Saturday, 17 November 2007

3. Guillaume de Machaut - Ballades (Mid 14th Century)


Title: The Art Of Courtly Love
Performer: Early Music Consort Of London
Director: David Munrow
Year: 1973
Length Of Reviewed Portion: 22 minutes


Machaut is one of the great inventors of polyphony, meaning when there is more than one voice in a piece of music. If you think about Gregorian Chants for example you always think of it as a mono-vocal thing, everything is pulling the same way, eve in Hildegard's Antiphons, even if instruments were being used they were a part of the same voice, complementing the vocal performance.

Machaut brings us something different, the voices are playing against each other, while the vocal sings one song, the instrument is doing something else that plays off the voice and vice-versa, more akin to Jazz than Gregorian Chants. This is in itself extremely significant and interesting, particularly because Machaut straddled the field making monophonic music in the tradition of the troubadours and polyphonic music like these Ballades.

Other than how interesting it is, however I wasn't particularly blown away by it, the performance is perfect, but the music itself is hard to warm up to. It is fascinating in its interplay of voices, but not awe inducing. Listen to it anyway because of its significance.

Track Highlights

1. De Toutes Flours
2. Damme Ce Vous M'estes Lointeinne
3. Python Le Mervilleus Serpent
4. Amour Ma Fait Desirer

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Machaut was by far the most famous and influential composer of the 14th century. His secular song output includes monophonic lais and virelais, which continue, in updated forms, some of the tradition of the troubadours. However, his work in the polyphonic forms of the ballade and rondeau was more significant historically, and he wrote the first complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass which can be attributed to a single composer. He was the last important representative of the trouvère tradition.

This is not from the recording here, but will give you an example of Machauts polyphony, at three voices in this case:

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