I am an extraordinarily lucky person because every Friday from 3:00 to 4:45 I have the opportunity to play Medieval and Renaissance music with a group of musicians who play recorders, crummhorns, and other buzzing instruments like racketts and cornamuses. I often play the viola d'amore in this ensemble, and I particularly enjoy it when I have the chance to play the bass parts. We play for the joy of playing great music, and every week we explore the inner and outer limits of the repertoire. My deepest wish is that somehow through playing this music some of its beauty might "rub off" on me.
Today, while we were playing some four-part "chestnuts," it occurred to me that there were a whole bunch of lousy things going on in the world during the decades when Josquin Des Pres and Heinrich Isaac were writing. In spite of political problems, wars, the Inquisition, and the outlandish practices of their employers, they still wrote beautiful and meaningful music.
For musicians all that really matters is the music--whatever music it happens to be. And when it is really great music, it can reach across centuries and into remote locations. Perhaps one of the purposes of writing music is to let other musicians know that music IS important, not that it once WAS important. Playing music allows music to BE.
It's easy to get swept up on the workings of politicians, particularly when it is on the computer, on the television, on the radio, and on everyone's mind. One thing I do know it is impossible to sway or influence politicians with the truth, reason, and the beauty found in Renaissance consort music, but it is possible for me to escape all that is not right in the world around me by surrounding myself with and participating in something that is so completely right. It serves as a kind of protection. It re-establishes my sense of sanity and balance. It makes the rest of the world seem less hostile and daunting.