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«Anthony Albrecht Master of Music Candidate Historical Performance - The Juilliard School Document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements ...»

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Following the Bass: A methodology for the study of

contemporary bowed-bass continuo practices

Anthony Albrecht

Master of Music Candidate

Historical Performance - The Juilliard School

Document submitted in partial fulfilment of the

requirements for Scholastic Distinction


Graduate studies in Historical Performance at The Juilliard School, while boosting my

enthusiasm and appreciation for all kinds of early music, have left me with more questions than answers. To clarify, Historical Performance refers to the practice of contemporary performers who use what they understand to be historical instruments and practices to come as close as possible to the composer’s intended soundscape. As a cellist hoping to enter the profession as a continuo specialist, I am very keen to decipher what exactly it is that bowed-continuo players do, and don’t do, in relation to historical evidence. There are many great performers, scholars and teachers around the world that I have always wished to play for, and with, to absorb some of their skill and wisdom. In order to formalize this process and use the time of these masters efficiently, it occurred to me that an ethnographic study, such as I had previously conducted in my undergraduate Geography thesis, would be highly appropriate. Juilliard’s Scholastic Distinction program is providing me with the opportunity to formulate a working methodology for later use in a related doctoral thesis, so that I might begin to refine my focus and research techniques prior to a more extensive study. My overall aim is to develop a highly informed, relevant and ultimately satisfying practice of music-making that will push the boundaries of historical performance. The following is a document to be submitted in fulfilment of Juilliard’s Scholastic Distinction program. It includes an initial literature review, an outline of the methodology to be used and a recount and analysis of a series of pilot interviews with students and faculty at The Juilliard School. My supervisor in this task is Dr. David Schulenberg, assisted by Dr. Anthony Lioi as second reader. I’m very grateful for their time, support and enthusiasm.


Page 2. Forward Page 3.

Contents Page 4. Chapter 1: Introduction Page 8. Chapter 2: Theory 2.1: Ethnomusicology 2.2: Globalization 2.3: Hermeneutics and oral traditions 2.4: Authenticity 2.5: Technique 2.6: Positionality Page 20. Chapter 3: Methodology 3.1: Document Analysis 3.2: Questionnaire Surveys 3.3: Interviews and demonstrations Page 32. Chapter 4: Pilot Interviews 4.1: Context 4.2: Instruction 4.3: Historical Source Mate

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Page 52: Chapter 5: Conclusion Page 54: Bibliography Chapter 1: Introduction During specialized historical performance studies, the researcher has become acutely aware of a trend amongst 21st century baroque cellists to use intuitive guess work informed by modern cello practice when performing bowed-bass continuo parts from the 17th and 18th centuries. Bowedcontinuo refers to the practice of performing basslines from music before c.1850 with the role of supporting the melodic voices, using a bowed-bass instrument such as a cello, viola da gamba or

double bass. This forms the hypothesis of the proposed study:

Are bowed-continuo instrumentalists, performing with one degree or another of assumed “historical authenticity,” in fact demonstrating techniques and musical styles that come from a period of experimentation over the last 40 years since the revival of “early music”?

Successful artists have since passed on their practice orally in performance and recordings to generations of students. It remains to be seen whether many of these developments are justifiable with historical evidence, or whether these artists have made choices simply based on what “sounds good.” Numerous historical treatises, such as those of Leopold Mozart (violin), Quantz (flute) and CPE Bach (keyboard) are nowadays part of mainstream early music education. While these texts make occasional reference to bass lines (most famously Quantz’s chapter on accompaniment), there are no commonly cited manuals of instruction written specifically for practitioners of bowed-bass continuo. By “commonly cited”, this statement refers to the regular usage of treatises such as Quantz, CPE Bach, Leopold Mozart and Muffat to justify decisions or explore possible practical solutions during rehearsals, however in the researcher’s experience a useful but under-utilized resource for bowed-continuo players such as Baumgartner (1774) has never been mentioned in a rehearsal!

The early music revival has already created a lineage of highly successful and revered “stars” in both the melodic and continuo performance realms. Recent years have seen early music education expand significantly. Up until the beginning of the 21st century, the only truly international hubs for young performers interested in early music were The Hague and the Scuola Cantorum in Basel, but there are now specialized courses at top music schools all over the world teaching historical performance practice. The founding “gurus” of the field have in many instances already passed on leadership roles to a subsequent generation, who are now occupying teacher positions in conservatoria from Sydney to London to New York City. Many specialized graduates are now stepping into a competitive and extremely diverse global market.

There is now a strong awareness and appreciation for the field shown by audiences as well as within the musical community. An array of primary and secondary sources for developing interpretations and conducting scholarly research is now available via any device with an internet connection. However, Graham Sadler, despite making a point regarding the stylistic subtleties of the French style, highlights a universally relevant contemporary problem of the field in that “if there is now a degree of consensus as to how this music (early music) should sound, it emerged in the wake of decades of musicological detective work and benefited from a healthy dialogue between scholars and performers. The danger,” Sadler continues, “is that without continued dialogue of this kind, the performing style could easily lose touch with the historical evidence that helped bring it into being” (Sadler in Wainwright and Holman 2005, p.271). Students of this now (re-)established performance tradition must interrogate their sources, both historical texts and contemporary pedagogues, to refresh and innovate in this field.

