vinceconaway: (Default)
I've dallied elsewhere many times but I always come back to the joy I take in the sixteenth century.

The biggest competitor, by far, is high medieval architecture, roughly 1000-1200, but it's a fascination that was shared by many in the sixteenth century. I've read (I'm a bad academic, forgetting a source) that many characteristics of renaissance architecture are borrowed as much from Romanesque as from Roman, as a locally-flavoured, artistically-political choice to emphasize local Tuscan tradition over International Gothic.

Baroque music and sculpture are also high on my list, but many of my favourite aspects can also be found in sixteenth century antecedents. The basso continuo that distinguishes baroque music makes its appearance in the sixteenth century, and layers of polyphonic arrangement are not as universal as they're often perceived. And, while baroque sculpture has an energy and movement that its forebears do not, the realism and humanity of sixteenth century sculpture bring stone to life almost as vividly.

The sixteenth century is part of the Early Modern period in academic discourse, bridging the gap between medieval and modern, and that's precisely why I love it. It retains enough of earlier time periods to feel exotically interesting, while close enough to our modern sensibilities to be approachable. As a performing artist this is key, since my goal is to bring historical music to modern audiences and approachability helps. There is enough that is familiar in sixteenth century art to make a spice out of that which is foreign.
vinceconaway: (Default)
With my references to my Italian-immigrant forebears, I've been fielding a lot of questions lately on my ancestry. Here's the long version (you've been warned).

My father's family, the Conaways and kin, were part of the colonial wave of Irish immigration into the US. Oral history says we fought in the Revolution, and circumstantial evidence regarding place and family names indicates we came over in the 1750s from County Donegal. We settled in southwestern Pennsylvania, and I like to tease southerners that when my people rebelled against "Washington tyranny" they meant George, unlike those Jonny-Come-Lately Confederates. Whether we picked up Protestantism here or were Scotch-Irish is hard to tell, but there are references to Coneways in Donegal predating the Ulster Plantation (the spelling is interesting: on legal documents my last name was spelled "Conneway" until suddenly changing two generations back).

The distinction between "Conway" and "Conaway" goes much further back, and is a regional variation of Gaelic (and Welsh) pronunciation of the same name, but that's a bit of a tangent.

That's the easy half.

My mother's grandfather emigrated from Italy to Argentina, at the turn of the 19/20th centuries. He married a woman from Barcelona, Isabel Gonzales, and their son, my grandfather, was born in Buenos Aires in 1910. In 1912 the family moved back to Italy, to the tiny village of Filetto in the Province of Chieti in the Region of Abruzzi (now Abruzzo, after it was split from Molise in the 1950s).

In 1928, my grandfather emigrated to the United States, fleeing the military draft into Mussolini's army: he was a die-hard socialist, in an era before that was considered a problem in the US. After the Immigration Act of 1924 such immigration was much harder to do than previously, but his cousin had already immigrated under the more tolerant rules and served as a sponsor.

Also predating the 1924 immigration law was Quinto M, from the Province of Perugia in the region of Umbria, whose daughter Antonietta would meet and marry my grandfather. Family lore says there's a German ancestor in there as well, but I've never been clear where.

As a postscript, after his children all moved to the US, my great-grandfather went back to retire and eventually die in Buenos Aires. I feel a certain attachment with an ancestor who emigrated three times in his life.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
For the past four years I've been exploring chamber music* from roughly 1530-1630, but right now I'm diving headfirst into the fifteenth century. Sonically it echoes rhythms and melodies of earlier music while foreshadowing the harmonies of my beloved baroque. Historically it lies in the convenient overlap between the academic Middle Ages (500-1500) and the popular conception of the Renaissance** (1400-1600). In both regards, it's fun and intriguing stuff!

* an anachronistic but convenient way to describe quiet instrumental music for soloists or small ensembles
** academics are skeptical that such a period can be said to have existed but it's been a handy marketing concept since the 19C
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
I really enjoy taking as a performance persona what one friend called "Professor Vince". One of my life goals is to make history accessible, and I use storytelling to make up for our educational system's over reliance on easily tested dates and names. Similarly, my dulcimer playing isn't to duplicate period practice (although that's a fun sideline I sometimes indulge), but to use the awesomeness of the instrument to open doors to period music and as a starting point to discuss medieval history (from the crusades to cultural migration pattern through changing tastes in music throught the renaissance, baroque, and classical periods).

