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Playing medieval music medievally

Stower 19 Aug 18 - 04:14 AM
Vic Smith 19 Aug 18 - 07:00 AM
Leadfingers 19 Aug 18 - 07:18 AM
GUEST,Jerry 19 Aug 18 - 07:59 AM
Raedwulf 19 Aug 18 - 11:43 AM
Stower 19 Aug 18 - 12:56 PM
leeneia 19 Aug 18 - 03:52 PM
Lighter 19 Aug 18 - 04:46 PM
leeneia 19 Aug 18 - 06:13 PM
Mr Red 20 Aug 18 - 04:36 AM
Gordon Jackson 20 Aug 18 - 04:41 AM
Stower 20 Aug 18 - 05:28 AM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 21 Aug 18 - 04:49 PM
Mr Red 21 Aug 18 - 05:56 PM
Lighter 21 Aug 18 - 09:12 PM
David Carter (UK) 22 Aug 18 - 02:34 AM
David Carter (UK) 22 Aug 18 - 02:37 AM
Stower 22 Aug 18 - 06:07 AM
Lighter 22 Aug 18 - 07:16 AM
Stower 22 Aug 18 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 22 Aug 18 - 04:54 PM
Stower 22 Aug 18 - 05:30 PM
David Badagnani 23 Aug 18 - 10:13 AM
Stower 23 Aug 18 - 12:46 PM
leeneia 24 Aug 18 - 01:03 PM
Stower 25 Aug 18 - 09:07 AM
leeneia 25 Aug 18 - 11:20 AM
Mr Red 28 Aug 18 - 02:23 PM
David Carter (UK) 28 Aug 18 - 02:59 PM
Jack Campin 28 Aug 18 - 03:10 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 28 Aug 18 - 05:58 PM
The Sandman 29 Aug 18 - 02:09 AM
Donuel 29 Aug 18 - 07:37 AM
Jack Campin 29 Aug 18 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 29 Aug 18 - 10:11 AM
Jack Campin 29 Aug 18 - 10:40 AM
Tootler 29 Aug 18 - 06:43 PM
Jack Campin 29 Aug 18 - 06:56 PM
Stower 29 Aug 18 - 07:21 PM
Jack Campin 30 Aug 18 - 03:42 AM
Stower 30 Aug 18 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 30 Aug 18 - 04:18 PM
Stower 01 Sep 18 - 05:46 AM
GUEST 01 Sep 18 - 05:59 AM
Stower 01 Sep 18 - 08:19 AM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 01 Sep 18 - 05:53 PM
Stower 02 Sep 18 - 04:07 PM
Jack Campin 04 Sep 18 - 11:46 AM
Jack Campin 04 Sep 18 - 02:15 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie 04 Sep 18 - 05:50 PM
Stower 05 Sep 18 - 06:11 PM
Jack Campin 05 Sep 18 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,ripov 06 Sep 18 - 04:56 PM
Mr Red 20 Sep 18 - 03:26 AM
Donuel 20 Sep 18 - 08:05 AM
Donuel 20 Sep 18 - 08:12 AM
Manitas_at_home 20 Sep 18 - 08:16 AM
leeneia 20 Sep 18 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Some bloke 20 Sep 18 - 12:14 PM
GUEST 20 Sep 18 - 12:35 PM
Stower 21 Sep 18 - 07:01 AM
Manitas_at_home 21 Sep 18 - 07:29 AM
Stanron 21 Sep 18 - 08:10 AM
Jack Campin 21 Sep 18 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 22 Sep 18 - 08:50 AM
Jack Campin 22 Sep 18 - 10:10 AM
leeneia 22 Sep 18 - 10:20 AM
medievallassie 22 Sep 18 - 04:53 PM
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Subject: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 04:14 AM

Mudcatters interested in performing medieval music may wish to know that there are 3 articles online outlining the principles upon which medieval musicians performed. The articles have plenty of visual and audio illustrations and are meant as practical guides. The third article features a performance by Martin Carthy.

Performing medieval music. Part 1: Instrumentation

Performing medieval music. Part 2: Turning monophony into polyphony

Performing medieval music. Part 3: The medieval style


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Vic Smith
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 07:00 AM

First of all you would need to listen to track 30 on the Topic album MY FATHER’S THE KING OF THE GYPSIES: MUSIC OF ENGLISH & WELSH TRAVELLERS & GYPSIES TSCD661 to hear the original of Levi Smith's Georgie to realise what a brilliant job Martin's interpretation of that performance was and how he made an accompaniment that allowed Levi's free-time singing to flow without being straight-jacketed by a rhythmic acompaniment. However, I would need to be convinced what connection there could be between a 20th century English gypsy and a medieval troubadour in their approach to music.
The author (Ian Pittaway?) assures that he has made huge assumptions and I reproduce the words that he puts in bold type:-
So if troubadour songs were sung freely, and if this was the reason they continued to be written non-mensurally when rhythmic notation had become common, then the impossible exercise of trying to standardise notation for Martin Carthy’s performance may be a parallel example to illustrate the liberty with which troubadour songs were performed, and may possibly be the reason they continued to be written in non-mensural notation.

