minstrel: the earliest Anglo-Saxon music

Finella Harper (MKA Wendy Creek) finella at lightspeed.net
Thu Aug 7 12:20:57 PDT 1997

Fiona P. wrote:
> I'm looking for the earliest possible secular music in our "period".  I'm
> looking for either period things talking about music, actual scores, 20thC
> things writing about this period of music and attempts to create it, and
> any recordings of this music.  I want to be able to either perform existing
> music (if it exists) or give my best shot at re-creating the period style.
> Is anyone able to help me here?

I'll give you one of each. :) For actual early secular music, try
"Medieval Instrumental Dances" edited by Timothy McGee (published by
Indiana University Press c1989 ISBN#0-253-33353-9). This book includes
"all of the compositions that are known or suspected to be instrumental
dances from before c.1430" (this covers a pretty broad period). The
introduction also has quite a bit of writing about vocal and
instrumental dances of the period. 

For other early secular music you might also try any good collection of
troubador or trouvere music (I'd give you a name but I don't happen to
have a good collection of either) from the 11th century or the "Cantigas
de Santa Maria" which, although originally written in praise of the
virgin Mary, have some distinctly secular sentiments in them regarding
love in all of its forms. The "Codex Princeps" is the actual period
document that contains the complete texts and musical notation and it
dates from the second half of the 13th century. I believe Greg Lindahl
earlier posted a web address for facsimile editions of the cantigas.

For a good recording of both troubador music and several of the
Cantigas, try "Troubadours/Cantigas de Santa Maria" by the Clemencic
Consort. It is a 2-CD set put out on the Harmonia Mundi label (the same
label that releases Anonymous Four). You can get a catalogue from
Harmonia Mundi by writing to them at 3364 Robertson Blvd. Los Angeles,
CA 90034. They have many excellent period recordings.

For an excellent treatise on performing period music, try "Medieval and
Renaissance Music; a Performer's Guide" also by Timothy McGee
(University of Toronto Press c1985 ISBN#0-8020-6729-8). 

I know none of these references relate specifically to Anglo-Saxon music
(that's not my specialty) but these are pretty substantial avenues that
are relatively easy to find, and they may give you a start in the
direction you wish to go.

Good luck!


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