Book reviews Robert Quinney Period polemics It is time, argues Bruce Haynes, to do away with ‘Early Music’. Not, as Tess Knighton assured you in the November 2007 issue, this journal. Haynes is sounding the death knell of ‘early music’ as a generic term, applied indiscriminately to repertory and performers alike, and implying a specialized offshoot of the constant and universal mainstream. He suggests we call the ‘early’ repertory ‘Rhetorical music’, in reference to the ‘principal paradigm’ of music written before the ‘Romantic Revolution’ (i.e. around 1800). Rhetorical music is performed by ‘period’ musicians on ‘period’ instruments; a much more overtly historicist formulation than the catch-all ‘early’. However, Haynes is not suggesting that what might be regarded as the ‘early music’ project is complete: entirely the opposite, in fact. The end of early music offers eclectic ‘reflections on the present state of the historically inspired performance movement seen from the point of view of someone who has been involved in it since the early 1960s’. Haynes’s intention is not to write a dry history of Historically Informed (or, in his formulation, Inspired) Performance from Dolmetsch to the present day; rather, it is to examine the place of HIP in late 20th- and early 21st-century musical life. HIP being a multi-layered, multi-faceted, not to say slippery phenomenon, this perhaps inevitably involves a good deal of definition by antithesis, in which ‘mainstream’ practices are described to show what HIP does not stand for. Haynes leans heavily on Richard Taruskin’s critique of modernist performing aesthetics, but rejects Taruskin’s essential claim, developed and subjected to penetrating critique in John Butt’s Playing with history (Cambridge, 2002), that HIP is itself a child of modernism and thus displays many of the traits of modernist culture. Instead, Haynes seeks to promote ‘Period style’ as a corrective to ‘Modern style’; an oasis of risk-taking creativity in a desert of ‘impersonal, mechanical, literal, correct, deliberate, consistent, metronomic’ modernist performances. The companion website provides audio files in support of the argument—a very useful resource, though at the time of writing the order of examples 51–6 and 63–7 was incorrect. Early Music, Vol. xxxvi, No. 2 © The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. 301 Downloaded from http://em.oxfordjournals.org/ at UniversitÃ di Bologna - Sistema Bibliotecario d'Ateneo on August 9, 2013 Bruce Haynes, The end of early music: a period performer’s history of music for the 21st century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), £19.99 Haynes’s book is principally about style, and in part 1 he establishes his stylistic parameters. He posits three ‘current styles’: the self-consciously profound and deeply expressive Romantic style (which, though no longer practised, is preserved in early recordings, and which may contain traces of earlier styles); the impersonal, restrictive, literalistic Modern style; and Period style, which was developed through experimentation with period instruments and historical performing styles in the 1960s, particularly in Holland. Period style ‘appears to be the logical outcome of the application of principles of Rhetoric’. Within Period style he identifies the sub-category ‘Strait (“as in strait-jacket”) style’. In part 2 Haynes proceeds to examine our stylistic heritage, suggesting that by identifying those ‘heady influences of the 19th and 20th centuries now unconsciously embedded in our culture’ we can penetrate the ‘Romantic drapery’ separating us from Rhetorical music. The central Romantic concept is the Canon: its offshoots are Tradition, a myth solidified by conservatories with their emphasis on teacher–student lineage; Absolute Music; the Cult of Genius; and Repeatability, which erodes music’s power to shock, and with it ‘the imperative to listen carefully’. Reverence towards the Canon imposes stifling norms of behaviour on performer and listener alike. In the case of the ‘transparent performer’ or ‘executant’, the norms demand that the performer act only as a vessel for the composer’s intention. Haynes develops this into a chippy but clear-sighted polemic against ‘the interpretive conductor’—a ‘parasite’ who bends disempowered musicians to his will, in order to distract attention from his own virtual redundancy. An excellent discussion of notation and its ‘meaning’ follows. Notation is a poor medium for explicitly describing (to put it in Taruskin’s terms) the Act rather than Text of music, so much of the information we need must somehow be