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Harmonice Musices Odhecaton
Harmonice Musices Odhecaton

A couple of years ago all advanced musical world celebrated the 500 anniversary of the famous musical collection “Harmonice Musices Odhecaton” by Ottaviano Petrucci. Several major labels released this record, called “a hits collection a whole century” by the English magazine GRAMOPHONE.

The genre of a musical collection appears more serious than it seems sometimes. We know very little about authors of those days and still it is uncertain whether this or that score was written by the given composer and not by someone else. We can only guess about the role of the Church, but the decisive role of concrete historical characters in the destiny of medieval musical artifacts is already considered obvious.

Viewing the situation form a distance it is hard not to notice that such editions were somehow accumulated at a time by the beginning of the 16th century. Besides the aforesaid collection, it is worth mentioning, for example, a composition of a certain Petrus Alamire, about whom nothing is known, though experts know about his authorship (alleged, of course) of some “tracks”, so skeptics call this synergetic opus just “A-La-Mi-Re Manuscript”.

Now the “authors”, chronically sick with plagiarism, hire expensive lawyers and hanging on each other like grim death. But in those days for such avant-gardism “the copyright owners” could easily get an invitation to the death-fire…

It is curious to analyze the content constituent of these collections. Their declared conservatism strikes the eye at once. There are no innovations or any creative “prophecies”. Moreover, such punctiliously strong “vintage” approach to the subject leaves out everything, which “has not emerged” due to this or that reason. In modern phraseology it means that the anonymous compiler believed only in the essential, to be more precise, functional nature of music, avoiding any peculiarities and subjective manifestations: mainstream as it is.

However, with a more attentive approach to the subject, taking into account the general artistic background of the epoque, literally pierced with cross-citations and jargonized, we can clearly see its sacral context, the ideological landscape, where “the hits of the century” were skillfully framed by scribe-compilers, producers of musical life in those days.

In the era of television and king-size toilet paper it is hard to believe in a sacral sense of musicianship and in the fact that music is one of the forms of knowledge, a method for direct communication with the divine. And these collections were perceived as sacred yantras, providing a truly magic effect.

We are not the Beatles. But the Beatles are surely not us.

As it often happens in history, legitimating of new elite is accompanied by rehabilitation of preceding counter-elites and further utilization of their resources. Thus, in 1942 Pope Innocent VIII was replaced by Alexander VI from Borgia family.
But it was a positive event, meanwhile several decades before, ecclesiastic reformers of the Renaissance, seeking for desired Truth, rushed to the Ancestry, particularly to Hermetism with its nor quite biblical attributes, but with hope-infusing prospects.

High-ranking icons of those years were hardly seriously interested in heretic background of philosophic discussions, but used to privatize their results due to their status; they could not but spin political intrigues, tactfully called today “the progress”, and ruled exclusively according to their concepts. So, it is hardly a secret that the future Pope was the front office of all this intellectual underground.
Thus, all cultural artifacts of the end of 15th – beginning of 16th century bear the impress of certain “electoral mandates”, supported by all necessary certificates and bills.

What was the 16th century? The 16th century was the Beginning, The century of embryonic period of Rose and Cross and further emergence of Rosicrucian philosophy, which stirred the world by its first manifestos about a hundred years after publishing of our musical collections: people finally paid attention to the outworld.

Now let’s have a look at the environment of the musicians in 15th century. First, the 15th century is the renaissance (yes, exactly re-naissance) of the 2nd century with its belief in magic and immediate cognition of the Divine, what they called “gnosis”. A Gnostic conceives the nous with his own mind and obtains spiritual power over it by certain practices, called “magic”, with the only difference, that people in the 15th century artlessly distinguished “good” and “bad” magic. The most important thing is that between materiality and the cosmic mind there are certain channels, through which the flowing spiritus (an interesting wordplay, isn’t it?) spiritualizes the materiality, including our temporal Gnostic.

It is still a long way to Niels Bohr, but it is very close to the deepest Rosicrucian revelations.

Like begets like. This principle of natural magic became the conceptual foundation of the famous musical collections of the Renaissance. If the cosmic mind (the Whole) is marked by a point, then numerous artifacts of human activity (the Periphery) will form a circumference around the divine Center.

In this construction observant eyes will notice rudiments of Rosicrucian “signatures”, but from Orpheus times music was regarded as birds’ language, which one more time proves the haunting regularity, according to which all inventions are, as a rule, just inventions of new terms. Nonetheless, music was a form of charming magic, and in the process of “spiritualized” performance the sacred spirit just flowed into the listener, “exciting” his signatures. Synergy of hand-woven harmonies of anonymous authors magically appealed to the harmony of cosmos, like appeals to like. That is why stakes on anonymity and mainstream was conceptual: too “authorial”, too original could not be time-tested, so it was a synonym of dissonance.

We come across a classic imperium principle: while performing music, i.e. delegating its “powers” to the Center, the Periphery receives a strong centripetal impulse, and, as a result of the subsequent ecstasy (spiritual coitus, triumph), the Empire obtains its synergetic name, which provides it with the necessary power. An excursion: Skryabin was encumbered with such ideas, and that is why depressive music could not be divine and at all times was considered “bad”.

Imitating the ancients, medieval thinkers often expressed results of their mental work in the form of geometric anagrams, including the famous Hieroglyphic Monad by John Dee. This cosmic logo stands on this and consequent collections of our hero. One should be optimistic enough to believe in possibility of expressing the world by a laconic graphic aphorism. Well, what if microcosm and macrocosm are really a single cosmos, divided in halves, and everything in the world is symmetrical?