There could not be a more apt time for a reflexive study of theory, performance and teaching methods in a specific area of early music. In recent decades reflexivity, suggesting a reflection of current practice, has become an increasingly important feature of the social sciences, including ethnomusicology, with researchers from various fields asking questions of themselves as to how, why and what is actually known and practiced, and how this could influence further research and practice (Cloke 2004; Eyles and Smith 1988; Stone 2007). A particular focus of this scrutiny has been “positionality” in qualitative research methods involving ethnography, subjectivity and meanings, as the interrelationships between the researcher and their field, study focus (phenomenon, person or social group) and data sources can shape the perception, interpretation and presentation of research (Cloke 2004, Stone 2007).

This paper formulates a methodological framework for assessing how bowed-continuo practice is understood, performed, taught and experienced by professionals around the world. The framework will be constructed in order to accomplish the following research aims and objectives

in a large research project:

- Collate and analyze existing historical evidence relevant to bowed-bass continuo playing.

- Document current practice; its origins, social and cultural significance, justification in historical evidence, technical and stylistic performance specifications, as well as its limitations and frontiers. This is a performance tradition that should be preserved while its “pioneers” are still with us.

- Assess the hermeneutics used by performers and scholars when looking at treatises and

–  –  –

- Compare current practice evidence about historical practices.

- Implement an ethnomusicological methodology in order to provide a neutral, “deep” and

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- Provide an educational resource for current and future bowed-bass continuo players, as well as an exciting case study for the fields of performance studies and ethnomusicology.

The methodology itself will revolve around the following practical steps:

- Collate and analyze relevant primary literature and existing secondary studies of a similar

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- Document and utilize primary data from observations of contemporary performance practice in relevant repertory.

- Create, justify and explain in detail a series of practical steps and the relevant ethical

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- Implement these steps and cross-analyze the resulting data.

Chapter 2 addresses the major theoretical areas within which the methodology will operate, including ethnomusicology, globalization, oral tradition, authenticity and cello technique as a documented cultural phenomenon. Chapter 3 outlines the various practical methods proposed, including document analysis, questionnaire surveys, interviews, performance recordings and analysis. Chapter 4 will discuss the context and findings of the pilot interviews conducted at The Juilliard School in March of 2014 with students and faculty of the Historical Performance Program. It must be stressed that the purpose of this document is to create a proposal for extended research.

Chapter 2: Theory

2.1 Ethnomusicology Ethnomusicology will form the theoretical foundation from which the project will take shape and through which other areas of theory (described below) will be explore. This field provides a theoretical and methodological framework from which to investigate performance traditions.

Defining the field is important in order to establish how it can assist the methodology of a proposed study, and has been a major point of discussion since the 1950s (Stobart 2008). Alan Merriam, writing towards the beginnings of ethnomusicology as a field, suggested “that the major emphasis in the work of earlier students of ethnomusicology was oriented toward analysis of the structure of the particular musics they studied,” pointing to the fact that by the 1960s the field had moved beyond form to consider cultural context via “deep description,” in concert with the general discipline of ethnography (Merriam 1960, p.108; Geertz 1973). Geertz’s “deep description” called for ethnographic study that acknowledges cultural context and researcher positionality, going beyond a superficial recount of whatever phenomenon is being observed to offer broader sociological conclusions (Geertz 1973).

Extending from this cultural concern, Merriam asked whether “the ultimate study of man … involves … searching out knowledge for its own sake, or is attempting to provide solutions to applied practical problems” (Merriam 1964). This applied ethnomusicology has been described by Pettan (et al. 2007) as “the approach guided by principles of social responsibility, which extends the usual academic goal of broadening and deepening knowledge and understanding toward solving concrete problems and toward working both inside and beyond typical academic contexts” (Pettan et al. 2007).

Stobart (2008, p.1) describes ethnomusicology as standing “at an interesting and important historical juncture … its practices have acquired increasing relevance in recent years – shifting it away from the margins and from automatic identification with the exotic.” Traditionally conjuring images of observing exotic music-making in Asia or Africa, particularly focusing on its “structure” rather than “meaning,” Stobart contends that ethnomusicology now represents “a conduit through which a more open, reflexive, representative, democratic and interdisciplinary approach to the study of music might be achieved” (Stobart 2008, p.1). Titon suggests that “today it is not transcription but fieldwork that constitutes ethnomusicology. Fieldwork is no longer viewed principally as observing and collecting music. The new fieldwork leads us to ask what it is like for a person (ourselves included) to make and to know music as lived experience” (in Barz 2008, p.27). Cementing this tradition of fieldwork, the Society for Ethnomusicology,

founded in the 1950s, declares that:

“ethnomusicologists share a coherent foundation in the following approaches and methods:

1) Taking a global approach to music (regardless of area of origin, style, or genre).

2) Understanding music as social practice (viewing music as a human activity that is shaped by its cultural context).

3) Engaging in ethnographic fieldwork (participating in and observing the music being studied, frequently gaining facility in another music tradition as a performer or theorist), and historical research” (SE 2013).

Titon discusses the nature of “the new fieldwork,” moving beyond mere documentation and

explanation, suggesting that while it:

“does not abandon musical sounds and structures, it just repositions them as “texts” (subjects of interpretation) in a hermeneutic circle. Musical sound is still documented, and if musical structure is an important aspect of the musical experience, as it so often is, then it is analyzed and interpreted as part of the matrix of meaning. Nor does the fieldworker abandon documentation; if anything, documentation increases. But documentation, too, is re-positioned, and is now considered reflexively, as an intersubjective product, rather than as the report and analysis of a witness” (Titon in Barz

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