Author Topic: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)  (Read 11116 times)

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #140 on: January 31, 2017, 12:18:34 PM »
Very good, it's great that more of the debate is within reach.

Here are a few interesting bits:

Re: the essay in the booklet; comprehensible?

"For example the refusal of the 'strange' (and apparently for some people incomprehensible) booklets I fabricate, which texts supposedly blur more the interpretation on the recording than inform it...Well, in fact that's exactly what I would like to achieve. For me the booklet should be an accomplice of the recording, not a legitimation of it. ... I try to write a booklet who makes the situation more complex, but I hope also more rich, for the listener, instead of reducing our work to some biographical liner notes. I would like that the listener feels triggered and challenged. The booklet texts are for those who are intrigued, who want more, or those who like to search for the layers in the musical machine. In this perspective some trust or even good will is needed....I'm lucky that I found a label as crazy as myself that let me write all these essays and is even happy to release it, I'm really grateful to Glossa because I know other labels would never give this freedom."

Re: euchrony of time?

"At the same time, most of what i say in the booklets is like hammering on the same nail. The theme or concept of 'euchronism' versus anachronism is coming back all the time, it's a thread through all our recordings. You ask what this 'euchrony' means: well, I explain it literally on the first page p.6, between brackets behind the term: "the historicist obsession with banning every single element of anachronism". What do I mean with this? Consciously or not, most early music approach operates with some sort of cliché or common sense scalpel, starting with present time and cutting off everything what is not proper or contemporary to its proper time. What we keep in the end is the result of a pseudo-historicist filleting...To say it very bluntly: where is all the dirt of time (scholars would maybe call it : the anachronisms) ? and what happens if we bring it in again (this is a very fragile work which asks for a lot of performative trial and error), creating a musical performance which is not primordially focused on historical information but on historical transference, and what, in this transference, is, intentionally or not, cut away, exorcized. In fact in this sense I fight against early music as 'modernism projected into the past' (as if in the past everything was contemporary with its own time...what a weird idea). I'm interested in the fact that there is no existing ur-text, no existing consciousness of a first group of performers who establish a normative performance practice, and that in this sense we as performers are so to say the same as all the others who came right after,...or differently expressed: it's a sort of historical absurdism to cut off some original group of completely informed and self-identifying people from a next generation who knows already less or starts to transform it, and so and so forth till now, till us, the least informed, the furthest away from truth..."

Re: Marcel Pérès?

"That's why I mentioned Marcel Pérès, because to me he is one of the only figures of early music who speaks with the dead and in this sense opens up the field for reclaiming the past, fabulating it, articulating it's unheard potentials, washed away by the sponge of western history. People think maybe it's about aesthetics, doing something what looks like what he did, but for me it's a question of politics and I explain also this in the end of my booklet text, apparently it's alien talk on early music planet. It's a very important element because it is what early music performance can do: changing affectively our vision of the past, opening up the past, showing that it co-exists with our present. And more, we can reclaim the past, give it back to those collectives who were banished outside the glorious history of Western humanity (there is even so much quality of the non-human to discover in those repertoires by the way...), of which classical music is still all too often a symbol. Marcel Pérès said somewhere something interesting: why is it weird or wrong to do Machaut with Corsican singers who objectively are still with one or even two legs in a chant tradition, which anyhow has maybe more to say about polyphonic practices from earlier times, than a conservatory education of which you know objectively that the whole vocal, bodily approach and even more important, the whole aesthetic and affective approach is a clear modern denial and cut with the past? Singing early music with conservatory voices is apparently professional and neutral (implied: because it's eurocentric?) but when you work in this repertoire with European singers who have a phrasing expertise in singing glissandi and ornaments you deliver yourself to the dangerous transgression of 'orientalism'. (There is still a story to write about the false accusations of 'orientalism' for example in early music performance by western modernist musicologists, I guess nobody dares to go on this slippery domain...)"

"More important, Pérès shows that there is no direct line from Machaut towards modernist music (a line Western scholars still implicitly and all to often draw and which is revealed through their common sense knowledge and aesthetical preconceptions) without the bending, the cracking and continuous bifurcation of that line passing through 'minor voices', and 'minor voice techniques' who realize something of Machaut's notation what was never heard before and challenge all our preconceived historical and aesthetical ideas."


I haven't decided if I will respond; I probably will.  But I want to think about it and prepare some comments which address his points in a meaningful way.

Very interesting, I think, for him to respond so fully - 2,399 words to my little review.

Offline JCBuckley

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #141 on: January 31, 2017, 12:50:15 PM »
this is very interesting & rather impressive - thank you

Offline San Antone

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #142 on: February 01, 2017, 06:04:42 AM »
It is getting interesting ... I went ahead and posted a reply, and then Schmelzer came back and left another long comment. 

All very interesting and enlightening. 

You can read my response and his latest here.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #143 on: February 01, 2017, 08:07:36 AM »
One idea seems to be that there's no privileged link between the way western classical singers read a score and Machaut's score (I bet he's right!) When he says

Quote
More important, Pérès shows that there is no direct line from Machaut towards modernist music (a line Western scholars still implicitly and all to often draw and which is revealed through their common sense knowledge and aesthetical preconceptions) without the bending, the cracking and continuous bifurcation of that line passing through ‘minor voices’, and ‘minor voice techniques’ who realize something of Machaut’s notation what was never heard before and challenge all our preconceived historical and aesthetical ideas.


I don't know if he's referring to some history work by Peres.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2017, 08:11:46 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #144 on: February 01, 2017, 08:43:48 AM »
One thing Schmelzer cleared up was the issue of Corsican singers: He did not use them.  Peres either used some or used aspects of their singing style (but I am pretty sure he did use a few of the singers).  I replied that I can only surmise that the misconception was a result of a conflation of his recording with Peres's.

Schmelzer is passionate about releasing early music from the strictures of conservatory singing traditions and classical music biases.  This of course flies in the face of the enormous amount of scholarly work done and being done concerning the music of the 12th-16th centuries.  But I don't think his interpreation should be seen as a judgment on other performance techniques or the "legacy of recordings" (my phrase) of which he does not wish his to be included.  He views what he has done as simply "another way" and certainly not an extension or elaboration of what has been done before.

I now have a much greater appreciation for what he is doing and no doubt wil hear his recording of the mass with very different ears.

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #145 on: February 01, 2017, 09:45:58 AM »
One thing Schmelzer cleared up was the issue of Corsican singers: He did not use them.  Peres either used some or used aspects of their singing style (but I am pretty sure he did use a few of the singers).  I replied that I can only surmise that the misconception was a result of a conflation of his recording with Peres's.

Schmelzer is passionate about releasing early music from the strictures of conservatory singing traditions and classical music biases.  This of course flies in the face of the enormous amount of scholarly work done and being done concerning the music of the 12th-16th centuries.  But I don't think his interpreation should be seen as a judgment on other performance techniques or the "legacy of recordings" (my phrase) of which he does not wish his to be included.  He views what he has done as simply "another way" and certainly not an extension or elaboration of what has been done before.

I now have a much greater appreciation for what he is doing and no doubt wil hear his recording of the mass with very different ears.

I think his point about conservatory training is common sense.   Singers would be trained on the job, so to speak,  learning from family members, older associates, and (for in church music) whoever was in charge of the singing at an individual church.  Perhaps the closest analogue in our time is the local church choir.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #146 on: February 01, 2017, 10:06:09 AM »
I think his point about conservatory training is common sense.   Singers would be trained on the job, so to speak,  learning from family members, older associates, and (for in church music) whoever was in charge of the singing at an individual church.  Perhaps the closest analogue in our time is the local church choir.

However, during the 14th century (and before) there existed a formal system of training young men at schools associated with cathedrals.  There was also a burgeoning trend towards the establishment of universities, in Paris and Bologna for example, and religious clerical training (which most if not all Medieval and Renaissance composers received).  The skills required to perform early polyphony were not learned haphazard but were drilled into singers over a period of years.  Some was via an oral tradition passed on while singers were employed in a cathedral or court choir, but much collected in contemporary treatises as proscriptive practice.

Our conservatory system is an extension of what was done in earlier periods which was more formal than what you describe.

That said, a certain amount of ossification of the styles used when performing this music has occurred (Richard Taruskin has been the most articulate critic of performance trends in early music).  It has almost been implied that early music musicians are archivists instead of creative musical interpreters.

