Campus Focus: The Dartmouth Collegium Musicum—An Experiment in Integrated Musical Learning

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For the past few years the Dartmouth Collegium Musicum has been developing a program of instruction in early music for undergraduates. The experiment relates performance of early music to traditional curricular study of music in regular subjects such as musical esthetics, music history, musical notation, and performance practices. While in a Liberal Arts college the approach to historical music as a humanistic discipline usually relies upon "academic" subjects in a more or less conventional curriculum, the latter may be centered around actual experiences of this music in new and significant ways. Instruction in analytical and critical skills is essential; but the student's development of these may best achieve solid growth when accompanied by a progressive program providing a solid core of relevant musical experience. Studying "words about music" is useful to a certain extent; but such usefulness is verifiable mainly in terms of the store of musical understanding attained by the individual.

A similar duality is to be found within the study of so-called "applied music." On one side there are technical skills having to do with the production and management of musical resources, on the other cognitive aspects of music which we recognize in such concepts as style, form, logic or authenticity of a composition or performance. Neither may be substituted for another; both are essential to full development of the musical intellect. We of the academic music professions have not yet managed to build a basis broad enough for complete and mutual understanding or general agreement in this matter. On the practical side though, it is safe to say that poor preparation or retarded development in "musicianship" does not prove helpful to any sort of musical career. From the historical point of view—one might say "musicological" if the term were better defined—it becomes increasingly clear, also, that literary study alone cannot provide an adequate substitute for solid musical experience. Growth in both areas is essential.

Among teachers of practical or "applied" music there are some who believe that too much "intellectual activity" inhibits musical growth. Obviously every young musician must practice economy in managing his daily schedule and so cannot make both literary and musical worlds his oyster. But the distrust of intellectual activity referred to above seems to spring mainly from the fear that intellectual (i.e. non-musical or literary) pursuits may set up blocks to musicianship, not merely from considerations of time economy. But even granted this fear were justified, reading about music—especially about early music—need not damage the college musician's development. With proper caution in the "laying on of words" verbalizations on musical experiences need not be harmful. In the classroom, to paraphrase a pair of slogans from an old controversy or two, the word is mistress of the harmony, while in Collegium the harmony is mistress of the word. As we know from the disputes between Artusi and Monteverdi, or Zarlino and Galilei, or on a less lofty plane between J.S. Bach and Görner, there are many precedents for the Collegium Musicum so constituted.

Historically the Collegium Musicum grew somewhat after the fashion of the early drama, since it too developed out of an important cultural activity which had been carried on within the church. Of course, the Collegium was a later phenomenon emerging in certain areas in Germany and Switzerland about mid-sixteenth century, as successor to the conviviae (or musical banquets) and the Kantoreien of the Reformed church. Once established in these lands as an organization answering to the musical needs of church, college and community, it soon was paralleled elsewhere by the Italian Accademia, the French Académie de musique and the English music-meeting, or musical society. These kinds of organizations, some of which lost their amateur standing as their musical efforts became more polished and impressive during the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, were those largely responsible for the preservation and advancement of musical culture in communities large and small throughout Europe. (See the comprehensive article by Kurt Gudewill in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1952, Vol. II, cols. 1554-1562.)

Basically the purposes of the Dartmouth Collegium Musicum may be summed up in similar terms. It differs essentially from these historical organizations mainly in that it does not often provide outlets for modern composers, for whose needs the Collegium will usually be too modest an organization. Today it rather furnishes an outlet for the person—be he student, performer, composer or musicologist—who has discovered a musical masterpiece (or even journeyman's piece), which he has thought worthy to resurrect, first editorially, then musically, in actual performance.

