A series launched by Brepols in 2011, Musicalia Medii Aevi is a collection of international studies that welcomes writings and reflections on the most innovative aspects of medieval musicology.
As one of the essential liberal arts in the Middle Ages, music was at the center of the era’s thought and culture. That is why the collection addresses the field of music as part of a wide and varied cultural history, often in interdisciplinary terms, offering a fresh look at the role of music in medieval society. The first volume in the series is The calligraphy of medieval music by John Haines.
Along with its wide-ranging discussions of theoretical topics, the 1650 treatise Musurgia universalisby the German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) includes what may be the first transcriptions of bird songs.
The illustration gives the nightingale’s song followed by those of the chicken, the cuckoo, the quail, and the parrot; the latter says χαίρε (“hello”). Vox cuculi is notated as the familiar falling minor third heard in cuckoo clocks (see below).
A facsimile edition of the treatise has been issued by Georg Olms (Hildesheim, 1970; reprinted 2006).
In the second quarter of the sixteenth century Nuremberg was the epicenter of the so-called German Josquin Renaissance; the music of Josquin des Prez and his contemporaries formed the core of the repertoire taught in schools, sung by amateur choral societies, and included in the published anthologies that served those markets. As a music theorist and rector of one of the city’s principal schools, Sebald Heyden was confronted, perhaps for the first time in Western music history, with urgent problems regarding historical performance practice.
Although the music was only 40 to 50 years old, its mensuration and proportion signs were already obsolete and no longer understood. Heyden approached the task of recovering their meanings from a historian’s perspective; by reading old treatises, studying old music in a local private collection, and analyzing his observations with abstract reasoning, he created a theory that enabled singers to produce what he believed to be authentic performances of music of the past. He read conflicting opinions on his topic, felt free to declare some authorities right and others wrong, and drew clear and consistent conclusions about problematic issues. His influence on later scholars was incalculable.
Over the centuries craftspeople have restored damaged windows, and, lacking the requisite musical training, they often left replacement staves blank; but in two cases nonsense neumes were devised, supplying consistent-looking décor that most observers would never suspect was counterfeit.
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →
In 1947 Ella Fitzgerald, already an acclaimed singer of jazz standards, toured with Dizzy Gillespie, immersing herself in the new style known as bebop. Like Dizzy, Ella responded to bebop’s complex harmonies with an infallible ear, and easily translated its … Continue reading →
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey’s Prove it on me blues affirms her independence from orthodox norms by boldly celebrating her lesbianism. Rainey’s sexual involvement with women was no secret with both colleagues and audiences. The advertisement for the song (above, click to … Continue reading →
The American traditional song Go tell Aunt Rhody originated as a gavotte composed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau for his opera Le devin du village (1752). An English version of the opera was produced in London in 1766; subsequently the melody attracted … Continue reading →