Performance and the Laborde Chansonnier: Authenticity of Multiplicities—Introduction

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Performance and the Laborde Chansonnier:
Authenticity of Multiplicities

A Panel Presentation for the CMS
at Baldwin-Wallace College
November 8, 1969




About the middle of September, Paul Traver called me to see if I would be willing to assemble a program dealing with performance. He was particularly interested in some aspect of early music; in other words, the sort of performance which is usually the province of collegium musicum groups. Although I was already over-committed for the semester, the idea struck a vital nerve, as I expect it did with our panelists and directors, for the problems of performance of early music are always intriguing. Furthermore, by a lucky coincidence, I had what appeared to me as a perfect subject for such a panel. Gwynn McPeek had finished his edition of the Laborde Chansonnier only a few months before. The music was all in the hands of the publisher. Unless some of our directors had worked from the original sources, they had neither seen the music as preserved in the Laborde nor had they likely heard this version in any recordings. Consequently, each performer could be faced with a "new" piece of early music, which he could interpret as he saw fit.

Last winter, long before this program was conceived, Professor McPeek and I had xeroxed a selection of the Laborde pieces for use in my collegium, so we had those copies available for this occasion. With our time limitations, we organized the program, secured panelists and performing groups, and duplicated the music. Since the music was mailed on October 7th, each director had somewhat less than a month to prepare his piece.

Perhaps it is worthy of mention that a national meeting usually implies a national distribution of participants. Obtaining such a distribution, however, would have required more time than was available; and furthermore, if a national distribution had been obtained, the program would undoubtedly have been limited to a presentation of tapes. With the exception of Professor Grubbs, who could scarcely be expected to bring a performing group from Austin, Texas to Cleveland, our directors and their ensembles came from colleges in the vicinity. They represented schools of vastly different sizes, and their collegium programs were in different stages of development. We did not assemble to observe a performance contest but rather to study the problems of preparing this genre of music. Without knowing in advance how the groups had solved the various problems, I expected that the solutions would be both scholarly and pragmatic.

But before we heard four pieces from the Laborde Chansonnier, four panelists discussed the principal problems connected with this music, which we have defined as 1) text underlay (Professor McPeek), 2) musica ficta (Professor Crawford), 3) the performance medium (Professor Borroff), 4) ornamentation (Professor Grubbs). Their remarks are also included in SYMPOSIUM Volume 10.

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