Wednesday, January 7, 7970

Goliard beginnings (b. c. 970) - Lyres

[From the 11th-13th Century Carmina Burana, Benediktbeurn Monastery, a collection of Goliard love and vagabond songs]

The Goliards were a group of clergy who wrote bibulous, satirical Latin poetry in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They were mainly clerical students at the universities of France, Germany, Italy, and England who protested the growing contradictions within the Church, such as the failure of the Crusades and financial abuses, expressing themselves through song, poetry and performance.

Anonymous Goliard (b. c. 970) - Carmina Burana (1000-1200) - O Roma Nobilis (1000) (Lyre)

The derivation of the word "Goliard" is uncertain. It may simply come from the Latin gula, gluttony. It was said by them to originate from a mythical "Bishop Golias," a mediæval Latin form of the name Goliath, the giant who fought King David in the Bible, suggestive of their posing as heavy drinking yet learned students who lampooned the ecclesiastical and political establishment. Many scholars believe it goes back to a letter between St. Bernard and Innocent II, in which he referred to Pierre Abélard as Goliath, thus creating a connection between Goliath and the student adherents of Abélard. Others support its derivation from gailliard, a "gay fellow."

The satires were meant to mock and lampoon the Church. For example, at St. Remy, the goliards went to mass in procession each trailing a herring on a string along the ground, the game being to step on the herring in front and keep your own herring from being trod on. In some districts, there was the celebration of the ass, in which a donkey dressed in a silly costume was led to the chancel rail where a cantor chanted a song of praise. When he paused, the audience would respond: "He Haw, Sire Ass, He haw!". The University of Paris complained:
"Priests and clerks.. dance in the choir dressed as women...they sing wanton songs. They eat black pudding at the altar itself, while the celebrant is saying Mass. They play dice on the altar. They cense with stinking smoke from the soles of old shoes. They run and leap throughout the church, without a blush of their own shame. Finally they drive about the town and its theatres in shabby carriages and carts, and rouse the laughter of their fellows and the bystanders in infamous performances, with indecent gestures and with scurrilous and unchaste words."

The Goliards used sacred sources like texts from the Roman Catholic Mass and Latin hymns and warped them to secular and satirical purposes in their poems. The jargon of scholastic philosophy also frequently appears in their poems, either for satirical purposes, or because these concepts were familiar parts of the writers' working vocabulary. Their satires were almost uniformly directed against the church, attacking even the pope. The Goliard were a protest movement and marked a distinct step in the growing criticism of Church abuses from within its own ranks.

The Goliards faced retribution from the Church. In 1227, the Council of Treves forbade them from taking part in the chanting service. In 1229, Goliards played a part in disturbances at the University of Paris in connection with intrigues of the papal legate. They were the subject of numerous Church councils, notably in 1289, where it was ordered "no clerks shall be jongleurs, goliards or buffons," and in 1300 at Cologne, when they were forbidden to preach or engage in the indulgence traffic. Often the "privileges of clergy" were withdrawn entirely from the Goliards.

Much of the Carmina Burana collection of Latin poetry belongs to this school. One Goliardic author, otherwise anonymous, has been given the name of the Archpoet. Other Goliards whose names are known include Peter of Blois and Walter of Châtillon.

The Goliards have literary significance in that they wrote Latin verse in a more natural stress-based prosody and helped free Latin from the Procrustean bed of Greek prosody. This literary movement ultimately made possible new sacred Latin verse, such as Thomas of Celano's Dies Iræ or St Thomas Aquinas's Pange Lingua, sequences written in Latin poetic forms the Goliards helped to develop.

The word "goliard" outlived the original meaning and passed over into the French and English literature of the 14th Century, generally meaning jongleur (juggler!) or wandering minstrel, no longer related to its original clerical association. It is thus used in Piers Plowman and by Chaucer.

In medieval music, the rhythmic modes were patterns of long and short durations (or rhythms) imposed on written notes which otherwise appeared to be identical.

The Rhythmic modes were the first indication in written music of specified duration of the note since ancient Greece.

They used stereotyped combinations of ligatures (joined noteheads) to indicate the patterns of long notes (longs) and short notes (breves), enabling a performer to recognize which of the six rhythmic modes was intended for a given passage. The reading and performance of the music notated using the rhythmic modes was thus based on context. After recognizing which of the six modes applied to a passage of neumes, a singer would generally continue on in that same mode until the end of a phrase, or a cadence. In moderni editions of medieval music, ligatures are represented by horizontal brackets over the notes contained within it.

There were six rhythmic modes, as first explained in the anonymous treatise of about 1240, De mensurabili musica (formerly attributed to Johannes de Garlandia, who is now known to have edited it extensively in the late 13th century). Each mode consisted of a short grouping of long and short note values ("longs" and "breves") corresponding to a metrical foot, as follows:

Long-short (trochee) [quarter / eighth - standard 6/8 or 3/8 feel]

Short-long (iamb) [eighth / quarter - the snap rhythm]

Long-short-somewhat short (dactyl) [dotted quarter / eighth / quarter]

Short-somewhat short-long (anapest) [eighth / quarter/ dotted quarter]

Long-long (spondee) [two dotted quarters]

Short-short-short (pyrrhic) [three eighths]

Although this system of six modes was recognized by medieval theorists, in practice only the first three appear to have been the standard patterns of the modal period, with the second mode being less frequently used than the first and third. The fourth mode is almost never seen, and the fifth and sixth are hardly modes at all in view of their uniform rhythm.


The lyre is a stringed musical instrument well known for its use in Classical Antiquity and later. The recitations of the Ancient Greeks were accompanied by lyre playing. The lyre of Classical Antiquity was ordinarily played by being strummed with a plectrum, like a guitar or a zither, rather than being plucked, like a harp. The fingers of the free hand silenced the unwanted strings in the chord.

