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Until Early Music Week 2019!






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

pamJan. 8, 2018

Music: A Transformative Art

by Pamela Dellal

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.

Let's listen to a few examples of transformation. First up: a canon that can be played backwards and forwards at the same time, thanks to the incomparable J.S. Bach:

Canon 1 à 2 from J.S. Bach's Musical Offering (1747)

Another way music can be transformed is to change its context. Here, a light secular tune becomes the tenor for a sublime mass:

Agnus dei from Missa De plus en plus by Johannes Ockeghem (c.1420-1497)

Music's ability to be both concrete and abstract make it the perfect medium to depict transformations in narrative - whether the stories come from Greek mythology, divine revelation, or folk tradition. The wonderful Cantigas de Santa Maria seem to embody all three, as ordinary people encounter miraculous events thanks to the Virgin Mary:

Cantiga 42 "A Virgen mui groriosa"


I hope to see many of you at this summer's workshop, where we will discover many more kinds of transformative music, and hopefully become transformed ourselves!

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