early music

Riding the bus last night, I was thinking about Rochester’s Early Music Festival and how to make this Friday night’s event sound exciting in the age of Facebook, Avatar, and Tim Horton’s.

Truth is, I realized, I can’t.

People are drawn to music written before the 18th century for the same reason they like home-brewed beer and hand-stitched books. It’s slow to unfold. It’s a walk down a leaf-strewn path for no other reason than in hopes of glimpsing a flash of feathers. It requires time, patience, and the willingness to park on a hard, wooden bench.

I’ve been attending Rochester’s Early Music Festival for several years, and I’ve always caught sight of something unexpected. Sometimes it’s a blending of voices that leaves me breathless, even though I’m not singing.

One year, audience members took an intermission break to stand in the parking lot and watch the moon eclipsed by the earth’s shadow. This year, maybe, we’ll pause to search for a comet.

I’m psyched to hear members of Musica Spei sing. Choral group as string quartet, they’re attuned to each other as much as they are to the music.

(Pardon the ad: for a list of all the performers and info on tickets, you can go to the website, http://www.rochesterbachfestival.org/events/remf2007.html)

As the annual host, it’s my job to serve as Informed Fan. This year, I’ll try to add a touch of glamor by wearing a black velvet dress that used to belong to my friend, flutist Nina Assimakopoulos.

In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes described life in pre-modern times as "nasty, brutish, and short". Turning 40 was like hitting 70, if you made it through the Black Death.

This music of that time came from musicians who moved in tiny geographic areas. Travel was slow, communication difficult.

There was no electric grid.

But somehow, the music turns on all the lights.