, as well as on such 19th-century figures as Luigi Romanelli and Richard Wagner. He is a past winner of the A. Feltrinelli Award from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and former president of the Italian Musicological Society.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dear Abbé

Professional musicologists offer answers and advice. Free.


Why is the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées not in the Champs-Élysées?  

                                                IGOR, MAURICE, and the GANG


Not my period. It does appear that this question is of a century's duration. Within my possé of followers, as it happens, there's a young whippersnapper who specializes in just this question. Siehe nachfolgend. 


Whither the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées?

by Cesar Leal

Gabriel Astruc
Inaugurated on April 30, 1913, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is an icon of Parisian modernist architecture as well as a significant landmark in the history of music. It was the life-long project of Gabriel Astruc (1864–1938), a Parisian impresario, journalist, playwright, agent, promoter, theater manager, music editor, and publisher.

Astruc was an early partisan of Diaghilev and created the first Saison Russe in Paris in 1909. Additionally, he organized numerous music festivals and artistic events at such Parisian theaters as the Châtelet and Opéra, with artists and ensembles including Strauss, Toscanini, Caruso, Satie, Nijinsky, and the entire troupe of the New York Metropolitan Opera Company.

Beginning in 1905, the musical events he presented became known as the Grande Saison de Paris, a cultural phenomenon that remained at the center of Parisian cultural life for almost a decade. Yearly, in May and June, it featured the world’s most sought-after performers. Astruc aspired to centralize the Grande Saison into a unique space, and this became the concept behind his idea for a new palais philharmonique.

Astruc envisaged a space that facilitated dialogue among audiences, different artistic disciplines, and musical genres. Early blueprints of the project indicate that the theater was to have included three halls: Grande Salle, Salle Moyenne, and Petite Salle. The Grande Salle, mainly devoted to orchestral music, opera, and ballet, had the capacity to host an audience of 2,500 people. The Salle Moyenne, for chamber music (up to 50 musicians) and virtuosi, could seat up to 1,200 people. Finally, the Petite Salle was designed so that about 800 people could enjoy small-scale recitals and artistic expositions.

Rendering of a palais philharmonique in the Champs-Élysées.

Location was everything. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées represented the cosmopolitanism and sophistication commonly associated with the Parisian élite, a community Astruc knew well. A wealthy group of patrons from Paris and elsewhere, including Rothschild, Camondo, Vanderbilt, Pierpont Morgan, and Countess Greffulhe, offered financial support for his ambitious initiative. Such celebrity composers as Saint-Saëns, Lalo, Debussy, Fauré, and Massenet enthusiastically supported Astruc’s initiative. And on August 4, 1906, the Paris city council approved the plan to build a palais philharmonique in the Champs-Élysées—on city property.

But in fact the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is located in the Avenue Montaigne, near its intersection with the Avenue George V, significantly closer to the Seine than to the Champs-Élysées: a half-mile walk, or, better, a 600-foot stroll from the Alma-Marceau metro station, near the Pont de l’Alma.

For shortly after council approval, several groups manifested their opposition to the new hall. Some opposed Astruc’s intention to centralize all the events of the Grande Saison. Traditional Parisian venues, such as the Opéra, Opéra-Comique, and Salle Pleyel, which often hosted his events, perceived the projected Théâtre des Champs-Élysées as a financial threat.

The strongest, and ultimately most effective, campaign against Astruc and his theater originated from the same city council that had already given permission to build. In 1909, André Hallays, an advocate of French patrimony associated with La Libre Parole (a Parisian newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and political content), proposed that the terrain in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées “be officially restricted, and the site formerly occupied by a circus from now on [1909] be neither rented nor sold.”

Hallays’s proposal gained immediate support from some members of the city council. In 1909, despite Astruc’s strenuous efforts to convince them otherwise, the council revoked the license previously awarded. “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away!” said Astruc in a column published by the Figaro shortly after he heard the news. He added, “The Council promised me the rights to the Champs-Élysées property. The Council has withdrawn its promise.” 

