Die Lautenpolizei mal wieder
"Nicht der Bullshit wieder" dachte ich spontan, als ich der LuteList unten stehenden Artikel las.
Typisch für die Lautenpolizei tut er wissenschaftlich, ist es aber in keiner Weise, sondern besserwisserischer Unsinn.
Man kann in diesem Artikel Techniken finden, die sich auch in der politischen Propaganda finden.
Der Artikel greift einen Tatbestand auf, der so alt ist wie die Alte Musik Bewegung, die manchmal auch Originalklangbewegung genannt wird.
Es geht um die Binsenweisheit, daß wir niemals wirklich eine authentische Aufführung Alter (vor-romantischer) Musik erzeugen können. Das ist auch gar nicht das Ziel, sondern die Bewegung wollte sich bewußt vom Musikbetrieb des beginnenden 20.Jahrhunderts absetzen und der sterilen Konzertatmosphäre einen als natürlich empfundenen Klang entgegensetzen. Im Laufe des 20.Jahrhunderts hat sich das alles professionalisiert und man versuchte, sich dem Klang (der Interpretation) immer mehr anzunähern, indem man Instrumente, Spielweise, Bildungshintergrund und selbst Materialien anhand der historischen Belege versucht hat dem anzunähern, was in der jeweiligen Epoche üblich war.
Der erste große Fehler in Hodgsons Artikel beruht auf der Annahme, es gäbe die Lautentechnik. Es gab sehr viele die in Zeit und Region unterschiedlich waren. Sicher können wir annehmen, daß vor etwa 1600/1620 die sogenannte Daumen-Innen Technik, bei der der Anschlag der Laute "in die Faust" und nicht darüber stattgefunden hat, beim Solospiel überwiegend genutzt wurde. Der in alten Beschreibungen oft benutzte Begriff der Faust ist heikel, obwohl er im Deutschen eigentlich klar ist: Man kann eine Faust machen mit dem Daumen in der Faust oder mit dem Daumen außerhalb der Faust. Das ist oft falsch verstanden worden, vermute ich. Doch andere Beschreibungen geben eindeutige Hinweise.
Für die Renaissancelaute kennen wir Literatur von etwa 1480 bis ca. 1650 — der Wechsel hin zu barocken Stimmungen begann in den 1620er Jahren. Von Dowland wissen wir, daß er spät in seiner Karriere zum Daumen-Außen-Anschlag wechselte. Das war in den 1610er-1620er Jahren. Das Stobäus-Manuskript, welches erste kontrete Anweisungen liefert, ist auch aus dieser Zeit. Davon, daß die überwiegende Zeit in Daumen-Außen Technik gespielt wurde, kann also keine Rede sein. Eine grobe Regel könnte vielleicht sein: vor 1600 bzw. 6- oder 7-chörige Laute spielt man Daumen-Innen, jüngere Musik Daumen-Außen. (Schulen für Renaissancelaute bis in die 1580er Jahre präferrieren Daumen-Innen). Doch auch hier gibt es signifikante Ausnahmen.
Für die Barocklaute haben wir eine überwiegende Mehrheit der Quellen, die ein Daumen-Außen-Spiel nahelegen. Es gibt aber auch noch in den 1670er Jahren Quellen, die Daumen-Außen nahelegen (Reusner — Problem dabei sind unterschiedliche Interpretationsmöglichkeiten seines "Faust"-Begriffs.
Hodgsons Annahme, die Lauten, die wir heute hätten, seien sehr nah am historischen Lautenbau, ist reine Hypothese. Die Anzahl der tatsächlich gespielten erhaltenen Lauten dürfte überschaubar sein und grade an Renaissanceinstrumenten des 16.Jahrhunderts haben wir vor allem die Gerle-Laute, die um 1580 gebaut worden sein dürfte, aber sicher eher Repräsentationszwecken diente.
Wir spielen heute auf Kopien von Instrumenten, die sich begüterte europäische Adelige leisten konnten und die wahrscheinlich der Ausbildung dienten (Lautenunterricht gehörte noch im 17.Jahrhundert zur Ausbildung junger Adeliger) oder adeligen jungen Fräuleins, um die Jukebox zu geben (Unterhaltung im privaten Rahmen). Repräsentativ für das Musikgeschehen dürften sie kaum sein.
Soweit die Fakten.
Anzunehmen, wir wüssten genau, was und wie damals gespielt wurde, ist arrogant und wenig hilfreich, den Annäherungsprozeß weiter voran zu treiben und unser Wissen zu entwickeln.
