Having the time to get back to my music has been a real relief for me after the enforced hiatus and it was made all the more pleasurable for being able to focus on an era of music which I particularly enjoy and can relate to.
The Baroque and Renaissance are two periods where I no longer have to try too hard to find new yet immediately accessible music. Tallis, Handel and Vivaldi have been long time favourites but I’d somehow managed to miss Purcell along the way so listening to his “King Arthur” while writing the piece on Listening to Early Music was a surprising find. I’ve since listened to a lot more of his output.
Throughout these five sections I’ve relied on a growing library of books on music and music history including The Cambridge Music Guide, A History of Western Music (Grout/Palisca), the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music, both of the Pelican History and Symphony series’, the New Grove history series (excerpts from the Grove Dictionary edited by Stanley Sadie) and the Classical Style by Charles Rosen along with many others coming from my well-stocked school library. Being a teacher myself I know only too well the dangers of falling into the trap of relying on Wikipedia and its ilk for standard sets of information which always sounds homogenised and superficial (even though the majority of links that I provide go to Wikipedia overviews). Being able to cross-reference information between respected and authoritative publications has given my writing a confidence that I haven’t felt since studying almost twenty years ago.
In going into this fifth section a real worry of mine was that I’d be constantly referring back to baroque-inspired Metal guitarists such as Randy Rhoads which reintroduced me to the work of Handel, et al. when I was in my mid-twenties. Happily, once I’d started following the listening suggestions in the text I soon discovered that there was a lot more to reference and listen to and in a greater variety than I expected, so writing about the topics became an exercise in listening to another piece for inspiration rather than having to thrash out text based around bare facts.
Aside from Purcell, the other great discovery for me in this period is the joy of following a fugue score while listening to the piece and trying to undo the puzzle. The section three exercise on the Bach Fugue was astonishing for me in its complexity and I became a little obsessed with hearing more Baroque counterpoint. I’ve since got a copy of Carroll’s “First Lessons In Bach” for reading practice and Fux’s “Gradus Ad Parnassum” which is absolutely charming.
This last section has enabled me to trace the roots of modern music and as I’ve progressed I’ve found myself referring back to work that I completed in previous sections, the connections between them all being more palpable to me now.