The Modern Musicologist

I’ve been working hard all weekend, and so now I’m taking a break to do something I don’t usually do. I found this poem when searching on JSTOR trying to find ideas for my music(ology) paper.

I am the very model of a modern musicologist,
I’ve information relevant to any numerologist,
I know long lists of lutenists, and quote the works historical
Of Wolfgang Amadeus with K numbers chronological;
I’m very well acquainted too with early Baroque ornament,
I understand what little things like ‘Dämpfer in die Hörner’ meant;
About composers’ laundry bills for ruffles and for vestaments
I’m almost as familiar as with their wills and testaments,
I know which singer made old Gluck so mad he had to jump at her,
I know what type of instrument was used by Bach’s third trumpeter,
In short, in matters useful to a social anthropologist
I am the very model of a modern musicologist. 

Of operatic history I’ve learnt a lot, and never groused
(Of course I never go to things like Bohême, Butterfly and Faust),
I know (although I haven’t heard) the last quartets of Boccherini,
I’ve written lengthy articles on each crescendo in Rossini,
I know the maker of the paper Haydn used to write the bars he
Turned out by the hundred for the family of Esterhazy,
I cannot hum a fugue, but I can show where Bach was once so crude he
Used a subject similar to one once used by Buxtehude,
I know the definitions of the Hypo-Mixolydian Mode, a
Nota Cambiata, a Phrygian Cadence in the coda,
I’ve made of items in the Hohe Messe in H Moll a list.
I am the very model of a modern musicologist. 

In fact, when I can tell by ear a major from a minor chord,
And understand why Beethoven has made the human mind applaud,
When (facing facts) I once admit that music is the art of sound,
And show by playing it how should a Beethoven sonata sound,
When I’ve acquired that much-maligned thing, digital dexterity,
Instead of slating those who have with critical severity,
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elementary technique,
And once discover music as a living art, not an antique,
When once I learn to play the stuff, compose, conduct, or even sing
Instead of writing articles on someone else’s rendering,
Then if I’m not a nervous wreck and needing a psychologist
Some day musicians may respect the first good musicologist.

Ruth Gipps

(From Musical Times: Vol. 103, No. 1438, p. 840)


About Simon

Hi. I'm Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo. I'm a mathematics postdoc at Dartmouth College. I'm also a musician; I play piano and cello, and I also sometimes compose music and study musicology. I also like to play chess and write calligraphy. This blog is a catalogue of some of my thoughts. I write them down so that I understand them better. But sometimes other people find them interesting as well, so I happily share them with my small corner of the world.
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3 Responses to The Modern Musicologist

  1. Anonymous says:

    You forgot to say that this obviously should be sung to the tune of the famous Gilbert & Sullivan song called “I am the very model of a modern major general”

  2. Anonymous says:

    Obviously, one should never fail to state the obvious …

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