Tom’s oud

The instrument in this picture is going to arrive at my house sometime in the next couple of weeks. It belonged to one of my mentors and teachers, Tom Binkley, with whom I studied in the late 80s and early 90s at Indiana University’s Early Music Institute (now called the “Historical Performance Institute.”)

In the realm of medieval music, there is no question that Tom, Ben Bagby and Barbara Thornton were, as they say in some spiritual traditions, my “root” teachers.
Tom passed away in 1995. A few years later, his wife Raglind needed to decide what to do with his instruments. She gave a lute, vihuela, and Turkish oud to his nephew Paul, who was also a musician. There may have been some others that were bequeathed to particular individuals; I don’t know. She decided to put the rest of the collection up for auction, to raise money for Early Music America’s Thomas Binkley Scholarship Fund. At that time I was on the EMA Board, and we were very grateful to her for this gesture of support. I remember waiting for that auction, thinking that I would love to have one of Tom’s instruments. Unknowingly, I had written down the wrong date, and the auction came and went. I missed it.
Sadly, Paul Binkley passed away a couple of years ago as well. A few days ago, it was announced that those remaining three instruments were also going to be sold by Early Music America, proceeds to go to the Binkley Scholarship Fund.
I remember those instruments quite well from the Early Music Institute. Tom had the Turkish oud set up like a medieval lute. I think Chris played it a few times in various concerts. Here’s an exchange I remember, and I think the oud was the instrument Tom was playing at the time. I don’t know, maybe it was the long-necked lute he was playing that particular night, but I remember it being the Turkish oud-lute. (Wendy G. would remember, as she kept tuning it when something else would distract his attention; when he was multitasking, he wasn’t exactly a perfectionist about tuning).
Tom (to a group of EMI students): This concert is too short. We need to add a couple of pieces.
Angela, do you know Santa Maria strela do dia?
Angela: Yes.
Tom: Do you know the version on the [Studio der fruhen Musik] recording?
Angela: Yes.
[Tom launches into the beginning of the Studio version, we get through the first verse].
Tom: Can you have the rest of it memorized by tomorrow night?
Angela: Yes.

Tom with Turkish oud

This well-known picture of a smiling Tom holding the Turkish oud was used for a long time as the publicity shot for the Early Music Institute, and I associate the instrument very strongly with Tom. So when one of my early music colleagues (thanks, Nell!) shared the news on Facebook that Early Music America was selling those last three instruments, I called EMA. From my car. And I bought the Turkish oud.
It will be appreciated and loved, and above all, it will be played. And I’m sure Tom–and whoever he bought it from, probably some guy in a bazaar in Istanbul 50 years ago—would approve of that.
For more about Tom Binkley, here’s a link to David Lasocki’s 1995 biographical retrospective of Tom, written a few months after Tom passed away. 


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