Lyres from various times and places are regarded by some organologists (specialists in the history of musical instruments) as a branch of the zither family, a general category which includes many different stringed instruments, such as lutes, guitars, kantele, and psalteries, not just zithers.

One point on which organologists universally agree is that the distinction between harps on the one hand and zithers and lyres (and, in some views, lutes) on the other is that harps have strings emanating directly from the soundboard and residing in a plane that is basically perpendicular to the soundboard, as opposed to the other instruments, whose strings are attached to one or more points somewhere off the soundboard (e.g., wrest pins on a zither, tailpiece on a lyre or lute) and lie in a plane essentially parallel to it. They also agree that neither the overall size of the instrument nor the number of strings on it have anything to do with its classification. For example, small Scottish and Irish harps can be held on the lap, while some ancient Sumerian lyres appear to have been as tall as a seated man (see Kinsky; also Sachs, History ..., under "References"). Regarding the number of strings, the standard 88-key piano has many more strings than even the largest harp.

A classical lyre has a hollow body or sound-chest (also known as soundbox or resonator). Extending from this sound-chest are two raised arms, which are sometimes hollow, and are curved both outward and forward. They are connected near the top by a crossbar or yoke. An additional crossbar, fixed to the sound-chest, forms the bridge which transmits the vibrations of the strings. The deepest note was that farthest from the player's body; as the strings did not differ much in length, more weight may have been gained for the deeper notes by thicker strings, as in the violin and similar modern instruments, or they were tuned by having a slacker tension. The strings were of gut. They were stretched between the yoke and bridge, or to a tailpiece below the bridge. There were two ways of tuning: one was to fasten the strings to pegs which might be turned; the other was to change the place of the string upon the crossbar; probably both expedients were used simultaneously.

According to ancient Greek mythology, the young god Hermes created the lyre from a large tortoise shell (khelus) which he covered with animal hide and antelope horns. Lyres were associated with Apollonian virtues of moderation and equilibrium, contrasting with the Dionysian pipes and aulos, both of which represented ecstasy and celebration.

Locales in southern Europe, western Asia, or north Africa have been proposed as the historic birthplace of the genus. The instrument is still played in north-eastern parts of Africa.
Some of the cultures using and developing the lyre were the Aeolian and Ionian Greek colonies on the coasts of Asia (ancient Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) bordering the Lydian empire.

Some mythic masters like Orpheus, Musaeus, and Thamyris were believed to have been born in Thrace, another place of extensive Greek colonization. The name kissar (kithara) given by the ancient Greeks to Egyptian box instruments reveals the apparent similarities recognized by Greeks themselves. The cultural peak of ancient Egypt, and thus the possible age of the earliest instruments of this type, predates the 5th century classic Greece. This indicates the possibility that the lyre might have existed in one of Greece's neighboring countries, either Thrace, Lydia, or Egypt, and was introduced into Greece at pre-classic times.

The number of strings on the classical lyre varied at different epochs, and possibly in different localities – four, seven and ten having been favorite numbers. They were used without a fingerboard, no Greek description or representation having ever been met with that can be construed as referring to one. Nor was a bow possible, the flat sound-board being an insuperable impediment. The plectrum, however, was in constant use. It was held in the right hand to set the upper strings in vibration; when not in use, it hung from the instrument by a ribbon. The fingers of the left hand touched the lower strings (presumably to silence those whose notes were not wanted).

There is no evidence as to the stringing of the Greek lyre in the heroic age. Plutarch says that Olympus and Terpander used but three strings to accompany their recitation. As the four strings led to seven and eight by doubling the tetrachord, so the trichord is connected with the hexachord or six-stringed lyre depicted on so many archaic Greek vases. The accuracy of this representation cannot be insisted upon, the vase painters being little mindful of the complete expression of details; yet one may suppose their tendency would be rather to imitate than to invent a number. It was their constant practice to represent the strings as being damped by the fingers of the left hand of the player, after having been struck by the plectrum which he held in the right hand. Before Greek civilization had assumed its historic form, there was likely to have been great freedom and independence of different localities in the matter of lyre stringing, which is corroborated by the antique use of the chromatic (half-tone) and enharmonic (quarter-tone) tunings pointing to an early exuberance, and perhaps also to an Asiatic bias towards refinements of intonation.

Lyres appearing to have emerged independently of Greco-Roman prototypes were used by the Teutonic, Gallic, Scandinavian, and Celtic peoples over a thousand years ago. Dates of origin, which probably vary from region to region, cannot be determined, but the oldest known fragments of such instruments are thought to date from around the sixth century of the Common Era. After the bow made its way into Europe from the Middle-East, around two centuries later, it was applied to several species of those lyres that were small enough to make bowing practical. There came to be two broad classes of bowed European yoke lyres: those with fingerboards dividing the open space within the yoke longitudinally, and those without fingerboards. The last surviving examples of instruments within the latter class were the Scandinavian talharpa and jouhikko. Different tones could be obtained from a single bowed string by pressing the fingernails of the player's left hand against various points along the string to fret the string.

Lyres around the world

Arabian peninsula - tanbūra
Djibouti - tanbūra
Egypt - kissar, tanbūra, simsimiyya
England - rote
Estonia - talharpa
Ethiopia - begena, dita, krar
Greece - barbiton, kithara, lyra
Iraq - sammu, tanbūra, zami, zinar
Israel - kinnor
Kenya - kibugander, litungu, nyatiti, obokano
Somalia - tanbūra
Sudan - kissar, tanbūra
Tanzania - litungu
Uganda - endongo, ntongoli
Wales - crwth
Yemen - tanbūra, simsimiyya

[7981 - India Trumpets / 7970 Goliards]