So, I support Schmelzer and others in their desire to free the field from any stagnation of interpretive choices.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #147 on: February 01, 2017, 10:42:28 AM »
However, during the 14th century (and before) there existed a formal system of training young men at schools associated with cathedrals.  There was also a burgeoning trend towards the establishment of universities, in Paris and Bologna for example, and religious clerical training (which most if not all Medieval and Renaissance composers received).  The skills required to perform early polyphony were not learned haphazard but were drilled into singers over a period of years.  Some was via an oral tradition passed on while singers were employed in a cathedral or court choir, but much collected in contemporary treatises as proscriptive practice.

Our conservatory system is an extension of what was done in earlier periods which was more formal than what you describe.


Do you think that shows that the path from Machaut through the cathedral schools to the conservatories is privileged, has a special status in terms of how to makes sense of the score? 

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #148 on: February 01, 2017, 11:29:51 AM »
Do you think that shows that the path from Machaut through the cathedral schools to the conservatories is privileged, has a special status in terms of how to makes sense of the score?

No more than exists throughout the Classical music canon.  The difference is our lack of knowledge with regard to early music is greater than it is for other periods; but we are not entirely devoid of knowledge.  As I posted previously, there has been an huge anount of musicological work that has been done (going back well over 100 years); countless articles and books written on the interpretation of manuscripts, music theory and practical performance practice for music of the 12th-16th centuries.

Schmelzer, and to some extent Peres, represent the minority view; but conclusions about performance are less sure than they once were.  Some big changes in attitudes have occurred, e.g., instruments are no longer used in sacred music from the period as had been done in the first few decades of early music performance/recordings.  A surer notion of pitch and the makeup of ensembles; less use of the “Renaissance fair” approach to presenting the music as raucous peasant dance music.  So some evolution and a sophistication, if you will, of style has occurred.

However, at the same time, the more knowledge we gain the more we realize how little we really know.   This has produced a tendency against doctrinaire views and more openness to alternative approaches.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #149 on: February 01, 2017, 12:33:37 PM »
No more than exists throughout the Classical music canon.

I need to think about this.
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #150 on: July 28, 2017, 12:45:38 AM »
The Orlando Consort's latest installment in their Machaut series has been released:

Guillaume de Machaut (c1300-1377)
Sovereign Beauty
The Orlando Consort



Recording details: January 2015
Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Loughton, Essex, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: July 2017
Total duration: 63 minutes 26 seconds

Cover artwork: Venus presented with hearts (L’Epître d’Othéa, Harley 4431, f.100, 1410/11).
© British Library Board. All Rights Reserved / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Online Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #151 on: August 11, 2017, 11:52:27 AM »
The Orlando Consort's latest installment in their Machaut series has been released:

Guillaume de Machaut (c1300-1377)
Sovereign Beauty
The Orlando Consort



Recording details: January 2015
Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Loughton, Essex, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: July 2017
Total duration: 63 minutes 26 seconds

Cover artwork: Venus presented with hearts (L’Epître d’Othéa, Harley 4431, f.100, 1410/11).
© British Library Board. All Rights Reserved / Bridgeman Art Library, London

If you listen to what they do in The Lay of Consolation they  don't "sing forth" like an opera singer or "belt it out" like a musical singer, the sound they produce is modest and small and there's only very subtle perceptible vibrato. I don't know whether you have this tradition in the US, but I bet they get their inspiration partly from traditional U.K. folk singers. I  like the way they don't  impose themselves on you, bully you into sharing the music. They gently but firmly take you by the hand and lead you through the music.

Are they good enough with the words to bring it off? I mean, do they make it sound like a meaningful poem, a heartfelt poem? I'm inclined to say yes, but they're certainly not as good as Alfred Deller or Jantina Noorman were in that respect, and their austere style is really crying out for someone with a real talent for the words.

Anyway, it's good to have this version to contrast with Davies Bros., who sound more extrovert to me, more "romantically" expressive - their sound engineering contributes to this I'd say, as does their vibrato.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 12:08:10 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Omicron9

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #152 on: August 23, 2017, 06:06:38 AM »
And this:

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #153 on: January 01, 2018, 04:55:11 AM »
This new recording of Machaut's Messe by Vienna Vocal Consort:

https://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/classical/products/8347958--machaut-nostre-dame

The notes mentions five singers, (female) soprano, (female) alto, tenor, baryton and bass. The notes are not clear about it, but I can not hear that the soprano participates, and if she does it must be in her lowest tessitura. Maybe she sings on the other pieces on this CD, among others a Magnificat octavi toni by de la Rue.

