In which I roll my eyes twice

Just a couple of articles I wanted to respond to:
BBC: Why do people play music in public through a phone?

For many, teenagers playing tinny music to each other on public transport on their mobile phones can be intensely irritating. Why do they do it?

With mobile phones in many a teenager’s pocket, the rise of sodcasting – best described as playing music through a phone in public – has created a noisy problem for a lot of commuters.

First, stop using the term “sodcasting.” No matter how many times you repeat it in the article, it’s not going to take. Continuing,

“I don’t think it is intrinsically anti-social, what I would say is that it is a fascinating human phenomenon of marking social territory,” says Dr Harry Witchel, author of You Are What You Hear.
“With young people, usually loud music corresponds very strongly to owning the space.
“They are creating a social environment which is suitable for them and their social peers. But for those not in this group – a 50-year-old woman for example – instead of confidence, she’ll feel weakness and maybe even impotence as there’s nothing that she can do about it.”

I guess there’s some truth in that. The British legal use of the term “anti-social” has always struck me as really creepy, and it’s downright Orwellian in this instance. As with cameras, the best speaker is the one you have on you, and if that means that the only way you can listen to music with your friends is through a shitty phone speaker, that’s what you do. What could be a more social activity than that?
Bruce Haynes creates “new” Bach concertos by arranging cantata movements.

These so-called Brandenburgs are actually instrumentalized groupings of Bach cantata movements. The original idea was Haynes’s, a Bach expert who had already used Bach cantata movements to score a concerto for oboe and harpsichord obbligato in 1982, almost thirty years before starting this new Brandenburg project last year. Tragically, Haynes passed away on May 17, just over a month before the premiere of what will be the last of his projects.

Why would somebody do this, you ask?

Why new instrumental concertos, instead of vocal or solo pieces? Because the small number of chamber pieces by Bach that have survived has always frustrated musicologists and musicians. Bach gave his chamber music to Wilhelm Freidemann Bach, his favourite child. Unfortunately, W.F. was also a drunkard and lost most of the music. Compare this to the cantatas, which were bequeathed to another son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. Those were carefully preserved and indexed. Today, we know of six Brandenburg concertos and a few other Bach concerti. There were probably many more.
It was also a very well known practice in the baroque era to re-score cantatas without singers. “Several composers and writers mention this,” said Napper. She added while laughing, “No singer, no problem!”

No problem! Hahaha. Seriously. Fuck you.
I’m sorry that you love Bach’s music so much that you feel like you need to take those terrible vocal parts out. Oh no, definitely, the music is much better without them. Yes, it’s totally a good idea to rearrange 18th Century music to fit contemporary aesthetics. No, nobody has ever done that before. Okay, some people have tried that before. But we totally respect them for their efforts and play their “improved” arrangements all the time.
Sarcasm aside, the point that we probably hold too tightly to Bach’s scores and that he reused and rearranged his music all of the time is a valid and important one. But that’s not where the trail of breadcrumbs ends. The fact is, we know little about Bach’s personal attitude toward his music. We don’t know if he viewed the cantatas as artistic works or only as things he composed for his day job. There are remarkably few Bach compositions that seem to be deliberately intended for posterity or as an artistic demonstrations (these include, off the top of my head, the Mass in B Minor, the Art of the Fugue, and his French and Italian keyboard suites). Almost every aspect of Bach performance includes some speculation or artistic decisions, many based on aesthetic preference alone. Still, sticking to what actually survives on the page seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable line in the sand.


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