Saturday, January 13, 8300

Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377)

Guillaume de Machaut (Machault, c. 1300, c. Reims – April 1377) -- by far the most celebrated French Ars Nova composer-poet, whose enormous output, in a wide range of styles and forms, was greatly admired and imitated into the 1400's by later artists such as Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 - c. 1400)

-- was probably educated in Reims (of cathedral and champagne fame),

though his surname no doubt derives from the nearby town of Machault, 30 km to the east in the Ardennes.

He was employed as secretary to John I (Count of Luxemburg and King of Bohemia, 1296-1346)

from 1323 to 1346, becoming a priest during this time, and probably accompanying his employer on many trips some military.

The vast majority of Machaut's works were secular, with lyrics almost always dealing with courtly love.

Machaut mostly composed in five genres:

Ballade, such as Dame se vous m'estes
(Performed on David Munrow's Instruments of the Medieval and Renaissance on
Bagpipe - Conical Chanter and Drone)




Virelai, such as "Comment qu'a moy" (IMR Bowed Lyre),

and a second, performed on Lute,

as well as the instrumental work, Hoquetus David
(as performed on David Munrow's Music of the Gothic Era).

[Studio der Fruhen Muski]

[Sincronie Ensemble, Bali]

[Transcription by Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934)]

In the received genres, Machaut retained the basic formes fixees, but often utilized creative text setting and cadences.

Machaut was named as the canon of Verdun in 1330, Arras in 1332 and Reims in 1333 -- by 1340 living in the latter city, and having relinquished his other canonic posts at the request of Pope Benedict XII.
In 1346, King John was killed fighting at the Battle of Crécy (one of the more important battles of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453, fought primarily over claims by the English kings to the French throne),

and Machaut, by now famous and much in demand, entered the service of various other aristocrats and rulers, including King John's daughter Bonne, who died in 1349 of the Black Death, which began its brutal reign two years earlier, in 1347.

Machaut survived the plague, here pictured at right roughly the next year at c. age 50 (c. 1350), metaphorically receiving Nature and three of her children, from an illuminated Parisian manuscript.

This was about the time of his mirror-composition, Ma fin est mon commencement (My End Is My Beginning, c. 1350)

Another of Machaut's employers was Charles, Duke of Normandy, who would become King Charles V ("The Wise") (1338-1380) in 1364.

Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame (Mass of Our Lady) (c. 1364) was probably indeed composed for Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, although now not likely for Charles's coronation.

While Machaut's mass was the first setting by a single composer to be conceived as a unit, he was probably familiar with the first cyclic Tournai Mass, since his work shares many of the latter's features, including textless interludes.

As to whether Machaut's mass is cyclic is still debated, since aspects of cliche and style may be difficult to parse.

Messe de Nostre Dame is a four-voiced work, whose vocal lines (possibly doubled by instruments) are given (and correspond to)

Triplum (Soprano)
Motetus (Alto)
Tenor (Tenor)
Contra Tenor (Bass)

no doubt sung by boys and men.

It uses expanded D Melodic Dorian (D E F G A B C D [Do Re Me Fa Sol La Te Do), with alterations possibly including F# [Mi], G# [Fi] , and C#[Ti]) for the Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy),


[Marcel Pérès / Ensemble Organum]

[Kronos Quartet]

which has an isorhythmic (same rhythmic ostinato, or riff, repeated) talea (measured section or tailored cutting of music) in the Tenor (literally, "to hold") part that can be notated as in 3/2 as

Dotted-Whole Note / Half Note, Whole Note / Dotted Whole Note / Dotted Whole Rest

and a color (series of pitches) cantus firmus (fixed song, borrowed melody or motiv) of the Gregorian Chant Kyrie IV.

Machaut's Kyrie is in the traditional three lyrical parts, through-composed as ABC, all sections featuring hockets (fast rhythmic syncopated hiccoughs) and musica ficta (chromatic inflections used by convention but not necessarily written in the notation), with double leading-tone Landini cadences (upper voices Ti-Do and Fi-Sol, with a descending lower line of Re-Do).

Kyrie eleison (Lord Have Mercy) (A)

Christe eleison (Christ Have Mercy) (B)

Kyrie eleison (Lord Have Mercy) (C)

The Gloria (Glory)


Credo (Creed),

both through-composed, are also in expanded Dorian, whereas the expanded F Lydian is the tonality of the

Sanctus (Holy) and

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God),

this latter lyrically AAA' and structurally ABA' (ternary form) as.

Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis. (A)
Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis. (B)
Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis pacem. (A)

(Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: grant us peace.)

The inclusion of the Ite Missa Est, also in expanded F Lydian, is a departure from what will become the standard five-movement Mass form.