The interpretation is middle of the road in a most positive sense, tempi relatively fast but not too fast. Only very sparse vibrato is used. The group blends extremely well and still every voice is clearly audible. The tenor does not stick out and the (somewhat androgyne) alto is not allowed to steal the show. Some individual decisions about musica ficta have been made, as with every recording of this Messe. The general impression is not unsimilar to Wenzinger's  recording, even if this is performed in low tessitura with two tenors and two basses.

Much recommended.

I didn't see this post back in October and am always thrilled to see new recordings of the Machaut mass.  I have just purchased downloads of this recording and am listening to it right now. 

The first thing I noticed is that this is a performance styled version, i.e. missing the insertions for an actual liturgical setting - which is often the case but is not a choice that I think benefits the effect of Machaut's music.  And while I prefer an all male group for this work, the female alto does not stick out and the singing is not at all operatic.  The audio engineers captured an acoustic on the dry side which clearly displays the polyphony, but also produces a somewhat severe sound.  In a phrase this is the opposite to Schmelzer, but also sounds somewhat anemic.

The use of ficta is limited to cadential leading tones and will produce cross relations here and there, which might strike some ears as harsh, but is idiomatic based on what we know of the 14th century sacred performance style and is the one exciting aspect of the performance.

After one listening, this is certainly not my favorite recording, Mary Berry holds that position, but I would place this one above the line of those recordings I prefer because it is OVPP, lower range and in general presents a conservative performance.  However, without the liturgical insertions the polyphony is laid bare and the entire work, stripped of its context, loses much of its power.

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #154 on: October 10, 2018, 09:36:02 PM »


Listening to this new recording of Machaut songs by Orlando Consort, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how much of Machaut’s music is based on a formulaic model-based approach, and is essentially good but mainstream craftsmanship.

The Orlando approach seems to invite me to engage with the music at arms length, most of what they do isn’t particularly affective. Maybe for Machaut’s audience, who not only had a more immediate grasp of the words, but also had more empathy for all the numerological or alchemical ideas probably contained in the poems and the music, this sort of abstract appreciation would be more satisfying. But for a modern audience a more emotionally demonstrative reinterpretation may be more communicative.

I don’t mean what I say above to be a comment reflecting equally on all of the music on this disc, S’onques doloreusement and  Dame, comment qu’aimez for example is much more emotionally engaging and certainly does not give the impression of formulaic music.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2018, 09:00:56 PM by Mandryka »
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #155 on: October 11, 2018, 01:19:43 PM »


Listening to this new recording of Machaut songs by Orlando Consort, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how much of Machaut's music is based on a formulaic model-based approach, and is essentially good but mainstream craftsmanship.

The Orlando approach seems to invite me to engage with the music at arms length, most of what they do isn’t particularly affective. Maybe for Machaut’s audience, who not only had a more immediate grasp of the words, but also had more empathy for all the numerological or alchemical ideas probably contained in the poems and the music, this sort of abstract appreciation would be more satisfying. But for a modern audience a more emotionally demonstrative reinterpretation may be more communicative.

I don’t mean what I say above to be a comment reflecting equally on all of the music on this disc, S’onques doloreusement and Dame, comment qu’aimez for example is much more emotionally engaging and certainly does not give the impression of formulaic music.

There are two recordings of the Lay de Confort, one on the above Orlando recording and one here which I find less stimulating 




Orlando present it as a canon for three voices and Brüggen as a song for voice and two melody instruments. Presented as a canon it sounds to me like absolutely nothing else I’ve ever heard, music from Mars, more complex and more subtle than the most complex and subtle ars subtilior, more contrapuntally multi-layered than a baroque fugue.

Orlando believe their voice only treatment has this consequence

Quote
The effect of the canonic structure is that the rhyme sounds follow each other three times in quick succession and sometimes coincide in two of the voices.
.

The words are available, and we get helpful clues about the deeper meaning of the music e.g.

Quote
The compositional idea behind the repeating canon structure was probably to evoke the eternal rotation of Fortune’s wheel.

The  Orlandos have got very good at singing this sort of material. The lay is divided into several parts marked by changes in rhythm, and I’d say that Part II is some of the best and most intriguing medieval singing I’ve ever heard.

Basically this is astonishing, challenging, exciting music, performed with tremendous commitment and authority. I really had no idea that music could sound like this.


