Gilbert and Sullivan Archive


April 17, 1999

Comments on the Lost Song Discovery by Bruce Miller:

Helga and I would like to thank all of you who have shared in our excitement over the past few days. We thought we had something significant to disclose, but Marc is right: neither of us expected the intensity of interest the media showed. The media attention indicates that there is still a healthy interest by the public in G & S, beyond that of a mere cult following, and we hope this event will have served to stir up renewed interest generally. We are dazed, but happy.

We thought this might be an opportunity to clarify some points which have been raised in the recent publicity.

  1. Neil Midkiff wrote about the CBS radio feed in which it was suggested that we are supposed to have recovered "75 percent" of the vocal lines. It is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify (via a percentage) in a sound bite a complex discovery and reconstruction. The criteria used to reduce the results in that way can be variable and difficult to define. In other words, do we go by number of measures, number of notes, and/or the duration of the notes? Also, in the case of "Reflect, my child" there is a refrain for which there are *two* vocal lines.

    Helga and I have reflected on the CBS interview, and we would suggest to Neil and all of you that our initial announcement explained the situation best. A substantial portion of the original vocal lines can be confirmed with certainly or near certainty in the following places:

    a) The entire refrain, which is about twice as long as that of the Duke's song in Patience. The melodic line (Josephine's) and the harmony line (The Captain's) are quite obviously shadowed in the orchestral accompaniment and there is little room for a significant variant reconstruction.

    b) The final phrase of the verse is also strongly confirmed, first by the octave scoring in the strings which most probably doubled the Captain's melody, and at the end of the phrase by voice cues in two band parts.

    The remainder of the verse has had to be reconstructed from the context provided by the orchestration, which does not contain much melodic material.

  2. During the question/answer session following the presentation at the Society for Textual Scholarship on Thursday, a woman asked me a question concerning how much input we received from performers when "rehearsing" a reconstruction. I didn't follow her completely at the time, but subsequently realized that what she really wanted to know was: did we seek or receive input from performing musicians in preparing such a reconstruction.

I did mention in answering that we always Beta-test a new edition such as Trial By Jury, and in fact would be undergoing such an operation this summer in England with the TBJ band parts (as we did at Holy Cross a year and a half ago with the vocal score).

However, I could also have mentioned that in the case of Helga's and mine, we are both experienced performers: I was trained as a singer and organist as well as a conductor, Helga is a percussionist and double bassist, so we are both well aware of the performing issues. Most musicologists have some performing experience, but it is probably fair to say that we are more engaged in that way than many.

In addition, we have had the input of the singers and pianist (who is also a respected coach) when preparing the demonstration tape played at the STS, and we have actively encouraged feedback and suggestions from the artists who will be performing the music at Buxton.

We hope this assists in the understanding of what we have done.

Bruce I. Miller

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