Early Music in Arizona

What is “early music”?

The term “early music” refers to both a repertory (European music written before about 1800, including medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and early classical music) and an approach to performance (“historically-informed performance” including the use of period instruments).

Early music practitioners seek to discover and perform music from times past, to explore a repertory of music that is otherwise little known. From Gregorian chant to the music of Bach and Mozart, the repertory spans a millennium, from roughly 800-1800.

Early music specialists also aim to recreate the sound-worlds of earlier times through the use of period instruments and techniques. They base their interpretations on the accumulated evidence of original instruments, manuscripts, first editions, and the remarks of theoretical and instructional treatises, rather than on “received tradition” passed on by previous generations of performers and teachers.

Source: Early Music America. For more information about the subject of early music, see this page on the Early Music America website.

What is PEMS?

PEMS, the Phoenix Early Music Society, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to produce early music concerts and masterclasses in the Valley of the Sun, and to notify Arizonans and others of scheduled early music and related events in Arizona, and of early music festivals anywhere in the world that they might wish to attend.

The PEMS focus for event notification is primarily the higher-population regions of Central and Southern Arizona. PEMS charter includes any event involving music composed before about 1759, the year that Handel died. It also includes any music which has been composed to use the instruments of the Baroque and earlier eras such as harpsichords, recorders, viols, etc.

The PEMS focus also includes later-period instruments which are now seldom heard, such as the parallel-strung fortepiano for which Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin composed. Such instruments have different sonorities and expressive possibilities than their modern descendents, so concerts on such instruments can be ear-opening, providing a closer approximation of the sound that the composer anticipated.

PEMS also notifies of other, related performances of arts arising from the Baroque and earlier periods, such as Shakespeare's or Milton's plays, or lectures on Medieval and Renaissance subjects.

PEMS produces its events in conjunction with the ASU School of Music, with performances in the ASU Organ Hall, or exceptionally in other venues such as ASU's Katzin Concert Hall or the Music Performance Hall in The Musical Instrument Museum (The MIM).

When possible, performers are contracted to give a masterclass in their early music specialty to students of the ASU School of Music. These masterclasses are open to the public to attend in the audience, free of charge.

PEMS' ability to sponsor concerts and masterclasses is dependent primarily on the largess of our donors. In some cases the ASU School of Music or another sponsoring organization, such as the Arizona Commission on the Arts, provides a grant in partial support of a concert. The ASU School of Music usually provides the facilities and staff for the concert; in other cases that might be provided by The MIM.