Some time ago, I acquired a fan, because sitting in court in summer is hot, and also because one needs a fan in order to whisper behind it. The particular fan I purchased has several poems written on it in Chinese characters.
(As I suspected based on the forms of the poems, it turns out that they are in Chinese — as opposed to Japanese, Korean, etc. — but now I’m getting ahead of myself.)
Today I get to talk about one of my favorite literary genres: the Japanese war tale!
War tales (gunki monogatari) are books of Japanese prose fiction about wars and other military conflicts, primarily written in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (though some of those I’ll discuss are even older). Usually written by anonymous authors or compiled from oral tradition, war tales depict actual historical events and characters in a fictionalized way. Although they’re not always completely historically accurate, war tales are valuable resources for medieval Japanese ideas about specific historical events, the overall meaning of those events, and values about warfare and the people involved in warfare. Continue reading
In 1803, a manuscript was discovered in a Benedictine abbey of Benediktbeuern, 50 km south of Munich, a discovery that was do be crucial to our understanding of Latin secular writing in medieval Europe. Because it was found in Beuren, Johann Andreas Schmeller, who published a complete edition of the poems in 1847, called the manuscript Carmina Burana. Continue reading
As I mentioned earlier, I have been asked to create singable translations for all the pieces at St. Cecilia Press, and I am happy to be able to say that I have finished! (Or, at least, I’m caught up until Monique adds more pieces.)
My recent translations include 16 pieces to accompany Monique’s editions, plus two I’ve done just on my own initiative. 🙂 They are as follows: Continue reading
The reason I’ve been silent for the last month or so is that I’ve been finishing this:
A Collection of Winter Holiday Songs for Medieval & Renaissance Enthusiasts
It’s a big songbook of SCA-Period Christmas carols (and songs for other winter holidays). I’ve been working on it for 2-3 years, and I’m excited to have finally finished it.
The joy of singing holiday songs often comes from revisiting favorites, indulging in memories and joining in the ritual of singing familiar songs with others. I think that’s why many people don’t want to sing SCA-period carols: They want to sing their favorites, and they believe that none of their favorites are old enough to “count”. I hope this songbook will help show that there are plenty of pre-1600 holiday songs that are still popular today.
For example, did you know that the following songs are wholly or partially SCA-period?
- O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
- O Tannenbaum
- What Child Is This?
- The First Nowell
- Ding Dong Merrily on High
- God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
- Good Christian Men, Rejoice
- Christ Was Born on Christmas Day
- The Boar’s Head in Hand Bear I
- Good King Wenceslas
- Auld Lang Syne
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas
I’ve tried to include as many modern favorites as possible, but there are also lots of new songs, too! For more details about how I decided what to include, please read the Forward.
I hope people will find this helpful. As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me.
Here’s the link one more time.
A few things that I’ll fix the next time I update the pdf:
- p. 28: A 2-voice version of “Veni, Veni Emanuel” was discovered by Mary Berry in the 1960s. I’ll include it in the next update. (Also, the second word in verse 2 shouldn’t be capitalized. Whoops!)
- p. 37, 224, & 247: “Sloan” should be spelled “Sloane”.
- p. 37: The missing sign for the D. S. al Fine belongs at measure 1, just after the pickup.
- p. 97: Stella ducte lumine means “drawn by the star’s light”.
- p. 103: I intended to capitalize the song’s title as “Dieux Soit en Cheste Maison”.
- p. 197: “Sellenger’s Round” is found in My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Music (1591) by William Byrd (c. 1540 – 1623).
- p. 230: “Sellenger’s Round” appears in the 1687 edition of The English Dancing Master, not the 1651 edition. Also, the tune appears solidly within SCA Period in My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Music (1591) by William Byrd (c. 1540 – 1623).
Note: For several songs, the popular form of the melody (which I have included) is somewhat modified from the original melody as published in period. One good example is page 120, where the modification and its source are noted in the Index but not in the main body of the book.
To add in the next edition: “Dives and Lazarus”
Another piece from our friend, Guiraut Riquier. I’m so enthusiastic about this guy’s passion for form – and the sincerity of his words – that I want to keep exploring his work! 🙂
In this one, Guiraut experiments with a circular form in which the final line of each stanza is the first line of the next stanza (and the final line of last stanza is, of course, the first line of the poem). In addition, odd-numbered (1, 3, 5) and even-numbered (2, 4, 6) stanzas have an inverted structure: the rhyme pattern of the first half of the odd stanzas is the same as the rhyme pattern of the second half of the even stanzas, and vice versa. Yet the two halves of each stanza are connected because they share a rhyme throughout (lines 2, 4, 7, and 9).
Guiraut employs the same form in the melody. In general, lines that rhyme share melodic information. And he also echoes the two-half structure: In the manuscript, he uses a special sign to indicate that Verses 1, 3, and 5 should be sung as written, but Verses 2, 4, and 6 should be sung differently. For the even-numbered verses, the singer begins on line 6 of the tune and, after reaching the end, returns to the top of the page to eventually end on line 5. I’ve never seen instructions like that for a troubadour piece before, so I am super-excited!
“Be.m meraveill co non es envejos” is an example of one of my favorite genres of music and poetry: trobar.
Sharing this piece is a good chance for me to talk about the process of translating and arranging a work of trobar. And, since this piece also proselytizes quite a bit for Courtly Love, this is a good chance for me to talk about what Courtly Love is.
I was recently made thoughtful by a video I watched about non-complementary behavior. Complementarity is a term used in social psychology to describe personal interactions. In essence, social psychologists have found that behavior tends to invite certain responses in others: Dominant behavior from one person leads to a submissive response from that person’s conversational partner; hostility prompts hostility; friendliness invites friendliness; etc. When people fail to respond in the expected way, they are behaving in a non-complementary fashion. The video I watched is about how responding to hostility with friendliness (not the expected reaction) can lead to positive results.
What struck me most about the video is that, when one of the people interviewed described the way his situation changed as “a miracle”, the narrator questioned his assessment. After explaining the idea of non-complementarity, she concluded, “The March in Selma? Nonviolence in India? Offering a man with a gun at your head a glass of French wine? Those aren’t miracles. They’re examples of non-complementary behavior.”
I was confused, indignant, and intrigued – because all of those things seem like miracles to me. Why would the narrator say that something can’t be a miracle if it also happens to be an example of non-complementary behavior?
The problem seems to be one of definitions: What counts as a miracle? Well, a miracle is something that exists or happens because of a supernatural power. But the narrator of the video seems to believe that a miracle must be something that surpasses normal human ability or defies the laws of physics. This is certainly a well-accepted understanding of the miraculous. Many people would not say that, for example, water boiling on the stove is a miracle – even if it did happen to be caused or inspired by a god or other supernatural entity – because it is normal and, we assume, would have happened even without divine intervention.
How different, I thought, from the view of miracles in the Cantigas de Santa Maria!
For my first post, I think it’s appropriate to begin with my favorite piece ever written.
You should begin by listening to it, because then you’ll fall in love with it, too, and you’ll want to learn more about it.