Wanda, Gould, and Sting: sounding, othering, and hearing early music
Kjar, David Niels
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This dissertation examines the creative work of harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, pianist Glenn Gould, and singer/songwriter Sting to address aesthetic and revivalist notions of early-music performance practice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I accomplish this by viewing their early-music recordings through two different but interrelated lenses: sound and otherness. By closely comparing Landowska's performances to those of Gould not just in terms of choice of instruments but, more importantly, of rhythmic projection, structural articulation, and other fundamental musical choices, a definable early-music "sound" emerges that transcends the movement’s traditional borders. Early music becomes a sonically identifiable phenomenon transmitted by performers of various training, affiliations, and epochs, rather than a loosely connected politicized movement precariously perched on claims of historical (authenticity) and timbrel (period instruments) grounds. I further illuminate this sound within the context of a performed "exoticism," signified by exotic instruments, style, and attitude. In these terms, I focus on Landowska's reception in the early twentieth century, comparing it to the reception of Gould's individualized twentieth-century Bach recordings and, as a twenty-first century venture into early music, the reception of Sting's 2006 recording of Elizabethan lute songs by John Dowland. By repositioning "Early" as "Other," a more relevant framework emerges for discussing how early-music performances over time construct and reflect a sense of authenticity in the movement and, conversely, how that construct affects its performers and its public.