inferred. ‘Thin’ (apparently sketchy and undescriptive) pre-Romantic scores might actually encode information in a negative way: ‘the signs that found their way onto the page often represented the exceptional’. The element of contingency this implies helps to bind the performer and composer in a pact of mutual reliance, in contrast to the Romantic/Modern score, which serves the performer with explicit notice of the composer’s infallible intention. Rhetorical music is, more than later repertories, badly served by performances that limit themselves to following ‘directions printed 302 early music may 2008 fulness we are not yet able to appreciate’. Furthermore, we must commit to moving the audience, and in the correct way—not like ‘the Romantic artist “expressing” an emotion that is observed by the audience’, but like a ‘Baroque craftsman “arousing or evoking” an emotion in the hearts of [the] listeners’. To this end, part 4 sets out to define ‘Baroque expression’, offering descriptions of the basic components of rhetoric and applying them to musical composition and performance. Haynes then compares the Baroque Affektenlehre with Romantic aesthetics, characterizing the former as an active, and the latter as a passive relationship between performer and audience. He provides examples of rhetorical figures and gestures, and demonstrates the subtle interplay of these figures within the larger-scale events usually called phrases. (These would potentially be even more interesting if the bass line were also reproduced, the gestural dialogue between melody and bass being crucial to Baroque music.) The ‘eloquent style’, developed by Gustav Leonhardt, Franz Brüggen, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and others, is principally concerned with projecting these gestures; for Haynes, it is the only style appropriate to Rhetorical music. Amen to all that—up to a point. Knowledge of the sources and experience with antique and replica instruments are essential to the HIP enterprise; while not an end in themselves, they have led to countless revelations in performance. The passion with which Haynes urges us to reconnect with these materials is, perhaps, timely; but I suspect that, alongside his concern for the future of HIP, he is partly motivated by a desire to re-create a ‘lost world’ of his own. He writes, ‘my students read Harnoncourt’s writings from the 1970s and 1980s and wonder why he seems so angry…they were not there in the 1960s, of course’. The end of early music may, after all, address an apocalypse of sorts. The first generation of internationally successful HIP musicians, Haynes’s ‘gurus’—Leonhardt, Harnoncourt (whose writings, quoted frequently, are presented as Gospel), Brüggen and others—are nearing the ends of their careers, and who will arise to assume the mantle? To make matters worse, kids these days just don’t know they’re born: ‘the sixties are gone, but if they think we have achieved what the 1960s dreamed of, they are the dreamers’. For Haynes, HIP has evidently lost its counter-cultural edge and strong moral identity (features it shared with other protest movements of the 1960s). Haynes twice cites the decade 1965–75 as the most productive period of ‘Eloquent’ performance, and takes his ‘good’ audio examples either from that period or from more recent recordings by himself or his associates. These are indeed eloquent—some are Downloaded from http://em.oxfordjournals.org/ at UniversitÃ di Bologna - Sistema Bibliotecario d'Ateneo on August 9, 2013 black on white’. In the concluding part of the book, Haynes revisits and develops this point, exhorting performers to rediscover the ability to improvise that has been ‘trained out’ of most of us. In part 3, Haynes begins by drawing a parallel between HIP and the development of the seconda prattica in the early 17th century. The Florentine Camerata ‘unintentionally ended up inventing something quite new’; 400 years later ‘there can be very interesting results by [recte from?] mixing ideas from the past (as we dimly perceive it) with assumptions of the present’. He offers further ‘past examples of authenticity movements’, including the Academy of Ancient Music in 18th-century London, and the copying of French instruments and playing styles at German courts in the years after the Thirty Years’ War. Haynes seems to be suggesting that historical performance movements form part of the natural topography of culture in the modern (i.e. in this context postmedieval) age, but that they simultaneously run counter to the cultural norms of their times: ‘the composers of Seconda Prattica were willing to drop