September 2012 - No. 96
It’s been quite a while since MDC performed an entire program of medieval music, and I had forgotten how much I feel at
home with this repertory. I love the contrast of the languages of the troubadours and trouveres, the occasional tension between
text and music, and the challenge of interpreting and performing music whose original sound is completely unknown. No LPs,
CDs or MP3s from the 12th, 13th or 14th centuries. There’s rarely a clear indication of rhythm or duration of notes. Scholars
specializing in medieval music studies often disagree (sometime with great gusto, but I’m naming to names) so what’s a poor
musician to do?
I like to start by looking at the music itself, modern transcriptions and, if possible, copies of the manuscript, then at the text,
comparing the original language with the translation. Next, I read the words aloud, double checking my pronunciation. I may
hum through the melody alone, before putting words and music together, experimenting with tempo and interpretation of poetry
and melody. Then the fun (truthfully) of working with other musicians, blending sounds of voice (or voices) and instruments,
coming to a tempo consensus. Finally, the actual performance. Music only comes fully alive when there’s an audience, for music
is a conversation between musician and listener.
There’s much more about music and musician in this issue of Codex, so read on. We hope you can join us at one of our
upcoming concerts, and join in our musical conversation.
Music of Diverse
Places & Times
In this first program of our 47th season, we focus on the music
of the Troubadors (Medieval poet-composers of "Occitania", the
southern part of France, writing in Occitan, the language of the area) and the Trouvérs (the northern French counterpart of the Troubadours, writing in early French, spoken in the North. They wrote
of "Courtly Love", love passionate and elevating, for a woman forever unobtainable for a lover who would forever strive to be worthy
of her.
Composers represented in our program include the 12th century
Raimbaud de Vacqueiras and Comtessa da Dia (a Trobaritz, a female Troubador), Petrus de Cruce of the 13th century, and the 14th
century Guillaume de Machaut, famed in his own time as well as
Performing are: Milton Scheuermann (recorders), Thais St. Julien (soprano), Charlotte Pipes (soprano) Bryce Reveley (harp), Stuart LeBlanc (lute), Matthew Hayes (rebec), and Wayne Xia (vielle).
We hope you enjoy this rather seldom performed music as much
as we enjoy performing it for you.
Most Musica da Camera concerts contain music
mostly by unknown or “anonymous” composers. In
the upcoming “Love Is Where You Find It” concert
quite a few of the 12th - 14th century composers
are known.
Those composers are (in chronological order):
Comtessa da Dia (c.1140 - fl.1175)
Raimbaud de Vacqueiras (1155 - 1207)
Petrus de Cruce (c.1250 - after 1300)
Guillaume de Machaut (1300 - 1377)
Here are a few words of introduction about all
of these known composers of our first concert.
Comtessa da Dia, known also as Beatritz or Beatriz de Dia (born c. 1140 - flourished circa 1175, in Provence) was the most famous of a
small group of trobairitz, or female
troubadours who wrote courtly songs
of love during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. She is only known as
the Comtessa de Dia ("Countess
of Dia") in contemporary documents,
but was almost certainly named Beatriz and likely the daughter of Count
Isoard II of Diá (a town northeast of
Montelimar in southern France). According to her vida, she was married to
Guillem or Guilhem de Poitiers, Count of Viennois,
but was in love with and sang
Orange (1146-1173). Typical subject matter used by Comtessa de
Dia in her lyrics includes optimism, praise of herself and her
Thaïs’ cat,
love, as well as betrayal. In A Comtessa da Dia
chantar, Comtessa plays the part
of a betrayed lover, and despite the fact she has
been betrayed, continues to defend and praise herself.
Raimbaud de Vacqueiras was a troubadour
who spent most of his life in Italy at the court of
Boniface II of Montferrat, whom he accompanied
on the Crusade of 1202, The author of the first
known Italian poetry, he was also fluent in other languages - one of his
poems has a verse in each of Provencal, Italian, French, Gascon and
Galician-Portuguese. His Kalenda
maya, now perhaps the best-known
piece in the whole troubadour repertory, owes its dance-like character to
its origins as an estampie played, according to the
14th century descriptions, two minstrels. Thirtytwo of his poems and eight melodies survive.