These and other considerations reduce the impact of what is nevertheless an interesting hypothesis.
I am reminded of an experiment that a group of top jazzmen were asked to make in the 1950s. In the first decade of the 20th century, the leading figure in the early days of jazz in New Orleans was the trumpeter Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden. Photos of him exist but no recordings. The group had access to lots of information in terms of accounts of other jazzmen who had heard Buddy and were influenced by him as well as lots of early jazz recording, They had all the information, all the musical skills but their efforts foundered on just how much the music managed to 'swing', how the early syncopations would have manifested themselves, how technically adept his band musicians would have been. Even with all their skills they did not feel that they they could reproduce the rhythmic norms of half a century before. If that was the case, what chance has anyone with much less information available to reproduce the style and approach of musicians a half a millenium ago?


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Leadfingers
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 07:18 AM

When I was first invited to join a small group playing at 'Medieval' Banquets I picked up two albums of Medieval music from a Charity Shop and was NOT impressed . As it turned out , I had wasted time (though not much money) because the audiences we had , and the venues , only wanted the 'Idea' of a Medieval Banquet . True Medieval Music does not appeal to the modern ear in general , so we played things they could sing along with and thump the tables in time .


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 07:59 AM

I can concur with that last summation; most punters can tolerate a few Early English tunes for a short while, but respond better to more familiar singalong stuff. We therefore would start with the older stuff and gradually inject more familiar stuff as the evening went on. One of our worst gigs was playing Early Music, as we had been commissioned to do, to an obviously uninterested audience, only to find them erupt with delight when the main act came on and did uptempo skiffle songs, all of which we could have also done for them if they’d asked in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Raedwulf
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 11:43 AM

Indeed, Lead (you again?! ;-) ). "Medieval banquets" are commercial functions run by companies for profit, pandering to customers whose ideas of "medieval" are generally garnered from 80's- Hollywood! You get the general idea (e.g. medieval people did not throw food around, any more than we do).

Medieval music, even if played in modern performance style, to modern equal temperament tuning, on modern instruments, is very different to the modern ear, even if you're interested in it. If you're not... And the more you work back towards "original performance (as far as it's possible)...


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 12:56 PM

Hello, Vic.

The openly expressed assumptions you cite in my article are a working hypothesis, and there's nothing original in the idea I cite of troubadour music being performed in free rhythm. It's been standard fare for decades among medieval music scholars. The key question is: why did troubadour music continue to be written in the non-mensural notation of Gregorian chant after mesnural music was available? This even extends, as the article shows, to the same tune being presented twice on the manuscript page, mensurally for dancing and non-mensurally for singing. We don't know why, but we have to make some working assumptions if troubadour songs are to be sung at all. I don't know anyone who uses rubato and free rhythm better than Martin, so his rendition of Georgie was the ideal choice to show what the free rhythm of troubadour songs may have sounded like, if that's how they were sung, and why it was impossible to notate. I always think having an example makes an idea come to life, rather than remaining a theory in abstraction.

I'd be interested to know what you mean by one sentence I don't understand: "These and other considerations reduce the impact of what is nevertheless an interesting hypothesis." Reduce the impact?

Your example of Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden is apposite. It underlines the point about reproducing *any* past music: music is dead on the page, and only comes to life in the hands or on the lips of a musician. However, if we care about investigating musical practice of past eras - as I do - we'll still want to find those sometimes uncertain jigsaw pieces and find it exciting to piece them together and see what picture emerges.

Leadfingers, Jerry and Raedwulf - I know what you mean, but when I play medieval banquets they get medieval music on medieval instruments.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: leeneia
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 03:52 PM

Thanks for your efforts, Stower. It's lunchtime now, but I will go back and read your materials.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 04:46 PM

> True Medieval Music does not appeal to the modern ear in general.

Nor does actual trad music. That's why "folk music" so often means "music I hope they played, so obviously they did."


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: leeneia
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 06:13 PM

Oh, I dunno. I certainly liked the song sung by Martin Carthy. Although it did not have a beat, each line flowed up and down in the same way.

In a similar way, fabric can be striped, or it could have flowing, sub-parallel lines of color. Each way is a pattern. The song Geordie is of this second type - flowing, parallel sounds.

Thanks for all the illustrations of musicians and singers. It must have taken a lot of work to assemble all those images.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Mr Red
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 04:36 AM

defining medieval is somewhat easier than defining Folk.

But anything from Henry 8 is marginal, neigh false. Anything like John Dowland is Elizabethan.

Even scholars of this parish don't make that close a distinction.

Should we trust Wikipedia on this? - (well look for yourself). Does anyone hereabouts speak Anglo-Saxon? (I will allow Frisian**).

How many songs do we know that predate Henry 8? let us list them - my starter for 10:

Summer is icumen in




**contactme if you do - please.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Gordon Jackson
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 04:41 AM

Thanks for this, Ian.

Without work like yours most people would think medieval music is somewhere between The Wild Rover and the Robin of Sherwood theme; copies without originals, as Baudrillard would have said. As a folkie, rather than an EM specialist, when I do play an early piece I like to play with the arrangement a bit, but always look to HIPs to make sure I haven't gone too off course.

