Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance

Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance

Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance

Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance

Synopsis

Over the last dozen years, the writings of Richard Taruskin have transformed the debate about "early music" and "authenticity." Text and Act collects for the first time the most important of Taruskin's essays and reviews from this period, many of which now classics in the field. Taking a wide-ranging cultural view of the phenomenon, he shows that the movement, far from reviving ancient traditions, in fact represents the only truly modern style of performance being offered today. He goes on to contend that the movement is therefore far more valuable and even authentic than the historical verisimilitude for which it ostensibly strives could ever be. These essays cast fresh light on many aspects of contemporary music-making and music-thinking, mixing lighthearted debunking with impassioned argumentation. Taruskin ranges from theoretical speculation to practical criticism, and covers a repertory spanning from Bach to Stravinsky. Including a newly written introduction, Text and Act collects the very best of one of our most incisive musical thinkers.

Excerpt

Times have certainly changed since this book's like-named predecessor -- a 22-page booklet jointly authored by Thurston Dart, Walter Emery, and Christopher Morris -- was jointly published by Stainer & Bell, Novello, and the Oxford University Press in 1963. For one thing, the booklet carried the Arcadian legend, so widely remarked in its time, that "The Publishers do not claim copyright in this book, and it may be freely quoted without acknowledgment," while the 125-page replacement has the standard businesslike warnings against infringements. For another, the flighty, avuncular, jocularly dogmatic obiter dicta of the earlier publication have been replaced by Mr. Caldwell's serious, thorough, at times weighty discussions-in-the-round of sundry issues, which chiefly account for the fivefold increase in the volume's girth. Both booklet and book are symptomatic of their respective times. What was once an essentially amateur activity has become solidly academicized and professionalized. It is taken seriously. John Caldwell's treatment of his subject does honor to its newwon status. At a time when some writers have seen fit conspicuously to downgrade the editorial function in the scheme of things musicological, it is good to see a book that upholds it so ardently. No musicological activity is more important than editing, for it is competent editing that makes most of the rest possible.

The book opens with a disclaimer: "There is no attempt to instruct in the detailed technicalities of palaeography, notation, and source studies. . . . It is intended rather for the guidance of those who have acquired a good knowledge of their chosen field, but who may not have thought very deeply about the problems of presentation in

Originally published as a review of Editing Early Music by John Caldwell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985). Reprinted from Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 42 (1985-86): 775-79, by permission of the Music Library Association.

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