Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Journal Response 2
13 Oct 2008
Cons 351 WI
Journal Entry #2 Binchois: Chansons
Walking through the streets of French towns in the Renaissance era one would most likely hear the sweet sounds of the chanson songs. These songs told tales of love, desire, and hope. Today you can hear a compilation of these chansons by Gilles Binchois on the recording Mon Souverain Desir. Chansons grew out of the formes fixe often used by the Troubadours and Trouveres during the transition into the Renaissance era. The chanson song during the 15th century is set to French text, they were popular secular songs sung by nearly everyone. The chanson that Binchois produced was written mostly while he was spending time in the Burgundy Court. Due to this, he was unable to travel and incorporate different ideas from multiple locations into his music thus limiting the style he wrote with and making the structure of his chanson songs simple in melodic and harmonic structure. This particular recording of chansons was done by a group devoted to the performance of early music; Ensemble Gilles Binchois, but anyone could sing them.
There are seventeen tracks of music on this recording, but not all are sung. Some of the tracks are solely instrumental; these songs are usually very short and more upbeat in nature. The songs that are not instrumental are almost always in a continuous ABaBA chanson form. One can hear both men and women singing together or solo accompanied largely by string instruments that are either being plucked, bowed, or both. There are four blocks of text, the second combining new words and a refrain while the text is set syllabically. Each song is constructed through polyphony and is extraordinarily strophic making each song fairly predictable.
These chansons are French songs about love; the liner notes provided gave helpful translations. Reading the translations while listening at the same time gave a much better representation of what was being sung about and why the music sounded as it did. Some of the songs were slow and dark sounding, using a solo voice and a string instrument with the use of bow. These slow songs generally had texts about being miserably and hopelessly in love with someone. These sad love tales spoke about how the person is in some sort of purgatory because they cannot have the person they want; they are slaves of love. Happier more upbeat songs were generally about how wonderful the person of desire is and their undying love. The range found within all of these songs is fairly small and polyphonic voice lines come close to each other often.
I enjoyed listening to this recording due to the nature of the text. I love music that both tells a story and matches that story with the way the music sounds. I think songs about love bring out some of the most dramatic and strong feelings people have. While I followed the text translations I found myself relating to some of the words being sung. It is a strange feeling to listen to Renaissance music, sit back, and say – I can relate to this. I think sometimes I feel as if it is just going to be historical “blast from the past” kind of stuff, and I forget that human emotions are always ongoing. As for the overall entertainment value, I do not think I would ever listen to the recording the whole way through because I love it that much. It simply is not engaging enough with differences of tempo and timbre to want to listen to it for an hour on a regular basis. As with a lot of music, I liked certain songs, but the ideas and overall timbre of the music was similar throughout the whole thing making it less enjoyable for long amount of time; especially since the style of the music is unchanging a lot of the time. I would be very excited to listen to a few songs here or there though!