Regards,
Gordon


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 05:28 AM

Thank you, Gordon, your appreciation is appreciated. I hope the 2nd article in particular can give you some useful tips.

Mr. Red, no one here or in my articles has raised a question over the definition of folk or of medieval, nor mentioned Henry VIII or Elizabeth I. The definition of medieval is straightforward, as it has historical precedent (which anyone interested can read about here.) There are many, many hundreds of songs which predate Henry VIII. Please engage with the articles, if you wish, but I didn't post this so you can set up a parlour game.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 04:49 PM

Thank you for these articles, Ian, and for the links. As you might have seen from an earlier thread, my current focus is on a piece of medieval storytelling and I'm writing up a PhD. It's about an Arthurian tale written in Occitan in (I believe) 1225, so slightly before the Cantigas. Although I don't think I'll be able to include anything practical about it in time for my submission date (which is January) I would dearly love to explore working with a musician at some point, to see what might work with the story. It'd be great to find a way to meet up (if only via Skype) to talk about it some time.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Mr Red
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 05:56 PM

Let the Parlour games commence

BBC Four tonight, right now, on a programme about Henry 8 they talk about his "composing" and show a list from "music at the court of Henry VIII edited by John Stevens". Some items of which are attributed to anon - making them arguably "old" then. Examples were, at best, an acquired taste.

iPlayer will no doubt list the prog soon.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 09:12 PM

One thing about playing medievally is that if you use medieval instruments for authenticity, the audience will think, "So that's what medieval music sounded like!"

But medieval audiences didn't think that. They just heard music. Like we do when we hear modern instruments playing medievally.

So from the standpoint of psychological aesthetics, medieval instruments are less, not more, "authentic."

But that's only for medieval music. For postmodern music, they're fine.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: David Carter (UK)
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 02:34 AM

Ian, most, perhaps all of your examples of medieval song date from the late medieval period, so later than 11th century. Do we know anything about secular music in the early medieval period, the European "dark ages". We know about Gregorian chant, and the Wikipedia article seems pretty good here.

Also, how much do we know about early music in other cultures, for instance China or India?

Your articles are fascinating reading, and I for one am very grateful for them.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: David Carter (UK)
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 02:37 AM

M. Red, Henry VIII wasn't even medieval, he was early-mid renaissance. If music at his court was unattributed, this could be for a variety of reasons, only one of which is that it dates from more than a century earlier.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 06:07 AM

Hello, Anne. I'd be delighted to help or collaborate in any way I can. The best way to be in touch is via my research site, www.earlymusicmuse.com, or my performance site, www.ipmusic.org.uk. I hope to hear from you when you're ready. :-)   

Mr Red - what David Carter said. No one else has mentioned Henry VIII, who wasn't in any sense medieval.

Lighter, I can't respond to your point because I can't make any sense of it. You seem to suggest we should play medieval music on modern instruments because modern instruments are more medieval than medieval ones. No one in the field talks about authenticity and haven't done for years: we talk about HIP - historically informed performance - because we know authenticity is a mirage and authenticity is, in any case, an impossibly slippery term.

David, you raise an important point which relates to notation - and thank you for your appreciation. A couple of points. Historically, the dark ages and middle ages were synonymous, despite what some 20th century historicans would have us believe. I explain this here. As I explain explain in this article about Kalenda Maya, written music by the 13th century could be read straight from the page in terms of pitch and rhythm, but before then music was largely non-mensural, without written rhythm (with some notable exceptions, such as the Notre Dame school). Secular music before the 13th century in England is now non-existent, and we can be pretty sure this was because of Henry VIII (him again), who was very keen to wipe away all vestiges of Catholicism, burning down and ransacking the institutions which held who knows how many lost manuscripts. By comparison, France has a huge number of surviving troubadour and trouvere songs dating from the late 11th century to the end of the 13th century. Before then, which is your question, we have little beyond a large question mark about European medieval music.

China and India are beyond my field, but I do know someone who specialises in early Chinese music, who may be able to answer your question.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 07:16 AM

Hi, Stower. I wasn't offering advice, just trying to provoke thought about how we experience music.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 12:56 PM

I'm afraid I still don't understand what your point was, Lighter.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 04:54 PM

I'm baffled by the contributors to this thread who are concerned with what a modern audience might or might not like, or whether the performances are "an acquired taste". As there is a considerable amount of contemporary music that isn't to my taste I am wondering why people think we should make historically informed performances fit in with their own predilections.
Returning briefly to my own focus, there are some aspects to the story I'm working on which are not in line with modern views (for example, there is a very unpleasant character who is described in graphic detail as a leper ... today's audiences have told me they feel uneasy about this as these days we have sympathy with the sick) - but my exploration of how the story works is altered profoundly if I try and accommodate modern audience expectations. It may be that once I've completed my studies and simply take the story on the road as a story I may make adaptations, but the point really is one that keeps cropping up with some traditional songs: are we preserving history or tradition if we alter lyrics, music or stories to fit in with contemporary tastes? It's a philosophic point I first remember reading about in Borges - if someone today writes Don Quixote, is it as valid as when Cervantes wrote it?   
The bigger point, though, is that medieval music won't be to everyone's liking, and nor should it be. It may not have been to everyone's liking when it was first composed, either.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 22 Aug 18 - 05:30 PM