Den Streit darum, wie die Laute genau zu spielen sei, ist Bestandteil der modernen Lautenwelt und wird es auch bleiben. Unter anderem auch, weil moderne Instrumentalisten nicht nur die Musik von wenigen Jahrzehnten spielen, wie es historische Lautenisten taten, sondern oft die Zeit von 1480 bis heute abdecken und sich anhand eigener Klangpräferrenzen, die sich durch Besuch von Konzerten, die Ausbildung, persönliche Bildung und Präferrenzen etc. ergeben.
Tatsächlich sehe ich die heutige Lautenwelt eher von der Annahme bedroht, wir wüßten Bescheid und eigentlich ist eine weitere Forschung, grade auch im Zusammenspiel von Quellenforschung, praktischem Musizieren, Lautenbau, aber auch der Erforschung historischen Saitenmaterials, eigentlich unnötig. Sicher tauchen heute weniger Quellen auf, doch die Lesart der Quellen und was sie für praktisches Musizieren bedeuten ist noch lange nicht abgeschlossen. Der Alltagslaute in Zeit und Raum könnte man etwas mehr Raum lassen. Auch der Rolle der Musik im Alltag — wie wurde außerhalb des vergleichsweise gut dokumentierten Höfischen Lebens musiziert? Auf welchen Instrumenten?
Komplementär hat die Laute und Alte Musik ihren Raum im Musikleben gefunden, beispielsweise durch Ensembles wie L'Arpeggiata, die Puristen wahrscheinlich erschrecken, aber mit ihrer Spielfreude und ihrem an ein heutiges Publikum adressierten Repertoire ein breiteres Publikum begeistern.
Hodgsons Behauptung, es gäbe eine einzige prädominante Lautentechnik ist dogmatisch und damit einschränkend. Die Beschreibung ist zweifelhaft und die Schlußfolgerungen klar abzulehnen.
EARLY MUSIC FAKERY AND THE LUTE
[This note first appeared as a Communication (Comm.) 2128 in the FoMRHI Quarterly No 149, April 2020. The Fellowship of Makers and Researchers of Historical Instruments was founded in 1975 by Jeremy Montagu and Ephraim Segerman to disseminate information on and debate matters relating to historical musical instruments and has a wide international membership. However the range of subjects covered is extremely catholic, not just restricted to organological matters, and frequently includes other aspects of period/historic performance practices. This article has also appeared in the Lute Society magazine and Ron Andrico’s ‘Morning quotes’. Subsequent to publication various helpful comments were exchanged and in view of the subject’s relative importance, especially for newer/younger players unfamiliar with this issue, it was suggested circulating the paper via other channels to allow an even wider debate. A few minor changes have therefore been made, but essentially this version remains much as it originally appeared in FoMRHI Q.]
Jeremy Montagu's recent and challenging FoMRHI paper ‘The Fakery of Early Music’ (Comm 2121) reminds us that it is not really possible to recreate musical performances and hear music exactly as early composers expected, the performers produced it and audiences heard. In short, since any performance is subject to modern tastes and the interpretation of historical evidence it is, inevitably, a sort of fakery. He also explains how difficult it is to reproduce the music and sounds heard by the ‘Old Ones’ - not just in ensuring that the original (‘authentic’) playing techniques are correctly employed, but also because passing modern fads may impose a musical interpretation at odds with what the original composer expected and auditors experienced.
It is certainly the case that one fundamental problem is a fairly recent tendency amongst some ‘period’ musicians to wilfully ignore hard evidence which doesn’t chime with their own preconceptions - thus producing a performance which satisfies them personally (and perhaps some modern auditors) but is not what the ‘Old Ones’ would have expected and heard. However, I’m not entirely pessimistic and believe that performances may still be achieved which, if not precisely identical to those heard by early audiences, are not too far removed. In particular, whilst some extant instruments may have been significantly changed and deteriorated over a long period of time, I believe it quite practicable to produce many stringed instruments which the early makers would have recognised as being not too dissimilar to their own productions. Similarly, should players choose to do so, there is much historical evidence to allow the re-creation of early playing techniques to something close to that of earlier times.
Nevertheless, as well as the areas of fakery Jeremy outlines, there are many others and, in particular, a significant and growing problem amongst the instruments of the lute family. Quite a number of the culpable players are professionals, who should know better, and so this particular modern trend for lute fakery continues to be perpetuated and even to become the established practice. The implications of this on the lute and its playing are briefly explored here.
