Up to this, our study of music in the Christian Era has traced the development of the art as fostered by the Christian Church, and mainly among the people of Southern Europe, in whom there was a strong admixture of the Latin blood and spirit. Before going farther on this line we will look into the record of music among the races of Northern Europe.
Music of the Gauls.Roman writers give us some ac-count of the character of the music of the Gauls, which differed much from the Greco-Latin songs. Roman historians make mention of the songs of the Gallic bards, who were poets and musicians as well, composing both religious hymns and songs in honor of their heroes. According to Diodorus of Sicily, the Gauls practiced the musical art long before the Christian Era, having regular schools for the instruction of the younger bards. The instrument used in accompanying their songs was a sort of lyre, judging from representations on some gold medals made in the time of Julius Caesar. Charlemagne ordered a collection of the early Gallic songs to be made, but the work has not survived.
The Celtic Bards.The Breton bards made use of an instrument the name of which is variously spelled Crouth, Crowd, Chrotta, Crwth, played with a bow, with an opening in the upper part through which the performer placed the left hand in order to press the strings, the number of which varied from three to six. The crouth of the Welsh bards differed in some respects from those that were made use of by the Breton bards. With them, however, a form of the harp became the national instrument. The early history of Celtic music in Wales in particular, is mingled with myth. We have only the names of bards, Fingal, Fergus and Ossian, no authentic music. What is of importance to us is the secular organization of the bards. One class included poets, historians and those skilled in the science of heraldry ; another class comprehended musical bards, harp players bearing the title of doctors of music, players of the six stringed crouth and singers, who must have been skilled men, since nine years’ study was exacted of them.
Ireland. The traditionary bard of Ireland is Fergus, whose songs were of war and heroes. When St. Patrick introduced Christianity into Ireland in the 5th century, learning and skill in the arts of poetry and music grew to be cultivated as extensively as in more favored lands. In the loth century, the famous musician was the King O’Brien Boru, whose harp is still shown in the Dublin Museum. This has twenty-eight strings, and the sounding board, in which there are four holes, is very large at the base. After Ireland was conquered by the English its culture declined, owing to continuous wars and internal strife.
Scotland.The music of the Scotch, like the other Celtic races just mentioned, is, characteristic. Their harp was similar in form to the Irish ; their favorite instrument was the bagpipe. King James I is credited with having done much to stimulate an interest in music among his subjects. Having been a captive in England for a period of eighteen years, he had acquired great skill in music, which was the solace of his weary hours. According to a contemporary historian, the king played a great many of the instruments in use in his day : the bagpipe, psaltery, organ, harp, lute, flute and dulcimer. The music of Scotland makes great use of the pentatonic scales, and it is likely that the original form of many of the old Scottish folk-melodies was pentatonic. A characteristic feature of Scottish music is the so-called “Scotch snap,” illustrated in the short notes in the familiar air “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye,” and in the following dance tune: STRATHSPEY
An instrument of so marked characteristics as those dis-played by the bagpipe will naturally develop a characteristic style of music. The pipers gave extraordinary study to the mastery of their instrument and noted players acquired wonderful skill England.Until the time of the conquest of England by William of Normandy (1066), music among the Anglo-Saxons was practiced by the scalds or bards, minstrels (also called gleemen), and the monks in the monasteries. Poetry and music were much encouraged by some of the kings and Alfred the Great (849-901) was widely famed for his skill in playing the harp and as a singer. In the manuscripts belonging to these early days in England we read of such instruments as the psaltery, the rota, little harps of eleven strings, viols, called fiddles, citharas, cornets, trumpets, etc.