Petrus de Cruce (Pierre de la Croix) was a
French composer and theorist who lived in Paris,
though it has also been suggested that he was an
Italian who brought his ideas about notation to Paris, since they foreshadowed notational developments in fourteenth century Italy. Although only
two motets are securely to be contributed to him,
they show the real innovation of dividing the breve
into a variable number of semibreves (3 or more) in
the top part or triplum, increasing its domination of
the other two voices and lending it a parlando style
of rapid declamation. His ideas rapidly became
fashionable in late 13th century France.
Guillaume de Machaut was a French composer and poet. He became a priest and in 1323 secretary to the King of Bohemia. From 1340 his principal residence was Rheims. His Mass, La Messe de
Nostre Dame the earliest complete polyphonic setting of the
Ordinary by one composer, is an
important landmark in medieval
music. It may have been intended for Rheims cathedral, which
was dedicated to Our Lady, or
simply as a votive Mass in her
honor. It is not a unified work,
the Gloria and Credo are in conductus style, whereas the other
sections are built on isorhythmic tenors taken from
plainsong Mass chants.
The above information on the composers was taken from
A Dictionary of EARLY MUSIC
From the Troubadours to Monteverdi
by Jerome & Elizabeth Roche
and from
Our previous installment on Milton’s musical
activities ended with his entry into the Tulane
School of Architecture in 1951, and his continuing
activities as piano teacher.
Soon after his graduation in 1956, he was drafted and assigned to the 498th Combat Engineers
Battalion and sent to Fort Ord in California. Finding he had a pianist on hand, the chaplain asked
him to play organ for services; thus did young Milton, after a 3 day “on the job” crash course in sight
reading, become an organist.
Metairie). The ensemble appeared several times on
WYES. Then Stock purchased a German Speerhacke
Milton was fascinated by the instrument, the first
harpsichord he’d ever seen. Naturally, he decided to
build one for himself. He assembled a group of musicians interested in performing with this (as of then)
peculiar instrument, and the Musica da Camera debuted on January 16, 1966 on the Dillard University Lyceum Concert Series. (To be continued.)
For some time, Continuum (MDC’s weekly radio
program devoted to Early Music)) has been aired on
WWNO Sunday mornings at 6 am. Now that the station is broadcasting in HD over 3 different channels,
we’ll still be aired on WWNO - HD1 at 6 am, and will
also be heard on WWNO - HD2 Sundays at 8pm. Listen in, and feel free to contact us at [email protected]
by J. W Swing (Thanks to Jenni Lawson, MDCs
WWNO recording engineer for sharing this with us.)
1. Everyone should play the same piece.
2. Stop at every repeat sign and discus in detail
whether to take this repeat or not. The audience
will love this a lot!
3. If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one
of your partners.
Milton playing soprano in early 1970s.
Photo from Times Picayune.
He was shipped to Leipheim, Germany and
was soon teaching the children of officers, playing
for the Sunday morning Service Club Coffees and
performing on a German radio station. His roommate was a jazz pianist, and the two young musicians thought it might be fun to play recorder duets.
Milton bought his first recorder in Ulm, Germany
but the novelty of recorder duets faded, and he
brought the recorder home with him, virtually untouched.
In 1960, Vere Stock, the South African Council
General in New Orleans, placed a newspaper add
for recorder players to form an ensemble. Milton
replied, and became a member of the “Woodvine
Recorder Consort” (Stock lived on Woodvine St. in
4. Keep you fingering chart handy. You can always
catch up with the others.
5. Carefully tune your instrument before playing.
That way you can play out of tune all night with a
clear conscience.
6. Take your time turning pages.
7. The right note at the worn time is a wrong note
(and vice-versa).
8. If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who
get lost.
9. Strive to get the maximum NPS (notes per second).
That way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.
10. Markings for slurs, dynamics nd ornaments should
not be observed. They are only there to embellish
the score.
11. If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it’s easy,
speed it up. Everything will work itself out in
the end.
12. If you are completely lost, stop everyone and
say, “I think we should tune.”
13. Happy are those who have not perfect pitch, for
the kingdom music is theirs.
14. If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will
be very interested.
15. A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.
16. When everyone else has finished playing, you
should NOT play any notes you have left.
17. A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A
wrong note played with authority is an interpretation.
2727 Prytania Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Tel: 504.895.2266
Fax: 504.895.0111
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]

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