Modern lutes and makers
However, all is not doom – the ‘authenticity’ (that now abhorred word!) of many lute (and guitar) type instruments made nowadays is pretty good: - that is, they are often closely modeled on extant period instruments and based on sound research including iconographic and documentary evidence. Thus many professional modern makers generally produce lutes which reasonably reflect what the early makers themselves made.
To set this in context, it is useful to very briefly consider the modern history of lute making. The pioneers making new lutes in the early twentieth century (such as Arnold Dolmetsch in England and various, mostly German, makers on the European continent) generally made quite sturdy and often heavy instruments (‘fakes’ in fact) and therefore without much of the delicate and rather subtle resonant responses of early lutes. It was in the 1960's that makers started more seriously to come to grips with the true features of historical lute construction. For example, Ian Harwood making instruments with some features of the early lute: - lightweight, properly barred, reasonably delicate bridges and so on.
Suffice it to say that by the mid/late 1970s there were quite a few makers, both in the US as well as Europe, producing instruments incorporating important aspects of historical lutes. This was further developed by some fine makers, such as Michael Lowe, starting to look in even more detail at extant examples of particular instruments and making close copies directly modelled on them. Stephen Murphy was also important by making available, at very reasonable prices, drawings of instruments from many important collections. Thus from the 1980s there were many makers offering a good range of historically based lutes and guitars. In short, whilst there may still be a few present day lute makers who seem unaware of, or ignore, some of the historical evidence (such as the various sizes and stringing of theorbos and archlutes), many now produce recognisable historically based instruments.
So, I hear you cry, where's the fakery if most makers these days closely model their instruments on extant lutes and other relevant information? The answer is that it’s in the manner of playing them that the fakery can now appear: it is not the instruments themselves, but the increasingly widespread employment of an inappropriate playing technique for much of the lute repertoire, which perpetuates a deception. This is the target of my polemic.
Lute playing and performance
Thus, whilst lute making now mostly follows historical principles, many players (both amateur and professional) increasingly adopt an anachronistic (unhistorical) plucking technique. This is to employ what's nowadays known as the 'thumb-under' technique for virtually all the lute repertoire, and not just for the earlier period up to the late 1500s for which it can be appropriate. This might seem an esoteric matter only relevant to lutenists but, in fact, the right hand technique makes a significant difference to how the music sounds and is therefore important for wider audiences too.
From the late fifteenth century, when finger plucking generally took over from plectrum playing, the right hand plucking fingers were held almost parallel to the strings and so the thumb lay behind (or 'under') the foremost fingers. This seems to have developed naturally from the earlier use of the plectrum held between the fingers and thumb in a similar roughly horizontal position. To allow this hand position it is generally best to have the right forearm come over the belly of the instrument close to the base or bottom edge of the instrument. For almost a century, to around the 1570s, this technique was that most employed (although by no means universal as clearly shown in many early depictions) and generally requires the strings to be plucked quite high up on the belly and, indeed even over the rose - this position naturally produces a gentle, soft and homogenous timbre.
However, by the later decades of the sixteenth century, changing musical demands gave rise to a radical change in the general plucking technique and arm position - partly to do with changes in musical texture and of the kind of sound now being preferred. This was the more widespread adoption of the 'thumb-over' plucking technique. With this technique the forearm rests on the side of the lute (roughly just behind the bridge position) and the fingers now attack the strings at a much less shallow angle than that best for the old thumb-under approach. This change was also generally accompanied by resting the lute on the right thigh rather than having it held high on the chest (as is, indeed, more comfortable for the old thumb-under approach). The relatively new hand position allows more vigorous plucking and frees the thumb for a more independent role and, incidentally, in a position more suited to addressing numerous additional bass courses which soon became increasingly common. The early instructions are also very clear: the little finger still rests on the belly but now much closer to the bridge, perhaps even touching it and, indeed could occasionally even be found behind. All this produces a much more focused, brilliant sound and allows considerably more light and shade, dynamics, and the like.
