c/o NIGHTWATCH RECORDING
PO BOX 721010
BERKLEY, MI 48072
Editor: Joseph Physician
FROM THE EDITOR
What defines music? What makes a collection of notes worthy of the benefit of our listening? Or is it the other way around? The debate has raged probably as long as music itself. I picture two Neanderthals, one beating the tightened skin of yesterdays supper while the other grunts without success for him to pick up the beat to 4/4 rhythm. Or, the scenario between my dear grandmother and me so many years ago, with her insistence that I turn that racket down so she can better hear her Best of Polka record.
So, then, perhaps music is defined by the individual? ...Or then again, is music an end in itself regardless of any individual? Hmm... Does philosophy have a role in defining music? No doubt, but there are others that could better expound on that connection than I. At any rate, as an ardent music lover, Im ready to explore the phenomenon of music in our lives (in particular, in the context of the music of NIGHTWATCH RECORDING) through the pages of EVENTIDE and invite you to join me in this quest with your comments and suggestions.
All things then being ready if our minds be so, we launch our meaning of music investigation with this issues interview of NIGHTWATCH RECORDING founder and New World Renaissance Band vocalist, Owain Phyfe. Please stay tuned.
WHAT IS MUSIC? WHAT IS ART?
An Interview with Nightwatch Founder, Owain Phyfe
In recent radio interview broadcasts, respectively, with Jim Bloom of Cleveland, Ohio area station WKSU, and later with WXYT Detroit News Talk Radio host Mark Scott, Owain Phyfe summed up his passion for music in soliloquy with the following prose:
What is music?? What is art?
Art is the subjective re-creation of reality
the fundamental metaphysical value judgments of the artist.
Show me works of an artist,
and Ill show you his value judgments.
Show me the art and music of a society,
and Ill show you the value judgments of that society.
Todays art and music demonstrates quite eloquently
the value judgments of today.
that man is some kind of tragic intruder on this planet,
that knowledge is uncertainty,
that moral judgment is immoral,
that mediocrity is to be rewarded,
that the mundane and even the depraved are to be exalted,
that in order to survive
a man must...
join a gang,
and thereafter, he may not live for his own sake.
Future scholars will evaluate the art and music of our day
and our day will come to be known
as the age
of envy and guilt.
But what about us?
What about me, Im an artist.
But what are my value judgments?
What are yours?
I do value greatly
that which I find interwoven
in the art and music of the Renaissance,
the death of the dictatorship of mysticism,
the end of the tyranny of faith and force,
the proclamation that mans mind is not impotent,
given the proper stimulus, neither is the rest of him,
the rebirth, the rediscovery of reason,
the knowledge that man by his very nature
must exist in freedom,
and that freedom means freedom from compulsion,
that reality is real,
that truth and justice are possible,
and that love, my friends,
is a response to value
and cannot be given indiscriminately,
that virtue is worth discovering,
that man can be heroic,
that happiness is not to be sacrificed,
that life is an adventure worth living.
On October 15, 1997, I shared a pitcher of red ale with Owain Phyfe at one of our local watering holes in fashionable downtown Berkley (Michigan) with a view to expanding upon the aforementioned radio interviews. As the ale began to flow, so did the conversation:
EVENTIDE: So WHY did you write that piece of prose about art and music?
OWAIN PHYFE: pleasure ...for the pleasure of doing it.
EVENTIDE: Okay, let me re-phrase that: WHAT inspired you to write it?
PHYFE: ...I had just finished reading Ayn Rands book The Romantic Manifesto, which I found to be a very liberating experience. A lot of the ideas contained in my words are the result of her influence. The definition, in fact, of Art itself, at the beginning, is her definition.
EVENTIDE: So, you refer to her book as a liberating experience, ...liberating from what?
PHYFE: Ignorance mainly... Ignorance of the nature of art and what art REALLY says about the Artist. I would recommend her book as a must read, in particular, for anyone dealing in the Arts.
EVENTIDE: Which came first for you? The Renaissance music or Ayn Rands influence?
PHYFE: I was already doing early music, Renaissance music, but I didnt understand yet why I was so attracted to it. Ayn Rand articulated that attraction for me.
EVENTIDE: Which is?
PHYFE: The values contained therein.
EVENTIDE: Cant one... just love a given piece of music, without analyzing it?
PHYFE: I cant... not any more.
EVENTIDE: So then... what are the values in your music?
PHYFE: Well... before you can discuss values, you need to discuss the purpose, the very point of music.
EVENTIDE: Which is?
