[f_minor] John Sankey's MIDI treasury of Byrd's compositions

Robert Merkin bobmerk at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 19 10:45:25 EDT 2010

Be gentle with me, Brad!

In your world, Byrd and his compositions, and live and recorded performers 
banging them out on ancient pre-piano keyboards, are as common as Coca-Cola 
and store-brand aspirin.

On my planet, Elizabethan composers more resemble unicorns and hens' teeth. 
I've just never heard any of these delightful pavans and galliards before.

More embarrassing, I wouldn't know a pavan or a galliard if it mugged me in 
an alley. You're teaching graduate seminars, and I just signed up for an 
on-line learn-in-your-spare-time course offered by the University of 
Southern North Dakota @ Hoople.

Yes, there's a touch of the mechanical megalomaniac to Mr. Sankey's huge 
MIDI museum. It sure ain't Gould playing.

But I admire his efforts to preserve and distribute (to contort a phrase 
Ives used) The Songs Our 
Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfathers Loved.

And now to important business: Hope you, and All, are having a great summer. 
Has anyone heard from Mary Jo? Should I put her face on a milk carton?

Bob of The Great Unwashed
(Member since 1971)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Brad Lehman" <bpl at umich.edu>
To: "Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould." 
<f_minor at glenngould.org>
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2010 7:44 AM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] John Sankey's MIDI treasury of Byrd's compositions

>I listened to "Go from my Window" there, and got the impression that Sankey 
>wasn't actually playing it on a keyboard, but rather creating the MIDI 
>files from score in a different way: mechanically.  (Same remarks, 
>vis-a-vis his Scarlatti....)  It seems metrically stiff, and I didn't get 
>any sense of "play", or any of the expressive irregularities that would 
>come from using period fingerings, or the physical gestures of playing the 
> This is music that I play myself, for personal pleasure and occasionally 
> for harpsichord concerts, and I don't expect to return to this Sankey set 
> much (if at all) as a listener.  I'd expect a real recording to offer me 
> some musical insights and pleasures that I wouldn't get merely looking at 
> a score, and this isn't doing it for me.
> To hear Byrd's music played well on real harpsichords, start with "My 
> Ladye Nevells Booke" played by Elizabeth Farr on Naxos:
> http://www.amazon.com/Byrd-My-Ladye-Nevells-Booke/dp/B000REGIVE
> There are many other fine recordings, as well.
> Brad Lehman
> On 8/19/2010 12:54 AM, Robert Merkin wrote:
>> An enormous free treasury of MIDIs of William Byrd's (1543 - 1623)
>> keyboard compositions, most or all by John Sankey, can be found at
>> http://www.kunstderfuge.com/byrd.htm
>> The MIDIs appear to simulate the virginal, although in Byrd's day,
>> virginal was used as a general term and could mean the harpsichord. If
>> anyone dives into this site for the huge pleasure there, I'd be grateful
>> for any insights into the specific kinds of sounds Mr. Sankey, who
>> styles himself "Harpsichordist to the Internet," has shaped in these
>> MIDIs. Sankey's bio says he was an Associate at the Royal Conservatory
>> of Toronto when he was 16.
>> Bob

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