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Thread: The TC Early Music Listening Group

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Default The TC Early Music Listening Group

    Welcome to the TC Early Music Listening Group! The goal of this group is to get to know, appreciate, and love the music of the pre-Baroque period. We have spent the last week gathering many nominations from around 20 participants, and these works extend from the early 1100s to around 1620. We have a great variety of composers, works, and styles to dive into, and I can’t wait for all the amazing discussion that will ensue! Each week a different composer will be featured, along with the works that were nominated by the participants. Each participant will get the chance, if they so desire, to introduce and guide us through their chosen work, and provide a recommended album/recording. This leads me into the only “rule” that will be expected in this thread (besides, of course, the mandatory TC terms of service) - Please focus attention towards the music itself, not performance practice. There is certainly no problem with discussing recordings, but the purpose of this group is to immerse ourselves in the music and not to run into any side conversations that may deter relative newbies to early music (like myself) from participating. All good? Alright! Below is the listening order for reference, then see the next post for the introduction to our first selection.

    05/31-06/07: Dunstable, John (1390-1450) - Selected mass movements and motets [Allegro Con Brio]
    06/07-06/14: Tallis, Thomas (1505-1585) - Spem in alium [caracalla]
    06/14-06/21: Anonymous (12th century) - Le Chant des Templiers (Chant of the Templars) [Mandryka]
    06/21-06/28: Gombert, Nicholas (1495-1560) - 8 Magnificats* [isorhythm]
    06/28-07/05: Gautier de Coincy (1177-1236) - Les Miracles de Nostre-Dame [Portamento]
    07/05-07/12: Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi (1525-1594): Missa Papae Marcelli [mmsbls] and Missa Aeterna Christi Munera [sbmonty]
    07/12-07/19: Lassus, Orlande (1532-1594) - Lagrime di San Pietro [Kjetil Heggelund]
    07/19-07/26: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) - O Euchari; other hymns and sequences [Shosty]

    07/26-08/02: Hasprois, Johannes Symonis (died 1428) - Puisque je suis Fumeux [Highwayman]
    08/02-08/09: Taverner, John (1490-1545) - Western Wynde Mass [Simplicissimus]
    08/09-08/16: Anonymous (15th century) - Codex Faenza (Codex Bonadies) [Jacck)
    08/16-08/23: Ciconia, Johannes (1370-1412) - Una Panthera [premont]
    08/23-08/30: Hygons, Richard (1435-1509) - Salve regina [RICK RIEKERT]
    08/30-09/06: Byrd, William (1540-1623) - Infelix ego [sbmonty] and Mass for Four Voices [Art Rock]
    09/06-09/13: Josquin Des Prez (1455-1521) - Absalom fili mi [EdwardBast] and Missa pange lingua [Knorf]
    09/13-09/20: Machaut, Guillaume (1300-1377) - Messe de Nostre Dame [SanAntone], Puis Qu'en Oubli [ORigel], and Le Remède de Fortune [Room2201974]

    09/20-09/27: Brumel, Antoine (1460-1512) - Missa et ecce terrae motus (Earthquake Mass) [Allegro Con Brio]
    09/27-10/04: Dufay, Guillaume (1397-1474) - Nuper rosarum flores and Missa Ecca ancilla Domini [science]; Resvellies vous [EdwardBast]
    10/04-10/11: Anonymous (13th century Spain) - Codex Las Huelgas [Shosty]
    10/11-10/18: Isaac, Heinrich (1450-1517) - Missa Virgo Prudentissima [mmsbls]
    10/18-10/25: Ockeghem, Johannes (1425-1497) - Missa prolationum [Kjetil Heggelund]
    10/25-11/01: Walther von der Vogelweide (1170-1230) - Under den linden [Portamento]
    11/01-11/08: Victoria, Tomás Luis (1548-1611) - Magnificat primi toni [caracalla] and Officium Defunctorum (Requiem of 1603) [Art Rock]

    11/08-11/15: Fayrfax, Robert (1464-1521) - Missa Tecum Principium [Mandryka]
    11/15-11/22: Anonymous (12th century) - Dum esset Salvator in monde (from Codex Calixtinus) [RICK RIEKERT]
    11/22-11/29: Solage (late 14th century) - Fumeux Fume par Fumée [Highwayman]
    11/29-12/06: Anonymous (approx. 12th century) - Codex Buranus (Carmina Burana) [Jacck]
    12/06-12/13: Cornago, Johannes (c. 1400-after 1475) - Missa de la mapa mundi [Simplicissimus]
    12/13-12/20: Pérotin (12th century) - Sederunt principes [Knorf]
    12/20-12/27: Anonymous (approx. 1400, Spain) - Llibre Vermell de Montserrat [premont]
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    05/31-06/07