Machaut continued his later years in Rheims composing and supervising the creation of his complete-works manuscripts.

His poem Le Voir Dit (c. 1361-1365) could be autobiographical, as a late love affair with a 19-year-old girl, Péronne d'Armentières.

Upon his death 1377, Machaut became the subject of an elegy by François Andrieu, which survived in the Chantilly Codex, along with the heart-shaped rondeau Belle, Bonne, Sage, by Baude Cordier (b. c. 1370).

[8319 Flagellants / 8300 Guillaume de Machaut /8300 Kashmir Shenai]

Thursday, January 11, 8300

Kashmir - Development of the Shenai (c. 1300)

Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" referred only to the valley lying between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range; since then, it has been used for a larger area that today includes the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir consisting of the Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh; the Pakistani-administered provinces of the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir, and the Chinese-administered region Aksai Chin.

In the 14th century, Islam was the dominant religion in Kashmir. The Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir lived in relative harmony, since the Sufi-Islamic way of life that ordinary Muslims followed in Kashmir; complemented the Rishi tradition of Kashmiri Pandits. This led to a syncretic culture where Hindus and Muslims revered the same local saints and prayed at the same shrines.

Famous sufi saint Bulbul Shah was able to persuade the king of the time Rinchan Shah who was prince of Kashgar Ladakh, through his intellectual power to adopt Islamic way of life and the foundation of Sufiana composite culture was laid when Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists were co-existing in the atmosphere of love and brotherhood.

[Bismillah Khan]

North India - Shahnai (Oboe)

The shehnai is an aerophonic instrument which is thought to bring good luck, and as a result, is widely used in North India for marriages and processions.

This tube-like instrument gradually widens towards the lower end. It usually has between six and nine holes. It employs two sets of double reeds, making it a quadruple reed woodwind. By controlling the breath, various tunes can be played on it.

The shehnai is believed to have originated in the Kashmir Valley, where people use the instrument in band-i-pather. The shehnai is thought to have been created by improving upon the pungi, a woodwind folk instrument used primarily for snake charming.

There are varying legends of the shehnai's origin. In one of these, a Shah initially banned the playing of the pungi in his court due to its shrill sound. A barber, belonging to a family of musicians, improved on it and created the shehnai. As it was played in the Shah's court and giving due reference to the 'nai' or barber, the new instrument was called "shehnai."

In other variants of the legend, the shehnai was:

named after a shehnai player called Saina

derived from "sheh" (breath) and "nai" (flute)

derived from the combination of the Persian words "shah" (king), and "nai" (flute) to give the meaning "the king's flute."

Another theory of the origin of the shehnai is that the name is a modification of the word "sur-nal". The word nal/nali/nad is used in many Indian langauges to mean pipe or reed. The word "sur" means musical note or simply music, and is used as a prefix to the names of many Indian instruments. The "sur-nal" is said to have given its name to the "surna/zurna" which is the name by which the reed-pipe is known throughout the Middle East and eastern Europe.

[8300 Machaut / 8300 Kashmir Shenai Oboe / 8300 Gabon]

Sunday, January 7, 8300

Bantu Migration to Gabon (c. 1300) - Sacred Music

Gabon is a country in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo and the Gulf of Guinea.

From the 1300's until the present time Bantu groups immigrated into Gabon from several directions to escape enemies or to find new land. Little is known of tribal life before European contact but tribal art suggests a rich cultural heritage.

Gabon - Pacification of Spirits

Any discussion of Gabonese music must include the sacred music of the Bwiti whether attributed to the Mitsogo or the Fang or other peoples. The French ethnographer Bureau sets the stage when he states, "Gabon is to Africa what Tibet is to Asia, the spiritual center of religious initiations."

Bwiti is a West Central African religion practiced by the forest-dwelling Babongo and Mitsogo people of Gabon (where it is one of the three official religions) and the Fang people of Gabon and Cameroon. Modern Bwiti is syncretistic, incorporating animism, ancestor worship and Christianity into its belief system. Bwiti use the hallucinogenic rootbark of the Tabernanthe iboga plant, specially cultivated for the religion, to induce a spiritual enlightenment, stabilize community and family structure, meet religious requirements and to solve problems of a spiritual and/or medical nature. The root bark has been used for hundreds of years as part of a Bwiti coming of age ceremony and other initiation rites and acts of healing, producing complex visions and insights anticipated to be valuable to the initiate and the chapel. The root bark or its extract are taken in doses high enough to cause vomiting and ataxia as common side effects.

[8300 Kashmir / 8300 Gabon /8291 Philippe de Vitry]