Planned (A) and actual (B) locations of the theater.
Legal actions and contingency plans inevitably followed. The search for a new site did not take long. By early 1910, the Société du Théâtre des Champs-Élysées had purchased the property in the Avenue Montaigne, in the same arrondissement. Astruc retained most of his existing investors and supporters, but purchasing the land instead of leasing it required cultivation of new patrons and bigger gifts. This was the sort of thing at which Astruc particularly excelled.

The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées today.
Construction began in mid-1911. As it neared completion in early 1913, the theater hosted guided tours for art and architecture schools leading up to the inaugural concert on April 2, 1913.

As with many other artistic institutions on the eve of war, ticket sales and private support could not provide the revenue to keep the theater running. The closing of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on November 17, 1913, came, ironically, on the heels of the great opening season, with Schmitt’s Tragedy of Salomé, Debussy’s Jeux, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. That, in the end, proved the peak of Astruc’s career.

Today, the theater reflects Astruc’s original concept only in part. The halls have been separated and common spaces divided. You can still experience the magnificent art deco style, but that is only a glimpse of the artistic dialogue that characterized this space a hundred years ago.

Cesar Leal is conductor of the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra at the University of the South; he will shortly hold the Ph.D. degree in musicology from the University of Kentucky for his dissertation on Gabriel Astruc. His chapter “Gabriel Astruc, Wagner and the Wagnerianism of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées” appears in a forthcoming volume commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fiddling in the “Last Best West”

by David Gramit

We don’t know much about the fiddler preserved in this turn-of-the-century photo from the Provincial Archives of Alberta (nor about the woman who peers evocatively from the shadows of the doorway of what we presume was his cabin). We know enough, though, to think that the notes that accompany the donation, describing it as an “Indian playing violin outside log cabin [1900],” are a revealing oversimplification. Both the act of fiddling and the man’s woven sash, visible at his waist and between his legs, reveal that he was very likely not a member of the Cree bands that inhabited the area of Edmonton in 1885, when George Ray, who collected this picture, took up his office as the first Registrar of Canada’s Northwest Territories (which then included present-day Saskatchewan and Alberta). Rather, he is Métis, part of a nation descended from the union of First Nations women with mostly French and Scottish fur traders, a nation whose culture includes a distinctive and still active fiddling tradition.

(For a brief sketch of music—including that of the Métis—in the Canadian west earlier in the century, see Daniel Laxer’s article on the soundscape of painter Paul Kane’s journey across Canada in the mid-1800s. Kane’s painting of Fort Edmonton is the iconic image of the fur-trading outpost that preceded the city.)

Why does this mislabeling matter? Because the myth of an empty land, inhabited by only a few wandering tribes of savage Indians, became foundational to the settlement of Canada’s “last best west,” just as it was across North America—so when Alberta became a province in 1905, in the midst of one of the continent’s last great settler booms, a souvenir booklet could tell of the “almost untouched unlimited resources of undeveloped wealth . . . of all those regions to which Edmonton is the gateway.” “Untouched” and “undeveloped” implied unlimited potential for profit, “and no one need hesitate to make his investments accordingly.” Like countless other variants of Wild West mythology, the booklet obscured an inconvenient truth: this was a land whose original inhabitants maintained a centuries-long tradition of trade and cultural interaction, a pattern of commerce in which Europeans were longtime participants but relative latecomers. Simplifications like the misrecognition of our unidentified Métis fiddler are both results of and contributors to that mythology.

