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Scholarship

Scholarship, and tyranny

Neil Halliday wrote (November 5, 2003):
Does scholarship mean that the power and beauty of, for example, many of Richter's cantata secco recitative realisations, are never to be emulated by future performers, and must be abandoned in favour of the 'scholarly', presumably authentic, 'bare-bones' approach of HIP practice, with its short chords on cello and an instrument that goes by the name of organ, but, judging by its tiny sound, to suppose that it has any link to the "king of instruments" is laughable?

Scholarship, &c

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2003):
A few ancillary matters to clear up, on issues of scholarship (and not directly about the Magnificat):

Thomas Braatz wrote: >>With university/college professors such as you guiding aspiring experts in the field of Bach, what will we come to? What kind of example/model are you setting for young musical scholars? <<
Probably a bad one. But, I urge you: even though I myself (when exasperated) turn into a patronizing jerk, that is not sufficient reason to discard the whole field of musicology.

Incidentally, some of my own musicology professors were A LOT more flammable (and, at times, condescending) than I am; but I respect their brilliance and commitment, and I learned to put up with the occasional foibles of personality. In their strictness and their attention to detail, these men and women MADE SURE that I learned what I was there to learn, and I am grateful. (That is to say: they really kicked my ass and got me to shape up, as a researcher and writer. It was their job to do so. They did it well.)

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>>This 'ivory-tower' mentality does not lead toward a friendly exchange of information, particularly on a list such as this. To be sure, errors should be politely pointed out, but indicating specifically where the problems in information or perception lie means quoting from sources (which you, Brad, have done over and over again for this I will be ever grateful.) The interpretatiion of these sources should be open to reasonable discussion even by non-experts, just as differing opinions on what sounds good or not in the recordings of Bach's works should be tolerated. <<
Tom, an "ivory tower" mentality is the farthest thing from my mind, and I apologize if I've given that impression. The sources are, and should be, open to everybody.

That is not to say, however, that everybody's interpretation of those sources is equally valid. This is an important distinction! People with the formal training, and peer review, and in print (in refereed books, articles, and encyclopedias such as the Oxford Composer Companion) got there because they are qualified to do the work. Their insights and findings are valuable not because of who they are, but because they have responsible scholarly methods and access to broader evidence than the casual reader does.

Any sports fan, no matter how brilliant an armchair connoisseur, can flip on the television and complain loudly (to anyone who will listen) that all the players suck. But, such a commentator's technical command of the game will still not carry the weight of opinion from players, managers, and owners. It is only the players on the field who know how difficult the job really is. For every real player there are thousands of fans who say it could be done better, and some of those fans probably believe they themselves could do so. But that's still not the same thing as going onto the field, with the training and gear and talent.

That is to say: the competent experts in a field REALLY DO have a closer insight into the material than non-experts do. That's exactly why they're experts. "Reasonable discussion" by non-experts can go quite a distance, too, but it loses its value when it ceases to be really _reasonable_ discussion, and properly informed. When non-experts start guessing at things, more and more wildly to try to "prove" points they really don't understand, the value quickly goes down to zero. (Heck...ask me any question about hockey or football, and my opinion will be worth zero no matter how ehemently I argue it!)

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>> I still seriously question Heighes' reasons for not mentioning/summarizing these possible reasons. Perhaps Heighes was relying on some extremely succinct summary and did not have the time or energy to look up the entire article. <<
That's unlikely. Heighes mentions Smithers' article in the first paragraph of this published "Magnificat" essay, for this book that has gone through a committee of consultants and reviewers. And, as you've noticed, he lists it in his bibliography. How would it look for anyone involved if Heighes really did bluff, not looking at the Smithers article he cited, and somebody enterprising could show that he and all the consultants missed the bluff, by simply looking up Smithers' article? Scholars cannot afford to bluff in print. They would never be hired again.

Your insinuation that he didn't even read the article is, ...well..., grossly insulting and presumptuous speculation, especially since you haven't read Smithers' article! (And I--Lehman--don't have to read Smithers' article myself, after a month of waiting for Interlibrary Loan, just to be able to point that out today. My observation is about your METHOD of criticism here, your faulting of Heighes on something he 'maybe did not do'.) If you wish to take Heighes to task, with any academic validity, your first step would be to read Smithers! Anything short of that is--well, just a sports fan saying that the players all suck.