Scandinavia. The Runic style of writing,which has numerous analogies to the neumes,used by the northern people, presents many difficulties in the matter of translation, so that we have little chance to form an opinion as to the early music of the Scandinavian races. They have their national poems, a presentation of their myths in the Edda, and the deeds of their great heroes in the Sagas, songs . which inspired both poets and musicians, an office most generally found united in one person, called a scald, (equivalent to the Saxon bard). The sagas were sung or chanted by the scalds to the accompaniment of a small harp. In 1639 and again in 1734, in the duchy of Schleswig, horns of pure gold were found which had been used in the worship of Odin, covered with Runic inscriptions, which have not yet been satisfactorily deciphered. Other instruments be-longing to this period that have been discovered and preserved in museums are bronze horns somewhat curious in shape, called lüdr. These instruments have been tested by experienced horn players and give forth a fine, resonant tone. Up to the present nothing has been discovered to indicate that the northern races had a system of musical notation; melodies were undoubtedly transmitted by oral communication.
Finland.The people of Finland are intensely musical and have many beautiful folk-songs. Their national epic is called the “Kalevala,” and gives the history of the hero, Wainoemonien, god of music, who by the exercise of his art, became the master of the universe, analogous to the Greek myth of Orpheus. The Finnish bards used an instrument called Kantèle or Harpu, a sort of psaltery with five strings forming the first five notes of the minor scale, G fourth space, bass staff, to D above.
Progress in Southern Europe.As may be gathered from the hasty survey of music among the nations in the west and north of Europe, they did not contribute to its growth during the centuries under consideration. It was in the south of Europe that the forces were forming, and not in the Church as heretofore, but outside, among the people. We cannot say who composed the songs of the people, so different in character from the songs of the Church; they seemed to spring up spontaneously and were passed from one to another orally. The music of the Church lacked measure or rhythm, as we may say, while the music of the people, closely associated with dancing, was rhythmic. In fact, the scholarly musicians of that period condemned the music of the people because of its marked rhythmic character. On account of the crudeness of the early instruments, often the lack of them and of competent players, the people were accustomed to sing to their dancing, a custom still followed in certain places. The next step was an easy one, that of making new verses to familiar airs. Another factor in spreading music among the people appears in the traveling minstrels. Without a fixed residence, owing allegiance to no lord, by law, in many cases, out of the pale of society, these free sons of art, who began to come into prominence in the 11th century, roved from place to place, resting for the night in castle, monastery, inn or wayside camp. In return for the hospitality freely given, they sang the songs they learned from each other and in the various lands they visited. Their accomplishments in the music line were varied. One, Robert le Mains, said: “I can play the lute, the violin, the pipe, the bagpipe, the syrinx, the harp, the gigue, the gittern, the symphony, the psaltery, the organistrum, the regals, the tabor and the rote. I can sing a song well and make tales and fables.”
Trouveres.Another influence was also at work, one that was greatly to affect music, raising it from the level of common entertainment to an art patronized by the highest social circles. The Crusades left a permanent influence upon the people of Europe and upon the institution of Chivalry, the knightly singers (trouveres) vying with each other in verse and song, as well as in arms. Education took a higher place and schools became more numerous (12th and 13th centuries), and music was given recognition ; this was the case not only in schools connected with monasteries, but also in the newly established universities, such as that at Paris. Secular music also had schools, so to speak, for, during Lent, when all gay songs were forbidden, the trouvères and minstrels would stop at some convenient point and teach their songs to all who would learn; hither the great lords would send the minstrels in their pay to renew their repertoires and learn the songs that were most favored by the polite world. It was not possible that much advance could be made in musical education, from a scientific side, for there was no general system of convenient notation. Airs were taught by playing them over, the singer with the ready ear having the advantage. Still the efforts and studies made in the monasteries and schools were not fruitless, although the systems evolved were very complicated, making the’ reading of music a difficult matter.
The Music of the Period.It is a fortunate thing for the investigator of the history of music that, at the present time, a number of collections of the airs of the 12th and 13th centuries are still in existence; for example, in the National Library, Paris, which possesses a number of magnificent manuscripts, containing songs noted down by the French trouveres ; also in the Library of the Medical School of Montpelier there is a collection of nearly four hundred songs, secular and religious, for two, three or four voices. The melodic ideas of this period, as indicated by these manuscripts, were vague and the rhythms uncertain. Yet this music, barbarous as it appears to us, was not the product of chance, as we may think; it had its rules, just like the music of today, the art of composing being called Discant, referred to in Lesson VI. Sometimes these singers of the 12th and 13th centuries tried to invent original airs, very frequently they would take several familiar airs, two, three or four and combine them in what seems to us a crude way, yet in a manner that was pleasing to the hearers of their time. The style of the songs in use varied greatly, in spite of the poverty of musical resources. In general, a song for one voice was used only in setting the Chansons des Gestes, Romances, Pastourelles, Serventois, Lais and Jeux Partis. The discant style was used in Motets, Rondeaux, Conduits; according as these latter compositions we’re for two, three, four or five voices, they were called duplum, triplum, quadruplum, and quintuplum.
