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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Music to Write to: Medieval Music

Image from a 14th C illumination of musicians performing.

I listen to a lot of medieval music, especially when writing.  Whether somewhat modernised or as authentic as they can make it, I don't mind.  I love it all.  Today I thought I'd show you some of my faves amongst the more authentic songs.

Estampie are one group who make music as authentically as they can. I say, "as they can," because we really don't know how the music would have sounded in the long ago.  All they can do is use the instruments that were used in those days, and read the musical notations as best they can with our modern understanding.

Estampie have quite a few songs based around Robin hood, but this is the only one I could find on youtube.  It's a sweet tune with lovely singing in it.   

We think we know so much about history, but actually we know very little, even from as 'short' a way back as 500 years ago.  Our slim knowledge of something as continuous to humanity as music shows us that.

My own current fave instrument, the Anglo-Saxon Harp or Lyre is, so little understood now that we aren't really sure how they played it, or even which way it was strung or tuned.  Peter Horn might have it close, though, at least to one way it might have been played. I'm still playing mine almost every day and loving it, by the way!

Owain Phyfe is rather a hero to medieval music aficionados.  It was so hard to find one song of his to show you.  This one is so pretty and peaceful.  "Since first I saw your Face," by Owain Phyfe and the New World Renaissance Band.     

Oh no, I can't stick at one!  This one is so beautiful.  "In a Garden so Green."

This one is purely voices that build and build.  Lovely.  It is "Laudemus Virginem - Cànon A 3 Veus (Llibre Vermell De Montserrat)" by Ensemble Micrologus & Capella De Música De Santa Maria Del Mar.


Who am I kidding?  I can't stick to five!  This is an Estampie, a medieval dance and musical form, from which the group at the top of the post took their name.  It is performed in this case by Istanpitta 2. It's a lovely bright, full sound, with many different instruments.  Can't you see the people in their gloriously-coloured garments sweeping about as they dance to it?  One of the things Andyroo and I loved most about the SCA was doing these sorts of dances.

And finally, the one that gives me goosebumps every time.  People who've followed my blog for a while might recognise this tune, because I posted a link to a video of Maggie Beth Sand and Serpentyne doing a more modern version of it.

This song, "Stella Splendens," is from the oldest extant manuscript we have that contains music, from the 14th C, called, "Llibre Vermell de Montserrat," the "Red Book of Montserrat".

In this case, it is being performed by Hesperion XXI and La Cappella Reial de Catalunya and directed by Jordi Savall (who is another big name in the medieval music world and who is also playing the Viele etc on the left hand side as well.)

If I had been a really-truly musician, this is the sort of music I would have loved to be able to join in on playing.  Watch their faces as you listen.  Talk about channeling the Divine!  Oh to be up there being a part of creating this wonder!

Bonus points for anyone who spots the Mr Bean character playing the sort-of-recorder!  :)  If you liked that video, you can go to this one and listen to that whole concert, bits of which can bring me to tears with beauty, but I'll understand if you bow out now.  :)




  1. Thank you for writing this post, Tina! It made my creative life even more magical and rich. I'm going to listen to these songs as I write the next chapters (and volumes) of my novel.

    Stella Splendens is majestic! In love with all of them!

    1. Thanks Ba! I love turning people on to new music!


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