Early Music In Context Lectures

An informal series of Lectures and Presentations on a variety of subjects related to early music – by performers, instructors and scholars. These lectures are free, and open to the general public.

Held at the UBC faculty of music building from 5:30 -6:30 pm


A talk by Chantal Phan

July 28, 5:30-6:30
UBC School of Music, room 116

Gertrude Stein’s famous 1913 quote is generally taken as meaning “Things are what they are”, though the author herself also interpreted it as meaning that any given thing contains all the imagery that has already been associated with it.

In this talk, Chantal Phan explores historical meanings of the rose as seen in vocal music of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, showing that this flower symbolized many different things. After a brief look at the troubadours’ concept of floral games (musical competitions) and flowers of rhetoric, musical examples discussed will include Rosa das rosas (Galician-Portuguese, 13th c.), Rose, lis, printemps, verdure by Machaut (France, 14th c.), There is no rose of such virtue (England, 15th c.), O rosa bella by Dunstable (England, 15th c.), and Mignonne, allons voir si la rose, the famous poem by Ronsard in two of its musical adaptations (France, 16th c.). Over the course of these four centuries, beautiful flowers and roses in particular sometimes symbolized perfection, life, eternity, but in other contexts fragility and the passage of time. The most interesting occurrences are those that combine several of these meanings. This talk will follow this ambiguous symbol along some of its rich musical path.

All are welcome to attend. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

The Most Transitory of Things

A talk by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

August 4, 5:30-6:30
UBC School of Music, room 116

“The most transitory of things, a shadow, the proverbial emblem of all that is fleeting and momentary, may be fettered by the spells of our ‘natural magic,’ and may be fixed forever in the position which it seemed only destined for a single instant to occupy.”
– W.H. F. Talbot, Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawings,1839

On June 18, 2002 I placed two blooms of the Bourbon rose, Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’, on my Epson 1640SU scanner. I scanned them at 1600 dpi, 100-percent size.

The result stunned me.

I could only think of English photographer William Henry Fox Talbot’s drawings of the 1830s. The image on my monitor was beautiful; there was a crispness and precision that reminded me of early photography’s hope that here was a medium that was all reality with none of the abstractions of painting. Those pioneer photographers thought that photography, through the interaction of sunlight on light-sensitive silver salts, might capture the Platonic essence of things.

Since 2002, I have scanned all of the roses and flowers in my garden. I marvel at each one.

Handel in Italy

A talk by Ellen Hargis

August 6, 5:30-6:30
UBC School of Music, room 116

In the first decade of the 18th century, a young law student in Halle defied his father, quit school, and started composing operas. In 1706, the 21-year-old George Frideric Handel moved to Italy to pursue his passion, and during his few years in Rome, Florence, and Venice, produced some of his most daring, colorful, and virtuosic works. Many of these early masterpieces provided rich musical fodder for his whole career, but are much less familiar to modern audiences than are those of his London period. Soprano and opera director Ellen Hargis will explore this fertile sojourn in Handel’s life; his patrons, his musical experimentation, and his singers.

“Memento Mori”,

A talk by Ton Amir

August 11, 5:30-6:30
UBC School of Music, room 116

In a time where the average life expectancy was between 28-32 years, and one of every four children died within a year after being born, there was a deep awareness of ‘the passing of Time and the ephemeral nature of physical beauty and pleasure.’ It was not without reason that Lady Fortune was depicted with a bald back of the head and her hair blown towards the front: a clear message that you could not grab her from behind; she had to approach you to bestow her favors…The allegory of the vanities played an important role in the visual arts of the Baroque era. This lecture will concentrate on the way the message ‘memento mori’ was conveyed through paintings in the 17th Century. Musical instruments will not go unnoticed!