Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another source for Medieval sheet music and instruments

Well, I met a new friend, and found a great resource. In the SCA circles I am part of, I meet lots of other people with similar musical ambitions and abilities. Recently, I put a call out for people to join a blogroll for medieval music, since we are such a small community, and one of the responders was "HL Aleyn Wyckington Gentleman Pyper and Maker of Devices Most Musical.

Like me, Aleyn plays medieval bagpipes, and shares my pain. :)

Though his blog is rather personal, and really only useful to people who actually know him, he has a non-bloggy website that he uses to sell his music instruments and offers free information on their care and maintenence, or as he likes to call it "Care and feeding".

His site is called Aleyn's Instruments, and I should draw your attention to the "Docs & Downloads" section. Here is a wealth of information about how to use and care for your Saxon lyre, Epinette, Cornamuse, Various specialized bagpipes, and the Scottish hornpipe (not just a chanter with a windcap). He also has one of those things from my last blog -- a PDF of sheet music for bagpipes! Dig in.

While you're at it, check out his incredible hand-made instruments. He makes authentic medieval Bagpipes, cornamuses, recorders, harps, and other instruments. Since I know that not a lot of people know of my blog yet, I'm sure that he won't get inundated with orders. There's a sort of double-edged sword to being a historic instrument maker. On the one hand, you can guarantee yourself business since few people make the instruments that you do. On the other hand, you can get inundated with work, because it takes weeks and sometimes months to complete a single instrument, and customers can wait upwards of a year or more for their instrument if you become well known. sadly, not all instrument makers earn enough off of their craft to quit their day job. I've never met one who has, but that's the nature of the beast. Only by achieving real national or international fame can instrument makers, like recording artists, earn their living from their hobby. Let's wish him luck, anyway. So, Aleyn, I'd like to order a cornamuse from you, before you get flooded with work! :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Song Notation for Medieval Musicians

I was recently on a quest for a friend of mine. He wanted to learn how to play "Spielmannstanz", which is an old German Medieval standard. Pretty much every medieval band knows it, as they did back in the day. However, there doesn't appear to be many sources of sheet music to learn the song. So I started looking for music notation online. I found some interesting things on the way, and I'm listing them here in case anyone needs some good reference material for new songs.

First, I found the Codex Verus site. This has a PDF file of sheet music for damn near every medieval song I know. Well, with the exception of Spielmannstanz! Oh, well... It was the first trully wonderful find on my search, and though it didn't have what I was looking for, it had enough songs in it to be valuable to my musician friends and myself (even though I don't read notation that well!)

Then I bumped into Claudia Walla's Musik im Mittelalter page (meaning "Music in the medieval period"), which has a series of links to sheet music for many other songs. Sadly, Spielmannstanz is not among this page, either. But again, this page has so much other music on it, in notation form, that I had to bookmark it, and share it with friends.

Possibly the best find I made was", which like the other pages, contains sheet music for a lot of medieval standards in PDF form. Spielleut goes one step further with MP3 files of many of the songs on the page.

I never managed to find notation for Spielmannstanz. But then, it's no loss for me, since I still don't really read music, and already know the tune from listening. However, for those interested, Spielmannstanz is a 13th century song that is anonymous in origin. The name means "Minstrel's Dance". In the day, it was known to most musicians in Germany, and played everywhere. Musicians were expected to know it. It never really traveled far from Germany. In fact, the only bands that play it regularly or who have done new versions of it are all German. The tune has had an interesting evolution in the Medieval/folk/rock fusion genre. It was brought back to life from early manuscripts, by the group Corvus Corax. Another band, In Extremo, married the tune to the lyrics of Ludwig Uhland, a 19th century German Romantic poet (They named this version "Spielmannfluch").

Postscript -- After reading through the Codex Verus, I realized that the song on page 38, "Propinan de Melyor", was Spielmannstanz, just with a Spanish title. The fine print under the title mentioned that it was also known as "Spielmannsfluch (InEx) or Spielmannstanz (CC)." So I did manage to find the song, but it wasn't apparent until I read through the stuff I found on the first day. I quickly mailed the information to my friends, and hope they appreciate the effort!