Minims – Part 2
Continue from Part 1
Jason Marmaras wrote (April 16, 2004):
Shortened minims - on the "major changes"
[To Bradley Lehman] (Actually a response to Thomas, not Brad - anyway...)
I cannot resist to mention an example I heard at class:
Imagine all audio data about the Beetles gone, performance of their works ceased, for fifty years. Someone reads about the Beetles and is excited by their ideals and way of life, and decides to play their music. Would he succeed in playing what they played - what is meant in the score? Perhaps, knowing their lifestyle, concert conditions et c., he would be able to get closer than if he was just examining the score. And - although it is a different style of music, with different notation habits et c. - don't we know that, (at least) in the renaissance, scores (or rather, parts) were quite more "symbolic" or (*) than today's scores? So why suppose that, against all scholarly research to date, Musicians in the baroque suddenly started playing exactly what was written on the paper? The first wrong result of this way of thinking is the assumption that (since there are no crescendi, not many forte and piano markings, no ritenuti) baroque musicians played everything in a flat volume. (and even in the harpsichord, you can't do that - the volume increases with each additional note in a chord or trill - ask a cembalist). Perhaps it would be wiser to pursue (through research et c.) the understanding of what is meant-but-not-written, than to try to prove their inexistence(!)...
(*) Not having the whole meaning written, as a guideline - excuse my scant ocabulary
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 17, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Dale, and others who weren't around last year for the knock-down-drag-out debate about the lengths of notes (especially in Bach's recitatives):
Sometime last autumn I compiled my practical thoughts on the matter onto this page, presenting a positive case to explain why I play such music the way I do: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm
Of course, it was attacked repeatedly by Mr Braatz, and mocked by Mr Francis; but that's their problem, in their quest to show that musicologists are dishonest/unreliable/ignorant/sloppy/whatever. I'm not getting into that debate again, because it's just silly. These gentlemen obviously don't fancy the sound of unsustained accompaniment, and everything else (especially from Mr Braatz) is a rationalization to try to show that musicologists and musicians don't understand our own appointed tasks. Along the way they also take swipes at academia in general, as if high-level training is a bad thing. I see Mr Braatz is still at it with a fresh round this week, while I was away on other business; in retrospect I'm glad I've been out of circulation this week. These guys aren't going to listen to any real scholarship anyway, but only mock any and all expert opinions that are presented, while twisting and impugning sources to their own ends; and clearly it's a waste of my time and energy to cover this same ground again.
So, for a positive case on the music, one that respects scholars and musicians and Bach, with a practical look at musicianship, that's where you can find my summary of this matter: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 17, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < The question remains: Why did Dreyfus, in attempting to put a major point across, not deem it worthwhile to present in facsimile (simply 2 lines/staffs) and label precisely the critical primary evidence needed to support his theory. Instead of this there is Dreyfus’ own transcription/extraction which is a poor replacement. From the original comment which prompted this investigation, it becomes clear that those who claim to be musical experts and practitioners rely with great faith upon Dreyfus’ scholarship, which in this case and some others which I have pointed out previously, leaves something to be desired. >
The main thing Dreyfus "leaves to be desired"--from your expectations--is the outcome you wish were correct, namely, that the notes be sustained as long as they look to you on the page. Therefore, you pick at every little thing you don't like about the book, hoping that the whole thing will come crashing down if you can pick off enough of it. It doesn't, but you keep trying anyway; you've been at it for at least two years now.
But let's set that aside for the moment. Name some names. Who are these "who claim to be musical experts and practitioners" who have been so gravely misled, such that your alleged corrections are necessary? Which professional performers and scholars, specifically, should mend their ways and do their jobs in the way you wish them to do? You keep offering up these vague generalities as complaints against the whole field of inquiry, but whenever you're pressed for evidence you don't have any, and whenever you're pressed to make direct accusations you pull your punches.
With your potshots here on these discussion lists, you keep chiding Dreyfus and other researchers on how they should have done their work better, to your satisfaction. What if they're not interested in your satisfaction, or in confirming your own foregone conclusions, but instead seek the truth as far as it can be determined scientifically, and as it makes sense in musical practice? Dreyfus has presented a strong case here in this book, and it satisfies most real experts. What's your problem as a non-expert, except that the outcome wasn't what you wished it would be?