I couldn't agree with you more, Anne. I, too, am baffled by contributors riding their own ponies, irrelevant to the original post, rather than engaging with what I posted. And, when I'm researching and performing, I don't care whether the general public have 'acquired the taste' for medieval music: I have, and those who have too, or are just curious about it, come and see me. Some of my audience might even consider themselves to be part of the general public. I don't suppose, when Martin Carthy is making an arrangement, or Bjork is writing a song, they're too concerned about whether the great mass of the mythically uniform general public will like it. Something much more profound is at work than appealing to the lowest common demoninator. If that's what we wanted, we'd be applying for Britain's Got Talent.

I share your understanding and concern about the sensibilites of medieval writers. Often, characters were pretty monochrome and stereotypical, to express a particular trait, which in some senses is just a style of writing, but can also be profoundly problematic when women, Jews, Moors, etc. are put in a negative straightjacket from which there is no escape. You may (or may not) be interested in an article here addressing that question in relation to the Cantigas, and the compromises I come to, which amounts to not singing some material at all, and singing others as is, unaltered, but knowingly and with the audience in on it, rather like Randy Newman songs where he is a character he has created for us to examine, sometimes to laugh at or excoriate rather than be on the side of, but always with enough humanity to understand why they think and act as they do. I wonder if doing something similar might be a way forward, using the discomfort in the audience created by the clash of cultures between past and present to your dramatic advantage?


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: David Badagnani
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 10:13 AM

At Stower's recommendation, I have joined this forum in hopes that I could be of assistance on the subject of Medieval music of China (which would mainly comprise music of the Sui/Tang (6th-10th centuries) and Song-Yuan (10th-14th centuries), of which many scores and accompanying documentation in textual and iconographic form survive. Please let me know what specific information you'd be interested in.
--
David Badagnani
Kent, Ohio
USA


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 12:46 PM

David Carter: David Badagnani in the post above is just the person to answer your question about medieval-period notation of Chinese music. Do ask away.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: leeneia
Date: 24 Aug 18 - 01:03 PM

Hi, Stower

About this contrary motion idea. I need some advice. I select a cantiga (for example), I select two instruments, one high and one low (say recorders), and then what do I do?


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 09:07 AM

Hello, leeneia.

It's great to know you're going to put this into practice!

In the article here under 'Organum: contrary motion and discantus' I give instructions. The first thing is that, for the medieval period until the mid 15th century, instruments would be of the same pitch, generally, as 2 voices or instruments often crossed over in pitch, and the idea of throwing voices or instruments wide apart in pitch is really a renaissance idea.

Here's how to do it step by step.

1. Start the 2 voices on the same note, or an octave apart, or a fifth apart. Depending on the tune, you'll find as you progress that one of these intervals will work better than others, and this can only be found in a particular case by trial and error.

2. In general, when the 2 voices part company, the primary voice - in this case, a Cantiga - is the lower of the 2, though there will be voice crossovers which means the primary voice will sometimes rise above the polyphonic accompaniment.

3. When the note of the Cantiga rises, the added voice falls, and when the Cantiga voice falls, the added polyphonic voice rises.

4. Exceptions to 3. (a) The writer known as Anonymous 1, who penned De Musica Antiqua et Nova, mid 14th century, England: “If the chant ascends one step and the organum begins at the fifth, let it descend four steps and be with the chant. Conversely, if [the chant] descends one step, let the organum ascend four and be at the fifth.” (b) Due to the way an octave works, when 2 voices move in contrary motion, it is sometimes necessary for 1 voice to remain on a note while the other voice moves 2 notes, or for a voice to move in contrary motion 2 notes while the other remains on 1. We see both (a) and (b) in the example I created under 'Organum: contrary motion and discantus'.

5. Contrary motion is a general principle. As we see in 4. and in examples I give on the page, sometimes 1 voice waits for another, or the voices move in parallel octaves, thirds or fifths in some places where contrary motion doesn't work or it just seems more aesthetically pleasing to do so.

6. Always start and end on a consonant interval: unison, fifth or octave (or a third but only in English or Scottish music).

Is this clear? If not, or if you need more guidance, do ask.

All the best.

Stower


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: leeneia
Date: 25 Aug 18 - 11:20 AM

Yes, that it nice and clear. Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Mr Red
Date: 28 Aug 18 - 02:23 PM

Early English Music Session Oxford** Seems to be regular last or 4th of mth. How much is early enough to be medieval I have no idea.

White Hart Wolvercotes. Other Folkie genre nights also happen.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: David Carter (UK)
Date: 28 Aug 18 - 02:59 PM

David Badagnani, thanks for posting. I don't think I have nearly enough knowledge to request anything specific, but a general introduction to early Chinese music for a complete beginner would be interesting!