customary musical conventions; rules were changed or ignored…’. This assertion of HIP’s counter-cultural orientation provides a key to what, it gradually becomes clear, is Haynes’s primary motive for adding to the already copious literature on the subject: he believes the movement, far from sweeping all before it, has lost its way. Many HIP musicians are complacent, now that ‘ “early” playing styles…no longer seem so exceptional or exotic…[and] there is a tradition, young as it is, that gives logic to them’. This complacency is manifested in ‘Strait’ style, which exhibits ‘some amount of constant vibrato, long-line phrasing…precise ensemble and close uniformity of sound…[a] tendency to make everything restrained and temperate’. Strait style is Modern style masquerading as HIP, and as such amounts to a betrayal of the movement’s anti-establishment imperative and revolutionary zeal. Other worrying signs include the acceptance of (or failure to reject) mainstream concert dress, which dates from the 19th century and is therefore neither sufficiently ancient nor modern to be stylistically appropriate to HIP; and the casual attitude taken by younger performers (in Ton Koopman’s phrase, ‘hipsters too cool for authenticity’) to historical sources. Haynes has a remedy for HIP’s malaise. We must reengage with the sources as an integral part of the business of performing, but our performances must not be inhibited by a lack of evidence or understanding; and we must accept no substitutes in the quest for ever more accurate reproductions of old instruments, warts and all—because the warts may be ‘a deliberately made feature whose use- more apparent than when Haynes is dealing with the big bad wolf of HIP, Richard Taruskin, who of course did not bare his teeth until after Haynes’s golden era, the prelapsarian decade 1965–75. While Haynes accepts many of Taruskin’s points, he seems suspiciously keen to point out small errors (on p.182 complaining of an ‘incomplete report’ of a Bach aria; on p.218 reporting that Taruskin ‘reproach[es] one Period player with the idea that “your determination that the tempo was authentic was what gave you permission to like it”, as if liking it was somehow not completely sincere if informed by the brain’; both of which ‘corrections’ seem to me to rely on incorrect readings of Taruskin). Haynes also makes a rather glib attempt to rescue the word ‘authenticity’ from the scare-quotes to which Taruskin consigned it; he seems confident that ‘authenticity’ is simply an innocent synonym for ‘historically accurate and credible’, thus implying an ignorance of, or an unwillingness to deal with, the moral overtones with which the word is loaded, and which Taruskin explores in exhaustive detail. It seems perverse for Haynes to pick a fight over ‘authenticity’, then scarper without addressing any of Taruskin’s points; his conclusion that ‘authenticity is simple, it’s logical, and … it’s central to the concept called HIP’ is overly optimistic, and not borne of any serious engagement with the debate. More seriously, Haynes goes down a well-worn blind alley, insisting that Taruskin’s contention that HIP is a feature of modernist culture can be dismantled as long as enough Period performances can be shown to depart from the high modernist aesthetic; i.e. Stravinsky would not have liked Leonhardt (though he might have liked Rifkin), so ‘Eloquent’ HIP must be anti-modern. Once more Haynes is forced into an untenable position by his binary opposition of HIP versus everything else. If the mainstream is part of modernist culture, he implies, HIP cannot be; if modernism/the mainstream is authoritarian and restrictive (and Haynes certainly thinks it is), HIP must be tolerant and liberating—if it sometimes is not (Strait style), that is because it is not proper HIP at all, but really a modernist wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. Many features of good HIP practice as Haynes describes it are indeed about liberating the performer from a stultifying reverence of the ‘musical work’, which as he shows is not a concept that applies to pre-Romantic music. But Haynes’s insistence on style as the only criterion by which he will judge or describe music runs counter to this happy-go-lucky ideal. At first, his attitude appears anything but restrictive: Haynes will tolerate any style as long as it is historically accurate (he would say may 2008 early music 303 Downloaded from http://em.oxfordjournals.org/ at UniversitÃ di Bologna - Sistema Bibliotecario d'Ateneo on August 9, 2013 thrilling, notably a tantalizing 30 seconds of Corrette played by Susie Napper—but