Instrumental Ensembles Depicted In Medieval Manuscripts

It is not easy to recapture music of medieval times but still there are many manuscripts available, which depicted all the changes in music of that time and helped us to organize and understand the history and changes of music of that time.
Manuscripts of middle age describe different theoretical and philosophical concepts of that time as well as all the changes occurred in music and instrumental ensembles from time to time.
Concepts of Instrumental Ensembles in medieval Time
People are more aware of the concept of fixed ensembles in present era and most of the people know that what instruments are used in fixed ensembles than the people of ancient and medieval times.  This knowledge of fixed ensembles helps musicians to compose music for fixed ensembles and performers are also aware that would be expected from them while performing for fixed ensembles.
The case was entirely different in ancient and medieval times. Actually the concept of fixed ensembles with particular instruments was foreign for the people of medieval time. Kenton has written that, “ It must not be forgotten that there was no standard instrumental ensemble at that time, not even for a limited period” (Kenton, p.491-92). Although Reese claimed that “Instrumental style per se was not recognized or discussed by theorists in the fifteenth century, and even as instrumental a repertory as dance accompaniment was not limited to instruments” (Reese, p.143). But, despite this claim, there were ideals of philosophical and theoretical nature, upon which ensembles of middle ages were based.
The first concept of that time was of family. Ensemble instruments, during medieval ages were deigned for families. Thus it is possible that a family with family members of different age groups have several ensemble instruments but of different sizes and range. An ideal ensemble, which was also called pure or unmixed consort, was consisted of the members of the same family.
The other important theoretical concept of that time was identified by Intermedii as the separation of, “'loud' (haut) and the 'soft' (bas) instruments. The wind instruments of the pifarri--the shawms, trumpets, bombardes, and cornetts--would be considered loud. Among the instruments included in the soft category were lutes, vielles, rebecs, flutes, and even human voices. The ideal was that the two categories of instruments would never play together in an ensemble. This, too, is a more Medieval concept, and was decreasingly practiced ". . .though the medieval distinction between haut and bas--loud and soft--had largely broken down by then [mid to late sixteenth century]” (Intermedii, p.79).
But both these concepts were theoretical and were not always followed in real life. Selfridge has rightly said, “". . .there are two ways of approaching instrumental music. One was idealistically and intellectually, as the vocal composers and organists (i.e. the upper stratum of musicians) did, and as Zarlino recommended. The other was realistically and practically, as ensemble instrumentalists and other lesser mortals did (Selfridge, p.187). For example the concept of loud and soft music was not followed by most of the musicians of that time, Young assets that, ". . .strict, either-or classifications such as loud/soft have their place in Medieval theoretical writings, but in practice variety seems to have been the rule” (Young, p.143).
In spite of having solid theoretical and philosophical concept, Musician and composers of medieval time did not give prior importance to arrangement of ensembles. Brown said, “Apparently, then, the concept of a wind band of trombones and cornetts was flexible enough to permit the addition of foreign elements” (Brown, p.61). Composers had used fixed instruments with one or two additional instruments like dolzaine or crumhorn in middle range (Giovanni).
The earliest source or manuscript of medieval music and ensemble instruments in churches, is the account of nun Egeria of her pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 400 A.D. she wrote, “[W]hen the first cock has crowed, forthwith the bishop descends and enters inside of the cave to the Anastasis (the sanctuary). All the doors are opened, and the whole crowd streams into the Anastasis. Here innumerable lights are shining; and when the people have entered, one of the priests says a psalm, and they all respond; then prayer is offered. Again one of the deacons says a psalm, and again prayer is offered; a third psalm is said by one of the clergy, and prayer is offered for the third time, and the commemoration of all men is made....” (Bernard, p. 47). This music and ensemble instruments, used in churches, have been modified over the passage of time, till it came to the present format and form. Charlemagne’s biographer had written that he used to modify and unify the music of church with the Gregorian chant of Rome (McKinnon).
Carolingian and his successor made the first effort to convert music from a practical craft to a liberal art and tried to organize all the musical material available. After Carolingian, Benedictine monks of Solesmes Abbey of France had tried to compile the manuscript of earlier times, especially the manuscripts of Liber Usualis to organize the musical materials (Seay).
Music was considered to be a liberal art in the medieval age and the middle age thinkers classified it as a discipline of mathematics. Theory of music was considered as the study of proportion whereas performing music was considered as a practical craft. Manuscripts of Boethius (480- 524) and Martianus Capella (Early 5th century) also depicted the same bias towards music. Music was reserved for religious offices during these centuries. Manuscripts of Augustine, Isidorus, Cassiodorus and Boethius, which contained works of ensemble instruments and music, all belonged to abbeys and monasteries (Carpenter). Libraries of different monasteries contained large number of manuscripts, which depicted instrumental ensembles of medieval time.
From ninth to twelfth centuries composers and musicians had expanded the canvass of music and made it available for cultural as well as religious ceremonies. Guido De Arezzo (991-1033) had created new notation for music, which helped to write music with more precision (Crocker).