This new hand position can be seen in numerous pictorial representations and is clearly described in texts from the late sixteenth century onwards. For example, the historic change is recommended and reported in the Varietie of Lute-lessons (London 1610) and directly reflects the developed practice of Dowland at this time:‘First, set your little finger on the belly of the Lute, not towards the rose, but a little lower, stretch out your Thombe with all the force you can, especially if thy Thombe be short, so that the other fingers may be carried in a manner of a fist, and let the Thombe be held higher then them, this in the beginning will be hard. Yet they which have a short Thombe may imitate those which strike the strings with the Thombe under the other fingers, which though it be nothing so elegant, yet to them it will be more easie. ‘
But perhaps the best wider contemporary description is that given in the Stobaeus MS (BL Sloane 1021/23). This important source clearly records the momentous change in plucking technique (translated):The right hand is to be held close to the bridge, and the little finger firmly placed there and held down. The thumb is to be stretched out strongly, so that it stands out almost as a limb, by one knuckle, to the other fingers. The fingers are to pluck cleanly inwards under the thumb, so that the sound resonates cleanly and strongly. The thumb is to be struck outwards, not inwards like the people in the past used to do……. For it has been shown that it is far better to strike the thumb outwards: it sounds purer, clearer, and brighter, the other way sounds very faulty and dull’.
This ‘thumb-out’ plucking position remained the general style for the remainder of the historical lute’s existence (as an organological aside, the ‘lute’ or ‘theorbo’ stop on the harpsichord mimics this more brilliant sound by placing its row of jacks closest to the bridge). However, it is precisely this clearly documented and historically preferred playing style which is effectively denied by many modern lutenists who now employ the anachronistic thumb-under technique for the entire lute repertoire and not just the earlier part for which it is, of course, often entirely appropriate.
Why does such anachronistic lute playing fakery persist?
As Eph Segerman perceptively and presciently remarked many years ago when modern ‘thumb-under’ started to be employed: the general use of this technique, even by those who should have known better, was often a conscious attempt to distance themselves from the despised (and now embarrassing for them) modern 'classical' guitar which, ironically, many had started out playing. So now, even as then, many players, perhaps unwittingly, adopt this inauthentic manner for the entirety of the lute repertoire: possibly also hoping that modern audiences will see that not only does the lute not look like a guitar, but that its right hand playing style is quite different too – and even, by some supposed implication, superior and more refined to that nowadays employed on its abhorred and less elevated relative.
The widespread adoption of this unhistoric technique misleading purports to suggest that the performer is playing their instrument with the same historical technique used by all early lutenists and so they are therefore reproducing the correct (‘authentic’) sound. Alas – they are often not. It is, in practice, a deception on the audience who attend such concerts (or listen to recordings) fully expecting to hear works performed in the same manner as of ‘olden times’.
This modern fakery may also be perpetuated by some players with a vested interest (they don’t have to become skilled in two very different techniques) and, of course, by the recording industry which allows modern sophisticated sound engineering to turn anything into something considered more desirable – ‘don’t worry the bass is a bit weak, we can always boost it later’. And not just by some professional players, but also by amateurs misleadingly instructed by some teachers that this fake practice is right (ie historically accurate) for the whole of the lute repertoire. And so we end up in the present bizarre situation where, for much of the repertoire, the correct historical playing technique is frequently ignored, and indeed even criticised, and an incorrect anachronistic uniform performance style is promoted. Indeed, despite articles by many respected players/researchers pointing out the unsuitability of the thumb-under technique for much of the lute repertoire, its use persists and even grows.
What can be done?
The first days of the modern post-war early music revival (say, from the 1960s) were frequently experimental, but also therefore exciting, and lively debates could properly arise. However, there was also great effort to try and understand alternatives and properly explore them - much of this outlook has now, to a regrettable degree, disappeared from parts of the early music world, including from within the lute community. This modern reactionary conservatism, linked to a reluctance to properly consider the historic evidence but to rely instead on the current fashionable Orwellian‘group-thought’ of the day, is I suggest the core problem – especially for the lute.
So, how can we recapture the earlier exciting and highly desirable situation and also thereby attract young people to early music in large numbers as, for example, the lute once did? Perhaps a second early music revolution is now required, not only to address those many issues Jeremy identified but also those in the smaller, but still much loved, world of the lute.
Clearly, the increased availability of properly informed instrumental tuition in schools and colleges would be beneficial. But, fundamentally, I suggest that a much more diverse and properly critical exploration of early music performance practices, based on the historical evidence, might engender some of the youthful excitement of earlier times - as well as having a real benefit for the lute of encouraging the appropriate playing techniques in performance. Teachers also have a responsibility to inform their students of the true historical perspective – even if it does not always match their own technique. Similarly, professional performers ought to be more open about their personal choices rather than implying that their own technique is generally best (‘right’) for the entire lute repertoire.
2nd January 2021