Does it *sound* period?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrew Draskoy)
Subject: Re: Authenticity & Analogy
Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1992 19:39:57 GMT
Bertram proposed a model for analysing songs/performances to
determine acceptability for authenticity, on the criteria of tune,
lyrics/language, and instrumentation.
What to sing and how to sing it while maintaining that "A-feeling" has
been my main focus in the society. I've come up with what I feel is a
satisfactory approach. Let me see if I can put it in words. (I should
explain that I sing folk, traditional, and other songs outside the SCA.)
When I learn a new piece, I look at it's elements to see if they are
period, blatantly non-period, or somewhere in between. I also check
my overall impression of the piece, since quantitative analysis only
works so well on an abstract artistic object. If *any* element is
obviously non-period to my perception (being vaguely knowledgable about
it) then I won't sing it at an event, though I might consider it at a
post-revel. Period english songs are unfortunately rare, so I think
it's valid to flesh out a repertoire with pieces that still maintain
a period feel.
I look at slightly different elements than Bertram suggests. Keeping
in mind that I haven't done this consciously, here's my stab at a checklist
(everything here is personal opinion, BTW.)
Sorry, this is off the top of my head and not as coherent as I would like,
but I'll send it anyway to stimulate further discussion.
- 1) melody
If separated from playing-style and arrangement, I consider this the
least worrisome of the lot. Melodies are the least-restricted part
of a song, so it is harder to be blatantly non-period here. The
rythmic structure of the melody is the part that will most likely
"give away" an OOP tune. Modern scales are mostly a subset of those
used in period, so that's less of of problem. Knowledge of hexachords
and such might be useful in analysing a melody, if you wanted to do it
methodically. Certain motifs appear in a lot of modern music, and of
course they shouldn't be there for a period-style performance.
- 2) arrangement
- i) instrumentation
So far as I can tell, the most common way to perform a song in the
Middle Ages in most places was without accompaniment. For some
places and times, instrumental accompaniment on particular instruments
may sometimes be appropriate. Period-style instruments are hard
to come by, but modern equivalents played in period style can
still provide the appropriate feel. (i.e. modern recorders or
neo-celtic harps vs. Medieval or Renaissance ones). Modern variants
of late period instruments are considered jarringly OOP by most
people (e.g. guitars), so I personally won't use them except at
post-revs. I am also rather affronted by the fake lutes-strung-and-
tuned-and-played-like-a-guitar that I have seen at Pennsic,
but maybe that's just me.
- ii) harmony
Any accompaniment or vocal harmony should use intervals that were
used in the appropriate place and time, not modern chords.
- 3) lyrics
- a) language
- i) period dialect
Period pieces in the original language are wonderful to hear.
Personally, I get someone to teach me how to pronounce the dialect
in question so that I don't mangle it too much.
- ii) modern English
Most people don't understand period dialects. I love singing
Anglo-Norman songs, but they're not so good for telling a story,
getting a message accross, or keeping attention on a performance.
Either poetic translations or songs in modern English can still
have a period feel. It's a matter of content and idiom. Look
at the old Child ballads (the ones he documents as coming from
period sources) as examples of songs that have evolved from period
to modern language. Also, some other languages have a rich
folk-heritage of old songs, which are documentably period.
Hungary, for example.
- b) references
any references to OOP objects, events, times, and places obviously
destroys any possibility of a period feel.
- c) form
I mean this in a poetic sense - rhyme and metre and all that.
Some forms are period, some aren't. (BTW, I have yet to find
a book of poetry forms that consistently includes chronological
information. References would be appreciated!)
- d) style
This is hard to define. It includes symbolism, idioms, stock
phrases, common analogies and plot elements. Basically, the things
that are different between a period story and a modern one. One way
to develop a sense of this is to read lots of period stories
and listen to and study lots of period songs.
- 4) singing/playing style
It is difficult for most musicians to keep modern techniques,
styles of improvisation and ornamentation out of their performance
and substitute period ones. Still, that's what you have to do.
I love playing recorder with Highland bagpipe ornamentation, vibrato,
and four-note pitch-bends, but recorders were probably not played that
way in period. Similarly, a blues or jazz feel would ruin a period song.
References (from memory - I'll double-check later):
McGee, Timothy; Medieval and Renaissance Music - A Performers Guide
Child, Francis J.; English and Scottish Popular Ballads
- a study of Hungarian folk song - I don't recall the
title, send email if you want bibliographic data.
Miklos, singer in herald's clothing
beyond the Glass Mountain, farther than the birds fly
dancing away in far Ar n-Eilean-ne
Gregory Blount of Isenfir