Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Fifteenth Century’ Category

The secular tune “L’Homme Arme” (Man of Arms) served as the basis for an astounding number of mass ordinary cycles by all the leading composers of the late 15th Century. Moreover, setting the mass to this tune became an emblem of dynastic membership, and composers from Busnoys to Ockeghem, the elderly Du Fay to the youthful Josquin, used it to pay homage to the tradition (and to best their contemporaries). Here’s a playlist of “Kyrie” settings of the “L’Homme Arme” tune by the four masters listed above, respectively.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Last week we crossed the channel to listen in on the music of the British Isles.

This Week in Blogging: The week began with a change of header art that brought us into the 15th century. Throughout the week, we tried to get the English sound in our ears by posting an audio clip of Beata viscera, and Zach found a recording of Dunstable’s seminal, euphonious Quam pulchra es. And in the only mini-essay of the week, Zach guided us through the bog-ridden terrain of trying to determine cultural and musical influence in history.

  • Viking Harmony (392): Where did the English preference for thirds come from? From Scandanavian lands perhaps. Based on a lone musical example from Sweden, the hymn Nobilis, humilis, which shares the tendency for harmonization in thirds; and on the political presence of Nordic peoples on the British Isles from 875, Taruskin posits a possible connection between the two cultures.
  • England and the Continent: Though the English were much touted as having a “new,” “sweet” style all their own according to chroniclers of the early 14th century, they were by no means isolated from the continent or its trends: the Normans invaded in 1066; England and France were engaged in a (more than) Hundred Years War, after which Northern French lands were occupied by the English; and intellectuals from England studied in French universities (witness our old friend Anonymous IV).
  • Nationalism? (403) and “English Descant” (406): The English style of descant is considered by some historians to be more homogeneous than other nations during the same time, and therefore “may suggest the beginnings of something comparable to what we now call nationalism” (405), though nationalism at this point was not connected to ethnicity but to the crown. The quintessential style can be found in the opening measures of Beata viscera (a conductus/motet): an 8/5 “chord”*, proceeding to a string of 6/3 “chords” moving in parallel motion, and cadencing on (or passing through) 8/5. This musical profile is also traditionally what music historians consider to be the definition of “contonance angloise,” (as RT puts it, “that English something-or-other”).
  • Old Hall and Roy Henry (409): The Old Hall Manuscript is a treasure for its collection of polyphonic mass movements, many with attributions of composers. It also contains the attribution of two pieces by “Roy Henry,” or King Henry, which could have been Henry IV or Henry V.
  • John Dunstable and the “New” Music: John Dunstable, an English composer, became, in his day and in successive generations, the fountainhead of the English style to continental composers.
  • Faburden, the English procedure of improvising harmony over a pre-existing monophonic melody (à la English descant), had a continental counterpart in fauxbourdon. The latter was often used by such composers as Guillaume Du Fay and Gilles Binchois, who used it as a compositional technique rather than an extemporizing procedure.

*Numbers represent intervals above the lowest note of the texture, from top to bottom. For example, “8/5” denotes an octave and a fifth above the lowest note. “Chord” is in quotes to denote that I am using a modern term.

Read Full Post »

Coronation of the Virgin, Fra Angelico, c. 1435

Coronation of the Virgin, Fra Angelico, c. 1435

Our new header image is a detail of a detail. This sumptuous scene is tempera and gold on panel, by Fra Angelico, c. 1435. The lower image is of the entire scene, with the Virgin Mary being crowned in the high center. Angels herald the moment with playing of trumpets, lutes, and harps. At the lower center of this heavenly scene (note that they all sit or stand upon clouds), a lone angel plays obeisantly on a portative organ.

The upper image is a detail of the group of angels over the shoulder of the Virgin, and the header image is a horizontal slice of the same.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts