Angela Mariani received the Thomas Binkley Award from Early Music America for her work within the School of Music.
There was a time when music history textbooks started with the works of the late 17th century, leaving out years and years of musical knowledge.
“In a sense, that would be like beginning a book on the history of the United States with World War II,” said Angela Mariani, a Texas Tech University associate professor of musicology. “You'd lose a great deal of context.”
It's not something the students within the J.T. and Margaret Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts (TCVPA) School of Music worry about thanks in large part to Mariani, who teaches several courses, including seminars in various music and historical performances topics.
In 2001, just one year after she began as a part-time instructor, Mariani founded the school's early music ensemble, the Collegium Musicum. She's directed the ensemble since then, and this summer, her efforts were recognized by Early Music America with the Thomas Binkley Award.
Mariani said the moment she learned of the award had a great deal of emotional impact.
“The roster of musicians who have received this award before me is extremely humbling. I studied with Tom Binkley when I was at Indiana University, and he was an important teacher and mentor for me,” Mariani said. “To top it off, Early Music America likes to inform its award winners via phone call, and they delegated that task to one of my former Collegium Musicum students, Reynaldo Patiño, who is finishing his doctorate in Baroque Violin Performance at Indiana, my alma mater.”
Binkley, an American lutenist, was a pioneer in medieval music, a respected educator in the field and founder of the Indiana University Early Music Institute, now known as the Historical Performance Institute. Early Music America is the international nonprofit service organization for the field of historical performance in North America.
The Thomas Binkley Award recognizes one individual annually for outstanding achievement in performance and scholarship as director of a collegium musicum. The term “collegium musicum” has been used as far back as the Baroque period (from about 1600 to 1750) to describe a college or university music ensemble or an ensemble that had a pedagogical element.
“I am very honored to receive the award, and I would like to think it was the result of a combination of my activities over the years, which have included performance, scholarship and the direction of the Collegium Musicum,” Mariani said. “The term ‘early music' came into popular use during the mid-20th century and was used to describe a particular movement that had to do with the revival of and research into medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music using its original instruments, techniques and performance contexts.”
In the last couple of decades, Mariani said many people have preferred to use the terms “historical performance” or “performance practice” instead of “early music,” as it more accurately reflects a practice in which the research and study of historical music techniques and instruments comes to fruition as actual performance.
The Texas Tech Collegium Musicum focuses on music from the medieval era through the early 17th century and uses the historical performance approach. This includes research and inquiry into the original instruments, techniques, notation, improvisation practices and performance contexts and applying that research in performance.
“This area of study is important for several reasons,” Mariani said. “For one thing, it gives us a window into the past: what did the music of the distant past actually sound like? What insights can we gain into a particular kind of ancient music by hearing it on the actual instruments of the time, or at least replicas? It's also important because it gives us a much broader and more comprehensive understanding of the continuum of western music, the other music that may have influenced it and its development up to the present time.”
Though there is no early music department at Texas Tech, the Collegium Musicum is housed within the Vernacular Music Center, which also is home to other ensembles like the Texas Tech Balkan Ensemble and the Mariachi Los Matadores. Each ensemble incorporates dance, storytelling and related modes of expression to teach improvisation and performance practice and provide training and mentoring for student participants and leaders. Mariani said the ensembles occasionally collaborate for performances.
“The groups' performances range from medieval repertoire, including a semi-staged production of Hildegard's 12th-century Ordo Virtutum, to early Baroque repertoire, to interdisciplinary collaborations such as on-stage historical music for the Texas Tech Main Stage Theatre's production of Shakespeare's ‘Twelfth Night,'” Mariani said.
It's a big difference from the Collegium Musicum's beginnings. When Mariani arrived at Texas Tech, she said there was virtually no early music activity and very few historical instruments. The instruments that were available needed repair. The first concert was played on a combination of modern instruments and a couple of early instruments rented from the University of North Texas.
In the 16 years since, the Collegium Musicum has performed at least two full public concert programs per year. Mariani said with the help and support of the School of Music, former director Bill Ballenger and musicology professor emeritus Wayne Hobbs, the group has accumulated a small but respectable collection of early instruments.
“I am deeply grateful to Texas Tech on so many levels. I am grateful to the School of Music for accepting my original proposal for the Collegium; for responding positively over the years to my requests for historical instruments; for helping to support guest artists and clinicians for the students; and for recognizing and supporting this important area of musical scholarship,” Mariani said. “I also am very grateful to the TCVPA and the Graduate School for their role in accepting and supporting the creation of the graduate certificate in early music performance practice, to the Vernacular Music Center for giving the ensemble a home and to my colleagues in the School of Music and the TCVPA for their support and occasional collaboration.”
Mariani serves as the faculty advisor for the Early Music Performance Practice graduate certificate. The certificate, which Mariani created, provides graduate music majors the option of focusing on the research and performance of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music.
“I think that in bestowing this award, Early Music America was also recognizing the creation of a university early music/historical performance ensemble and certificate program where there was none previously, and acknowledging the successful continuation of that activity without the benefit of an actual early music department with early-instrument-specialist faculty, chamber-size performance spaces and other resources,” she said. “I am proud of all the students who have taken part in the Collegium Musicum over the years, and they deserve to share in this award with me.”
Progress continues at Texas Tech and in Mariani's work. Her book, “Improvisation and Inventio in the Performance of Medieval Music” is now available for advance order from Oxford University Press. She continues to host the syndicated early music radio program, Harmonia, which originated at Indiana University and is heard on 100 public radio stations and all over the world via the internet.
This fall, the School of Music will have a visiting clinician who will introduce the Collegium students to Texas Tech's new collection of Renaissance wind instruments, the result of an Early Music America Ensemble Development Grant Mariani received in 2016.
“In addition to all the things I've already mentioned, I think recognition such as this acknowledges and reflects on a national and international level the hard work, artistic excellence and general high quality of output that characterizes not only the Texas Tech School of Music, but all of the Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts,” Mariani said. “I am honored to be part of this faculty, to work with our wonderful staff and to teach our dedicated, committed, creative and talented students.”