I watch a fair number of documentaries about ‘ancient’ cultures & often wonder what sort of music did they have? For some, all we know is the instruments they played, as there was no notational system for writing music – it was an ‘oral’ tradition. I’m always amused by the music that gets played by court orchestras in movies about ancient Greece or Egypt. A modern sense of harmonics is imposed – this could be right. On this mp3 cd collection I have – Atrium Musica de Madrid’s Ancient Greek Music – ignores that modernizing & with an fun raucous approximation that feels close to authentic. Plucked lyres, discordant choirs & ragged percussion. More punk dissonance than movie soundtrack sweet.
Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) French ars nova style in Medieval music. We have his music thanks to his own involvement in his manuscripts’ creation and preservation. Sacred & Secular Music – Messes de Notre Dame; Le Jugement du Roi – an early hint of opera as a partially narrated but mostly sung dialogue between characters. I enjoy Medieval music – this is a good recording by the Ensemble Gilles Binchois though the narrated portions of du Roi are much quieter than the sung parts.
The Baltimore Consort: The Food of Love – Songs, Dances, & Fancies for Shakespeare; &, The Musica Antiqua: A Cheerful Noise – Medieval And Early Renaissance Music – are both the music of the people – not sacred but what was sung in pubs, by travelling bards & was, I suppose, the pop music of their times. Songs about harvest, courting & valour. Though I do find these to be a little too ‘tidy’ – the voices are trained not average folk carousing cheerfully.
Finally on this cd is the Kyiv Chamber Choir: The Masterpieces of Ukrainian Choral Music – Medieval, Baroque, Classical, Romantic periods. Stunning harmonies, transcendent & one doesn’t need to know the language to be lifted by the spiritual seeking in some of these songs.