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Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music Paperback – March 26, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0520210813 ISBN-10: 0520210816 Edition: Reprint

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Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music + A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music: Early Music America: Performer's Guides to Early Music (Music: Scholarship and Performance) + A Performer's Guide to Renaissance Music (Publications of the Early Music Institute)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (March 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520210816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520210813
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This fascinating volume is aptly titled: it isn't an introduction to the medieval and Renaissance repertoire, but rather a companion--a collection of essays, each covering some aspect of early music and its modern-day performance, to which a listener (or performer) can refer as topics of interest arise.

Editors Tess Knighton and David Fallows have foregone the chronological approach that might seem obvious for a book of this sort (although they do include an excellent glossary and chronology as appendices) in favor of essays grouped around particular issues such as genre (keyboard works, Mass cycles, or wind ensemble music, for example), using historical evidence (not only written music and treatises but pictorial evidence, folk-music traditions, and surviving instruments), pre-performance decisions (preparing performing editions, pitch standard, even choosing performance venues), and performance techniques (tempo, vocal production, embellishment).

There is quite a range of contributors--academic musicologists, performers, critics, and combinations thereof--and the level on which the essays are written varies widely. Almost all of them are instructive; some will be immediately accessible to casual listeners, while others go into detail about compositional techniques and theory. (The book's glossary is particularly helpful in these cases.) Some of the academicians' articles are very clear and helpful to the nonspecialist reader (David Fallows on the three-voice fixed-form songs of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance), some less so (Margaret Bent, who can't resist phrases like "simultaneously projected rhythmic hierarchies" in her essay on late-medieval motets). The worst example in this regard is the essay by Thomas Binkley, one of the great pioneers of the 20th-century revival of medieval music. Binkley takes nearly eight pages of dense academic-style prose just to remind us that a piece of musical notation is distinct from the actual performance of that music. On the other hand, Irena Cholij's detailed but comprehensible examination of the ways Renaissance composers incorporated preexisting material into their works is exemplary.

Much better, on the whole, at communicating with the lay reader and listener are performers such as lutenist Hopkinson Smith and medieval fiddle player Randall Cook. The section on performance techniques includes three essays by founding members of the Hilliard Ensemble. Philip Pickett, director of the New London Consort and musical director of the New Globe Theatre in London, contributes a discussion of the modern evolution of early-music concert programming entitled "Hard-sell, Scholarship and Silly Titles."

Possibly the most salutary piece--for readers at all levels, not just recent initiates--is by editor Tess Knighton, who has been writing about early music for general audiences for some years as contributor to Gramophone magazine and editor of Gramophone Early Music Quarterly. Her essay "Going Down on Record" is probably the best place to start in the book--a brief reminder of the history of early-music recordings and the implications and possible ill effects that recordings might have on our ideas about performance styles and even the music itself. --Matthew Westphal


"A pleasure to read. . . . What I find particularly valuable is the emphasis on the skills and mental tools needed for the study and performance of early music." -- Julie Cumming, Historical Performance

"Fallows and Knighton have gone a significant distance towards breaking down the barriers that separate the several different early music constituencies. Collecting such a diverse set of essays was a brave, interesting, and largely successful project." -- Timothy J. McGee, Notes

"With provocative writing and an exceptionally broad range of perspectives [Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music] invites dialogue not just on what we think but also, and more importantly, on how we think about medieval and Renaissance music." -- Cynthia J. Cyrus, Fontes Artis Musicae

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Checco on April 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a series of very short (sometimes just a couple of pages) articles on major issues about Medieval & Renaissance music. Great scholars explain the matter in a very succinct and accessible way. All the aspects of the musical phenomena are investigated. From notation, to performance, criticism, iconography, historical context, etc.
I strongly recommend this book to integrate a music history textbook because it allows the reader to consider exclusively some genres and some particular issues.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on August 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Readers of my many reviews of European music from the 11th to the 16th centuries have asked me more questions than I can find time to answer. This book does the job more eloquently than I ever could, including 49 essays by noted musicologists like Reinhard Strohm along with performing musicians of the caliber of Anthony Rooley and Paul Hillier. Here's a list of the subject sections:
1. The Music of the Past and the Modern Ear
2. Aspects of Music and Society
3. Questions of Form and Style
4. Using the Evidence
5. Pre-performance Decisions
6. Performance Techniques

Topic 3 is especially deep, covering the genres of vocal and instrumental music, the origins of medieval instruments, and the techniques of composition in the era before keyboards.

Some of the essays are clearly by scholars for scholars, but the majority will be comprehensible to anyone with a basic musical vocabulary.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an eclectic mix of chapters written by some of the most eminent early music specialists. Some chapters are too academic and speclalised for me but others are fascinating and have information that you would not find elsewhere. Recommended to the connoisseur.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The chapter on musica ficta alone made the purchase worth it. This is very much a book for dipping into from time to time, rather than reading straight through.
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