But when at least one other Métis fiddler represented himself, the resulting image was very different. The Edmonton city archives preserve this studio portrait of the prominent early Edmontonian Laurent Garneau and his wife Eleanor, taken around 1898. Born in Michigan around 1840 to a French Canadian fur trader and an Ojibway mother, Garneau was well known as a fiddler in the Edmonton area, where he had settled in 1874. Having fought with Métis leader Louis Riel in the Red River uprising of 1869 and then worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, Garneau was intimately familiar with the political and social dividing lines of the west. Indeed, he had been arrested in 1885 at the time of the Northwest Rebellion, apparently because of his earlier association with Riel, and that same association thwarted his attempt to enter territorial politics in 1892. But Garneau still managed to become a respected figure in early Edmonton, achieving considerable wealth in a variety of business enterprises, and his portrait is structured to project propriety, achievement, and comfort in a settler’s world rather than his Métis heritage—even if he still valued his fiddle highly enough to place it on the table beside him. In short, this is not an image collected to record the customs of the locals, but a portrait of a couple who intend to be recognized as participants in a developing new society (one that within a few short years would be eager enough to distance itself from rural musical practices that a 1904 concert and dance ad for Edmonton’s Apollo Orchestra bluntly specifies: “no square dances”).

If admittedly remote Edmonton were a unique case, then these two images would be little more than curiosities of local history. But the city’s frantic growth (from just over a hundred when Garneau arrived, to 2,626 when he moved on in 1901, to more than 70,000 by 1914) was a late and relatively modest example of a development repeated across the west (and Australasia too) throughout the long nineteenth century, as James Belich has brilliantly documented in his Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo World, 1783–1939. These fiddlers and their tunes were local, to be sure, but the processes of displacement, explosive settlement, and cross-cultural negotiation to which they attest have their counterparts throughout the enormous settler-colonial world.
Provincial Archives of Alberta photo PAA A8125 and City of Edmonton Archives photo EA-58-3 appear with permission of the archives. The 1904 concert ad was located by Jamie Meyers-Riczu.

David Gramit is Professor of Music at the University of Alberta. He is author of Cultivating Music: The Aspirations, Interests, and Limits of German Musical Culture, 1770–1848 (University of California Press, 2002) and editor of Beyond “The Art of Finger Dexterity”: Reassessing Carl Czerny (University of Rochester Press, 2008). His research on music in early Edmonton is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Schütz as 20th-Century Invention

by Bettina Varwig

Of course Heinrich Schütz was born in the late sixteenth century and died 87 years later in the seventeenth: 1585–1672, to be precise. But the Schütz familiar from our standard history books is very much a twentieth-century creature.

After all, it was only in the 1920s and 30s that Schütz’s music became fully “domesticated” among amateurs and musicologists (who found each other in the Singbewegung—the “movement” that sought to encourage a rebirth of German culture through group singing), attaining a popularity that his elitist output had never seen during his lifetime. And contrary to the nineteenth-century vision of Schütz as a consummate musical dramatist, the early twentieth-century liturgical renewal movement produced the enduring image of the composer as a Lutheran preacher figure.

His appropriation into the Weimar-era Hausmusik scene and his supposed exclusive dedication to Luther’s Word both allowed Schütz’s music to be distanced from conventional concert culture and any “merely” aesthetic appreciation of his works. The Neue Schütz-Gesellschaft, established in 1930 to replace a defunct earlier organization, eagerly embraced this liturgical agenda, and the journal Musik und Kirche, founded the year before, quickly became a leading forum for Schütz scholarship and advocacy. The fact that no instrumental music by Schütz survived was taken as further proof of his sole concern for Lutheran dogma; his secular works, on the other hand, faded into the background as a necessary evil brought about by his court employment.

The determination with which Schütz was refashioned into a musical herald of Lutheranism far exceeded the similar treatment accorded to his Protestant heir Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music was by this time too firmly established in secular concert life. The conspicuous lack of chorale settings in Schütz’s output compared with Bach (a total of about 40 melodies or fragments in an œuvre of over 500 items) was breezily overlooked; so too was the fact that prominent collections such as his Psalmen Davids (1619) contained large-scale pieces whose stately splendor patently did not mesh with the Protestant cantor fiction. Critics summarily dismissed these works as focused on mere sensuous beauty and grandeur of sound—though the Nazis subsequently came to appreciate those same characteristics, allowing them to claim Schütz as a monumental Northern German hero while playing down any unwelcome religious content.