    FEATURED COMPOSER: John Dunstable (1390-1450)

    Selected works (submitted by: Allegro Con Brio): Naxos album “Sweet Harmony” performed by Tonus Peregrinus, available on all streaming services OR find it on this YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5pY1gjgqgs3mNI


    We are getting things rolling by focusing on a composer who I have very recently come to know (and by that I mean two weeks ago). This is 15th century British composer John Dunstable (often spelled “Dunstaple”, not sure which one is more commonly accepted, though Wikipedia uses the latter). I first heard his name by listening to Joshua Weilerstein’s fantastic Sticky Notes podcast episode on the history of medieval music in 60 minutes (which I highly recommend for those who want to take a deeper dive into early music!) In it, Weilerstein mentions Dunstable as being sort of what Beethoven was for bridging Classicism and Romanticism, or Monteverdi in between the Renaissance and the Baroque - a “transitional composer” who largely retained the musical language of the simpler medieval style while making bold steps to move towards the richer harmony, polyphony and multiple lines of the Renaissance. According to Wiki he was instrumental in developing a distinctively “English” style of composition called the contenance angloise, which utilized fuller, richer harmonies than his predecessors.

    Today he does not seem to be brought up very often in discussions of early music, but even regardless of his historical influence I find it hard to believe that his gorgeous music could be neglected. And really, we’re just here to listen to the music! And what music it is. When I initially heard the linked album a couple weeks ago, I was mightily impressed at the apparent simplicity of the music - its endearing melodies, its full-bodied harmonies, its gracefully-woven lines...and how affecting it was for me. I thought it would be a great starting point since the individual voices are all easy to follow with no highly intricate counterpoint, and I thought that relative refreshing simplicity would appeal to lots of folks who might be trepidated about the apparent complexity and mystery of early music.

    As I’ve repeatedly said, I really am no expert on this stuff. I simply report my personal experiences and invite others to share in them! If anyone who is more “seasoned” than I wishes to share any further information and thoughts on Dunstable that might assist us in our listening this week, please do! But for now, I recommend simply listening through the album (no piece is longer than about 7 minutes); starting with the 2 1/2 minute polished gem of a motet Quam pulchra es, then moving on to the other motets and individual mass movements at your own pace. If you can’t commit to listening to the entire album, no sweat Just do what you can and share your thoughts. If I come across any more information or have any other perceptions to share throughout the week I will certainly do so, but for now, have fun and let the lively discussion begin!

    P.S. What do we think about obtaining translations for many of these works? I am actually semi-fluent in Latin (yeah, definitely the most practical language to know) but I have a feeling that many might appreciate knowing what is being sung, as this could potentially help contribute to understanding of how the composer represents the text. Does anyone know of a good site or resource for translations, if there is such an interest?
    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; May-31-2020 at 16:48.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    I will try to attach the CD booklet. I've never done this before and don't know if it will work.
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    Listening right now, and downloaded the booklet without problem. Thanks!
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    Well, we're off to a good start. I only have CDs of a limited number of composers from the early music time frame - probably not more than about a dozen, and Dunstable is not one of them. There's a beautiful flow to this music, and the fact that it is a capella helps as well - even an organ would just degrade the atmosphere of these pieces. I lack musical background to make detailed comments, but I can say that this is 70 minutes I enjoyed - more than many CDs I do have from this era. This CD goes on the shortlist as a desirable one for the future. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Thanks for the booklet, SanAntone! Some nice information in there to serve as a listening guide.

    Of the pieces on this album I think I am most arrested currently by the second and third tracks; Kyrie JD 1 and Gloria a 4 JD 11. The ravishing lines just seem to go on infinitely, wrapped in heavenly harmonies and luscious textures. I agree with Art Rock that there is a beautiful flow to this music, and like him I can’t explain exactly what it is, but everything just seems so easily and naturally integrated. So beautiful!

    I’m naturally a literary-minded person, so I’ve often thought about the style of early music in terms of poetry; how the composers used creative manipulation of rhythm, prosody, timbre, and the relationships between sung words to convincingly set the text. There is certainly a lot to think about listening to this music, but a lot of it is just registered subconsciously for me as I absorb the whole product. I think Dunstable represents that sort of sensitive, poetic beauty that I look for in early music.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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    Here's the text of the mass ordinary in Latin and English

    http://www.kitbraz.com/tchr/hist/med...nary_text.html

    I just listened to the third track of the Tonus Pregrinus CD, a Credo setting. At Crucifixus etiam pro nobis there's a caesura in the performance. And after the music becomes extremely rapt, as if Dunstable in the hands of Tonus Pregrinus is using the counterpoint to create a sense of the mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection. Is he expressing the meaning of the credo in music? Is that what renaissance polyphony is about?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jun-01-2020 at 08:00.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    I agree with Art Rock that there is a beautiful flow to this music, and like him I can’t explain exactly what it is, but everything just seems so easily and naturally integrated. So beautiful!

