Thursday, September 18, 2008

Les Escholiers de Paris response

Having listened to the album "Les Escholiers de Paris" now, I can agree with Julie that it is "an amazing CD of Medieval music". The reason she found that some of the songs ran together is because that was the intention of the performers. For example, track 5 (Puisque bele dame m'eime) and track 6 (Par un matinet) were put together because "the beginning of 5 also appears at the end of the upper voice of 6", as stated in the album's booklet. This album is well performed and well laid out, with fantastic variety. The collaboration of instruments, men and women's vocals, and even two languages (French and Latin), gave the album as a whole a wonderful mosaic of styles found in Medieval Paris.

It is a challenge to describe the music on this album with one word, as I could with Hildegard von Bingen's album. The album mostly consisted of motets and chansons, but outside this, there seems to be no central theme in style. The music can sound lilting and mysterious (Biaus m'est este quant retentit la bruille), or it can be lively and joyous (Estampie instrumentale). The music can feature an accompanied singer, an unaccompanied singer, have the singer turn take with the instruments on being the focus, or be instrumental. The instruments also varied in timbre, family, dynamics, etc. Instruments included were harp, gittern, rebec, violin, recorder, bagpipe, shawm, and percussion.

Julie's history given on the named composers gave good overall information about these composers. I, however, decided to read more about the location and circumstances that these Escholiers composed their music. What I found explains further what created such diversity in style, even within this one city. Music Scholars of Paris had many different audiences for which to write. From the church, to the public, to the courts of nobility, these trouveres were not lacking in venues.

Paris was, during this general time, celebrating the completion of world-famous monuments Notre Dame and the Saint-Chapelle, and celebrate they did! With music such as this supplied by these Scholars, who couldn't keep their foot from tapping? (Assuming that was practiced then as well as today...) Religious rites and processions became centralized around these new monuments.

In the courts, musical performers would often be hired to play for one family. This reason was twofold: Firstly, the court of said prince, baron, or other such nobility would commonly be hosting celebrations, and so the performers of that court would provide the musical entertainment. Secondly, nobility enjoyed music enough to hire on-call musicians to play whenever the family thought fit, which could range from dinner music to sheer boredom. Performers practiced daily after vespers to have their repertoire always prepared for such circumstances.

Julie expressed her preference for female vocals and French. I, for one, adore instrumental music, especially strings. Had Julie and I been residents of Medieval Paris and held these differences, I am sure then, by the sound of this album, there would be no need for rivalry. The Scholars of Paris were wise performers by not limiting their repertoire, and definitely historical figures that aspiring musicians even today can revere.


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