ELOQUENCE IN MUSIC: As the story goes, Pythagoras once passed a forge and was struck by the noise of the hammers beating the anvils. He discovered the intervals and the relations between their frequency numbers and immediately saw a divine order. All planets (only 7 were known at that time) had a number corresponding with a tone, culminating into a scale, manifesting the divine order in the universe. Only the creator himself could manage such a huge constellation. In the 18th century, God’s hand was also seen in counterpoint. It was assumed that counterpoint and heaven were governed by the same principles. The perpetual revolutions of the parts in a well-composed piece of strict counterpoint, such as canon, resound in heaven. Canon was seen as counterpoint’s highest form; the inversions reflecting heavenly perfection and unveiling to earthly beings a glimpse of God’s unending order. The mechanics of heaven were manifested in the workings of counterpoint.
The frontispiece of Athanasius Kircher’s Musurgia Universalis (1650) shows two angels carrying a banner with a thirty-six-voice perpetual canon for nine choruses of four voices. In the lower left hand corner sits Pythagoras, the discoverer of the proportions of the universe. Above the canon we can see nine four voiced-choirs of singing angels. Johann Sebastian Bach owned a copy of Kircher’s Musurgia Universalis.
Master elective at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam:
Eloquence in Music: Rhetoric and Performance
Learning ObjectiveGiving the music from the period 1600 - 1830 more communicative power by learning how to apply the laws of rhetoric at any level during a performance. Players will be given tools that help to give performances of baroque and classical music the right perspective. Discussed will be form, interpretation, articulation, intonation and tuning, notation and the choice for original instruments.
Course DescriptionWith the aid of the book Musik als Klangrede by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1982, Residenz Verlag), many musical examples, video material, the book Musiceren als Brugman and also the possibility of playing 18th century music, the student will become more familiar with the repertoire. Students will learn to make the performance and repertoire 'speak' more, not only by means of form- and harmonic analysis, but also using rhetorical analysis. From Quintilianus via Caccini, Monteverdi, Bach and Mozart to Mendelssohn, Schubert and Brahms.
LiteratureNikolaus Harnoncourt, Musik als Klangrede (Residenz Verlag, 2004),
translated as Music As Speech (Amadeus Press, 1995),
Bruce Haynes, The End of Early Music (Oxford University Press 2007)
Peter van Dijk et al., Musiceren als Brugman (KRO, 1981)
Kees Koelmans: Reader
Also available as lecture or course