minstrel: medieval accompaniment

yarrowp yarrowp at mscd.edu
Thu Dec 27 07:37:03 PST 2001

These are *excellent* thoughts.

Using the ap Huw concepts of tyniad and cyweirdant (sp? - I don't have my 
notes handy) as a basic framework to apply to other medieval music is a 
powerful concept.  I think you'll find it works perfectly with Sumer is Icumen 
In, for example.  Another thought on these lines:  remember your chord 
inversions.  The ap Huw material uses a 6/4 chord (second inversion) 
interchangeably with a 5/3 chord (home position).  You could thus substitute 
the fifth note of each chord, sans root, as your drone for a second variation.

When you refer to the next door position, are you meaning next-adjacent 
chords?  The ap Huw material often follows this formula, but sometimes it uses 
chords with fifth relations ala tonic and dominant.  If I recall correctly, 
the next-adjacent double tonic formula is prevalent in early Scottish music, 
as well.

You may want to try adding thirds for 14th century music, particularly if your 
piece has a British or Scandinavian origin.

The idea of stripping down the tune to its bones is an excellent one.  You can 
prolong this basic melody while playing the variations or verses above it, 
somewhat in the manner of a motet.

It's also possible to ornament the melody as your accompaniment, thus giving a 
heterophonic texture to the piece.

Wonderful post, Caitlin!


>===== Original Message From Barbara Webb <b.h.webb at stir.ac.uk> =====
>> How do you
>> accompany medieval music (as opposed to Renaissance--I play early period
>> music--nothing after 1400, really) on a plucked string instrument?
>A question I've thought about a lot as I also play mostly pre-1400 music.
>I play harp but my husband plays a fretted oud, citole and fiddle.
>Your basic ideas - finding a drone and doubling the tune intermittently,
>are ones we also use, and are appropriate I think. A few other ideas we've
>picked up or stumbled across:
>- 'home' and 'away' - if you think of the drone (and fifth) as 'home',
>many medieval pieces have a form that nicely rocks between the home and
>the next door position. You already mention this as a 'moving' drone;
>another approach is to think of going from the notes between the staves to
>the notes on the staves. This idea comes partly from the Robert ap Huw
>manuscript which gives a 'binary' code for the structure of each piece
>e.g. "1011011 1011011" where "1" is 'home' and "0"is 'away'. It is a
>useful exercise to analyse a medieval tune into its "10" pattern and have
>that in mind as your 'chord sequence'. You can for example use this to
>generate a 'cantus firmus' for a piece that uses the right pattern of home
>and away notes...
>- Try treating a (constant) drone as percussion - i.e. what variety of
>rhythms can you generate from the one note?
>- playing in parallel fifths or fourths or octaves
>- varying this with contrary motion - if the tune goes up, go down and
>viceversa, generating a simple counter melody
>- play a skeletal version of the melody, or taking the key notes, find a
>different way to go from one to the next than the actual tune
>- echo the ends of phrases or anticipate patterns, or as you say, find
>'fills' for the pauses in the tune
>I'd be happy to see other people's input on this question!

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