About

Baroque opera & orchestral director, imaginative continuo-player, Early Harp virtuoso, specialist in baroque gesture & Historical Action, investigator of Flow, Andrew Lawrence-King is one of the world’s leading performers of Early Music and the most recorded harpist of all time. His first two operatic compositions, Kalevala: The Opera and Arianna a la recerche, received their premieres in 2017.

 

Andrew has directed at La Scala, Milan & Sydney Opera House and won Russia’s highest theatrical award, Golden Mask (2012). With Jordi Savall he won a Grammy (2011) & Australia’s Helpmann Award (2013).

From 2010-2015, he was Senior Visiting Research Fellow for the Australian Centre for the History of Emotions. Academic topics here. He is now Director of Opera Omnia, Academy for Early Opera & Dance at Moscow State Theatre ‘Natalya Sats’. More about Opera Omnia here. He also teaches at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, and the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen.

Andrew Lawrence-King directs The Harp Consort, combining state-of-the art early music performance with stylish improvisation & entertaining stage presentation; Il Corago, the production team for historical staging of early opera; and the International Baroque Opera Studio at Opera Omnia Moscow.

Andrew’s hobbies include marathon running, sailing, kayaking, fencing (modern epée & historical rapier) and Tai Chi. He is a qualified hypnotist.

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3 thoughts on “About

  1. Dear Mr. King,

    Thank you ever so much for your divine music. It is some of the most beautiful I have ever heard.

    I am a composer/inventor/woodwind artist. I have recently invented an instrument, The Infinitone, which won last year’s Guthman New Musical Instrument Competition. It a saxophone-like instrument that I designed to be able to play in any imaginable tuning system.

    Tuning systems are my area of primary exploration. I heard your Secret of the Semitone album, and am in awe of its wondrous beauty. Firstly because of your performance, but also the temperament helps tremendously when compared to other modern renditions. Can you please tell me which temperament you have used? Thank you for your music and help!!!

    Regards,
    Subhraag Singh

    • Dear Subhraag Singh,

      Thank you for your message, the information about your fascinating Infinitone project, and your kind words.

      For “Secret of the Semitones”, I used a modified meantone temperament, part of the extended family described by the period term “temperament ordinaire”. The particular recipe, facilitated by the stringing of the harp with two extra ‘black notes’ per octave, was quarter-comma meantone for the white notes, also for C# Eb F# Bb. The extra strings of the harp provided also correctly tuned meantone D# and A#. G#/Ab was tempered, right in the middle between the two correct meantone enharmonics. This gave a large number of correctly tuned intervals, with “half a wolf” either side of G#/Ab (considering fifths/fourths and also thirds either side of this particular note).

      There are other ways to apply the ordinaire principle, but the basic idea is that you tune a lot of meantone, and temper just a few black notes. On instruments with only 5 black notes, I often use an ordinaire with G#/Ab and D#/Eb both tempered, depending on the music to be played. One can also quickly adjust one or two black notes per octave, between Suites (each suite being all in one tonality).

      Within Early Music, as you know, there is a lot of debate about temperament, dominated by keyboard players. See the Facebook “Anti Vallotti” page, for example. I care about temperament, but I feel that some of the debate is too narrow (let’s focus on music, not tuning!) and much of it seems to me mis-directed. For me, the crucial underlying question is not “how shall I tune my harpsichord” [most likely, you’ll have to make some comprimises since most music exceeds the possibilities of a standard keyboard), but rather “what is this culture’s aesthetic of tuning”.

      Too often, the mid-baroque change from quarter-comma meantone (and ordinaire, etc) to sixth-comma and circulating temperaments is viewed only through the lens of increasing use of remote tonalities. This confines the argument to keyboards, and avoids the wider question: if you had enough keys and strings, what would your *ideal* temperament be? What is the ideal that singers and violins (for example) should strive for? Sometimes, keyboard players even try to force singers and violins into the straitjacket of their out-of-tune circulating temperaments: this is manifestly absurd and (thankfully) is ruled out in period sources.

      My hunch (research and evidence are needed) is that there was an aesthetic change, in which the softly tempered major third of sixth-comma came to be preferred to the stark clarity of quarter-comma, in which the melodic smoothness of sixth-comma triumphed over the jagged contrasts of quarter-comma. This is an artistic subtlety which could be meaningful to singers and string-players. And (as a bonus) it also helped keyboard players by opening up the gateway to circulating temperaments.

      This distinction, between aesthetic choices and clavicentric compromises, is clearer when we look at the (as yet, incompletely understood) change circa 1500 from Pythagorean to Meantone. Late medieval “pythagorean” usually had pure fifths for the white notes and Bb, but pure thirds for C# and F#. This creates an amazing sonority, with uncomprisingly pure chords in some places (e.g. D major) and shatteringly out-on-tune thirds in others (e.g. C major). The change to meantone seems to indicate an aesthetic change favouring pure thirds (i.e. good-sounding triads) over anything else: the purity of bare fifths, even linear smoothness are sacrificed on the altar of the triad. It’s not about accessing a greater number of tonalities, it’s about getting a greater number of good-sounding triads in the same number of tonalities. Here the message for singers and gambists is clear: abandon your medieval love of fifths, and embrace the major third!

      I guess you have already ploughed through Vincenzo Galilei, as he struggles to reconcile the demands of melodic and harmonic intervals. Again, his awareness of melody seems to point to an aesthetic sensitivity missing from today’s keyboard-players’ discussions, which focus almost exclusively on the harmonic implications of temperament.

      What do you think?

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