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Until Early Music Week 2019!






The Early Music Week faculty share thoughts on the year's program

Ken PierceFeb. 22, 2019

Dances of Love and War

by Ken Pierce, faculty

As in past years, the dance component of the 2019 Early Music Week will be devoted primarily to Italian dance repertory from circa 1600, though we may also glance at French and English repertory from around the same period.

There are several reasons for focusing on late-Renaissance Italian repertory. On the one hand, there are plenty of sources available. These document a reasonably well-defined general style of dance, with a rich enough step vocabulary and repertory to keep us busy for a week, and with enough technical detail to challenge even highly trained dancers.  On the other hand, the late-Renaissance style is relatively accessible at a basic level even to those without dance training or prior early dance experience.

This year’s theme, “Love and War”, offers several possibilities for choosing repertory for the week.


March 18, 2018

Ken Pierce

Transformative Dance

by Ken Pierce, faculty

As in past years, the dance component of the 2018 Early Music Week will be devoted primarily to Italian dances from circa 1600. The notion of "transformation" pervades the dance of this period, as described in treatises by Caroso, Negri, and others:

- At times the transformation happens in conjunction with the music, as for example in a multipart dance in which the music is treated in different rhythms.

- A dance with the same name, music, and overall structure may be transformed into a different dance by tweaking or even significantly altering the choreography. Caroso (in Nobiltà di Dame, 1600) published revised versions of dances he'd published earlier, pointing out perceived imperfections in the earlier versions.


Larry WallachFeb. 15, 2018


by Larry Wallach, faculty

Our theme this year opens an enormous subject, especially if considered across the last thousand years of Western music, from the beginnings of written polyphony in the eleventh century (roughly) to the present.  One way to define “transformation” is:

A process (or processes) whereby one piece of music turns into another. 

This raises two questions: 
            1. what do we mean by a “piece of music?” and
            2. when does a variant become a separate piece?
Many other questions ensue, specifically about what those processes might be; but what follows are my attempts to respond to these first two questions.


Ken PierceJan. 8, 2018

A Transformative Art

by Pamela Dellal, faculty


Music is an art of change - sounds progress and evolve through time; themes are mutated, elaborated, and fragmented; and the beauty of the art form itself works a change in our souls. This season we explore all the ways that transformation affects music: songs turn into dances, chants turn into secular pieces or popular songs turn into devotional works; a simple piece becomes a virtuoso showpiece through the application of ornamentation; a melody is borrowed from one tradition and transformed into something completely different by another culture. Stories and songs about change and transformation are very common from Greek mythology through religious mysticism, with the magical miracles of the Cantigas de Santa Maria being merely one example.


Ken Pierce

Feb. 5, 2017

Music and Nature:
a historical overview in a nutshell

by Larry Wallach, faculty

The ancient Greeks like Pythagoras thought that the vibrational qualities of musical intervals reflected the structure of the cosmos, particularly in its quality of perfect harmony.  Mythology drew the connection between the natural, human, and magical realms, celebrated in sung or lyric poetry.  Medieval sensibilities did not separate the natural and the spiritual, and viewed music as one way to express cosmic truth. (Music was part of the quadrivium, the four higher elements of knowledge, which also included with astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic.)  As medieval culture discovered the realm of the senses (probably owing to the development of a consumerist aristocracy) nature furnished pleasure and imagery to occupy new-found leisure time and newly refined sensibilities. 


Ken PierceJan. 12, 2017

Images of Nature in Dance
by Ken Pierce, faculty

How can dancing be Nature's voice? Is it not merely a human, soci invention, grounded in cultural norms and prejudices, an arbitrary system of steps and rules to be learned and practiced: the very antithesis of Nature? Well, yes....

But if you believe (as Renaissance authors did) that all of Nature was created from chaos and is now an ordered and harmonious whole, then the regulated steps and symmetrical patterns of dance embody Nature's overall design. Irises waving in the breeze, goats frolicking in the meadow, the sun rising and setting, the stars and planets in their celestial motions: all Nature seems to dance, and dance thus mirrors all of Nature. So, let us dance!




Recent posts:

EMW 2019:
Dances of Love and War, by Ken Pierce

EMW 2018:
Transformative Dance, by Ken Pierce

Transformation, by Larry Wallach

Music: A Transformative Art, by Pamela Dellal

EMW 2017:
Music and nature, by Larry Wallach

Images of Nature in Dance, by Ken Pierce

EMW 2016:
Dancing to music, by Ken Pierce

Playing for historical dance, by Jane Hershey

EMW 2015:
Language, by Pamela Dellal

Genre, by Larry Wallach

Legacy, by Larry Wallach

EMW 2014:
The Spanish Golden Age in the Netherlands,
by Anne Legêne

Sephardic Music, by Jay Rosenberg

Ensalada by Salomé Sandoval