Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Journal Response 1b - Cantigas de Santa Maria

Jaime Tyser
Sept 16, 2008

Response to Cantigas de Santa Maria (Sarah Hardy)

Early music recordings are most likely not the first pick for most people, but I must admit that this recording is catching. Alfonso X: Cantigas de Santa Maria recorded by the Unicorn Ensemble makes use of the instruments people seldom get to hear but are still in relation to instruments that are popular today. After reading Sarah Hardy’s journal about this particular CD, I realized that she too took advantage of the insert provided within the cover. The paper insert provided gave a nice brief overview of the songs included on the recording and what they each represented. Outside of that information, Sarah opened her journal with a brief and to the point historical overview of King Alfonso X. It was helpful to me to have the definition of his Spanish name (the Wise or the Learned) as well as the brief knowledge that he was well known for his contribution to science, art, and culture.
Sarah at one point says, “the songs are sacred in subject manner, but they are not in Latin”. I would like to have read more about the subject of the songs. For example in the seventh track, Entre Av’e Eva, roughly translates to “Between Ave and Eva” this particular song is found to be strophic with a stanza ending with the text “between Ave and Eva” followed by the same repeated refrain stating, “Between Ave and Eva, there is a great difference”. The entire song is about the difference between these two religious figures and what they did for the people as far as helping or hurting them. I found that each of these songs have great meaning once translated. The text for these songs also has two different influences, some are cantigas de mirage (miracles by the Blessed Virgin) and others are cantigas de loor (poetic hymns in praise of the Virgin Mary). The song about Ave and Eva falls into the cantiga de loor category.
I enjoyed reading about the peoples’ thoughts on the difference between duple and triple meter. Both meters signified something important and it is beneficial to the understanding of a listener to read about the use of each. Sarah also speaks about the form of these cantigas. She states that most of the songs are a virelai with an ABBA format. I, however, tend to disagree and feel that a lot of the songs are in rondeau form (ABaAabAB). Also, I think for the reader it is important to state that virelai is put visually into AbbaA for content a person will hear. Along with the rondeaux and virelai, a ballade and even free form songs were exemplified on the recording. These forms are all part of the formes fixe developed in the late medieval time period (early to mid 1300’s).
One other thing Sarah comments on in her journal is that the songs “have a clear refrain or ‘A’ section which repeats after contrasting sections”. I agree with this, but think it would have been helpful to have more of an in depth look at this. Saying there are contrasting sections is very broad; are they contrasting in rhythm, voice timbre, text content, on and on. Again, I agree with this, the songs each contrast with each other in the certain formes fixe they use. Also, the instruments are often very contrasting, you hear a hurdy gurdy in one song then in the next you hear a flute. Some of the songs are sung slowly, some quickly. The list of contrast grows quickly, a big reason of why the recording is so fun to listen to. Listeners should be constantly engaged with new sounds and stories.
Sarah Hardy’s journal entry was a quick and easy read. The information was clear, precise, and for the most part accurate. The journal is constructed to be semi brief, therefore lacking explanation at a couple points, but I believe it is a great co article to the recording itself. I feel her journal has enriched my thoughts and knowledge about not only this recording, but also the medieval time period itself and the terms and history we have learned in class.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Journal Response #1 - Troubadour Songs

Jaime Tyser
4 Sept 2008
Cons 351WI

Journal Entry #1 Troubadour Songs

Upon looking through the listening list, I immediately went for the recording with troubadour music, sung tales of lust, love, and courting – quite intriguing! The particular recording I chose to listen to is entitled, Cansós de Trobairitz - translated as, Troubadour Songs. This recording was interesting as it was a compilation of songs rather than a single piece. The insert included with the recording was extremely beneficial to read while studying the music at hand. It provided short descriptions and explanations about the songs along with an insight to the idea of the recording and its creation. There were seven tracks total on the sound recording; three of them were writings of Condesa de Dia. The other songs had texts and music written by others such as the infamous anonymous, Guirot de Bornelh, Cadanet, Bernart de Ventadorn, Condesa de Provenza Garsenda, Gaulcem Faidit, and Arnaut de Maruehl.
These Troubadour songs all varied in length ranging from as little as three minutes to as long as ten minutes. Seeing that the insert provided had a caption saying “Song of the Trobairitz – About 1200” the songs can be identified as fitting into the medieval time period. The instrumentation was generally the same in each song. A couple different types of drums were easy to identify, sounding as if they were hit either by hand or soft mallet. Other instruments one could distinctively hear were those of the string and flute family. Occasionally a tambourine or small chimes could be heard. The presiding melodic line was carried by voice, sung by a man, woman, or female choir. The last track on the recording is an Alba, what we discussed as being the morning song. Some of the texts were written by Condesa de Dia, whom we know little about but have a few surviving songs from. The stanzas are strophic and set in a fixed pattern a lot of the time with syllabic rhythm or pronunciations of the French words
As a listener, I found this recording to be easy to sit through. The songs chosen for this recording were particularly diverse for the most part making the fifty minutes pass quickly. The difference in mood between each track led me to create a new grouping for the songs.
1: Happy/light (Vos que-m semblatz dels corals amadors)
2: Somber/Nearly sad (Estat ai en greu Cossirier)
3: Light/Staccato (Na carenza al bel cors avinen)
4: Dance like/Resembling track 1 (Si-us quer conslh, bel ami Alamanda)
5: Light/Slow tempo (Ab’ joi et ab joven m’apais)
6: Dark/Sad (A chantar m’er de so q’ieu no voldria
7: Medium tempo/Urgency (S’anc fui belha ni prezada)

As you can see, the tracks alternate in mood keeping the interest and attention through variety. I never tired of hearing a certain feeling that was being conveyed. Stylistically, the lighter and happier songs were very dance like and the slower more somber songs were sung in such a way that it seemed the weight of the world was pressing upon the individual singing. After looking up texts it was apparent that heartache and infatuation of love were very much the driving force of the music. In terms of form, these songs were very strophic, alternating between a man and woman or women singing. A sung stanza would be followed by a musical interlude; the cycle would then be repeated as needed for the text. The vocal part was stepwise and steered clear of dissonance most of the time.
My personal opinion of this recording is that it is nice to hear. Stories are being told of secret meetings, twisted tales of love and lust. The songs call out to one another, sung with the undying want of the love of a targeted individual. Some texts scream with heartache such as in Estat ai en greu cossirier (Of Late I Have Been in Great Distress). Condesa de Dia slowly sings, “I’d offer him my every part, my mind, my senses, and my heart” about a man she lost. The extreme drama and feeling these people claim is nearly ridiculous, but nothing short of what one would find during this day and age. The main difference I noticed was not in the meaning of the words, but the actual words being used. Humans, as far as love goes, have not changed much. It is interesting how one can feel so strongly towards another, in a good and bad way. In today’s world we do not say things such as, “when, my gallant handsome friend, when shall I have you in my power?” We use other phrases, for example, “when will be together?” I think these songs and texts, if anyone has had experience with relationships of any sort, relate to people with the mood that is conveyed through the music and although stated in a different way, the text.
In my opinion, this recording was done very well. The texts were sung beautifully and the moods of each song were presented in a recognizable fashion. This has definitely given me a new appreciation for this specific part of the medieval music era. More so than that, it has inspired me to be more engaged in the other types of music found during the medieval time period. I encourage listeners to always find the texts for each song they hear as doing so helped me to understand what I was hearing an immense amount. I feel reading the texts also enriched my vocabulary and helped motivate my mind to foster creative thoughts and phrases; the words they chose are extraordinarily clever.