Troubadours.The cradle of the French troubadours was in Provence, the south of France. They usually belonged to the nobility, and, instead of performing their own pieces, had them performed by the jongleurs, only occasionally consenting to sing for some company of high-born nobles and ladies. We mention a few of those who were counted among the troubadours : Richard the Lion-Hearted, of England, Count William of Poitiers, Rambout, Count of Orange, Pierre d’Auvergne, Pierre Ramon de Toulouse, Pierre Vidal, Pons de Capdueil, poet, singer and violinist, Aimeric de Pequilain, Blagobres, a virtuoso on all instruments, Blondel de Nesle, the Chatelain de Coucy, Thibault, King of Navarre. Clement, the French historian, gives a list of 28 trouvères of the 13th century, less prominent socially than those already mentioned. The most celebrated of them and the most important from the historian’s standpoint is Adam de La Hale or Halle, born 124o. He wrote many pieces, of which we have thirty-three songs, some rondeaux, six motets, some Jeux Partis, among the latter being a work which is regarded as a sort of comic opera, sometimes called the “first opera” : “Robin and Marion”; it consists of dialogue and airs.
Minnesingers.While the trouvères and troubadours were singing in Provence and in France, an analogous association was forming in Germany, to which the name Minnesingers (Minne, old German, “love”) was given. A list of names belonging to the 13th century includes 162 men, among whom are several occupying thrones. Names that have interest for us are Klingsor, Wolfram von Eschenbach (author of a poem on “Parcival”), Gottfried of Strassburg (author of a poem “Tristan and Isolde”), Walter von der Vogelweide, the Chevalier Tannhaeuser and Heinrich Meissen; called Frauenlob. Richard Wagner has introduced some of these men in his operas. The versification of the Minnesingers has been much admired by critics; it was filled with art as well as beauty. Their love themes differed from those of the Provençal singers in that while the poetry of the latter declared love as a gallant sentiment, the Germans gave it a loftier tone by mingling it with the Madonna sentiment.
Folk-Song.While the German nobles were employing themselves in the service of art, the people were not idle. They had their tunes and their verses. The Locheimer Liederbuch (1452), contains a number of songs, some of which are undoubtedly very old ; they are melodious, varied in rhythm and full of naïve simplicity. Some of them are arranged in the popular three-voice style, and show correct part leading, the inclination being toward our major and minor modes instead of the Church Modes.
Mastersingers. The most noted musical organization among the people was that of the Mastersingers (celebrated in Richard Wagner’s opera) ; Nuremberg, Mayence, Strasbourg and Frankfort were their centres. The members were organized into a Guild, just as was the case in trade affairs; they had a charter from the Emperor Charles IV. Their poetry and music were not elevated, for the members of the Guild were not of a standing and an education to give them real skill in the fine arts. The records of the Mastersingers show that the members were principally tradesmen, such as farriers, armorers, locksmiths, tailors, cobblers ; yet there were some members who could lay claims to culture and higher standing, as engravers, physicians and a few gentle-men of leisure. The most conspicuous of them all was Hans Sachs, the cobbler-poet of Nuremberg. Their works were marked by monotonous melody, (for the pitch is but little varied) and a heavy, clumsy rhythm. To make up for the lack of real artistic idea they were pedantic to an extreme ; composition was hedged about by a multitude of rules, to which composers must give exact obedience. These rules were given in a code called Tablatura. They held con-tests in which the members vied in producing works exemplifying the principles of the organization.