HAYNES: The End of Early Music ó A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century

There was classical music, the boring old
standard-repertoire taught at conservatories, and played in the same old way
by people who fetishized the lineage of their teachers, and their teacher’s
teachers, and then there was early music, the music of Bach and his
predecessors, played by amateur performers (often musicologists) on “old”
instruments (recorder, harpsichords, viola da gamba), something which fit
right in with the reclaiming of folk music and folk instruments by the hippie
resistance to manufactured mass culture.

At the same time Albert Ayler and John Coltrane were exploring the outer
limits of free jazz, and Jefferson Airplane combining psychedelics and
folk-rock, amateur ensembles with krummhorns, sackbuts, shawms, and other
dead instruments were reviving centuries of forgotten repertoire from Machaut
onwards. Early music managed to be cutting edge by going deep into music
which had been only of interest to historians, and transgressive by
suggesting that this music and the music which followed did not belong only
to its self-anointed priesthood, which seemed to be only mumbling
half-understood inherited formulas, with no sense of the enlivening spirit

Time passes, and nothing from 1967 seems very current anymore, with the
possible exception of Purple Haze. The amateur (and hippie) tinge to
early music was washed away by decades of musicians who managed to perform
early music professionally on period instruments, and with an historical
awareness of the performance issues involved. Their success drew the barbed
words of musicologist Richard Taruskin, himself once an amateur
performing-musicologist, pointing out the lack of authenticity
involved in this recuperation of both unknown and well-known repertoire.
The End of Early Music may be seen as a response to the criticisms
of Taruskin and others.

Oboist Bruce Haynes is one who has been involved with
historically-informed performance for decades, since the first successes of
four or five decades ago, and unlike the younger Taruskin, whose recordings
are safely entombed on LP in music libraries, his recordings are still
commercially available. His survey of the history and issues involved with
period performance is compulsively readable. Though the volume has the
standard scholarly apparatus of notes and bibliography, there is nothing of
the dry-as-dust scholarly compendium about it. An innovation which is
particularly useful is the provision of sound examples at the publisher’s
site, even if means that the book can be best used with your network-enabled
computer close at hand.

The notion that concert-going has become a secular ritual substituting for
more explicitly religious rites has become widely accepted, but Haynes goes
farther in looking at the amount of fetishism and ritual involved in musical
interpretation and consumption in general, disassembling the various fetishes
we take for granted as part of musical experiences ñ the notion of the
canon, of absolute music, of genius, of score-fidelity, and others. Evidently
I sympathize with Haynes’ position, but even so I think it must be clear to
any reader that he has done his work well.

Tom Moore

[This review has been cross-posted to Biddle Beat, The official blog of
the Music Library at Duke University

image_description=Bruce Haynes. The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century
product_title=Bruce Haynes. The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century
product_by=Oxford University Press, 2007. 304 pages; 17 music examples; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4.
product_id=ISBN13: 9780195189872 | ISBN10: 0195189876