Interview in "Harpsichord"
Vol.5, No. 1, Feb., Mar. April 1972
by Hal Haney
[Edited by B.J.Fine]
Haney: Have you any philosophies pertaining to your life as a
builder that you would share with us?
Hubbard: I would say that I see myself faced with a body of music
that, of course, is part of the period in which it was composed. Inevitably the exact
nature of the composer's thought is tempered by the image he lives, the concept of art and
man and world that are current to him. Therefore, I am required to make an effort of the
imagination to try to reconstruct this music which, at this time (1972, Ed.) only half
exists. It exists on paper but does not exist in sound. In order to bring most music to
life, there are really three efforts involved.
First is that of an editor who sorts the music out and gets down what
really was on paper. Second is that of a performer who examines the performance practices
of the period and attempts to bring it to life in those terms and, third, that of a maker
who attempts to supply instruments suitable to the music. We are obviously dealing here
with a minute fraction of the minds that existed in the past. We are dealing with the best
composers of all times, and the arrogance which is involved in saying 'well, I can cook up
something in my back kitchen that will improve his music' is ridiculous.
This man, this composer from the past, had a talent greater than
anything I will ever have. He used the means at his disposal in an imaginative way that
staggers my imagination. Therefore, the only word I can apply is arrogance to the people
who feel they can devise a harpsichord more suitable to his music than the instrument he
had, because he wrote his music for that harpsichord. That's why I feel so strongly that
one should attempt to return to the original instruments.
Some people think this is a sterile sort of thing; that you just measure
a lot of sticks and make a lot of sticks exactly like them, but this is not true. It
requires an enormous imagination to see exactly what maker and composer and performer were
driving at. Unless you understand that, the things you do are meaningless; you are going
to make damn fool mistakes. Look at any Japanese copy of an American device before they
understood it. The copy was always ridiculous. Furthermore, just look at copies of
furniture. You can always specify exactly what period a copy was made in unless the man
really understood what he was making. In order to make perfectly good copies, you must
understand all these things. To enter the past to this extent is anything but sterile; it
is extremely creative. This is essentially what I am trying to do. To do my part in
reviving this music. And every so often I see that people are making steps in this
direction. Someone like Leonhardt comes along who has a completely new approach when
compared with early 20th century approaches, to let's say, the unmeasured preludes of
Couperin or the very free 17th century music. There are now groups of musicians
approaching this music much as it was approached during the time that it was written.
I think, to put it very simply, I want to be part of that revival.