Chapter 8 Lessons

The thirteenth century, an age of song!

Two activities to explore this vibrant singing culture, involving soloists and groups, require decisions to be made about rhythm and style.

  1. The Lauda.

There are constant resources on the internet, coming and going with great rapidity to inspire the work, for example, for the Lauda:

You can presently find two pictures of the Laudario di Cortona on the internet with a simple search, one which shows the page itself with Laude novella, with the text of another piece above, and the second in which someone has cut and pasted the next line of music to provide the entire refrain. Compare the score to the edition (made by Hans Tischler) in the anthology. What are the differences? What are the other ways you might phrase the song, changing the rhythms? What happens in the featured recording? Try singing this refrain as a class, with soloists taking the verses. Could you use one practice for the refrain and another for the verses?

  1. Other collections

For this work there is an excellent review of three editions of this repertory, and it is available on JSTOR: Review by: Alejandro Enrique Planchart in Notes

Second Series, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Mar., 1991), pp. 712-715.

The reviewed works are editions, and Planchart raises the problems editors have with these repertories in his easy to follow discussion: Carmina Burana: Gesamtausgabe der mittelalterlichen Melodien mit den dazugehörigen Texten. (Latin-German) by René Clemencic, Ulrich Müller, Michael Korth; Studies on the Cantigas de Santa María: Art, Music, and Poetry. (Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Cantigas de Santa María of Alfonso X, el Sabio (1221-1284) in Commemoration of Its 700th Anniversary Year, 1981) by Israel J. Katz, John E. Keller, Samuel G. Armistead, Joseph T. Snow; The Lyrics and Melodies of Adam de la Halle by Deborah Hubbard Nelson, Hendrik van der Werf3

3.  Carmina Burana, the opening of the book, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS lat. 4660



You can open the manuscript and click on the red arrow that advances the pages until you get to the frontispiece. Although this page was once located elsewhere in the collection, it is a striking image and one can see why it was moved at one point. It provides an opportunity to look at the interaction of text, music, and the visual arts, as do several major monuments from the thirteenth century. Dame Fortune comes up repeatedly in medieval music as can be seen in several chapters of Music in the Medieval West and you can see her here, with her wheel. Carles Sánchez Márquez’ article, “‘Fortuna velut luna’: iconografía de la Rueda de la Fortuna en la Edad Media y el Renacimiento” is free on line at Ehumanista 17 (2011) by; at the end is a fine collections of representations of Fortune and her wheel from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

So many things to notice about this page! Fortune is a queen in the middle of the wheel holding scrolls, representative of her fateful messages. A king on the top of the wheel is labeled in Latin to represent his four states. See if you can find the labels:

regnabo (I will rule)

regno (I rule)

regnavi (I have ruled)

sum sine regno (I am without rule)

Do you think that there are two hands (at least) on this page? It seems that one wrote the song “Fas et nefas,” a work that you can find in multiple versions on Naxos.  The first stanza, here as translated by Helen Waddell, is about the ironies of life when the good and the bad are on equal terms:

Fas et Nefas ambulant
pene passu pari;
prodigus non redimit
vitium avari;
virtus temperantia
quadam singulari
debet medium
ad utrumque vitium
caute contemplari.

Right and Wrong they go about
Cheek by jowl together.
Lavishness can’t keep in step
Avarice his brother.
Virtue, even in the most
Unusual moderation,
Seeking for the middle course,
Vice on either side it, must
Look about her with the most
Cautious contemplation.

As you can see the neumes are unheighted, and the melody is taken from the Florence Codex, a manuscript studied in Chapter 9. When we get there, we’ll locate it, and you can see if you think it fits the profile of the Carmina Burana melody. Listen to the many recordings of “Fas et nefas” and compare the different ways of treating rhythm.

Also on this page is the poem “O Fortuna velut luna” (O fortune, just like the moon). This poem has no medieval melody surviving, but it is a very famous text because Carl Orff wrote a melody for it and used it to begin his choral work Carmina Burana, which premiered in 1937 and was very popular in Nazi Germany. Musical transformation….from the twelfth century to a massive choral production in the 1930’s and 1940’s…

You can find the piece featured in the Anthology, “Bache Bene,” a drinking song, on fol. 89r.   The “notation” is sporadic and is of little help in knowing pitches; so you can understand why the apparent contrafactum in the Play of Daniel has proved so useful to modern performers.