Stephen Benson wrote (April 17, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < you've been at it for at least two years now. >
Let's clarify one thing. You've BOTH been at it for far too long! I have personally enjoyed and benefited from much of the discussion on this list. I simply don't want, as part of my daily routine, to share in the excessive negative sniping and namecalling that goes on here. It reached the point a long time ago where it doesn't matter (probably more accurate is "I don't care") who is right or wrong. Substantive issues are eclipsed by personalities. We're getting the same arguments over and over and over and over again. The disproportionate amount of personal rancor encountered on this list, and I'm sure I speak for others, makes it difficult to enjoy the Bach experience, and isn't that what we're here for? I left the Bach Recordings List in order to get away from it, and now that it's back dominating the Cantatas List, I've gone back to the Recordings List. For the time being, I'll stick with both. Soon, however, I'm going to leave ALL the lists, despite my love for the music of Bach and the daily stimulation I get from reading other people's opinions and ideas. I know someone will tell me that all I have to do is hit the Delete key, but I shouldn't have to wade regularly through vitriolic crap to figure out what it is I want to read or not read. Put a lid on it, guys!
Johan van Veen wrote (April 17, 2004):
[To Stephen Benson] I object to the habit of some people on this list to blame everybody who is taking part in the on-going debate.
There is only one person on this list who returns time and again to the same subject. When two people fundamentally disagree on something, they could decide to put the issue to rest. But one person in this debate refuses to do so, because he is just obsessed to prove he is right. You can't blame others for replying with counter-arguments.
In the end the atmosphere on this list isn't ruined by someone's views or the debate about them, but by someone's bad behaviour, treating with contempt everyone who doesn't agree with him.
Nobody is asked to take sides in the debate, but it would be nice if members of this list would take a stand in regard to bad and unacceptable behaviour.
Thomas Braatz wrote (April 17, 2004):
A list member asked: >>What's your problem as a non-expert, except that the outcome wasn't what you wished it would be?<<
What’s your pras an ‘expert,’ except that the counter-evidence that was presented wasn’t what you wished it would be?
>>Dreyfus has presented a strong case here in this book, and it satisfies most real experts.<<
Alfred Dürr, whose experience with all the musicological aspects concerning Bach far exceeds anything that Dreyfus could even dream to attain, has not been persuaded to ‘believe’ in this questionable theory about the shortened bc accompaniment of secco recitatives. Specific evidence which I uncovered by examining Dreyfus’ claims has made it quite apparent to me that there are serious flaws in his presentation (some of which have been discussed previously on these lists and are archived on Aryeh Oron's site.) Those who support Dreyfus' contention on these lists have been unable to counter specifically and objectively the points that I have raised:
1) mistaken attributions or labeling (sloppy editing allowing misinformation to appear in printed form)
2) not relying primarily on viable resources (original evidence specifically pointing to Bach’s early years in Leipzig when he composed the bulk of his sacred vocal-instrumental works)
3) misinterpretation of texts in the original language (I have already in the past alluded to Bismarck’s Ems Dispatch as an example of the serious consequences that can occur when just a few words are changed or overlooked (whether deliberate or not)
4) no evidence from the bulk of Bach’s cantatas, passions, oratorios (only from a few very early cantatas – and this is open to interpretation whether it really proves that the bc (organ, violoncello, etc) actually radically reduced the long notes in value when the bassoon did not; and the ‘Paradespiel’ (a single bc part for the latest version of the SMP – the clean autograph score copied out just a short time before shows the long notes -- first mentioned by Arnold Schering in 1936 – an anomaly which, as Dürr and others have pointed out, could be due to quite a number of different factors which pertained to the unusual performance setup required for this ‘double-choir, double-orchestra’ late version of the SMP)
>>What if they're not interested in your satisfaction, or in confirming your own foregone conclusions, but instead seek the truth as far as it can be determined scientifically, and as it makes sense in musical practice?<<
How can there be a search for the ‘truth’ ‘as far as it can be determined scientifically’ when it can easily be proven that there are numerous, inexcusable flaws, as I have frequently pointed out in the past? The information that I have presented is for others with truly objective minds to consider, not for those already firmly entrenched in upholding their own ‘pet theories’ or those who have come to accept a contention to which a certain faction of musicians and musicologists currently subscribe.
>>With your potshots here on these discussion lists, you keep chiding Dreyfus and other researchers on how they should have done their work better, to your satisfaction.<<
My satisfaction comes only from the results of my own efforts. I allow my research to take me where I can begin to form my own tentative conclusion regarding a matter. I could just as well have been persuaded by Dreyfus’ arguments, had they been sufficiently compelling, to accept the theory on shortened bc accompaniments of secco recitatives in Bach’s sacred choral works. However, as I began investigating this matter (the Dreyfus book being highly recommended as containing the answers/evidence that I was looking for,) it became quite clear that this theory was insufficiently grounded despite the fact that many in the HIP movement had adopted it. Pointing out the faults I had discovered in the work of Dreyfus and other researchers is not the equivalent to ‘bashing’ (the flaming word used by those unable to enter into a meaningful discussion.) Positivism is not very helpful here as it would tend to ‘gloss over’ significant criticism in its attempt to present contrary evidence or to point out the misuse/misinterpretation of evidence.