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Aug 18 - 03:10 PM

One dimension most mediæval performances ignore is duration. A lot of mediæval texts are very long, and to a modern ear, repetitive. We aren't accustomed to that sort of experience in something presented to us as a song (though people will spend even longer periods involved in other kinds of narrative, like a video game or audiobook). Performers will usually cut drastically.

How do you persuade people to devote as much of their evening to following a mediæval narrative song to its end as they would to getting to the next level in a game? Just putting the thing on record and hoping people will stay interested doesn't work, if the one example I can think of is predictive - Andy Hunter's performance of the late mediæval Scottish epic "Graysteil" is the most bum-numbingly dull experience you could hope never to suffer through. Anything that takes up that much of your time needs a LOT of external context to keep you interested.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 28 Aug 18 - 05:58 PM

Which medieval narrative songs are you referring to, Jack? All the work I'm doing is on narrative (which is indeed long, but not particularly repetitive) and there is no evidence at all as to how it would have been performed (as in: as a song or as a story or a mixture of both). It is in octosyllabic rhyming couplets and may well have had some parts accompanied by musicians, but there are absolutely no clues as to which parts or how. Believe me, I've looked! So I'm puzzled about your reference to medieval texts presented as songs - I'm not convinced they were, but maybe you have something specific in mind?
Length of performance is something else I've been considering, as it is most relevant to my studies, and again there is nothing definitive anywhere. It doesn't help, of course, that the notion of, say, 20 minutes, is a far more modern construct. But in the work I'm studying there are a number of discrete episodes of varying lengths as well as some interconnected ones which are far more difficult to disentangle. If you talk to Shonaleigh, working in a storytelling tradition, you'll find that audiences would have listened for hours on end to stories, but I haven't found any historic references to that taking place in the time and context I'm looking at.

The other aspect that this touches on is attention span. There is no way to ascertain what this might have been, or whether it was different in the past, as even today there is a huge variance among studies as to what an "average" attention span might be. My own experience working with small children (notoriously difficult to engage for long) is that with stories that grab their interest there is no problem keeping them still for up to 45 minutes, but the key is grabbing their interest.

I'm currently looking for willing volunteers to hear "my" story from start to finish, because so far, with the constraints of storytelling and folk clubs, the longest session I've managed to tell for is an hour and a half (plus a comfort break). I think a colloquial English telling, not in octosyllabic couplets and avoiding some of the digressions onto the nature of love but including all the plot lines, would probably take 3 - 4 hours (plus breaks). I don't think, however, that back in the thirteenth century they would have told it all in one go. But I could be wrong.

However, I think there is a huge difference between a live performance and a recorded one, so "putting the thing on record" is a sure-fire way, I would think, of killing it stone dead, unless it was a record of an experience for the audience present at the time. Again, I'm looking at what other stimuli (visual, auditory) might assist in a long telling of "my" story, but talking to other storytellers there is no consensus that this would necessarily help a great deal.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 02:09 AM

Presumably in musical temperament used at the time, which means the modern ear which is used to equal temperament needs a little time to adjust.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Donuel
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 07:37 AM

What are the medieval modes/


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 08:15 AM

The intonation system is only relevant for a small amount of mediaeval music, e.g. stuff performed with a harp or organ where Pythagorean intonation was natural. It made more difference later on - Renaissance and early Baroque music really does need meantone, and it still helps with relatively recent folk songs.

The mediaeval modal system was not very relevant for secular music, and nobody at the time thought it was. It was designed to organize liturgies.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 10:11 AM

I'm with John Eliot Gardner. He reckons that tempos were generally much faster than now, even for the same music. His interpretations of baroque music being a good example.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 10:40 AM

Gardiner is a Baroque specialist and his ideas on that are pretty mainstream. He's never touched mediaeval music, which has different issues.

One place where we can say something definite is in music written for specific spaces, like Notre Dame in Paris with its enormous resonance. You can't do that repertoire too fast or it would just dissolve into a Ligeti-like blur.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Tootler
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 06:43 PM

Just a thought.

People today seem perfectly capable of watching a movie of up 3 hours if the story is sufficently compelling. Of course movies have visuals to help them along but I'm sure a competent mdieval story teller could have kept an audience engaged for a substantial preiod of time. My guess is they would have essentially have been actors who would dramatise the story to sustain audience attention.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 06:56 PM

Some mediæval stories are a mixture of prose and verse that you can easily imagine working in performance - the Irish story of Mad Sweeney is one. And many mediæval songs work on a modern timescale, like the Carmina Burana lyrics. But the British seem to have gone in for massive slabs of uninterrupted verse, like Graysteil or the Robin Hood ballads. We do know Robin Hood was presented as a drama but we don't know how.

