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The Choices

Artistic choices
We have been described as “musical fundamentalists”. Whereas most other HIP (Historically Informed Performance) ensembles use instruments that have been made easier to play (in exchange for character), we believe that it’s worth going the "extra mile" and facing the extra challenges (and risks) of the real thing in order to find out how our beloved music really could have sounded.

A short history:
Musicians have been recreating HI (historically informed) music for some time now. Pioneers in this field in the 1950s and 60s carefully researched and recreated replica instruments, playing techniques, temperaments and interpretations.
A victim of its own success, the popularity of HI music then rose quicker than musicians could be properly trained. In conjunction with the increasingly sanitized demands of a recording industry, anxious that the public might not like anything too "new", several "improvements" were introduced to make instruments more accessible to "modern" musicians that have now become standard practice, as is also the application of late 18th century interpretation to earlier styles.

Barokensemble De Swaen recreates music from the early 18th century, in the manner of their pioneers, as exactly as possible.
De Swaen is one of the very few ensembles that currently uses a combination of all unwound gut strings in equal tension, oboes with internally-scraped reeds on a single staple and "real" natural trumpets (i.e. without nodal vent holes) and horns (without hand stopping).

De Swaen explores tuning aesthetics used in the beginning of the 18th century, natural to voices and "built in" to many historical instruments.

It may take a few minutes to adjust to the sound of the instruments and the tuning, but it’s worth the wait! Try closing your eyes, breathing gently through the nose and imagine it’s nearly 300 years ago, in a quieter time, when music was not a commercial commodity, repeated everywhere by machines but a personal creation, played live, “in the moment”, by real people.

Social choices
A cantor, like Johann Sebastian Bach, had to write music for a community with people from all levels of society, not only for a court of nobles. We want organise our concerts with this in mind.

Important to us are continuity, regularity and contact with our audience, in order to diminish the distance between audience and performers and to tone down the detached status of the artist - an idea developed in the romantic period.

As it becomes increasingly difficult for those in our society with little financial capacity to attend cultural events, we feel, alongside the artistic need, a social responsibility to continue our series.