>>You keep offering up these vague generalities as complaints against the whole field of inquiry, but whenever you're pressed for evidence you don't have any, and whenever you're pressed to make direct accusations you pull your punches.<<
No, it’s the other way around. Others who have accused me of offering ‘vague generalities as complaints against the whole field of inquiry’ are the very ones who are unable to engage in a specifically targeted discussion. These others become evasive by engaging in non-meaningful tactics:
1) name-calling (derogatory terms which I will not mention here – these are only intended to provoke similar responses which are unproductive for coming to a true understanding and appreciation of Bach’s music)
2) constantly reaffirming their status as ‘experts’ (a listing of degrees, diplomas, various activities which are intended to impress)
3) asserting that only ‘experts’ are capable of using reference materials
4) assuming beforehand what the responses from others will be and listing them
>>The main thing Dreyfus "leaves to be desired"--from your expectations--is the outcome you wish were correct, namely, that the notes be sustained as long as they look to you on the page. Therefore, you pick at every little thing you don't like about the book, hoping that the whole thing will come crashing down if you can pick off enough of it. It doesn't, but you keep trying anyway; you've been at it for at least two years now.<<
The imagination of the list member who stated the above has clouded his memory so that he has forgotten that it was he who raised certain points from Dreyfus’ book in order to allay any doubts any reader might have about the correctness of Dreyfus’ approach and methods (the notion was that there is overwhelming evidence that should convince any reasonable reader.) Each ‘big thing' which was offered as proof by this list member, has turned out to have little firm substance in actually ‘proving’ the likelihood of this theory. As a result, the list member is incapable of countering with an equally ‘big thing' of his own. He immediately moves away (evasive tactic) from the point that he had raised, and leads the discussion in some other direction away from the matter at hand possibly engaging in some personal attack to divert the attention of other readers. He hopes that this specific point will simply be forgotten with time. In his own mind, the countering and criticism against the theory that he upholds has become just another ‘little thing,’ not worthy of his serious consideration as it causes an inconvenience to his way of thinking. Just recently this entire process was repeated once again with the same results, when he wrote about me as follows:
>>Mr Braatz is content to assert such a thing whenever it will (supposedly) make an opponent look bad or ignorant; yet, he refuses exactly that same proof when it's presented by Dr Laurence Dreyfus as evidence that bass notes should be played short in recitative. The example is printed on page 91 of _Bach's Continuo Group_, from movement 5 of cantata 31, where Bach wrote staccato wedges above every note in the cello part...even though some of those are notes tied across two or more measures. Mr Braatz is so firm in his mistaken belief that recit-accompanying notes must never be played short that he will find some way to dismiss this (as he has already done, a year ago, in similar dialogue about that topic). Or, perhaps this time he'll claim that BWV 31 is an exceptional case, and one must not shorten the notes in any other piece unless explicitly marked like this; or perhaps he'll claim that the wedges don't indicate shortness. It's always something, and often rather creative side-stepping, to justify his foregone conclusions against evidence.<<
Notice how this list member is intent upon turning things around by accusing me of being primarily interested in “making an opponent look bad or ignorant!” Is presenting corrections or interpreting the same evidence in another way (which I have done this past week) necessarily counter-productive? Perhaps it is the lmember who is guilty of blindly refusing think through and thoroughly reexamine the evidence presented, particularly since he has been unable to come up with additional proof which would add more weight to a theory which is untenable or at least open to considerable questioning? In stating “It's always something, and often rather creative side-stepping, to justify his foregone conclusions against evidence,“ the list member is very aptly describing himself. He is desperately avoiding admitting to these shortcomings that may be quite evident to other list members who read these remarks.
The list member should seriously consider, if he hasn’t already done so, how much time he is wasting with responses such as these. Little or nothing is achieved except perhaps to make the list member feel better about himself after having substantiated in his own mind his superiority over others.
Let’s having meaningful discussions about Bach and his music without all this posturing and without engaging in personal attacks!