Spanish romances are as prolix as Robin Hood, I think. I've never heard one performed.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 07:21 PM

Jack, Anne and Tootler - you've hit upon something important in the question of performance length. How long a song is depends to a large extent on the genre - there are plenty of medieval songs as short as a modern pop song but, yes, there are also epics - and Tootler, the evidence suggests the musical performer, often solo, was the actor, as there are numerous comments about their enchanting performance weaving a spell on the audience. There is some evidence on performance practice in terms of length, which I address in this article under the heading, "Preludes, the length of songs, and postludes". It's as well to remember that this music dates from the days before widespread writing culture and TV, so the drama of story was largely a face to face performance. So how long does a dramatic narrative take to tell? It takes from the beginning to the end. In the example I give, Horn was performing a lai, with a prelude and a postlude. That is likely to have taken 20-30 minutes.

Anne, I'd be a willing volunteer to hear your story from start to finish.

The Sandman, I play in unequal temperaments a lot, and I never notice that I or an audience have to make any auditory adjustments.

Donuel, I outline the medieval modes in this article, under the heading "Medieval modes ". Jack, the medieval modal system certainly was relevant for secular music. A great deal of secular music follows the modes exactly, though not all of it does, and the music that doesn't was what Jerome of Moravia called "irregular".

Some bloke - if you have any evidence at all about medieval tempo I'd really like to see it. I don't know of any. The baroque is different - we have evidence for that.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 03:42 AM

Mode is not octave species. What secular mediæval songs use a reciting tone?

Cait Webb once pointed out on her blog that for many instrumentalists Mode I (later "dorian") just didn't fit, despite being by far the commonest one - the range of many instruments bottomed out at the tonic so the standard final cadential pattern, passing through the subtonic, was physically impossible. The result must have sounded to a contemporary ear as odd as Highland pipes trying to play a normal tonal melody.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 02:33 PM

Jack, I could give you a long list of medieval secular songs in modes with reciting notes (as well as ones that don't - there is no one size fits all), but I'll just give one as a prime example: Douce Dame Jolie - dorian with reciting note at the fifth, transposed up a fourth in the ms.

I'm not sure what Cait Webb's point is. Could you point me to the page? What you suggest she suggests is impossible is perfectly possible on harp, gittern, oud, lute, koboz and citole - my medieval instruments. I'm sure Cait was drawing attention to something, but as stated here I can't see what that is.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 30 Aug 18 - 04:18 PM

If anyone reading this thread has any actual contemporary references to length and method of performance of stories (whether romance, epic, chanson de geste, fabliau or anything else - but stories) in the 11th - 14th centuries in Europe, please let me know. There are references to stories being told at great feasts and in the marketplaces, and some of those references talk of the performers making great use of their voices and their bodies, which is why we can assume that they were acting out the story to a large extent. However we also know that a lot of these performers were reading out loud, rather than working from memory. At great feasts, the performances took place between other events such as food, jousting and other "variety acts" like jugglers and acrobats, so it is unlikely that the audience would have been sitting still for as much as 3 hours for one story. The tale I'm working on, written at the court of Aragon in Occitan in the early 13th century, is 11000 lines long and according to one study of the piece could have taken around 10 hours to tell in its entirety. Which is why I doubt if it ever was performed as one piece from start to finish. There are also references to books being read in instalments over a period of days, which seems more likely. I haven't found any references to readers or tellers also playing instruments at the same time, however - there are lists of stories, and lists of instruments and tunes, but not combined. And a further complication is that the verbs to say and to sing are, at times, interchangeable, which makes the detective work even more difficult.
But, as I said, if you can point me at actual references to any further information I'd be really grateful.
Ian, I'll certainly let you know when I have a full-length rendition ready.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 05:46 AM

Anne, I realised as soon as I pressed send on my post above that you were referring to medieval non-musical story-telling and my link was to the performance of stories-in-song - so related, but not specifically what you're after. I'm very probably asking the obvious here, but I wonder if adept and long-time stroy-tellers such as Hugh Lupton, Taffy Thomas, Debs Newbold, etc. have looked into this.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 05:59 AM

Thanks, Ian - as I've been saying, the song (and musical) side of things may well be related to the storytelling, but no one seems to know how far the connections go as we simply don't have the evidence (as far as I've been able to ascertain) about how stories were performed/presented/told. As Aucassin et Nicolette is referred to as a cante-fable (and I haven't checked how far back that label was applied) it seems reasonable to assume that it was considered a different style from the romances etc.
I have been interviewing a number of storytellers as to length of performance and how far their performances are informed by historical evidence, but so far haven't found anyone who has based their work on anything medieval. I have, however, found lots of people who happily refer to troubadours and minstrels as if they were interchangeable terms, and people who assume that contemporary songwriters are the same as bards and troubadours, and people who assume that troubadours and minstrels carried news around the country and all sorts of happy misconceptions. Sometimes movies and tv programmes have a lot to be responsible for!
Also in terms of length of performance (for long stories) the stamina of the reader/teller has to be taken into account with the attention span of the audience ...and the opportunity in general life to sit still for a number of hours without having to worry about tasks and food, lighting and other practical considerations.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 08:19 AM

Based on no specific evidence whatever, but just as a working hypothesis, I wonder if a story that took many hours to tell over a number of days were at a fixed point in the day at the commission of some important person. It all depends on context, which I'm not aware of, but I can imagine some lord and his court having a story told in instalments over several days at a fixed point in the day, so it's an event everyone looks forward to, another way of a VIP being entertained while showing power and prestige. Since all the records were made by the literate, i.e. clergy and court, this would fit the general facts. I can't imagine this serialisation is something a modern performer can recreate, except at a week-long festival (I'm supposing a weekend festival wouldn't do it).