    .
    I think the music is liquid, in many directions: flow and counterflow. And it does seem to be naturally integrated as you say. This creates a sense of order. And sometimes, maybe the Credo I just talked about from Crucifixus etiam pro nobis onwards is an example, it becomes more than that: it becomes a vertiginous psycho-acoustic event.
    Last edited by Mandryka; May-31-2020 at 20:35.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    A nice little biography of Dunstable from AllMusic for those seeking a little background to aid their listening:

    Dunstable's name suggests he may have been born in the town of Dunstable in Bedfordshire, England. Sources from his time, including a possible signature of his own, spell his name "Dunstaple." The birthdate of 1390 is surmised from the appearance of his earliest known datable works, the motets Veni sancte spiritus and Preco preheminencie, heard during the celebrations that followed in the wake of English King Henry V's victories in the Battle of Agincourt. These pieces were repeated at Canterbury Cathedral for the King and the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund in 1416; this is the only connection that can be drawn between Dunstable and canterbury. This could suggest canterbury composer Leonel Power, author of the Old Hall Manuscript, knew Dunstable, and Power may have been Dunstable's teacher. The work of Dunstable and Power is so similar that in several instances contemporary manuscript copies bear attributions to both composers for the same pieces.

    Dunstable disappears from the historical record until 1427, when it is established that he was then in France in the service of Henry V's younger brother John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford. Dunstable is also shown to be in the retinue of the notorious dowager Queen, Joan of Navarre, from 1428. The historical record relating to Dunstable's service to the Plantagenets is unclear, but this may mean that Dunstable traveled quite frequently between England and France, in service of both courts. During his travels abroad Dunstable may have become acquainted with his greatest admirers, the Franco-Flemish composers Guilliaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois. Fifteenth century treatises acknowledge the impact made by English music on French musicians during this period. This reflects the concurrent political situation as well, as much of the territory of France, including Paris itself, lay in English hands from 1420 to 1450, the final phase of the Hundred Years War. Dunstable benefited directly from this situation when the Duke of Bedford died in 1435, as Bedford awarded to Dunstable generous land grants in Normandy. Queen Joan remembered him a handsome annuity at her death in 1437. Dunstable was also an astronomer of considerable acclaim in his day, and astronomical charts believed to be in his own hand yet survive. However, all of his music is only known in copies made by other scribes. Most of Dunstable's music is preserved in sources located in Italy and Germany, rather than England, where just a scant remainder of contemporary examples remains.

    Only a tiny fraction of Dunstable's work is of the secular variety, and of these the most widely circulated piece, O Rosa bella, is now known to be the work of Dunstable's younger contemporary John Bedyngham. Although Dunstable's musical output is primarily sacred, there is no evidence to suggest that he held any post as a cleric. When Dunstable died in 1453, he was both wealthy and famous, and his reputation as a composer survived well into the first part of the sixteenth century. Another presumed associate of Dunstable's, John Wheathampstead, abbot of Saint Albans, composed two epitaphs to Dunstable's memory, one of which reads "with (Dunstable) as judge, Urania learned how to unfold the secrets of Heaven. This man was your glory, O Music; who had dispersed your sweet art through the world. The 'star' transmigrates to the stars; may the citizens of Heaven receive him as one of their own."
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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    Senior Member RICK RIEKERT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I just listened to the third track of the Tonus Pregrinus CD, a Credo setting. At Crucifixus etiam pro nobis there's a caesura in the performance. And after the music becomes extremely rapt, as if Dunstable in the hands of Tonus Pregrinus is using the counterpoint to create a sense of the mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection. Is he expressing the meaning of the credo in music? Is that what renaissance polyphony is about?
    Music serving as a vehicle to get across the meaning of the text seems to have been an idea already current in Dunstable's day. Singers were expected to express the text clearly and to respond to the rhetorical opportunities offered by text and music. Vincenzo Calmeta, a court poet and composer who was born around the time of Dunstable's death, expressed the ideal in his Vita del facondo poeta volgare Serafino Aquilano when he praised those musicans "as of the highest judgment who...put all their effort into expressing the words well, when they are of substance, and who make the music accompany them in such a way that the words are the masters, accompanied by servants so as to appear more honorable; not creating the affects and the meanings from the music, but rather creating the music from the meanings and the affects…"

    Thomas More’s Utopia of 1516 conveys a similar attitude: "Their musike…dothe so resemble and expresse naturall affections, the sound and tune is so applied and made agreable to the thinge, that whether it bee a prayer, or els a dytty of gladnes, of patience, of trouble, of mournynge, or of anger: the fassion of the melodye dothe so represente the meaning of the thing, that it doth wonderfullye move, stirre, pearce, and enflame the hearers myndes."

