… well … define “modern” 😉

This is a new one to my ears, and maybe to some of you as well. Great fun!

William Billings (1746-1800): Modern Music
Quire Cleveland

We are met for a Concert of modern Invention;
To tickle the Ear is our present Intention.
The Audience are seated expecting to be treated
With a Piece of the Best.

And since we all agree to set the Tune on E,
The Author’s darling Key he prefers to the Rest,

Let the Bass take the Lead and firmly proceed,
Till the Parts are agreed to fuge away.
Let the Tenor succeed and follow the Lead,
Till the Parts are agreed to fuge away.
Let the Counter inspire the Rest of the Choir,
Inflam’d with Desire to fuge away.
Let the Treble in the Rear no longer forbear,
But expressly declare for a Fuge away.

Then change to brisker Time
And up the Ladder climb, and down again;
Then mount the second Time and end the Strain.

Then change the Key to pensive Tones
and slow in treble Time; the Notes exceeding low
Keep down a While, then rise by slow Degrees;
The Process surely will not fail to please.

Thro’ Common and Treble we jointly have run;
We’ll give you their Essence compounded in one.
Altho’ we are strongly attach’d to the Rest,
Six-four is the Movement that pleases us best.

And now we address you as Friends to the Cause;
Performers are modest and write their own Laws.
Altho’ we are sanguine and clap at the Bars,
‘Tis the Part of the Hearers to clap their Applause.


  1. patti with an i

    We went to an SF Sym concert once which had La Mer on the first half. The dear ladies seated behind us could not stop jabbering at intermission about how surprised they were that Debussy could have written anything so wild and modern.

  2. Yes, edgy Debussy! That crazy guy. 😉