minstrel: Re: "accurate" medieval performance

Dancing Ferret mail at dancing-ferret.com
Wed Oct 12 12:11:49 PDT 2005

At 03:00 PM 10/12/2005, Barbara Webb <bwebb at inf.ed.ac.uk> wrote:
>Now you may suggest that the way they play these tunes is not medieval;
>but a fair proportion of these CDs is on authentic instruments and you'd
>be hard put to prove "it was never played that way" for _all_ the tracks.
>Sometimes I think their version is a good bit more believable than some of
>the stuffy renditions of these tunes I have heard from 'historically
>authentic' performers (e.g. bagpipe and shawms is a more authentic
>medieval sound than recorder consort).

I hesitate to bring this up here a day before the band arrives to play in 
the US because their upcoming US shows, like most of their other shows, 
involve their usual 8-man consort.  However, they recently completed a very 
ambitious production in Berlin that speaks to the point raised above, 
although it required around 150 musicians to do it.  Corvus Corax felt that 
a lot of the modern symphony performances of the Carmina Burana were really 
missing the point, and that a lot of the instruments and approaches being 
used were not likely to be historically accurate.  To that end, they put 
together a reinterpretation of the Carmina Burana from a more medievally 
authentic viewpoint.  The result was a sold-out show at a gorgeous Berlin 
symphony hall and an album that went top 20.  You can see more about their 
special Carmina Burana project at

The site is in German but the "multimedia" section has photos and video 
clips that will give you a better idea of the scale of production.  The 
album, "Cantus Buranus," speaks for itself and can be found at most good CD 
import shops in the US.

As to the band's usual style aside from the special Carmina project: in 
general, given all of the fightin', raidin', lootin', pillagin' and other 
testosterone-heavy "extreme sports" of the middle ages, I have to believe 
that there would have been (and likely was) a large audience for more 
raucous, uptempo musical presentations.  Corvus Corax would not likely have 
entertained ladies in their sitting rooms, but a lot of soldiers, farmers 
and laborers may have found this style to be just their cup of tea.


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