Misusing Manuscripts of Music and Bible

Misusing Manuscripts of Music and Bible December 18, 2016

Talking about Handel’s Messiah in the chamber chat on December 12th with Maestro Matthew Kramer, the question of the “authentic version” of Messiah came up. It was interesting to note how similar the issues are that connect music and Biblical studies when one approaches them by way of questions about manuscripts.

Manuscripts in both areas have turned up time and again in unexpected places, often in the act of being destroyed, damaged, and misused in a variety of ways – to wrap fish, or light fires.

In both cases, different versions exist and it is debatable whether it makes sense to speak of an “original” text.

But on the other hand, in both cases, people will enjoy a version without looking at footnotes or commentary, and may be liable to complain when attempts at getting closer to the earliest and most authentic version lead to changes from the form they are used to.

And in both cases, we are liable to forget that letters were delivered by commissioned individuals, and performances overseen by composers, and so certain things could be left unwritten since posterity was not yet in view.

What other similarities are there that you can think of, that connect music and biblical studies?

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