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 05:53 PM

That's been my working hypothesis, too - there are certainly reports of people reading works in instalments to important people, but whether it was ever made a formal part of entertainment more generally we'll probably never know. And yes, the recreation of it all is a bit of a problem - I did approach a couple of week-long festivals with that as part of what I could offer, but so far no offers. The frustration for me is that when I'm telling the one hour standard set I'm obviously going to go for the central "meat" in the story, which means there are some episodes I've never tried out with a modern audience. And that also means I can't find out how the structure of the piece works.
A weekend festival might be OK if I could have, say, three chunks of time over the weekend. Whether I would find an audience ready and willing to come to each chunk of course is another question, and perhaps the thought of the festival organisers, too.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 04:07 PM

Yes, it's a big ask, both for a festival organiser and a festival audience. Have you tried literary festivals? This may, sadly, be an idea the 21st century can't accommodate.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 11:46 AM

Ngugi wa Thiong'o said that when his novel "Petals of Blood" was first published in Kikuyu (the first ever novel in that language) it immediately sparked a trend for storytellers to read it out in bars. It's a long book and you'd probably need a week's drinking to get through it. That certainly wasn't an audience of "important people".


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 02:15 PM

I'm not convinced that the dominant occurs in a prominent enough role in "Douce dame jolie" to count as a reciting tone.

Just so we're singing from the same hymnsheet

On the other hand, the progression is quite a bit like the examples in these (scroll to the end):

Seyir of the huseyni mode
Seyir of the neva mode

which give the expected melodic path of the nearest Turkish equivalents to mode I - note how they zoom up to the octave in the second half, and then fall through the whole range, in the same way as Machaut's song. Turkish/Arabic theory was less bound by a small repertoire of melodies than its Christian parallel (which started out with the intention only of cataloguing psalm tones). That is, there was a modal theory which could have described "Douce dame" realistically, but it didn't get to the right place at the right time.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Anne Lister sans cookie
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 05:50 PM

The trouble is, the only references I'm likely to find to stories being read aloud in instalments will be to important people, the nature of historical record being what it is. But I do need actual references that I can cite in an academic thesis - and to twelfth or thirteenth century Europe, at that.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 06:11 PM

Jack, events in 20th century Kenya don't tell us useful information about medieval Europe, neither does Turkish music inform us about 14th century France. In the link you give for Douce Dame Jolie the dorian mode is transposed upwards, so the transposed reciting note is d'. I find it difficult to understand why you can't see what a central role that note plays in the melody.

As Anne says, medieval writers were the literate few, and so they are the only audience who can give us information.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 07:11 PM

The point of the comparison with the Turkish model is that there have been modal systems which fit secular modal music quite informatively. But nobody seems to have felt it mattered in the Christian Middle Ages (Grocheio said something to the effect that it was a waste of time trying) - except for the handful of tunes like "L'Homme Armé" that crossed over into liturgical use, so you'd need to know what contexts they'd fit into, why bother?

Reading back a bit, there were precedents for this. Ancient Greek music theoreticians had many subtle references to the music they couldn't analyze and didn't want to talk about. Quite likely this undocumented stuff (like aulos tunes) was the bulk of what ancient Greeks actually listened to.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,ripov
Date: 06 Sep 18 - 04:56 PM

Regarding non-mensural notation; this is not just a mediaeval matter, although nowadays some effort (like using bar lines)is usually made to better indicate the rhythm.

4/4 hornpipes whether "dotted" or not, are written (except by those unfamiliar with the idea) in straight quavers except at the end of a phrase. The performer knows, or is free to choose, just how the notes are proportioned. And my late wife, a vastly more experienced musician than me, once asked me to play from a sheet of music, which I did; but with my classical training I played it exactly as written, thus making a total fool of meself; it was unrecognisable. Until she joined in and I realised it was a well known blues number.

Too many years ago, when I was still a treble, I was taught that plainchant should have the same rhythm as speech. This turns out to be a counsel of perfection, at least for the average singer; and certainly for several singing together, when a certain uniformity of timing becomes essential.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Mr Red
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 03:26 AM

Historical Dance this Saturday social dancing with the Night Watch, described as Shakespearean. I'm sure the thread originator can tell us how much medieval music will be included.

Halesowen, West Mids.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Donuel
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 08:05 AM

An example of NOT playing medieval music medievally are CD recordings of chansons and sacred music by a choir with the solo addition of a tenor saxaphone. Perhaps the title is Requium. The recordings are made in churchs and sanctuaries with lots of natural reverb. I really like it.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Donuel
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 08:12 AM

saxophone and medieval choir


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 08:16 AM

Jan Gabarak and Officium.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: leeneia
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 12:00 PM

Thanks for the link, Donuel. I agree that the combination works.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 12:14 PM

Just seen the thread again.