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>> Is it due to an inability to project information to an audience that contains all levels of understanding? <<
Anybody can be a rotten writer, and/or fail to connect with some portion of the audience. It happens sometimes. But, that's not relevant to the substance of the argument. Sure, you as a casual reader are welcome to question Heighes' presentation, or his judgment as a writer; but, please, be responsible: do so by checking all his sources directly (no hearsay!) before you assert in public that he's done a poor job. That's what I'm saying about having respect for the people who actually do this work; grant them some benefit of the doubt.

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Brad asked: >> On a point of detail, the "Esurientes": between the two versions
of the piece, has there been any evidence of the Octavbrechung Dürr mentioned, or is that only in some of the other movements?<<
Tom, I was asking for details since Duerr has already compiled a handy list. In the D-major version of the Magnificat, at the "Esurientes", the flute parts cannot simply be transposed up a half step to fit recorders; parts of them are still too low. I was hoping (yesterday) you'd spell that out, from Duerr's notes. There are probably some people here who would be interested to know. And you have more time and inclination to type up such things than I do.

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>>Brad stated vociferously:
>>- You assert that nobody has done anything of substance regarding this piece of music, since the work of Rust, Spitta, and Dürr. That's presumptuous.<<
That's right, Brad. I presume that if you did your homework in checking out the material concerning Bach's Magnificat, you would come to a similar conclusion. This might then imply that my 'presumption' is true after all. It's your job now to prove me wrong, Brad. I look forward to your prompt reply.<<
This one is easy, using a standard scholarly tool.

Go to http://www.npj.com/bach/bb-complex.html and click on (exactly) the items "Vocal" and "Magnificat" and then Submit Search. You will see that 54 items come up.

And I hope it's not too patronizing to point out: it's much easier to demonstrate that something exists, than to prove an assertion that it doesn't. If you haven't read those articles and books, how do you "know" that everything of value goes back only to Rust, Spitta, and Duerr, and perhaps the rehashing thereof? Heck, five of those items are DISSERTATIONS!

Furthermore, to my knowledge all the examples I presented today, vis-a-vis temperament in those Magnificat movements, have not been treated in that way BY ANuntil I did them myself today; it was original research by me, today. Perhaps someone else has covered this, but it doesn't come up in that database. (That is: add either "Tuning" or "Key characteristics" buttons to the above search, and you get 0.) Whether some other scholar covered it before or not, re the Magnificat, my observations about those three movements rely on my expertise in historical temperament, which was one of my doctoral projects.

I did empirical research, today, with a score and my harpsichord. I also checked the mathematics of it all, with my temperament spreadsheet (freely available), on the quantitative dissonance...to confirm what I was hearing at the keyboard.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11219
I believe that it's something of substance, and new, unless you can show that Rust, Spitta, and Duerr (or anyone else) have already covered exactly the examples I presented, in the same way, and that I needn't have bothered thinking in an area of my expertise.

=====

Another standard bibliographical tool that you should have--although it doesn't go down to individual composers and works--is the reference book, Music Reference and Research Materials: An Annotated Bibliography, by Duckles and Keller. At the very least, you could flip through it for reassurance whenever you're in the mood to complain about scholars and their enterprise.

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>> It's not a valid scholarly method to assert that nothing good exists, and that all current experts are idiots.<<
>>Brad, you are confusing valid criticism of interpretation of the sources with name-calling. You know fully well that I have never used the word â?~idiotsâ?T which comes only from your wild imagination and unfortunately creeps into your comments (not mine) from time to time. <<
Tom, you're correct on this point and I retract the word "idiots" that I used for effect.

Still, I'd advise you to be sure that your "valid criticism of interpretation of sources" really is VALID CRITICISM of them (academically), and not just a complaint that their findings disagree with things that you (as a more casual connoisseur, outside academia) have seen. Your regular assumption here is that you have all the relevant information in hand, and that you are BETTER equipped than these scholars to do their job.

And that presumptuousness leads you into water that isn't fit for swimming. You complain regularly that the scholars are sloppy, or have done poorly in other ways; but they do have access to all the same sources you do, and more. (The reference books you have are much easier to obtain than is the more arcane stuff they pore through, in addition to the easy-to-find materials.) Furthermore, these people are better trained than you are to understand what they're looking at. Sources are open to everybody, BUT NOT equally intelligible to everybody. If that makes you feel bad or defensive, I'm sorry, but it's a fact.