PHYFE: Contemplation. Music is much more than entertainment. It is the pleasure of contemplation. This is the purpose of art. ...I would hope that our listeners would find a kind of peaceful oasis in our music. I dont mean that in the sense of escapism. I mean, rather, in the pleasure of contemplation reaffirming the idea that life holds for each one of us a spectrum of wonderful possibilities. ...Through my portion of input in the music of The New World Renaissance Band and Nightwatch Recording, I am endeavoring to relate how a certain type of music has touched and moved me. It is this same music which, in the same way, touched and moved individuals among the generations of the most vibrant age in human history, the Renaissance.
Now dont misunderstand me here, this is important. Im not looking to turn the clock back. I have no desire to live in the past. Through our music we have attempted to re-kindle the spirit of the Renaissance... in a manner befitting the next renaissance.
EVENTIDE: ...And the values in your music?
PHYFE: Again... I would hope that our listeners would find a fascination with the adventure and discovery of life... in the context ...of honor and the pursuit of virtue.
Above the din of the 30 or so patrons, strains of an electric guitar could be heard emanating from the corner jukebox, which naturally led into my next question.
EVENTIDE: Is there any modern/contemporary music that you like?
PHYFE: Yes, some, but most of it is emotionally irrelevant for me.
EVENTIDE: Emotionally irrelevant?
PHYFE: All music is the audio equivalent to emotion. There are certain emotions that I just dont care to experience, at least, not for very long.
EVENTIDE: Okay, it makes sense that emotion is evoked from the listener, but is it always relevant? I mean, what if you just like the music?
PHYFE: Its not a matter of just liking or just disliking. Music affects us whether we are aware of it or not, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, but always emotionally. Some people, for example, might just like feeling, say, irrationally pugnacious. I dont.
EVENTIDE: Does this mean that you feel negatively about rock n roll, for example?
PHYFE: Not necessarily. Thats too broad of a statement. I will say this, however, that much of the pop music of recent years, with its orientation towards blues, does contain a reoccurring theme: that being the exalting of the life on the street experience. My personal experience has taught me that the life on the street syndrome has more to do with bitterness than with enlightenment. Its a place, an emotion, where I simply dont wish to go.
EVENTIDE: So, youre looking for enlightenment in music?
PHYFE: I am looking for that which is of value. I dont like participating in art or music whose underlying value judgments are a contradiction to that which is most valuable and desirable in life.
EVENTIDE: Couldnt someones values just be different than yours?
PHYFE: You may think so and they may think so, but real values are IDENTIFIED metaphysically, in other words, by the nature of human existence, not by anyones opinion.
EVENTIDE: Thats your opinion.
PHYFE: (laugh) No, thats a fact and ostensibly so. And that, by the way, is why Ayn Rands writings are so important. She is the one who has done all the groundwork, all the research in identifying the nature of human values. ...Her findings, I might add, would greatly enrich our culture, which happens, at the moment, to be struggling through an immense value search. The vast majority of people are passive to this and will go along with whatever is determined for them by intellectuals, clergy, government officials, media personalities, and yes, ARTISTS. The end results, or should I say, the values chosen, however, will determine whether we enter into another renaissance or another dark ages.
A long pause ensued, broken finally by the arrival of another pitcher of ale. We continued along other lines.
EVENTIDE: Is there anything in which you disagree with Ayn Rand or her philosophy?
PHYFE: You mean from her book, The Romantic Manifesto?
EVENTIDE: Okay, yes.
PHYFE: Well, I thought that she underestimates the value of folk music as an entry level stepping stone into the whole experience of music. Her criticism of folk music in the context of performances of it often being too complacent may, on the other hand, have some validity. Keep in mind, though, that this area of disagreement is such a minute detail, in light of all her writings and discoveries, that it should really be considered to be insignificant.
EVENTIDE: I happen to know that you have taken some flack from some of the purists among the early music community for your particular approach to Renaissance and Medieval music. How would you answer those critics?
PHYFE: Ive always used the expression: We dont do documentaries. On the other hand, Im glad that there are musicians who choose to approach early music from a purely scholarly level. This is valuable historically. That, however, has never been our intent. ...The conflict here is one of the Classical School versus the Romantic School. The Classical School must imitate the past, to preserve it. The Romantic School has the freedom to create for the future. Each musician must determine for himself where his gift lies.
EVENTIDE: Well, weve covered a lot of ground, but I have one final question: Can you give us a peek as to the future plans at Nightwatch Recording? New recordings, etc?
PHYFE: Yes, there are presently two CDs in the works. Cantiga is finishing up their 2nd album in Houston right now. It was about half complete last year at the time of Malcolms death. ...So it will include music from some of his last recording sessions. For that reason alone, this will be a treasure for all of us in the band. While they are winding up that project, Ill be recording the sequel to Sweet Was The Song which will be another collection from the Renaissance lute song repertoire. Next year at the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Owosso, NY, we hope to begin the fourth CD by the whole band. There is just so much great repertoire out there that I get the feeling that we have really only scratched the surface.