« Last Edit: October 11, 2018, 09:02:43 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline JBS

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #156 on: October 12, 2018, 04:25:10 PM »
Mandryka, thanks for this.
The CD is currently in transit to me, so I'll probably chime in with my own reaction sometime next week.

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #157 on: October 12, 2018, 08:43:18 PM »
 

The CD opens and closes with the same motet (called De Fortune) opening with it for 3 voices and closing with it in a much shorter version for 4   - it’s an interesting concert type of gesture, it makes me think that they conceive of the CD as a recital. How very annoying that Orlando don’t do Machaut concerts, at least not as far as I can see. They recorded De fortune years ago in their 1999 Machaut CD. They’ve become tougher and less languid, less sensual. This is really going in the opposite direction from the trend in early music.

In the motet Dame comment qu’aimez, it’s as if they’ve developed a wholly original means of expression, abstracted and yet full of feeling. The voice of a disembodied platonic form (sorry! Couldn’t resist!) I’d love to hear them singing the sailor’s song at the start of Tristan like this.

They don’t use instruments in this motet or indeed in any other piece of by Machaut, even going as far as to improvise vocalise for untexted music. I remember they do that in de Vitri  too, so it must be a policy.  I suppose they do it because none of them play an instrument well enough and they don’t want to bring others in. It sounds fine to me, but I can’t follow the old French when they sing - to someone who was listening to the words it might be a problem. I doubt it's true to C14 practice, as far as I know the iconographic and literary record indicates singers and instrumentalists -- but I could be wrong. It's frustrating they don't discuss it anywhere as far as I can see.

They’re producing some extraordinary recordings at the moment, one after the other in a pretty short time - two Machaut CDs this year and a CD of early English music. And they're touring singing motets in screenings of Dreyer's Jeanne d'Arc -- I guess the film puts bums on seats.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 12:50:56 AM by Mandryka »
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #158 on: October 13, 2018, 02:59:03 AM »



Some of the courage of the Orlando approach becomes clear in the song Dame vostre doulz viaire. This is a frequently performed song with several verses, some of which are repeated, it lasts about 5 minutes. No one has dared to do it on record like the Orlando Consort - solo tenor, in this case Mark Dobell. He has, as they say, nowhere to hide! Is their courage foolhardy?

Here’s what it looks like on the page, and it looks to me that singing it solo is kind of the “purest” way of reading  the score, even if it may not be what Machaut expected of a performance.



Does Mark Dobell make it affective for his audience? He takes pains to pronounce the words clearly, but obviously he’s performing for an audience who don’t have immediate access to medieval French or to medieval ideas. His CV says he was at Cambridge and Guildhall London, and he sounds like it, I mean he sounds like a teacher and scholar from Middle England singing Old French. I repeat: was his courage foolhardy?  I leave the question pregnant and unanswered for the moment, just noting that he may not believe it should be affective - he may think that medieval music is more about  abstract contemplation than about being moved.



Dominique Vellard has a little instrumental prelude and some instruments make a little polyphony to accompany his singing, his voice is beautiful, with a mysterious dreamy quality, there’s  some variation in the instrmental parts but maybe not enough to make it interesting for the duration. Five minutes can be an awfully long time.



Marc Mauillon has a little instrumental group accompanying him, and he sings in an unashamedly sensual way, he takes his time and allows us to relish Machaut’s melodies. He’s much more willing to introduce timbre and dynamics to embellish the music expressively. The result is a more affective performance than either Dobell or Vellard, but IMO it’s bought at the expense of a certain vulgar sentimentality. It’s a price I may be willing to pay.



Clemencic uses one of my favourite instruments, a hurdy gurdy, and his singer has an air of authenticity, I don’t know who it is but hopefully someone can tell me, because I want more of him. Honestly, as soon as he opens his mouth I’m in the Middle Ages - a strange mysterious and slightly dangerous world of extreme tough unsentimental passion. The world of Villon. He’s a singer with blood and tripes.

You can keep the rest, I’m only interested in Clemencic. 
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 03:35:06 AM by Mandryka »
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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #159 on: October 13, 2018, 03:54:20 AM »

They don’t use instruments in this motet or indeed in any other piece of by Machaut, even going as far as to improvise vocalise for untexted music. I remember they do that in de Vitri  too, so it must be a policy.  I suppose they do it because none of them play an instrument well enough and they don’t want to bring others in.

This would be an unusual reason. As you know, there is a school (Christopher Page) which thinks that instruments weren't used for these songs.
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