The Lutheran-preacher image instead worked best for few-voiced works such as the Kleine geistliche Konzerte (1636, 1639) or the Geistliche Chormusik (1648). It was further consolidated in the 1940s by the “discovery” of musical rhetoric, in particular the so-called “doctrine of figures,” which seemed to provide a key to understand meaning in Schütz’s music. In offering an apparently historical foundation for the notion of Schütz as scriptural interpreter, rhetoric became an almost compulsory preoccupation for post-war scholars. As an analytical method, it allowed them to explicate and thereby valorize a repertoire whose structures resisted standard categorization. Moreover, the topic of rhetoric could give the appearance of a relatively neutral ideology, even if the idea of Schütz as musical orator remained closely bound up with claims about his national identity and special affinity with the German language.

All this is not to suggest that text painting never played a role in Schütz’s choice of musical gestures. To take a single example, in the motet “Ich bin eine rufende Stimme” (SWV 383), a setting of Mark 1:3 from the Geistliche Chormusik, the melismas from m. 29 might well illustrate the word “Weg” (path), as rough and bumpy as the melodic contour. But such a reading only considers the shape of individual lines, while missing the broader process of intensification created by their successive combination (first three, then six “bumping along” together), and the later fracturing of the motive into breathless reiterations (e. g., in the alto from m. 38).
Focusing on the treatment of a single word thus inhibits any sense of enjoyment from the gradual amplification of sound, from the virtuosity of the outburst, or from the rhythmic excitement after the placid preceding section. Moreover, the subsequent passage in the piece presents a varied version of its opening point of imitation, now underlaid with a different text—a striking double-exposition design that again makes most sense on a musical rather than a textual level.

A closer look at the theoretical sources of Schütz’s time—the celebrated musica poetica treatises of Joachim Burmeister and others—reveals that, contrary to the later near-exclusive concern with textual interpretation, these theorists indeed understood rhetoric primarily as a set of syntactic strategies for varying and amplifying musical ideas. The rhetorical terminology allowed them to categorize common procedures of musical design: the very first figure listed by Burmeister, “fuga realis,” simply described an imitative combination of subjects, of the sort used by Schütz for that exposition in SWV 383. Rhetorical labels hence performed an important role in conceptualizing techniques of phrase arrangement, but were not intrinsically tied to textual meaning. But the fallacy of this “doctrine of figures” as an interpretive system still underpins current perceptions of Schütz’s music as primarily a word-centered, sermonic art form.

And yet, even if the Lutheran-orator image can be thus discredited, we perhaps find ourselves no closer than those early twentieth-century critics to knowing what to do with a figure like Schütz. As musical canons continue to broaden and dissolve, his contributions may teeter ever closer to the edge of oblivion, making him an unlikely candidate for widespread musicological attention in years to come. One answer—if indeed we need one—might lie in recovering precisely that dimension of sounding beauty that Schütz and his listeners were so much more attuned to than our historical narratives have tended to assume. If nothing else, such a shift in perspective may allow us to envisage a more plausible, twenty-first-century version of the man and his sound world.

Bettina Varwig is Senior Lecturer in Music at King’s College London. Her book Histories of Heinrich Schütz was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Anne of Green Gables and the Lost Art of Recitation

by Marian Wilson Kimber

In the much-loved Anne of Green Gables, the students of Miss Stacey “get up a concert.” The “concert” in the 1908 novel by L. M. Montgomery consists of more than just music—it also features spoken poetry. The poetry is especially exciting for the young heroine, Anne Shirley, who plans to “groan heartrendingly” in her recitation. “It’s really hard to get up a good artistic groan,” she confides. Later in the novel, a more accomplished Anne recites at a hotel concert. Hearing a professional elocutionist momentarily undermines her confidence, but she recovers, “her clear, sweet voice reaching to the farthest corner of the room without a tremor or break.”