And your complaints about the scholars' alleged missteps are serious accusations. For your observations to be correct, in some cases, the scholars must all be wrong; and that's a huge requirement. How likely is it that an amateur researcher (no matter how diligent a connoisseur) is going to come up with something where ALL the experts are wrong?

Brad Lehman
Incidentally, my "freely available" temperament spreadsheet is at:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/temper.html

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 6, 2003):
Brad, thanks for your efforts in delineating some important characteristics in some of the mvts. of the Magnificat. It is very important to consider these along with all those already suggested by Dürr in his comparative analysis of the 2 versions of the Magnificat. I am certain that your type of analysis will also be helpful for those who have studied the Magnificat in its two incarnations.


Brad stated: >>This one is easy, using a standard scholarly tool.

Go to http://www.npj.com/bach/bb-complex.html and click on (exactly) the items "Vocal" and "Magnificat" and then Submit Search. You will see that 54 items come up.
Furthermore, to my knowledge all the examples I presented today, vis-a-vis temperament in those Magnificat movements, have not been treated in that way BY ANYONE until I did them myself today; it was original research by me, today. Perhaps someone else has covered this, but it doesn't come up in that database. (That is: add either "Tuning" or "Key characteristics" buttons to the above search, and you get 0.) Whether some other scholar covered it before or not, re the Magnificat, my observations about those three movements rely on my expertise in historical temperament, which was one of my doctoral projects.<<
The fact that it doesn't come up in the database proves very little, Brad. By trying to add "Tuning" or "Key characteristics" you correctly received nothing because no one on the other data entry end entered anything at all about either of these categories and yet the Smithers article “Anomalie of Tonart and Stimmton in the first version of Bach's Magnificat (BWV 243a)" does not even catch the words 'Tonart' and 'Stimmton' because it (the person entering the information) does not understand German. So either nothing has been tallied in either of these categories because of the insufficiencies the data entry specialists or because of fragmentary evidence derived only from titles and short summaries. Try, in desperation, to add "Tonality" to your search and you also get nothing. This Tomita Bibliography is not capable of a full word search on all the documents that it lists, so how can you be sure that another analysis of the Magnificat does not include your observations?

What this means is that your 'unique' discovery on the spur of the moment today may still be lurking in the Tomita Bibliography crying out for someone with the accessibility to all the DISSERTATIONS and whatever to reveal the information that you considered as being uniquely your own discovery.

Brad asked: >>How likely is it that an amateur researcher (no matter how diligent a connoisseur) is going to come up with something where ALL the experts are wrong?<<
Can't you put the hoop a little higher than this Brad? Is this a crap shoot game we are involved in where the odds are all important? How about: "How likely is it that experts like Brad, no matter how lazy or careless they may be in matters of scholarship [relying upon defective results gleaned from databases and misconstruing the results of the evidence that they have found], are going to come up with something where ALL the experts are right"? I would contend that the likelihood is rather high in the latter respect, particularly when it is a matter of 'getting onto the current bandwagon which happens to be going through town.'

Brad asked: >>How would it look for anyone involved if Heighes really did bluff, not looking at the Smithers article he cited, and somebody enterprising could show that he and all the consultants missed the bluff, by simply looking up Smithers' article? Scholars cannot afford to bluff in print. They would never be hired again.<<
Perhaps that is why he [Heighes] remained very general about the topic: he could afford to engage in a 'bluff' without being caught since his bland [but intriguing] statement gave no specifics about the article except that which could be found in a very succinct description in another source/bibliography.

Brad, be honest now. Admit directly that you have not read or even glanced at Dürr's commentary in the NBA KB! Let's not go chasing all over the map. Where is a true expert going to find the greatest reliability in the information offered: in a half dozen DISSERTATIONS (no matter how recent they may be) and short summaries in the Tomita database, or in the solid work of an expert who has before him all the necessary source materials and expertise that allowed him to play such a significant role in the presentation and analysis of Bach's oeuvre?

BradleLehman wrote (November 6, 2003):
In response to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11226
:
Tom, have you ever heard of RILM?

