after about 1750, composed using more or less the same tonal system composers are still using now — and don't give me any lip about atonality; atonality's so old school. But, early or late, Byrd was not playing in the same ballpark as Beethoven for the simple reason that he was not using the same rule book.
Before 1750, music — what we now call early music — used a totally different tonal system. Back then, harmonies we hear as lovely would have been heard as excruciatingly painful, melodies we hear as beautiful would have been heard as agonizingly expressive, and forms we hear as straightforward would have been heard as just about incomprehensible. Why? Because the tonal rule book changed. Before 1750, music was more horizontal than vertical, more counterpoint than harmony, more lines than melodies, more shapes than forms. It's not that harmony didn't matter. Of course it did; early or late, Western music is harmonic right down to its DNA. It's that harmony, like perspective, changes with the times, and before 1750, composers had a whole different way of listening to the world.
For the past twenty-five years, Ann Arbor has been able to listen to the world in a whole different way, thanks in large part to the Academy of Early Music. Like a medieval guild, the Academy has united most of the town's early-music performers and aficionados in a single organization dedicated to music written before 1750. And on Saturday, May 6, in St. Andrew's Church, the Academy will celebrate its silver anniversary with a concert featuring many of Ann Arbor's best early-music performers.