I notice Jack Campin pulled me up by assuming I don’t know baroque from medieval. I do wish people didn’t purposely misread what others put in order to look smug. This is Mudcat, not some political social media.

I said that Gardiner (who happens to be a bit of a wizard when it comes to baroque in the opinion of many) believes that music (I didn’t note any genre or specific time period) has decreased tempo over the years and we tend to play most pieces slower than they were originally scored. It was an observation that is relevant to the thread, whereas noting the specialism of the scholar in question isn’t as he widens his observation beyond his genre.

Tsk.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 12:35 PM

I always find this fascinating. How, exactly, do we KNOW that a tempo has slowed, sped up or whatever considering there are no MMs to go by.
"Largo" can be broadly interpreted and is seemingly played according to current fashion. Isn't historical performance really all just a guess?

"Pick it up, ya slackers!!!" - A.Vivaldi


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stower
Date: 21 Sep 18 - 07:01 AM

Hello, GUEST,ripov. Your point about hornpipes isn't really (I don't think) connected with the problems of reading non-mensural notation. At some point it became the convention to write hornpipes in the wrong time signature, since they're written in 4/4 but played in 6/8. All this pseudo-mysteriousness we often hear people talk about hornpipe rhythm goes away if we just write them as we play them - in 6/8. That makes the rhythmic proportion right and takes away the need for those triplets. Blues and jazz are different matters, I think, as writing down something that is rhythmically quite free in a form that dictates where the beat lies is always going to be a clash of two media.

Mr. Red, you clearly haven't read the replies above. Since Shakespeare wasn't alive in the middle ages then dance from his period cannot be medieval. I think this is probably obvious.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 21 Sep 18 - 07:29 AM

I don't play hornpipes in 6/8. 12/8 maybe but often I play them heavily "dotted" so 12/8 would not be a good way to write them down.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Stanron
Date: 21 Sep 18 - 08:10 AM

Yes there's quite a difference in feel between 6/8 and 12/8. I think of swung hornpipes as 12/8. Dotted 4/4 gets close but before hornpipes were notated like that I'm not sure anyone actually played dotted 4/4. It's just a notation shortcut.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Sep 18 - 11:54 AM

Gardiner was addressing an issue irrelevant to mediæval music. His thing is the Baroque, and he was trying to correct a long slide to slower tempi when playing Baroque music. There have been other times and places where the same process has happened: the most extreme is how Gagaku music developed in Japan, where what we now hear as the melody was originally the gracenotes in the Chinese originals.

But mediæval European music didn't go through centuries of being played progressively wronger. It went through centuries of not being played at all. Most of what is now known and played was never published until our lifetimes and is only known from one-off copies in manuscripts. There never were any misconceptions about its tempo.

Until very recently. Cait Webb described one school of performance as "drums and fun", imposing compulsive metric regularity and folkish jollity on the music for modern marketing reasons. The absolute pits for that, in my experience, is John Renbourn's atrocious rendition of Machaut's "Douce Dame Jolie", like a mashup of Singing Together and the Clancy Brothers. No performer with a clue would now do anything like that.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 08:50 AM

Gardiner addressed a historical point regardless of genre. His hypothesis was strengthened by noting marching tunes that were based on the time taken to travel between known barracks, instruments not used due to physical limitations at faster tempos and how sub melodies in many genres require certain tempos in order to “work.”

Please try to see beyond his label and note, not necessarily agree but note his interpretation of historical style.

If you require people to use the term “medieval” in order to accept that a large body of academia believe tempos were generally faster in use from medieval to c18 time, then I suggest you at least research it rather than embarrass yourself repeatedly.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 10:10 AM

Music that isn't played at all can't be getting played at the wrong tempo. Apart from liturgical melodies, no repertoire survived in actual use from the Middle Ages, and no practicing musician by Shakespeare's time could even have got their hands on a mediæval score to bungle it.

(The only Gardiner book I have is Music in the Castle of Heaven, which doesn't mention tempi anywhere, as far as I can see).

Another instance where the same music did get played slower is classical Ottoman music - the process is described in Feldman's Music of the Ottoman Court. Feldman figured out that tempi dropped by a factor of 3 between 1500 and 1800, holding steady from there on. You can work that out by seeing what percussion accompanists were expected to do: the number of drumstrokes in a bar went up as bars took more time. But the Ottomans retained their old repertoire over those 300 years - until the late Renaissance, Western European repertoire just got abandoned when the next big thing came along.

Enough - anonymous timewasters aren't worth any more effort.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: leeneia
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 10:20 AM

Wrong tempo? Why assume that medieval pieces had a right tempo? Tempo probably varied from place to place, with the skill of the players, with the quality of their instruments, and (esp. with dance music) with the age and skill of the dancers.

In the case of a song melody with more than one set of words, sad words probably went slower than happy words.


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Subject: RE: Playing medieval music medievally
From: medievallassie
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 04:53 PM

This is a resource that some of you might find valuable. I know I did because I was wanting to find the authentic words to a few of the modern folk songs such as "Frog went a Courting". This book has the medieval version :-)


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