Tomita's isn't the only existing database of bibliographic references; I simply showed that one to you because it's something you can see immediately without ever setting foot in a research library. I was countering YOUR POINT that nothing exists, by simply showing that it does.

I see now that it was an error of judgment to show you that Tomita reference, at all; instead, I really should have forced you to go to a library.

Yes, I know that the words "Stimmton" and "Tonart" in Smithers' title refer to issues of tuning and pitch. How stupid do you think I am? And yes, I did read through all the titles that came up from the Tomita search, not simply relying on a cataloguer's ability to recognize foreign words.

And I already mentioned the Duckles/Keller book to you, to offer you a real lead on REALLY RESEARCHING YOUR TOPICS in the way the musicological experts do. Go use it, and RILM. As I recall, there's also a good Bach bibliography in the newest edition of the Bach-Verzeichnis; and of course the bibliography in the NBA itself.

Use this stuff, Tom, instead of beating on Heighes and me and other writers for the things we've left out. If you want to criticize musicologists, first you should go learn what the tools and training are to do the job properly. Second, you need to check yourattitude that scholarship is a "bandwagon" at the door. That's exactly what you called it.

Anyone can criticize things he doesn't really understand, and according to your postings, you're a prime example of that. You asked yesterday what sort of role model I think I'm being for younger scholars, and I admitted that I'm probably a poor one. But, that said, you're a much WORSE role model for young scholars because you refuse even to be scholarly at all, or to take scholarship seriously.

All you do here is try to knock it down and replace it with your own "findings;" and then when challenged, you excuse yourself by saying you don't even have access to a library, you're just a connoisseur out to pull together interesting things for yourself; or, even easier, you simply turn things back upon the person who challenged you, instead of substantively answering the challenge. (But, then you present your findings online as if you have found things of scholarly value, and write them up with the appearance that you know what you're doing. If there are any budding scholars paying any attention to your writings, they're being led down a terribly wrong path, both in quality of information and the fallacious reasoning processes that have put it together. I've challenged you on this MANY TIMES but you didn't listen, so I give up.)

Anyway, you've already wasted more than enough of my time. I'm not going to teach you how to respect musical scholarship, or use it correctly, or put together a substantive argument that goes far beyond consulting a small handful of reference books. I'm through trying to be helpful. I have work projects to do (real work, for pay, having nothing to do with Bach) and don't have time to argue further with an ANTI-scholar.

And, I could probably put in another half hour editing this posting, to say all this more nicely, but why bother? This has already been more than enough.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2003):
I wrote: < If there are any budding scholars paying any attention to your writings, they're being led down a terribly wrong path, both in quality of information and the fallacious reasoning processes that have put it together. >
And incidentally, to preempt Tom's predictable response, my quip about "quality of information" is not a bash of the NBA; the NBA itself is fine.

Rather, it's a complaint about Tom Braatz's regular tendency to dismiss (out of hand!) scholars who write in a language other than German, as if their information is inherently less reliable than beloved reference materials written in the Muttersprache. And, specifically, inferior to German writings (a misleadingly selective subset thereof!) as translated by Braatz himself, for our supposed benefit, with his own selection and spin "translated" into them, his own assessment of value (and his own imaginative context) coloring everything he's decided to show us. When he does quote things from English-language books, he regularly frames them with contextual
fluff explaining why he believes they're unreliable.

That's not scholarship, by any responsible standard. It's not even "knowledge" as touted by Charles. It's (as he admits) the work of a connoisseur pulling things together at his own initiative, trying to learn more about the music. He obviously cares about some sources much more than others (especially as he's made the huge investment of purchasing the NBA and the Bach-Dokumente), and that assignment of value colors every conclusion he draws...anything inconvenient or contradictory can simply be dismissed as unreliable, and skirted instead of addressed. Again, that's not scholarship. It's enthusiastic enterprise, and it's resourcefulness by a person who (understandably) wants to protect his investment.

In defense of Mr Braatz, he probably doesn't mislead his readers intentionally in these ways. I take his postings as honest error... but usually they're in error nonetheless. I don't know why I even read them. Morbid curiosity, I guess, to see what strange conclusions he'll draw? It is mildly entertaining.

Dang it; I've once again disregarded my own intentions not to criticize other members anymore! I MUST stop thinking about this!@#%&@*#%@#

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