Anne Shirley, played by Megan Follows, recites at the hotel concert 
in the 1985 television mini-series version of Anne of Green Gables

Today the spoken word is not usually found in concerts; however, the fictional settings for Anne’s poetic effusions were typical in Montgomery’s era. As surviving programs from the long nineteenth century attest, period audiences found nothing unusual in the appearance of speech between musical compositions. In a more oratorical age, children were educated through vocal repetition and adults entertained one another by reading aloud. Elocution lessons were widely available in schools and music conservatories. Major cities had elocution schools, some of which developed into colleges, for example, Emerson College and Curry College in Boston, and Chicago’s Columbia College. While a few graduates became theatrical professionals, most had careers as platform soloists or teachers. In Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon, Ilse Burnley, an aspiring performer herself, defines elocutionist as “a woman who recites at concerts.” Female elocutionists came to dominate the profession, making up three-quarters of the attendees at the first meeting of the National Association of Elocutionists in New York City in 1893.

The sheer number of cultural events at which speech and music alternated makes them virtually impossible to summarize: graduations, patriotic celebrations, oratory contests, and holiday and religious events. Chamber groups known as “concert companies” regularly included a “reader” in their ensembles. Orchestras featured an actress performing a solo rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, accompanied by Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for the play. Musical selections were an expected part of literary settings such as the meetings of women’s clubs common to the Progressive era. In “musical and literary entertainments,” music was interspersed with everything from the poetry of Longfellow and Tennyson to comedic monologues such as “Aunt Doleful’s Visit.” Audiences enjoyed the variety, and elocutionists became known for their interpretations of a particular poem, in the same way that a singer might shape an individual rendition of a song.

Flier for the Oriole Concert Company, ca. 1910,
featuring reader Hazel Kepford (upper left),
along with a violinist, cellist, and pianist. **

Likewise, listeners found that “accompanied recitations” made some performances distinctive, for music enhanced the emotional impact of spoken text on listeners, just as film scores do today. Performers added music as a quiet background for a poem or inserted a popular song mentioned in the text. Songs could also be recited to their accompaniments instead of sung. “Melodramas,” pieces consisting of speech and music, were produced by many composers, both well known (Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, Edvard Grieg) and less familiar (Stanley Hawley, Rosseter G. Cole, Max Heinrich, Phyllis Fergus, Frieda Peyke, and many others).

Ultimately, the popularity of elocution faded when radio and movies brought music and speech to audiences in a new way. Elocution’s fall from our cultural memory stems in part from modernist rejection of its stylized performance practices and undeniable sentimental excesses. However, when the anti-Victorian reaction against elocution swung into full force after World War I, it was also a reaction against its professionalization of women. The habitually derogatory remarks about elocutionists were complaints about the period’s “elocution ladies.” The word “elocution” now called up visions of antiquated, amateurish performances by women and children. When the aging opera singer David Bispham turned to reciting, he was criticized for his “musical and literary entertainment such as is still given in the lecture room of the Keokuk [Iowa] Congregational Church, the proceeds of which are usually expended on a new church carpet.”

Yet for decades, elocution was a significant part of concerts. In our own time, when some audience members find the ritualistic silences surrounding the pieces on classical concerts stultifying, and not even conductors venture to speak to their audiences, perhaps we should reconsider a practice that once permeated our cultural life.
** Image Courtesy of Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa Digital Library

Marian Wilson Kimber is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Iowa. She is currently writing a book entitled, Feminine Entertainments: Women, Music, and the Spoken Word. Find out more about the history of elocution on her tumblr, Elocutionary Arts.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

For Benjamin Britten, Upon the Centenary of His Birth

by Byron Adams

“Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire . . .”

Edward Benjamin Britten was born on 22 November 1913, a day remembered in Great Britain as a celebration of the wholly mythical patron saint of music, Saint Cecilia. His father was an unprepossessing dentist in Lowestoft, an unremarkable town in Sussex; his determined mother, however, believed from the beginning that her child was destined to be a great composer. So he was.

From the time he was a schoolboy, Britten had an uncanny knowledge of his enormous gifts and how best to cultivate them. The child composed incessantly: much of his supposed juvenilia is of more than merely academic interest. To read how this precocious boy maneuvered the adults around him in order to have lessons with Frank Bridge is to understand the insight and surety that he possessed at the age of eleven. He chose wisely, for Bridge, who had no previous experience teaching composition whatsoever, turned out to be the perfect mentor.

