The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #93230   Message #1793347
Posted By: GUEST,Rowan
26-Jul-06 - 12:48 AM
Thread Name: Theory of Harmony Singing
Subject: RE: Theory of Harmony Singing
Sorry 'bout that. I've just got a new system.
Artful Codger wrote "I question the assertion that folk harmony came from church hymns - seems backwards to me. Harmonic innovations were generally pioneered by folk musicians and minstrels long before they were adopted into church music."

When I read this I was reminded of a piece of music that is well known to folkies and others and did a search of Mudcat to see what had been said about it already, as an attempt to support his argument.

"Summer is icumin in" is a round I started singing many years before I was told that it was regarded as the earliest piece of written manuscript still extant. Others may have much better info but I was led to believe it was dated no later than the 11th Century. There are only three messages on Mudcat about it and none gives the text, which is quite unchurchlike.

The relevance, to this thread, of my interest is that that it is quite clearly meant to be a round (or a canon; I don't know enough formal music history to be sure of any differences) with four entries. Moreover, it has a separate set text and melody (pitched below the main melody) acting as a separate two-entry round. This adds up to proper harmony as currently understood but comes from a time when most music history texts describe church music as the only formal music and it was all chanted monotonously (sorry!).

I've never been able to reconcile such academic assertions with the existence of such an obvious esception but I reckon it certainly goes some way to supporting Artful Codger's comment quoted above.

For those who may not know it, the text (in current English and without recourse to notes) is

Summer is icumen in
Loudly sing cuckoo
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
And springeth wood anew

Ewe bleateth after lamb
After calf the cow,
Bullock starteth and buck farteth
Merry sing cuckoo
Sing cuckoo

The lower part is
Sing cuckoo, nu sing cuckoo
repeated with two entries