I got the feeling that we had only scratched the surface in our discussion as well. Our last pitcher, however, was empty and the clock read 1:30 a.m. I had quite a bit to ponder; art, values, the Renaissance, etc., and, can I drive home?
I began wondering how I fit into this equation. Just what ARE my value judgments? And, dear reader, as Owains soliloquy begs the question, What are YOURS?
LIVE THE LEGEND
AT BORDERS BOOKS & MUSIC
Borders Books & Music will feature The New World Renaissance Bands first CD, Live The Legend, among its classical department listening station recommendations beginning in late November. Do your ears a favor and wander down to your local Borders for a free listen.
FOLK FESTIVAL HONORS
MALCOLM SMITHS LEGACY
Those who attended the Kent State University Folk Festival on February
15, 1997 (Kent, Ohio) were witness to a touching tribute to the late NWRB/Cantiga
fiddle master Malcolm Smith. (Malcolm passed away in his sleep on Oct. 27, 1996.)
Saturday nights featured performers Owain Phyfe, Stefano Pando, and Sasha Raykov paused solemnly along with the 1500 other attendees as Malcolms photograph flashed onto the auditorium screen and the sound of his fiddle filled the air.
Our Malcolm was being honored along with others who passed away in 1996 for their lifelong contribution to music. For many, it was their first opportunity to hear what Malcolm achieved in the span of his short life.
August 2, 1997
This is just a note to express our appreciation for the top-quality musical product which you continue to release. It is nearly a year since your last title Odyssey (Nightwatch No. 1006) first came out. That title immediately captured the #1 Classical ranking here in the Detroit area and has remained within the top 15 sellers EVERY week since then. On my latest report, July 28, 97, Odyssey grabbed the #3 spot, behind only the Shine soundtrack and Agnus Dei, a very hot choral collection. Incidentally, your second disc Where Beauty Moves And Wit Delights (Nightwatch No. 1002) ranked #9 overall, and yet another, Sweet Was The Song (Nightwatch No. 1004, ranked #33. This is out of many thousands of CD titles by world-famous artists and ensembles who cannot begin to deliver the same kind of sales for us that your product does, consistently.
Thanks again for recording well-produced discs of entertaining and enjoyable music that people continue to ask for by name. Keep up the good work! My orders are enclosed.
Bill Close, Classical Buyer
HARMONY HOUSE RECORDS & TAPES*
*36 store retail chain, Michigan and Ohio
TWO EARS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
Out of Ross, California, The BINAURAL SOURCE prides itself with
being the Worlds Only Catalogue of Exclusive Recordings for Headphone
Experiences. That is, it offers ONLY recordings of sound and music recorded
by systems which accurately replicate the human hearing process; in other words,
which utilize two tiny omnidirectional microphones designed to function like
our own two ears. The resulting recordings offer 360 degree sound replication
and are best listened to on quality headphones.
Nightwatch Recording is proud to announce that Owain Phyfes lute song collection Sweet Was The Song (recorded on the Aachen head system by seven time Grammy award winner Eddie Wolfrum of Audiographics) has been selected to join the ranks of The BINAURAL SOURCES technologically pristine, catalogue offerings. For more information on binaural recordings, contact: THE BINAURAL SOURCE, 1-800-934-0442 (outside the U.S., call 1-415-457-90520.
CESSES MORTELS VIDEO
GARNERS TOP HONORS
CINCINNATI, OHIO - Fifth column Productions music video of Owain Phyfes
Cesses Mortels de Soupirer (from Nightwatch Recordings Sweet
Was The Song ) recently won a national Telly award for Best Music
Video in the nation.
The Telly competition, based in Ohio, has for the past 18 years given recognition to excellence in film and video. Judging by the other production companies that entered, such Hollywood heavyweights as Columbia Pictures, Tristar Pictures, Miramax Films and Jim Henson Productions, the Tellys have arrived at their own measure of esteem.
The 8 minute video (actually shot on film) is replete with 16th century period costuming and equally enchanting locations. Director Jamin Fites credits include another award winner, Medieval World, which took second place in the nation for Best Drama.
When I first heard Cesses, the story came alive in my minds eye. There was a richness, a vitality and a universal appeal to the story, said Fite.
Others contributing to the success of the video include Co-Producer and Editor, David Baker of Make Believe Productions (The Incorporated) and Director of Photography, Anthony Spike Simms (Presumed Innocent).
Fite and company have already begun preliminary work on their next video but remain tight-lipped as to the subject, stating only that the piece will be a classic from The New World Renaissance Band.