From such beginnings, Britten moved from strength to strength until he was a national figure in his twenties and an international figure by his thirties. By the time Britten was fifty, the émigré theorist Hans Keller was comparing him to Mozart. A more profitable comparison in this case might be with Saint-Saëns, another prodigy who fully realized his early promise and whose habits of clarity, professionalism, and unceasing industry enabled him to produce music like an apple tree produces apples. Like Saint-Saëns, Britten developed such an extraordinary level of musicianship—both were superb pianists—that he was accused of being merely “facile,” or, even more damning within the context of British society, “clever.” Despite such critical strictures, both composers contributed a large body of music to the repertory that remains firmly in place.

“Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.”

Toward the end of his life, Philip Brett had realized how much Britten owed to a British predecessor about whom he had little good to say, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Like Vaughan Williams, Britten arranged British folksongs. Vaughan Williams had co-founded the Leith Hill Festival near his birthplace in Surrey; Britten co-founded the Aldeburgh Festival near his birthplace in Sussex. Vaughan Williams composed music for children and amateurs, as did Britten, whose opera for children, Noye’s Fludde, is a perfect example of music that enthralls non-professional performers and listeners alike. For their devotion and generosity, both composers were awarded the highest honor offered by their nation, the Order of Merit.

While it is true that Vaughan Williams had his circle of admirers, he eschewed anyone or anything that smacked of hero-worship or sycophancy. Britten, on the other hand, needed constant reassurance on a scale not seen since the death of the narcissistic Edward Elgar. Britten’s early friend, the poet W. H. Auden, warned the young composer about his propensity to build “a warm nest of love” in order to protect himself from the battering of the world—unsurprisingly, Britten dropped Auden soon after. But Aldeburgh, however splendid, did in fact become a cocoon and a defense against the world: Felix Aprahamian, a distinguished music critic, had many stories of Britten’s thin-skinned overreaction to the mildest of critiques. The protective “court” at Aldeburgh, headed by Britten’s life partner, the great tenor Peter Pears, cannot be dismissed out-of-hand, however, for the very “nest of love” that insulated Britten against the world also made possible the ideal conditions that enabled the creation of his finest scores. In a very real and ongoing sense, the Aldeburgh Festival is one of the greatest gifts ever given by a composer to a nation.

“O weep, child weep, O weep away the stain,
Lost innocence who wished your lover dead,
Weep for the lives your wishes never led.”

Britten was a pacifist and a homosexual. This represented two strikes against him during the Second World War, although he and Pears, who shared his partner’s political views, performed recitals throughout Britain during the conflict, bringing a measure of beauty to factory workers, laborers, and prisoners. (One such prisoner was Michael Tippett, a more aggressive pacifist than either Britten or Pears, who was sentenced to several months in prison for refusing to do anything that could be construed as “war work.”) In such a brief celebratory prose fanfare as this, it is impossible to do full justice to Philip Brett’s extraordinary and nuanced explorations of the role that homosexuality played in Britten’s life and work. Brett’s essays on Britten are highly recommended, therefore, as is the splendid new biography by Paul Kildea, which is surely one of the most even-handed books written about a great twentieth century composer.

Britten’s homosexuality, which he never acknowledged publicly during his lifetime, was an “open secret,” as everybody “knew” but nobody said a word about it in public. This paradox, as well as the covert hostility leveled toward Britten during his lifetime, is exemplified neatly by an episode in the life of the decidedly heterosexual composer Gerald Finzi. During the interval of the BBC broadcast of the première of Britten’s Billy Budd, Finzi telephoned other envious heterosexual composers to deplore the use of such a patently “homosexual” topic as the basis for an opera.

