Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The immortal Telemann

              Georg Philipp Telemann (14 March 1681 – 25 June 1767). A Pisces. Simplicity conjoined with nuance, elegance, listenability.. In some ways, Telemann can be seen as a representative of the best of European bourgeois culture. Born at the apex of modern bourgeois civilization, he embodied the highest values of that culture.

               Telemann was, firstly, a self-made man, an entrepreneur. Born into a upper middle class family, he chose to rise through his own efforts and talent: his family tried to persuade him from a career in music. Innovative, he was one of the first to earn major income from published sheet music. 

               During the 18th century, the bourgeoisie was ascendant and there was among them a thirst for culture. Telemann, through his published music, could be seen as "bringing music to the masses". Less complex than the music of say, Handel - who wrote for professional court musicians, Telemann's audience were either amateur musicians of the bourgeois class or local professionals payed by the bourgeois. Remember, in those days there were no recordings! If you wanted music, you either played it yourself or payed someone to play it. The audience for Telemann's sheet music were "amateurs" in the best sense of the word: "lovers" (of music). A perceived "simplicity" and "decadence" (mixture of styles), led nineteenth century critics to downrate Telemann and his importance. However, no less a luminary than Handel ("The Messiah"), subscribed to Telemann's published music..

           Telemann's place in the life cycle of bourgeois culture:

? 1100 - 1500    Emergence. Early rise of middle class in latter Middle Ages, Renaissance

1500 - 1850       Fulmination. 1492: "Columbus sailed the ocean blue" to pillage, rape and colonize the "New World". 1850: the death of William Wordsworth, the great(est) romantic poet, the death of Utopian Socialism and the hope of a socialist utopia. The socialist dream was dashed in failure of the Revolts of 1848, the "Springtime of Peoples" - so reminiscent of our "Arab Spring"!! See footnote 1). By 1850, it is arguable that Patriarchal Civilization had, in a global, general sense, peaked. Founded on "plundernomics", the economics of plunder (or "externalized costs"), Imperialist Patriarchal culture had simply run out of planet to plunder! The globe had been "circumnavigated" by ship centuries earlier but now European multinationals were plundering non-renewable resources (minerals, fossil fuels..) on a global basis. There simply were no new lands left to plunder! The "Limits to Growth", yes?

1850 - ? 2150     Decadence. Failure to make the transition to a Green Economy based on renewable resources and energies: wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, biomass, efficient use of energy and resources.. Demographic overload: humanity's current planetary "ecological footprint" is 5 times too big for the planet to maintain. There are, using current technologies, five times too many people for the planet to support. Something's gotta give. Like any species overexploiting its resource base, human population is now in "Ecological Overshoot". Unless we mend our ways ASAP, we will soon enter Demographic Collapse (mass die-off) or "Ecological Undershoot" (population typically collapses catastrophically to a level somewhat less than the ecosystem is capable of maintaining indefinitely).

              Telemann's birth (1681) falls right smack dab in the middle of the Fulmination phase of the Bourgeois Culture life cycle. His creative life coincided with the absolute apex of Bourgeois ascendancy. A man of his age, a man of his class. Probably one of their best representatives.

                              Caravaggio: I Musici (circa 1595) -

For a sampler, try Telemann: viola concerto in G major, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner (1976) 13 min 55

Suite in f-sharp minor for Strings and Basso continuo (period instruments) Musica Alta Ripa



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