Listening to modern Russian musical collections we can’t say so, of course. Among collectors, authors’ albums are valued much higher than any collections. Curious enough, this situation was established strictly within so-called romantic aesthetic paradigm of the middle of the 19th century with its priority of personal discourse, which directly results in the cult of clinical perversion.

Really, what is more important for you as a listener – knowledge about the world or humanitarian exoticism? The Center or the Periphery in an eternal centrifugal acceleration?..

The musical atelier “Sila&Dosi”, acting under the name BACH, developed a complete system of so-called “temperation”, according to which all semitones should have an equal long-wavelength equivalent, and keynotes on this basis should be freely converted (transposed) in each other. Obviously, we deal with a typical sampler manifesto, philosophy of a collection, the most monumental of which is known to the mankind as “The Well(!)-Tempered Clavier in Two Volumes”. Curious enough, that “genial” Bach directly positions himself as a collection compiler! “Well” done, really.

Was there anything to fuss about?

Well, what is, for example, the “great” Mass in B minor? A typical collection of protestant and catholic themes, regarded by many as the most profound opus in the entire classical music literature (Miguel Serrano).

What does this strange chord – “B-A-C-B flat” – mean? And what did Bach really do by turning the independent, “Templar” “H” into the flat of some frigging “under-C” – “B”, thus depriving si flat of its lapsed fundamental meaning?

It’s very simple. Bach legitimated the very idea of musical collection (Åin musikalisches Opfer). By abolition of a relative randomness of the tuning system of the strings and by imposing it to the keyboards as a reference, he made the entire musical-tonal system coherent! What does it mean? Bach stated the intertextuality of all “composed” (not ethnical) music, which means that, according to R. Bart, by the beginning of the 18th century he announced about what guessed long ago by our Gnostic compilers in the end of the 15th century: there is no and can never be “the author” in principle. In short, the art belongs to people, so any creation is nothing but a collection of common cultural citations.
As a proof of our thesis, pay attention to creations of all those “romantics” headed by Beethoven: emphatically literary rendition of other literature, a musical theater.

Interpretation became more important than music itself, the permanently suicidal “author” demanded compensation from the Time and started to produce huge “monumental” canvases. Where? In the same theater-like large concert halls with tailcoats, bow-ties and other “French pastry”. Music is guided by a sweating, actively gesticulating, almost (supposedly) insane Mister Conductor and his twin brother Mister Composer, sitting in a VIP loge: since the 20th century the theater started devouring Music. And then Cinema appeared…

It’s a paradox, but a collection always bears the information, putting it mildly, a little different from a purely musical content. A skillfully compiled coherent program helps, first of all, to comprehend the world, i.e. to scan this actual content, in which we exist. Since we are always somehow present within this or that “text”, for a modern and advanced person his “daily bread”, i.e. his priority task is to solve the self-identification problem. It’s just, so to say, a common discourse.

However, rock’n’roll is alive to the effect that, having solved the first task, you immediately become a somewhat romantic, fighting for the right to authentic self-realization. This personalized romantic discourse can be called “butter”, which you will regularly spread on your “bread” under a favorable set of circumstances.

So our system is non-contradictory. Only the Time is contradictive and its engaged “contexts”, constantly excreting rotten idols, those monochrome “stars” of commedia dell’arte.

Buffoons and Buffoonesses of big and small “showbiz”…

The greatest collection of the last century was Carmina Burana of genial Carl Orff. Being actually a remake of an ancient collection of the same name, Carmina Burana beat all records. Do you know why? If you are at loss, reread this material from the very beginning.
The matter is that being a virtually anonymous artifact, the collection primarily performs communicative, not artistic functions. In this regard, any musical collection is an item of subculture, not culture. It is a paradox, but in the melting-pot of total globalization it becomes very crucial for small groups to segregate and establish a rigid status quo; cultivation of romantic exotics has long ago become a moderately successful business. So, is you don’t want to fin yourself among pop galimatias, as a minimum, moderate the scale of your own vanity, or, even better, abandon results of your activity completely!

Yes, any collection consists of very different elements, tracks. However, practice shows that no textual assessment is possible without a serious analysis of the appropriate context. Even our history is known by chronicle compilations, so is it necessary to prove one more time, that the so-called “role of an individual in history” is absolutely relative and is determined only on the base of complicated, if not mythical, contextual interrelations?

And now…

It is not occasionally that the world celebrates anniversaries of ancient anonymous manuscripts so massively and in the grand style. Only on the basis of the gild succession we can adequately estimate results of our own creation. Alas, music is not limited to themes and harmonies of Russian thieves’ chansons, as it many people sometimes think. And music, by no means, is moved forward by persons and severe copyright owners.


Just like 15th century Gnostics, we only have to slowly arrange elements of the Periphery into a circumference, trying to finally complete it. And every man on the planet should participate in this. What is our world, but just a huge collection? And what does every man live for, but not for realization of his own creative potential? Or something’s wrong, bros?
The Special Radio project, called RECOMMENDED RECORDS, which we are developing together with our foreign partners and brothers-in-arms, is a chronicle of modern Russian rock music, jointly written by everyone, playing this global historical Game, musicians. We must establish and fix the level of our creative potential, to go below which will be shameful for musicians of future generations.

This is a large-scale synergetic project, whose results will show up later. Taking the ancients for a model, the Special radio has laid the foundation of our Temple, whose cornerstone is a special respect to prematurely gone and still beloved well-known musicians, and we are all freemasons at this construction site.

Should we wait for this wonderful moment, when GRAMOPHONE of some other times will call our work “a collection of hits of the entire generation”, or does anyone misunderstand anything now? Should we wait for a new Pope?

December, 2003


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