The Boston Recorder Society Presents

The Quilisma Consort: Aspirations

Sunday, February 6, 2005, 7pm
St. Peter's Episcopal Church Cambridge

Medieval settings of Benedicamus Domino
Plainsong chant from the mass
Two-voice organum School of Compostela, ca. 1125
Two-voice organum School of Notre Dame, ca. 1175
Clausula School of Notre Dame, ca. 1200
Two secular motets:
Pucelete/Je languis/Domino ca. 1250
Quant revient/Lautre jor/Flos filius ca. 1250
Gloria Johannes Susay (fl. late 14th c.)
Kyrie Perrinet (fl. late 14th c.)
Ave verum corpus Josquin des Pres (d. ca. 1521)
Ballata: Cara mie donna Francesco Landini (ca. 1330-1397)
Madrigale: Non al suo amante Jacopo da Bologna (fl. 1340-1360)
Ballata: O rosa bella Johannes Ciconia (ca. 1370-1412)
Ballade: Nes que on porroit Guillaume de Machaut (d. 1377)
Rondeau: Puisque celle qui me tient Guillaume Dufay (d. 1474)
En l'ombre d'un buissonet Josquin
Levanta, Pasqual Juan del Enzina (1468-ca. 1530)
Toda mi vida os amé Luis Milàn (ca. 1500-ca. 1561)
Morenica da me un beso Juan Vasquez (ca. 1510-ca. 1560)
Pavan Milàn
Teresa, Teresaza Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)
Per illud ave Josquin
Gloria Jean Pullois (d. 1478)
Kyrie Dufay
Motet on Perotin's clausula Ex semine early 13th c.
De bon espoir/Puis que la douce/Speravi Machaut
Rondeux of Adam de la Halle
He, Dieux! quant verrai Adam de la Halle (d. ca. 1288)
Fi, maris, de vostre amour de la Halle
Tant con je vivrai de la Halle
On parole de batre/A Paris/Frese nouvele late 13th c.
Rondeau: Adieu ces bons vins Dufay
Madrigale: Una panthera Ciconia
Virelai: Ma trédol rosignol joly Attributed to Borlet, late 14th c.
Par maintes foys Johannes Vaillant, fl. 1360-1390
Rondeau: J'atendray tant qu'il vous playra      Dufay
Rondeau: Donnés ll'assault Dufay


Thank you
to the Boston Recorder Society for encouragement, and to John Tyson and Tom Zajac for advice and instrument loans.

Aspirations are lofty goals, often seemingly unreachable. The root of this word "spiritus" implies a spiritual longing, or at least a longing that is felt deeply in the soul. But spiritus also means "breath." How natural, then, that such emotions should be expressed in singing, where breath and words become music. The recorder (our consort's primary instrument) is well suited to this repertory because the breath functions much as it does in singing and because the recorder can create subtle articulations similar to consonants, vowels, word shapes, and sentence phrasing. In this concert, we strive to communicate the sentiment and sound of the lyrics, sans words.

The first set of our program, a series of pieces based on the same chant, illustrates a fascinating development in Medieval music: the influence of sacred polyphony on secular song. Clergy used song to heighten the experience of the Christian mass and glorify God in the form of plainsong chant, single vocal lines sung without rhythm in a smooth flowing style. Surviving music from the Middle Ages shows that the clergy sought innovative ways to make the mass even more magnificent. Their experiments produced some of the earliest multi-voiced music: organum. One voice would sing the original chant at a slower pace, holding the notes; this line was called the tenor (Latin tenere, "to hold"). Additional voices would sing more ornate melodies above the tenor.

By the late 12th Century, Paris became the center of musical innovation. The "Notre Dame School" composers created a rudimentary system for notating meter and rhythm, which allowed for more complex relationships between voices. In the early 13th Century, the motet form emerged, in which new texts were added to the upper voices, so that as many as four different texts were sung simultaneously. The motet on Perotin's clausula Ex semine is an example of the Notre Dame style of motet.

Secular music in much of Europe at this time revolved around the troubadours who wrote poetry and songs in the courtly love tradition. Their songs praised the beauty and grace of their unnamed ladies from a distance and complained of the suffering of unrequited affection. Much of the earlier troubadour repertory was monophonic (one-voiced), but in the 13th Century, composers such as Adam de la Halle began to explore polyphonic genres.

