Faced with the startling instances of our idealized rural villager, or faced with the perfection of some philosophe in 18th-century Vienna, the problem for the contemporary scholar is not bridging a debilitating distance of time and cultural difference, between us and them. For the musicians who have become something worth discovering, there is no end to the distance we have come, in order to hear them, nor any end to the distance they have come to play for us. Instead, the problem is to see the distance itself as what defines their value to us.
There they are, maintaining their connections to some imagined-and-lost authenticity. But music departments seem to need reminding that their connection to modernity, no matter their own point of reference, will still be stronger. We may not focus our gaze on that particular aspect of them…and in fact we turn our gaze away from it, as a matter of discipline, but this is our process, so this is how our value system comes into being.
She sings in front of the band. On a stage lit by oil-fires, before the court. In the ritual of the elders. All of her authentic masks are sculpted by the role she plays for us, her labor in the production of the distinction of the (past from the) present. The distinction of the present. Except in our presence, she is not a message through the ages.