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Thread: Music, Always New :-)

  1. #1

    Smile Music, Always New :-)

    Dear mandolinist friends around the world,

    what a year this has been! Looking back at the time that has elapsed since last spring, it may at first seem interminable. To put this ordeal in some temporal context, I had the pleasure of writing yet another set of variations for unaccompanied mandolin, this time on the immortal Douce dame jolie by French medieval master Guillaume de Machaut. The original melody is what one may safely call a top-ten hit of the Middle Ages, sung and played countless times and in countless guises. So why not on our lovely mandolin? My variations stick very closely to the original and make no high claims to invention or originality; they simply adorn an already beautiful artifact from a bygone era. Nor of course do I care to go down the rabbit-hole of authenticity; this is a modern work, a set of variations written only days ago by a modern composer, happy to be alive and kicking as we speak. I sure hope I’ve done Machaut justice but I have not been able to reach him for his approval.

    Should anyone wish to have a copy of this score— entirely gratis, available as a handy PDF attachment— please just drop me a note through the Café messenger and we can connect by email. I hope that you enjoy musing on this charming, haunting, unforgettable melody just as I have. I wish you and yours all the best— health, above all!— and hope to see you all someday on the Other Side.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Music, Always New :-)

    Got my copy, thank you Victor! For people who don't know about Guillaume Machaut, he was a renowned musician and poet of the 14th century. He composed a polyphonic (multi-voiced) setting of the Roman Mass, the earliest one that has survived (many monophonic plainchant masses are still performed in Catholic churches today). Guillaume's Messe de Notre Dame is named after his home church in Rheims. His use of a popular song of the day was standard practice, motets and masses were actually named after them, as in "Missa da Pop Song." Probably the most used song from those decades was "L'homme arme." My musicologist joke is :"Who wrote Missa L'homme Arme?" Answer: everybody.
    I will struggle to play Victor's piece, I am an intermediate Mandocello more than classical mandolin, but I am excited that something from my grad school days (almost as long ago as Machaut) has come to life on the mandolin.

  4. #3

    Default Re: Music, Always New :-)

    You are very welcome, Jim. This isn't what anyone would consider a "difficult" piece to play and of course there's plenty of leeway in tempo, articulations, the breaking of all those chords. Ideally, this piece should sound as if it were made up on the spot, like a free improvisation on a well-known tune. I spelled the final variation in 12/8 so as to avoid the clutter and annoyance of a myriad triplets over each and every beat but, if folks choose to let up a bit on the tempo, I'm sure Machaut wouldn't mind.

    What has always endeared Machaut to me— and surely to many others, too— is exactly his inclusiveness as regards the popular music of his time. In an era when only religious music was deemed serious enough to merit notation (and thus a sort of immortality), he wrote down not only his famous Mass and many liturgical pieces but also this lovely virelai, a love song in verse, just like probably countless others that were known to the French in the 14th century. So it came down to us.

    Have fun!

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Music, Always New :-)

    Yes, one reason we have his Mass as the "first" complete polyphonic is because he was so highly regarded as a poet and composer. All his music--sacred and secular--was recorded in the notation of the time, and kept in the cathedral. On the one hand, we will never know what other fine pieces were written by lesser known composers, but at least we have his great work.
    And now, yours.

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