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.

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