The earliest secular motets, interestingly, continue the practice of drawing the tenor line from the mass, resulting in some unexpected combinations of divine and earthly love. The motet Pucelete/Je languis/Domino is one example. Over the tenor's "[Benedicamus] domino," the upper voices sing, "I suffer the pains of love/ Sweet love, cure me of this ailment so that love does not kill me," and "Beautiful girl/ whom I desire so much,/ sighing, I cry to you for mercy." As time passed, the division between sacred and secular became more pronounced, and eventually composers turned to secular sources for their tenor lines. The tenor of On parole de batre/A Paris/Frese nouvele mimics a street vendor's cries: "New strawberries! Nice blackberries!"

The most important legacy of the Parisian composers was the development of rhythmic notation. As more precise methods of recording rhythm developed, the music became increasingly complex. A comparison of the two Gloria/Kyrie pairs in our program shows how much changed even over a few decades. In the pieces by Susay and Perrinet, the voices move together in predictable patterns most of the time, but the slightly later works by Pullois and Dufay feature extensive syncopation, meter changes, and rhythmic variation. The elaborate texture of the Ars Nova style is reminiscent of the visual arts of the time, such as soaring Gothic cathedrals with intricate stained glass windows and fine sculptural details.

Ma trédol rosignol joly and Par maintes foys use ornate rhythms to mimic bird calls, in deference to the myth of Philomela and Procne, in which the worst of love gone wrong results in them turning into birds. Dufay's Donnés l'assault compares love to a battle, alternately demanding a siege against his lady's heart and begging her not to wound him with refusal.

The origins of the contemporaneous Italian music are more vague, perhaps because it evolved from an oral performance tradition. Still, it shares much in common with the French styles in textual themes and rhythmic complexity. If anything, the runs of notes are even more florid, as in Non al suo amante and O rosa bella.

By the late 15th Century, imitative and canonic structures came into fashion. Whereas in the previous century each line of a piece had its own musical identity, imitative polyphony demanded a more homogenous sound. Although each voice still had independent phrasing and direction, the melodies repeated throughout all the voices. Josquin's Per illud ave demonstrates this technique applied to a sacred text; his En l'ombre d'un buissonet is a secular song of love utilizing a very similar structure of echoing melodies.

But rhythmically interesting music didn't fall out of fashion in the Renaissance, especially in Spain. Even in the comparatively simple melodies, one finds compelling syncopations and metrical changes. Although Levanta, Pasqual has an imitative structure reminiscent of Josquin, the dance-like rhythms are unmistakably Spanish. In Vasquez's tender love song Morenica da me un beso, shifts from duple to triple meter add moments of surprise to the otherwise sweetly serene melody. In our program, we have ornamented the vocal part of Milàn's Toda mi vida os amé with original divisions to balance the complexity of his guitar composition. The percussive, bright sound of plucked strings (guitar and harp) complement the unique rhythms of this repertory.

Whether crying to God for spiritual purification or crying to a nightingale for justice in love, the vocal music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance speaks of lofty aspirations. Thank you for joining us for our debut concert, which gives a glimpse into our own aspirations.

-- Lisa Gay

The Quilisma Consort is a new ensemble that performs old music. We explore repertories of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, seeking creative ways to express the emotion and artistry of early European music.

    Lisa Gay founded the Quilisma Consort in 2004 to satisfy her addiction to early music. An avid recorder player and fan of Orlando de Lasso since childhood, she has performed in The Christmas Revels in Cambridge and Chicago, and with ensembles such as Calliope, The Masqued Phoenix Consort, and Ars et Amici. She studies recorder with John Tyson.

    Melika M. Fitzhugh is a long-standing member of the world music ensemble Urban Myth where she plays many instruments including fiddle, bass, and percussion. She came to the Quilisma Consort to focus on early music. She has a degree in music composition from Harvard University.

    Carolyn Jean Smith received an MA in Early Music from the Longy School. She has performed with Stämbandet, Serendipity and Cantata à Trois, and has studied with Ford Weisberg, Sonja Lindblad and John Tyson. She has performed in several venues, including the Society for Historically Informed Performance Concert Series, and can be heard on Nordic Voices, a CD by Stämbandet under the Nordic Sounds label.

The Boston Recorder Society was founded in 1955 to promote interest in the recorder and recorder playing, and to provide opportunities for players of all levels to meet others with similar interests and to develop their musical skills.

We welcome recorder players, singers, string players and all other early music instrumentalists. Our offerings include monthly playing sessions, small consort classes, teacher referrals, special events, and this concert series. For details please visit our website.

Last updated April 15, 2005