minstrel: Pertaining to Guillaume de Machaut

C&HWood norseman at epix.net
Thu Apr 20 11:20:19 PDT 2000

At 05:42 PM 4/20/00 +0000, you wrote:
>Machaut's pieces for a single voice were meant to be monophonic.  I have
>run across some really wonderful accompaniment parts, usually 19th century
>in origin, but in period the lays, virelais, and the like were all sung
>with at most an instrumental interlude, probably only voice.

While it's true that it would most likely be appropriate to perform the 
monophonic trouvere pieces without accompaniment, it's more controversial 
to say that it's inappropriate to perform high style songs with 
accompaniment.  Christopher Page espoused that position in his book "Voices 
and Instruments of the Middle Ages."  However, there are other scholars who 
hold that accompaniment on instruments is supported by evidence.  Joel 
Cohen wrote an article called Peirol's Vielle which can be linked to from 
the Sca Minstrel page that addresses this.  One quote:

"While we are still far from having a precise idea of what the troubador 
songs sounded like --the jury may be out on that question until the end of 
time -- my reading of the available evidence leads me to conclude that, at 
least some of the time, there was some sort of accompaniment to "high 
style" songs."

Another quote:

"We can at this point only conjecture on the frequency, or rarity, of such 
instrumental participation in performances of "high style" repertoire. 
Troubador songs may have been accompanied in rare, exceptional cases. Or 
they may have been accompanied very often, as a matter of accepted course. 
We know nothing about the nature or musical content of these accompaniments."

Interested folk should read that excellent article.  Based on it and other 
various texts, I personally feel playing simple accompaniments (hopefully 
based on what we know and conjecture about medieval music theory) on 
vielle, harp, and other instruments mentioned at the time period to be 

Linette de Gallardon

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