Verbum patris humanatur

This 12th-century conductus, Verbus patris humanatur, is the earliest known preserved example of three-part polyphony.* I really wanted to hear what it sounded like, and didn’t have a piano handy, so I thought I would create a quickly notated example just to give the gist. It’s a thirteen-measure solution of the sort that would have beenContinue reading “Verbum patris humanatur”

On Anonymity

When discussing a musical tradition that is quite foreign to one’s own, it’s only natural to draw comparisons to what is known and understood. Putting the alien into a familiar context can help open up the proverbial windows and get some light in the room. Saying something like “troping is the same as sampling” isContinue reading “On Anonymity”

Week 3 in Review

This Week in Blogging: The posts this week continued to focus on drawing connections between medieval music and the 21st century. Plenty of aspects are still around today, including the actual repertoire (minnesang covered by a metal band), the philosophical debates (closed vs. open styles of music/lyric composition), social practices (competitions between performers), and lyricalContinue reading “Week 3 in Review”

Darwinian Music, Part II: Anachronisms

Persistence, [like Oswald’s]*, in old ways is often represented by historians as anachronism – in this case, as a pocket of “the Middle Ages” surviving like a fossil into “the Renaissance,” or as resolute “conservatism,” resistance to change. What is anachronistic, however, is the modern linear view of history that produces such an evaluation, andContinue reading “Darwinian Music, Part II: Anachronisms”

Minnesingers, Wagner, and Metal [Updated]

As Taruskin recounts (I, 134-142), Richard Wagner recognized the potential in the stories of the historical minnesinger/meistersinger (German-speaking analogue of the trovères) and appropriated their caché for his operas Die meistersinger von Nürnberg and Tannhäuser. But Wagner is not the only one to cash in on this potential. In a 21st-century example, In Extremo (aContinue reading “Minnesingers, Wagner, and Metal [Updated]”

Clus or Clar?

Like Zach, I was intrigued by the genre of the tenso, which is fascinating not just as a social practice, but also for the content of the songs. These mock-debate songs addressed, among other things, whether a poet should adopt as his style of choice trobar clus or trobar clar. The former is a “closed” style,Continue reading “Clus or Clar?”

Medieval Cutting Contests

One of the important genres of the troubadours was the tenso, a competitive form that allowed – indeed, encouraged – musicians to show off their most virtuosic poetic technique. Among the trouvéres of northern France, this same practice was known as jeu-parti, or “mock-debate.” In these contests,  judges crowned the winner as the “Prince” ofContinue reading “Medieval Cutting Contests”

Love Bursts Forth

It should come as no surprise that the first notated body of secular song came from the troubadours, poets in the service of feudal lords. The troubadours sang about the knightly bonds between lord and vassal, but more famously, they sang about love. It’s hard to overstate the significance of the troubadour’s concept of “courtlyContinue reading “Love Bursts Forth”