Haynes’s reliance on his gurus and colleagues suggests an overly prescriptive approach, one in which a performance is either right or wrong. Haynes is not slow to identify goats in contrast to his eloquent sheep. HIP performers who have indulged in anti-Rhetorical practices such as the ‘long-line’ phrase or ‘expressive crescendo’ are named and shamed, with an air more of sorrow than of anger: the latter solecism ‘is frequently heard in the orchestras conducted by M. Suzuki and T. Hengelbrock’. Evidently Haynes has an argument to make; but to suggest that these and many other performers have simply taken the wrong path, ignoring beacons of correct procedure, is simplistic to say the least. In general, Haynes’s models of binary opposition (intelligent, expressive Eloquent style versus dull Modern; plucky HIP versus hegemonic mainstream) oversimplify the complex interrelationships and cross-fertilizations that are an inevitable and, arguably, valuable feature of 21st-century culture. Furthermore, this tendency to polarize sometimes leads him up the garden path, for example in his enthusiastic promotion of ‘Period composition’. Haynes would, I think, align himself with John Butt’s idea that HIP provides our fractured culture with a ‘patch’ of historicity—by engaging with a self-consciously historical performance style, we stretch the muscles no longer activated by religion or a Whiggish belief in progress. But music in Rhetorical style by present-day composers would lack the necessary ‘charge’ of historicity; if confined to the academic practice of ‘stylistic composition’ it might teach us something about style, but I would not waste anyone else’s time on my Corellian trio sonatas, any more than Robert Levin would publish transcriptions of his much more wonderful improvised cadenzas. Because Haynes describes HIP only in terms directly opposed to mainstream practice (which of course includes contemporary composition), he is forced to take the view that ‘Period composing’ is ‘the most profound use we musicians have yet made of Period styles’. By contrast, ‘most modern composers are involved in inventing a system, a new style as it were, for every new piece…new and unique bottles, wine unspecified’. Even allowing for the possibility that Haynes knows something I don’t (do composers invent a new style for every new piece?), I doubt that contemporary ‘Rhetorical composition’ can succeed in turning the tide of mass disaffection with ‘classical’ music where contemporary ‘Contemporary composition’ has failed. I suspect that Haynes’s descriptions of HIP’s past, present and future are derived not from a thoroughgoing survey of contemporary culture, but in part at least from nostalgia for the movement’s early days. This is never doi:10.1093/em/can021 304 early music may 2008 Downloaded from http://em.oxfordjournals.org/ at UniversitÃ di Bologna - Sistema Bibliotecario d'Ateneo on August 9, 2013 authentic): even his bête noire, Modern style, is ‘for a very limited repertoire…the most appropriate’. This seems to evoke a very postmodern scene, with an almost infinite number of styles (one for each, or each version of, or each past performance of a piece) playfully coexisting on the surface of culture; but any such system is untenable without someone to make the judgement as to what is historically correct, a decision contingent on the judge’s personal tastes and prejudices. Haynes suggests that we have intuited, via the experimentations of ‘gurus’, the correct style for Rhetorical music; but there are plenty of people who still intuitively prefer Richard Goode’s Bach Partitas to Leonhardt’s. Some of us even like both. Haynes repeatedly asserts that HIP’s goal is the creation of ‘our own’ style, not the re-creation of a vanished past, yet he refuses to address, let alone contribute to the cultural debate surrounding HIP. Why exactly do we ‘like it so much’? Haynes’s performances are superbly Eloquent, but his discourse is decidedly Strait. His argument, while full of insights and challenges, cannot escape the narrow boundaries set for it; the reader’s trust in the author is constantly undermined by his failure to place his observations in their full cultural context. Perhaps, if it stimulates performers to take rhetoric more seriously, or if it inspires a new Leonhardt, or even if it persuades music critics to stop judging performances on whether or not they ‘let the music speak for itself’, this book will have done its job. But it is disappointing that Haynes seeks to answer the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of HIP without really addressing the ‘why’.