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Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?

Stower 01 Mar 16 - 01:29 PM
Helen 01 Mar 16 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,DrWord 01 Mar 16 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,leeneia 01 Mar 16 - 06:16 PM
EBarnacle 02 Mar 16 - 09:05 AM
Stower 02 Mar 16 - 09:31 AM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Mar 16 - 12:35 PM
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Subject: Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?
From: Stower
Date: 01 Mar 16 - 01:29 PM

I've very kindly been asked to post this on 'The Trees They Do Grow High' thread, so ...

The music of the 13th century English song, 'Sumer is icumen in', one of the earliest surviving songs in English, was doctored by the scribe, thus erasing the most joyful part of the melody, argues a new article. The motivation lay in the devotional song it was paired with, 'Perspice Christicola'. The article includes videos of both songs ('Sumer' in a folk club, with the audience singing the ground bass), supporting evidence from the manuscript, and a reconstruction and analysis of the original 'Sumer' melody.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?
From: Helen
Date: 01 Mar 16 - 02:00 PM

Hi Stower,

I'll read the article when I get home from work this afternoon. When I was at school we learned this song in music class. I have always loved it and it was probably my motivation to later study Middle English and Old English at university - many decades ago, so the memory of the language is a bit rusty.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?
From: GUEST,DrWord
Date: 01 Mar 16 - 06:13 PM

Hey Stower (and Helen) ~ I did the OE and ME stuff at uni as well. Thanks for the post; it was a fascinating article. The mss images make me want to attempt to copy the calligraphy, illumination, and that lovely mediæval music notation ~ but pens & inks still buried since a recent move :)
keep on pickin'
dennis


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Mar 16 - 06:16 PM

I made my way through that article, and I think the few notes that the scribe altered do not make much difference. When musicians have to repeat something, (in this case "cuccu, cuccu")they often want to change it a little.

It's interesting that the same melody was used for a sacred song and a secular song, but for me it's remarkable that someone put secular words in manuscript form.

I enjoyed both linked performances.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 09:05 AM

For another, later, example of the transactional process in textual evolution, I recommend Shapiro's books on Shakespeare. The most recent, The Year of Lear, 1606 has led me to read all of his publications. They show the process quite clearly, both in text and causation.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?
From: Stower
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 09:31 AM

Thank you for your lovely comments.

leeneia, it's a matter of perception, but for me the altering of the onomatopoeic music with the "cuccu" words so that that the music is no longer onomatopoeic and therefore no longer mirrors the previous "cuccu" phrase is fundamental to the musical meaning of the song (I explain more about why in the article). Secular words in a manuscript isn't so surprising: there was a lot of medieval two-way traffic, secularising religious songs and Christianising secular songs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sumer is icumen - doctored by scribe?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 12:35 PM

Okay.


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