Thursday, July 09, 2009

What Helicon Understands

By Albert Fuller (November 1996)

“It’s not enough for poetry and song to be beautiful; they must entice the listener’s soul to follow wherever they lead. Just as laughing begets laughter in others, likewise our face responds to the tears of another. If you want me to cry, then you yourself must grieve.” --- Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 99-103, 23-20 BCE

Helicon believes that art works are the principal recorded evidence of humankind’s consciousness. Existing from all periods of human life on earth, art works demonstrate the connectedness of the human family’s imagination in all times and all places.

Helicon demonstrates this consanguinity with evidence of the sources of imagination by showing how the content and form of musical art works are arresting and lure the heart into profound imagination. Art not only offers a form of self-expression, it, in fact, creates an external, concrete vessel in which the souls of our lives can dwell and communicate with others. Just before his death, Albert Einstein noted to a friend: “To us [physicists], the concept of past, present, and future is only an illusion . . . albeit a stubborn one.” Einstein understood how humankind’s soul practices the arts to the benefit of all humankind, everywhere.

Helicon’s musical activities seek to profit from our expanding knowledge of the many and diverse areas exercised by our own human nature. In the case of those composers whose creations strike us strongly and deeply, it is our specific intent to maintain the integrity of their affective messages by seeking musical results that reflect as closely as possible their creators’ expressive intentions. Unlike today’s normal performance practice, Helicon believes that music should be performed so as to preserve the affects of the composer. If the composer’s messages are not to the taste of the conductor, the performer, or the comfort of the audience, and, consequently, are changed to accommodate that, the composer’s intent is eroded if not actually betrayed. Therefore, the music we love must be understood as of greater value to us as a product of its own period, than if subjected to an attempt to bring it “up to date.”

That is why Helicon so often employs the specific instruments (of the finest copies of them), techniques, and expressive interpretive styles that were the coin of our beloved composers. We do that for a single purpose: to recreate by approaching as best we can the emotional or affective content that the musicians form different times and places had in mind. The philosophy, demanding change and growth, has immeasurably enriched our artistic receptivity and experience. From this point of view, affective musical understanding are sharpened by observing them in historical context, integrating the meaning of music’s invisible—but not inaudible—messages with the other arts, and with the contemporary technological, philosophical, and socio-economic milieus of their times.

All knowledge is based on the past; all work stands on what has gone before. However, present technology suggests to many that we are not connected with the same past that has brought us into being. Electricity’s new role in spreading information implies to some that we are only just now beginning to know. The flood of new information, carried around the world principally by the computer-satellite-television complex, has often obscured the role of feelings in human affairs. This leads a consumer-oriented society to care more for the agora than the individual; more for the package than for the content. But we must ponder about the resultant pride in today’s acquisitions and achievements, asking whether they have not led us to feel our inheritance is poor, and that only now are we beginning to pull out of dark-age ignorance.

Sadly today, the role of feeling—of the soul in the life of the world—has temporarily dropped from general public consciousness, in spite of the fact that our souls are the prime source and stimulus of our imagination, the surest guide to mankind’s destiny.

At Helicon we feel that when we ignore our souls we “are starving in the sight of supply” of the vast riches of knowledge and artworks that the human race has created in arriving at the present. Helicon intends to give witness to the strength of our inheritance by engaging in activities that demonstrate the affective, communicative power of those riches and our gratitude for having received them.

Art creates an external vessel in which the souls of our lives can dwell and communicate with others. Musical art, not being concrete or tangible, is thus often misunderstood, and thereby, its central meaning betrayed. Helicon intends to maintain the integrity of composer’s affective messages by seeking musical performances that reflect as closely as possible their creator’s expressive intentions. By these means, we hope to recreate, as best we can, the emotional or affective content that composers from different times and places had in mind. Helicon is a kind of travel of the imagination through past time.

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