I've been very lucky that what feeds my body also feeds my soul.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
My goal for the week was to transcribe five 14th-century pieces that are appropriate for the 14th century dulcimer, and I have succeeded in four of those: the fifth turned out not to be playable on the instrument in question (but I may be able to fudge it). Still, those four are an excellent start, and I look to start working on the material itself next week.

My goal is to have eight pieces audience-ready by Twelfth Night SCA events, to play a repertoire I can't do much with professionally because it won't sell CDs. One reason I've concentrated so heavily on the 16th century is that it sounds like classical music to modern ears, and isn't nearly as foreign as earlier music often can be.

When your living is your life, it's sometimes tricky to figure out how to make it a hobby as well. I feel good about the choices I'm making here.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

One benefit to independent study is that I can follow my whimsy, so that when I get a craving to further specialize in the solo instrumental repertoire of the sixteenth century off I go. My biggest gaps are Germans and harpsichordists, and I may need to learn Italian and English court dancing to increase my familiarity with the musical forms that sprang from them. But those are achievable goals, and now I have a lesson plan.


Jun. 13th, 2014 02:17 pm
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

My biggest projects right now are playing note-for-note transcriptions of period music on a modern dulcimer and playing my arrangements of period music that would be playable on a contemporary dulcimer. One benefit of 17th century music is that there's a large overlap between the two, music that can be played exactly as written on a 17th C dulcimer, but my main passion remains in the 16th century.

Still, it's fun to broaden my horizons a bit.

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
It's been kind of a ludicrous week.

Saturday night I had dinner with my cousin Brad and his wife Ginger. Sunday night I went out with a bunch of faire performers. Monday I was north of Cincinnati to see Tiffany and Scott, while spending Tuesday in Dayton visiting Samantha and Kelly. Wednesday I was in Columbus for lunch with Shanna before dinner with Lilith, Michael, and Lilith's husband whose name shamefully escapes me. Minus Michael we had breakfast on Thursday, before I headed to Cincinnati and saw Noises Off, followed by a drink with a few cast members (I know Eileen from the Colorado faire).

And it's far from over. Saturday night I'll commute to Youngstown after the Pittsburgh faire for a cousin's wedding reception. I'll go out on Sunday for the big end-of-show gathering, then visit my parents on Monday. Tuesday I board a plane to Seattle, where it'll be great to see Tim and Truly again!

It hasn't been an exclusively social week, however. At OSU I flipped through a sixteenth century book on music theory enough to decide I must own it, and at UC I found a bunch of Italian lute music from that era I want to bring to the dulcimer. I got a copy of my MA paper while I was there, and am pleased to realize it doesn't suck. And I've run the assorted errands required to prep for flying a dulcimer transcontinentally. It's been a great week!
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
I'm really excited about my latest music project, arranging and performing 16th century lute music on dulcimer. The stuff I've looked at so far fits very nicely, though tricky to play, and I'm looking forward to hearing the finished products. The difficulty is even part of the charm, since medieval and Celtic music no longer challenge me the way they once did.

A big part of the joy, of course, is also in the research. I'm familiar with the English repertoire from my past cittern experiments and through grad school research ("The Social Place of Music and Musicians in Early Modern England"), and now that I read Italian there is a whole new world of primary sources at my fingertips. It's thrilling to have a new use for old knowledge, and incentive to go get more.


Nov. 2nd, 2009 01:19 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
There’s a standard way to go to grad school. You take the GRE and send your scores, along with your undergraduate transcript, to schools in order to apply. You then wait for an acceptance letter and choose among any schools that accept you.

That’s not how I did it. I had a conversation with the graduate program director of the best local university and immediately began classes, paying by credit hour (thanks mom and dad!). I got waivers from professors whose history classes required prerequisites an engineering degree didn’t provide. Only after two quarters did I officially apply for admittance the following year on the basis of the classes I had taken. After five quarters of classes I completed a two-year program, and for much of that time I wasn’t even an official graduate student.

I hate the phrase “thinking outside the box” because it demands acknowledgement of the box. There is the path well traveled and the road not taken, but I have a history of just cutting through the grass. So far it seems to be working.

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