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    Thanks.

    In Machaut’s prologue he writes

    Je, Nature, par qui tout est fourmé
    Quanqu’a ça jus et seur terre et en mer, [5]
    Vien ci a toy, Guillaume, qui fourmé [6]
    T’ay a part, pour faire par toy fourmer
    Nouviaus dis amoureus plaisans.
    Pour ce te bail ci trois de mes enfans
    Qui t’en donront la pratique,
    Et, se tu n’ies d’euls trois bien congnoissans, [7]
    Nommé sont Scens, Retorique et Musique.


    Par Scens aras ton engin enfourmé [8]
    De tout ce que tu vorras confourmer ; [9]
    Retorique n’ara riens enfermé
    Que ne t’en voit en metre et en rimer ; [10]
    Et Musique te donra chans, [11]
    Tant que vorras, divers et deduisans. [12]
    Einsi ti fait seront frique, [13]
    N’a ce faire ne pues estre faillans, [14]
    Car tu as Scens, Retorique et Musique
    I can't find a translation of this anywhere but it's pretty obvious that he's saying that three things are the motor, the engine, of his art -- Scens, Retorique et Musique. Of course what he meant by that is a much bigger question than I can answer.

    What on earth is scens? But I wonder if this has something to do with expressiveness.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jun-02-2020 at 10:55.

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    Senior Member Room2201974's Avatar
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    One of the problems we will encounter in this thread is that there is so little known about many of the early music composers. For the life of me I have not been able to ascertain the dates of composition for the Dunstaple works we are listening to. Anyone have a clue?

    The only thing I can come up with is that Quam Pulchra Es must be an earlier composition than the Mass due to the use of the Landini Cadence.

    A translation for Quam Pulchra Es:

    He:

    "How beautiful and fair you are, my beloved,
    most sweet in your delights.
    Your stature is like a palm-tree,
    and your breasts are like fruit.
    Your head is like Mount Carmel
    and your neck is like a tower of ivory.

    She:

    Come, my beloved, let us go into the fields
    and see if the blossoms have born fruit,
    and if the pomegranates have flowered.
    There will I give my breasts to you.

    Alleluia."

    Alleluia indeed!
    I wrote a song about dental floss. Did anyone's teeth get cleaner? ~ Frank Zappa

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    Senior Member RICK RIEKERT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    What on earth is scens? But I wonder if this has something to do with expressiveness.
    Even the noted scholar William Calin seems unable to puzzle out exactly what Machaut had in mind by the nebulous term Scens (inspiration? the faculty of reason which plans and controls artistic creation? the art of composition?). Another authority, Jacqueline Cerquiglini, has 'clarified' the meaning of Scens as "a kind of guiding intelligence that regards above all the formal, proportional structure."

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    I first came across Dunstable's name in Burkholder's "A History of Western Music," where he is described as the preeminent English composer of the first half of the 15th century. I was somewhat surprised to find that my modest - but not that modest - Early Music collection contained absolutely nothing by him. A good chance to correct that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Room2201974 View Post
    One of the problems we will encounter in this thread is that there is so little known about many of the early music composers. For the life of me I have not been able to ascertain the dates of composition for the Dunstaple works we are listening to. Anyone have a clue?

    The only thing I can come up with is that Quam Pulchra Es must be an earlier composition than the Mass due to the use of the Landini Cadence.

    A translation for Quam Pulchra Es:

    He:

    "How beautiful and fair you are, my beloved,
    most sweet in your delights.
    Your stature is like a palm-tree,
    and your breasts are like fruit.
    Your head is like Mount Carmel
    and your neck is like a tower of ivory.

    She:

    Come, my beloved, let us go into the fields
    and see if the blossoms have born fruit,
    and if the pomegranates have flowered.
    There will I give my breasts to you.

    Alleluia."

    Alleluia indeed!
    Unless Landini didn’t invent the Landini cadence, I don’t mean to be even more trollish than usual, but I know that dating these pieces is a minefield.

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