Then there is Britten’s attraction to adolescent boys. This cannot be swept under the carpet, as the sufferings of boys provide a major theme that chimes throughout such works as Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, The Turn of the Screw, and Curlew River, as well as in religious works such as Saint Nicholas, with its recounting of a miracle in which the saint revives a hapless group of pickled boys. Quite a few of Britten’s listeners remain unsettled by his obsession with boys. Indeed, there are those listeners and performers who honestly cannot come to grips with the composer’s ephebophilia and so reject his work entirely.

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that Benjamin Britten was never a sexual predator of children, as John Bridcut revealed clearly in a sensitive documentary and book, both entitled Britten’s Children. At the same time, Britten suffered intensely from his attraction to boys. Ronald Duncan, librettist of Britten’s chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia, aptly called the composer a “reluctant homosexual.” It would be a dire mistake to revise history and claim in rosy hindsight that the composer was either a precursor of “gay liberation” or a positive role model for anyone in the LGBT community.  He was repressed; he often felt guilty; he suffered unimaginable torment at times.

“O wear your tribulation like a rose.”

What Britten never did was to falter in the full realization of his gifts as a composer. In this, certainly, he is a role model: he learned his craft completely; he practiced it daily; he aimed at excellence; and he gave of himself until the end. Britten literally worked himself to death. His accomplishment is unique and precious. Britten was a great British composer who reached an international audience: he is the heir to Dunstable, Byrd, Purcell, Elgar, Holst, and Vaughan Williams, among others. The Aldeburgh Festival continues today, a benefice to Sussex, to Britain, and to the world.

Each section of this centenary appreciation has been headed by quotations from Auden’s “Song for St. Cecilia’s Day,” which was set by Britten as his Hymn to Saint Cecilia, op. 27,  premiered on the composer’s birthday, 22 November 1942, during the darkest days of the Second World War. It is fitting, therefore, that Auden should have the final word, not from this radiant poem to a legendary saint, but through lines drawn from a poem that may well have been inspired by Britten himself, “The Composer”:

“Only your notes are pure contraption,
Only your song is an absolute gift.

Pour out your presence, O delight, cascading
The falls of the knee and the weirs of the spine,
Our climate of silence and doubt invading:
You, alone, alone, O imaginary song,
Are unable to say an existence is wrong,
And pour out your forgiveness like a wine.”

Byron Adams is Professor of Musicology in the Department of Music at the University of California, Riverside. He is editor of Edward Elgar and His World, the scholarly volume that appeared in conjunction with the Bard Music Festival (Princeton University Press, 2011).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Benjamin Britten:
Centenary Reflections (1)

by Paul Banks
NOTE: Byron Adams's “For Benjamin Britten, Upon the Centenary of His Birth,” will appear next in this series.
Ben and Peter. And Aaron.

As we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten (22 November 1913), the place of his music in the canon of the Anglophone world and beyond seems secure and relatively unproblematic (as the Britten 100 site demonstrates). Many of the vocal works, particularly the operas, are now often performed and recorded; that they were tailored with care for the gifts of very different types of singers—from Sophie Wyss to Galina Vishnevskaya, Kathleen Ferrier to Janet Baker, and for the wholly individual vocal talent of his partner, Peter Pears—has not discouraged later generations of singers from taking Britten’s works into their repertoire. The fact that his idiom remained, for the most part, accessible and deeply rooted in the traditions of his immediate predecessors is no longer a source of anxiety.

Sixty years ago, however, the situation was rather more complex. In England, a number of influential critics still found his music too modern and challenging, while younger colleagues with modernist leanings such as Donald Mitchell, Hans Keller, and Paul Hamburger sought to validate Britten’s achievement by asserting his connections to tradition, thereby securing his place in a monolithic and teleological view of music history. In fact Britten appropriated techniques and sounds not only from Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Berg, but also from the traditions of Balinese gamelan and the Japanese Noh. Moreover, such acquisitions did not supplant existing components in his repertoire of musical resources, but co-existed with them. It is wholly characteristic of Britten that two instrumental works—Lachrymae (viola and piano, 1950) and Nocturnal (guitar, 1963)—which are radical in their transformation of melodic patterns into harmonic elements, were based on songs by English Renaissance composer John Dowland.

