minstrel: Re: first message on the list and a query

Barbara Webb bwebb at inf.ed.ac.uk
Mon Feb 27 04:19:49 PST 2006

> From: "Kevin Brock" <kevinmbrock at earthlink.net>
> The notion is this: in the 15th century "L'homme arme" masses, the tenor is
> the melody of the tune "L'homme arme" itself. Is it possible to look at some
> contemporary masses and: 1) extract the tenor part so that 2) we can perhaps
> speed up or manipulate the tenor part into creating a viable melody,
> separate from the mass? Think of it as a musical reverse-engineering, of
> sorts. I keep meaning to test this out to see if I can come up with
> potential melodies to songs, but I haven't had time recently.

This is a reasonable observation: tenors were very often taken from 
existing tunes. These were sometimes popular tunes, but more often 
plain-chant melodies (as mentioned by Gregory). Similarly, in earlier 
motets from the 13th/14th century, the tenor is sometimes a popular tune 
(e.g a carol; in one case I can think of, a "street-cry" of "fresh 
strawberries"!) but often a plainchant tune (typically, each line in these 
motets has different words, and the words for the upper lines are anything 
but religious in nature, despite the plain-chant foundation). The tenors 
are usually not slowed down so much in this earlier period, although the 
rhythm may be played around with.

> From: warden <warden_2 at comcast.net>
> On the subject of extracting part of a larger piece into a viable
> melody, I quite agree.  Most of the documented music of the period is
> religious in nature and typically very slow and complicated.  I have had
> some success in finding period tunes buried in larger compositions and
> speeding them up a bit to make them more interesting.

I can't agree with this. There are plenty of simple, lively, non-religious 
tunes documented in period (if you meant, by 'of the period', only the 
late 15th century, then not all the following apply but I would be 
surprised if there are no equivalents...) What about the Carmina Burana; 
estampies, salterellos and later dance tunes; trouvere and minnesinger 
tunes (not all are lively but plenty are); carols and rondellus; etc. 
etc.? You can find references to some useful sources for these here:


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