To relate the Collegium to the musical life of Dartmouth College, then, its basic purposes have been conceived to serve various needs of College and community as follows:

  1. In providing opportunities for developing basic musical skills while broadening their knowledge of early music and deepening their insights, it is intended that the Dartmouth Collegium Musicum serve the needs of the students interested in music, either as performers or casual listeners.
  2. For the music major or the talented non-music major the Collegium is designed also to serve as a supporting organization for various courses in music history, including music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods as well as courses in performance practices and transcription of polyphonic notations.
  3. The Collegium serves also as the proving ground for early works transcribed and edited by members of seminars in the study of polyphonic notation and historical performance practices.
  4. For the Dartmouth area the organization functions as a means for merging musical resources of community and college.
  5. For improving basic musical skills of music majors, the Collegium has provided opportunities for practice in these skills: sight-reading (both instrumental and vocal); ear-training; figured bass realization and unfigured bass realization; performance practices (improvisation, ornamentation, interpretation of rhythmic and notational convention, etc.); stylistic interpretation and performance on historical instruments.

In support of these and other musical and intellectual activities the organization has undertaken to edit and publish a number of works from its general repertory, projecting the series as an integral part of the group's performing activities. The compositions which are to be published are related essentially to courses of study, which thus provide the curricular matrix shown in the following table:

DCM Series Course Works Printed (*) or in Progress
Series I Music 30 Medieval Music
    (Music in   de Vitry: In nova fert anima
    Medieval Life)   Landino: Musica son
        Machaut: Messe de Notre Dame*
  Music 60  
    (Seminar in    
    the Notation    
    of Polyphonic    
Series II Music 31 Music of the Early Renaissance
    (Music in   Leonel Power: Anima mea*
    the Renaissance)   (co-edited by Oliver Cooperman '65)
    Also Music 60    
Series III Music 31 and Music in the Late Renaissance
  also Music 60   Musica Transalpina I (1588)
    (Seminar and     (57 madrigals)
    Practicum in   Noè Faignient: These that be
    Performance     certain signs*
    Theory)   Giovanni diMacque: The fair Diana*
        G.P.A. Palestrina: Joy so delights
          my heart*
        G.P.A. Palestrina: What meaneth
        Luca Marenzio: Liquid and watr'y
        Musica Transalpina II (1597)
          (24 madrigals)
        Marenzio: Occhi lucenti
          O tu che fra le selve
          Solo e pensoso
Series IV Music 32 Music in the Early Baroque
    (Music in   D. Castello: Sonata Concertato
    the Baroque     in stil moderno
    Era) Also     (No. 4)*
    Music 62   D. Castello: Sonata Concertato
          in stil moderno*
          (No. 3) co-edited by
          Tom Kochins, '65
Series V Music 32 and Music in the Mid Baroque
  and 62   H. Purcell: Laudate Ceciliam*
          Beati omnes*
        Plung'd in the confines of despair*
Series VI Music 32 and Music in the Late Baroque
  and 62   A. Scarlatti: 6 Arias
Series VII Music 32 and Music of the early 18th century
  and 62   C.F. Abel: Overture in D Major
          (Op. 8 No. 1)

Each publication as it appears will supplement the Dartmouth Collegium Musicum library. It is hoped that in time this collection (which includes many works not to be published, of course) will provide copies of all pieces being discussed or listened to in class. These will be used also for reading or performance in laboratory sessions.

From the above it may be seen that Collegium activities and publications are also integrated with seminars in music history which explore and develop areas and skills of a more specialized nature, such as the transcription of old notations, and the researching of musical performance practices. Some will also be pertinent to the study of music historiography. In all cases advanced students in music will be encouraged to co-edit works for the series as they gain necessary musical understanding and technical competence to do so.

To summarize, the principles guiding the Dartmouth Collegium Musicum series are those of any such editorial venture, except for the didactic platform on which they are mounted. Specifically, the series and its attendant activities are designed to provide the Dartmouth music student with significant and varied experience in finding, studying, editing, publishing, rehearsing and performing works of superior musical quality and unusual interest. More generally, the long range objective is to restore to music a dual position such as that it once held as the most spontaneous of the seven lively arts, and the most intimately human of the seven disciplines of quadrivium and trivium.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 14/11/2018

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