In the early 1950s, Britten himself seemed rather unconcerned about his place within larger patterns of musical history. Ten years later, in one of his rare excursions into extended prose, On Receiving the First Aspen Award (1964), he showed a rare insight into the dilemma faced by many composers in the immediate post-war years: 
There are many dangers which hedge round the unfortunate composer: pressure groups which demand true proletarian music, snobs who demand the latest avant-garde tricks; critics who are already trying to document today for tomorrow . . . . These people are dangerous—not because they are necessarily of any importance in themselves, but because they make the composer, above all the young composer, self-conscious, and instead of writing his own music, music which springs naturally from his gift and personality, he may be frightened into writing pretentious nonsense or deliberate obscurity.
That Britten articulated his sentiments in a speech delivered at Aspen seems particularly apt: his years in Canada and the USA (1939–42) coincided with a crucial stage in his evolution as a composer. Moving away from relatively overt references to continental modernism that characterized his works in the early- to mid-1930s, Britten embraced a more communicative style in such works as the concluding passacaglia of the Violin Concerto (1939) and the Sinfonia da requiem (1940). This stylistic shift allowed the composer to work on a larger scale and to invest his music with greater musical and emotional richness. His friendship with Aaron Copland (from 1938) undoubtedly contributed to this development. Works by the American composer such as The Second Hurricane and El Salón México made a profound impression; after hearing the latter at the 1938 ISCM Festival in London, Britten wrote to Lennox Berkeley, “it’s a grand piece: . . . what a relief it was . . . after all that pretentious balderdash we had to listen to.” Copland’s conviction that “simplicity was the way out of isolation for the contemporary composer” undoubtedly struck a chord with Britten on an artistic level, especially since for him (as for Copland) that sense of isolation was reinforced by social and legal responses to other aspects of his life: his sexuality and his politics.

Britten's strong desire for belonging lay behind the most familiar facet of his discussion of the composer’s role in the Aspen address:
I want my music to be of use to people, to please them, to ‘enhance their lives’ (to use Berenson’s phrase). I do not write for posterity. . . . I write music, now, in Aldeburgh, for people living there, and further afield, indeed for anyone who cares to play it or listen to it. But my music now has its roots in where I live and work. And I only came to realise that in California in 1941.
That Britten defined his usefulness solely in terms of his creative work is understandable. Indeed, his conviction that composing formed the central part of his life formed at an early age:
At a tennis party in my youth I was asked what I was going to do when I grew up—what job I was aiming at. “I am going to be a composer,” I said. “Yes, but what else?” was the answer.
Britten was right: he did become a composer, and one whose music shows every sign of continuing to connect with audiences; unwittingly, so was his interlocutor, because Britten became much else as well. By the early 1940s, it was clear that he was an exceptional accompanist, and in the 1950s he emerged as a conductor of rare insight. However, these talents clearly grew out of Britten’s innate musical aptitude: less expected was his skill as a leader. Naturally shy, even reserved, Britten nevertheless inspired great loyalty from some colleagues, and with their aid he founded an opera company, the English Opera Group (1947–80) and a festival at Aldeburgh (1948– ). Other endeavors included the construction of a concert hall at Snape, near Aldeburgh (1967) and the provision of crucial start-up funding for Faber Music (1964– ). Not a teacher in any formal sense—although composers and performers such as Robert Saxton and Graham Johnson have acknowledged the value of the informal advice he offered—Britten encouraged various educational programs, not least the formation in 1948 of the Opera Studio under the auspices of the English Opera Group, and the masterclasses by Peter Pears that evolved into the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies (now the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme). These and many other initiatives supplemented Britten’s creative output, forming one of the most diverse, substantial, and internationally significant legacies of any British composer.

Paul Banks is Professor of Historical Musicology and Head of Special Collections at the Royal College of Music, London. Between 1989 and 1998 he was Librarian at the Britten-Pears Library, and has published on Busoni, Britten, Berlioz, Mahler, and Hans Rott.