minstrel: Several Questions, and more on Filk

cynthia j ley cley at juno.com
Wed Mar 22 20:10:17 PST 2000

On Wed, 22 Mar 2000 16:44:11 -0500 (EST) Katy Krieg <katyk at umich.edu>
>According to the stuff I've read, there's a Great Scholarly Debate on
>whether or not instruments were used to accompany voices at all before
>about the Rennaisance.  Christopher Page wrote a good deal on this 
>if you want to look him up.  I personally find it hard to believe that
>people didn't accompany themselves instrumentally before the lute 
>and such, but there is definitely hard evidence for lots of a cappela
>performance.  It might be harder to attract modern audiences used to
>accompaniment, but a cappela performance is certainly period.  

One of the sources for the confusion is that vocal and instrumental music
frequently weren't as clearly delineated as they are today. Instrumental
and voice parts could and did trade off. There are some genres where this
is not true (troubadour music, for instance), but a good case can be made
for the trade-offs otherwise in music which was written down.

Which brings us to one of the problems. Secular music wasn't written down
for a very long time. Still, in hearing of minstrels one hears of singers
and instrumentalists, and professional minstrels were expected to do

The Church had a longstanding tradition of a cappella music ( harkens
back to the idea that the human voice was the only true instrument by
which to praise God), but even this got corrupted fairly early and
instruments were brought in. There are pieces from the Middle Ages
(conducti) which use both.


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