One of the most famous composers of these centuries was Hildegard Von Bingen (1098-1179). She wrote hymns and sequences in the honor of saints, Virgin and Marry. The reason of her accomplishment in music was her extraordinary creativity. She revealed full authority, intelligence and originality in her poetry and melody. She wrote something, which has never written before even though she did not receive any formal education and training. Her music is entirely different from the music of her time. Her melodies contained the leaping and flourishing nodes of two and one octave. Hildegard’s music can only be understood completely in the light of all of her work. The beauty and depth, which is present in her philosophy, theology, medicine and cosmology can all, be found in her music in a condensed form. Hildegard’s music was the symphony of the angels praising God, the balanced proportions of revolving and the hidden design of nature’s design. Her music can be described as the beauty, sound, fragrance etc. she used over 300 times, in her writings, music to illuminate the spiritual truths.
The main quality of Hildegard’s music is its symphony. She made a cycle, which contained the entire symphony into it and called it “The Symphony of the Harmony of the Heavenly Revelations”. This name not only describes the heavenly inspiration of her music but also the place music held in her mind and schema as the highest form to praise God. According to her, music is the best technology that could heal humanity and redirects our hearts towards heaven and God. Symphonia is the key concept in Hildegard’s thought. According to her it not only meant the joyful harmony of voices and musical instruments but it is actually the unity and spiritual harmony we feel when we sing in unison. She was of the opinion that music is a tool to tune the body, heart and mind into a same frequency and enjoys the heavenly harmony on earth. Her books and manuscripts depicted the style of instrumental ensembles of that time.
            In the thirteenth century manuscript of Franco of Cologne, to accommodate the “rhythmic independence” of that time, proposed new “individual note system”. Petrus de Cruce’s (1290) had elaborated this system further in his manuscript and proposed shorter notes for individual notes.
Ensemble Instruments and Music in Fourteenth Century
Thinkers of Fourteenth century depicted drastic changes in music in their manuscripts. Philippe de Vitry (1291-1361) had depicted the changes in music and used the phrase “Ars nova” to record these changes. His manuscript revealed all the changes in musical notation, and the use of rhythmic shapes.  Roman de Fauvel’s manuscript, which was translated in earlier fourteenth century, was the first account of iso-rhythmic motets. It was the most important musical source because it was the only musical manuscript, which survived till fourteenth century. Some other manuscripts were also available at that time but they were only available in the form of fragments and scraps (Hasselman).
Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) was the most renowned composer of fourteenth century. His compositions were copied in many manuscripts of that time. Most famous and important composer of Italy was Francesco Landini (1325-1397), his works were also found in the manuscripts of his time.
Conclusion
In conclusion it can be said that there were many manuscripts from fifth century, which depicted instrumental ensembles of that time. For example Egeria’s account of pilgrimage in fifth century depicted that instrumental ensembles were used in churches at that time.
In earlier centuries of medieval time, thinkers described through their manuscripts that theory of music is a liberal art, whereas performing music was considered as craft. But this bias was clarified in later centuries. In those days, music was restricted and limited to religious ceremonies and churches but afterwards music was modernized and used in cultural ceremonies also.
Manuscripts of thinkers before fourteenth century described different changes in musical notations and instrumental ensembles of that time. Fourteenth century was the century of drastic changes in music and instrumental ensembles. These changes were recorded in the manuscripts of thinkers of that time.
Thus it can easily be said that music and instrumental ensembles were used in religious ceremonies and churches since the very beginning and were depicted in the manuscripts of thinkers and religious people of medieval age.
Thinkers of Fourteenth century depicted drastic changes in music in their manuscripts. Philippe de Vitry (1291-1361) had depicted the changes in music and used the phrase “Ars nova” to record these changes. His manuscript revealed all the changes in musical notation, and the use of rhythmic shapes.  Roman de Fauvel’s manuscript, which was translated in earlier fourteenth century, was the first account of iso-rhythmic motets. It was the most important musical source because it was the only musical manuscript, which survived till fourteenth century. Some other manuscripts were also available at that time but they were only available in the form of fragments and scraps (Hasselman).
Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) was the most renowned composer of fourteenth century. His compositions were copied in many manuscripts of that time. Most famous and important composer of Italy was Francesco Landini (1325-1397), his works were also found in the manuscripts of his time. 

Conclusion

In conclusion it can be said that there were many manuscripts from fifth century, which depicted instrumental ensembles of that time. For example Egeria’s account of pilgrimage in fifth century depicted that instrumental ensembles were used in churches at that time.
In earlier centuries of medieval time, thinkers described through their manuscripts that theory of music is a liberal art, whereas performing music was considered as craft. But this bias was clarified in later centuries. In those days, music was restricted and limited to religious ceremonies and churches but afterwards music was modernized and used in cultural ceremonies also.
Manuscripts of thinkers before fourteenth century described different changes in musical notations and instrumental ensembles of that time. Fourteenth century was the century of drastic changes in music and instrumental ensembles. These changes were recorded in the manuscripts of thinkers of that time.
Thus it can easily be said that music and instrumental ensembles were used in religious ceremonies and churches since the very beginning and were depicted in the manuscripts of thinkers and religious people of medieval age.




Share on Google Plus
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment

0 comments:

Post a Comment