Stephen Benson wrote (April 17, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: < When two people fundamentally disagree on something, they could decide to put the issue to rest. But one person in this debate refuses to do so, because he is just obsessed to prove he is right. >
I'm afraid that your description could apply to either participant.
< Nobody is asked to take sides in the debate, but it would be nice if members of this list would take a stand in regard to bad and unacceptable behaviour. >
Interestingly enough, despite my previous disclaimer that because of the rancorous nature of the debate I've reached the point where I don't care any more, I do take sides in the debate with respect to substance. My problem is not with content. Brad's qualifications -- his academic background, his intelligence, his writing ability, his practical experience, his musicianship -- speak for themselves. But he does seem (please forgive my presumptuousness here, Brad) to be unable to accept the fact that he's already proved his point. He doesn't need to react so reflexively to the vacuous and distorted pedantry frequently displayed by his antagonist. By doing so, he also bears responsibility for the perpetuation of the negative tone of the debate. He COULD be the one to choose to disengage.
Johan van Veen wrote (April 17, 2004):
[To Stephen Benson] Yes, he could. But then that would be interpreted by his opponent as conceding defeat.
On top of that, by doing so Brad would make way for his opponent to spread what he believes are distortions of the truth. Can you seriously expect him to do that?
If someone is spreading misinformation, isn't it a duty for people who know better to correct him?
Uri Golomb wrote (April 17, 2004):
Johan wrote (regarding the suggestion that Brad disengages from the shortened minims debate -- which, I agree, has become all too repetitive and acrimonious):
"Yes, he could. But then that would be interpreted by his opponent as conceding defeat. On top of that, by doing so Brad would make way for his opponent to spread what he believes are distortions of the truth. Can you seriously expect him to do that?"
Here's my suggestion: Since Brad has already written a web-based article on the topic, a simple expedient would be to refer readers to that article (as he has done recently) when he feels it's appropriate -- instead of repeating his arguments against his opponent's diatribes. If he feels he has something new to say, he can always update the article, and then inform us that that he has done so. That way, he can avoid the kind of lengthy discussion which has put several readers off, without in any way conceding defeat.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 17, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] As Mr Benson points out, I could be the one to disengage. In fact, I have done so on several occasions, for weeks or months, having seen that Mr Braatz' antagonistic diatribe against musicology will probably never abate. I've even left this list altogether several times, directly on account of being weary of this.
On this topic of short accompaniment in recitative, specifically, take a look at the archive page at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV103-D.htm . That was a discussion from April-May 2002, primarily by Mr Braatz against Andrew Lewis and several others. It can be seen there that Mr Braatz was already at this for at least eight months before I even joined this BachCantatas list, which was (if I recall correctly) early in 2003. I'm just one in a historical line of people defending this topic against his attacks on it. (And his attacks on Nikolaus Harnoncourt.)
As Mr van Veen points out here, I have been responding out of a duty to correct misinformation. I'm here for the music, and to see musicological points presented as they are generally accepted in the scholarly community. The offensive attacks by Mr Braatz against those musical and scientifically researched decisions have been, and continue to be, dismaying. Is a person knowledgeable and experienced in the field supposed to just sit back and watch his field and colleagues be calumniated by a dilettante? [Another part of this has been: on December 31st, as a New Year's gift to the list, I posted a recording by me of a piece by Bach; and Mr Braatz completely trashed it on-list within the first day, calling it a perversity and a distortion of the music. Clearly, he is primed to react negatively to whatever I put up, even though it is he who has thrust me into defensive position. What's a guy to do?]
Mr Benson is indeed right: I shouldn't react so reflexively to the vacuous and distorted pedantry frequently displayed by my antagonist. I shall try to do better.
I hope that perspective helps.
Mortimer Spankypoo wrote (April 19, 2004):
< The disproportionate amount of personal rancor encountered on this list, and I'm sure I speak for others, makes it difficult to enjoy the Bach experience, and isn't that what we're here for? >
You speak for others, yes, and accurately so.
< I know someone will tell me that all I have to do is hit the > Delete key, but I shouldn't have to wade regularly through vitriolic crap to figure out what it is I want to read or not read. >
If just a few members of this list would continue to share their hard-earned and valuable insights with us, but would do so with a touch of humility and respect both for those who disagree with them, and more so for those who have to wade through this absurdity, the list would be come an even more instructive place. This isn't the typical case of the noise on a list being caused by mindless dolts - it's actually coming from those who are most able to contribute. Hopefully they'll contribute, and not combat.
< Put a lid on it, guys! >
Minims: Part 1 | Part 2 | Minims – Examples from the Score | Crotchets & Quavers