Broadside Records, BRO 127
The Recording • Goliard • The Music • The Instruments
Band 1 [2:20]
ANONYMOUS 13th CENTURY DANCE
pibcorn and reed-pipe
A L'ENTRADA DEL TEMS CLAR — anonymous, 13th Century, Provençal
vocals, tambourine, goblet-drum
Band 2 [4:18]
DULCE SOLUM — anonymous, 12th Century, from the Carmina Burana, CB 119
vocals, tanbura, fiddle
[uncredited: Como poden per sas culpas CSM 166]
Band 3 [2:23]
WINDER, WIE IST NU DIN KRAFT — Neidhart von REUENTHAL (1180- 1240)
vocals, psaltery, flute
Band 4 [1:32]
EL MOIS DE MAI / DE SE DEBENT BIGAMI / KYRIE — anonymous, 13th Century, motet
vocals, tanbura, psaltery
Band 5 [1:49]
ESTAMPIE ROYALE — anonymous, 13th Century, French
Band 6 [3:07]
DER KUNINC RUDOLP — "Der Unvurzaghete", 13th Century
vocals, hurdy-gurdy, citole
Band 1 [2:13]
CHOSE TASSIN — 13th Century, French
hurdy-gurdy, pair of six-holed pipes
CHRAMER GIP DIU VARWE MIER — anonymous, 12th Century, from the Carmina Burana, CB 107
vocals, hurdy-gurdy, six-holed pipe
Band 2 [3:05]
VITE PERDITE — PETER of BLOIS (1135- 1212), from the Carmina Burana, CB 31
vocals, tanbura, goblet-drum
Band 3 [2:27]
REX IMMENSE — 12th Century, Spanish troped Kyrie [Codex Calixtinus] cc 108
VINUM BONUM CUM SAPORE — anonymous, 12th Century, drinking song
vocals, goblet-drum, tambourine, cymbal, jingle-stick
Band 4 [2:26]
ESTAMPIE — anonymous, 13th Century, English
parchment covered tanbura, fiddle
Band 5 [2:42]
IN TABERNA QUANDO SUMUS — anonymous, 12th Century, drinking song from the Carmina Burana, CB 196
melody: Neidhart von REUENTHAL
Band 6 [2:42]
EXUL EGO CLERICUS — anonymous, 12th Century, begging song from the Carmina Burana, CB 129
vocals, spike-fiddle, goblet-drum
Band 7 [2:41]
A SOLIS ORTU — 9th Century, lament on the death of Charlemagne
DANSE ROYALE — anonymous, 13th Century, French
CHRIS BROWN — vocals, flute, pibcorn, shawm, tanburas, spike-fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, percussion
ANDREW GEUTER — vocals, six-holed pipes, reed-pipe, bagpipe, citole, psaltery, fiddle, percussion
Engineer: Johnny Haynes
Producer: Jon Raven
Studio: Zella Recording Studios, Birmingham
Booklet & Illustrations: Chris Brown
Sleeve Design: Chris Brown
CHRIS BROWN and ANDREW GEUTER joined together to form the group GOLIARD in 1975. Both young men had been to Art College in Stourbridge and had graduated in the Glass and Ceramic course, but until their interest in Mediaeval music brought them together they had separately pursued their own careers in Art teaching.
Finding a scarcity of authentic reconstructions of mediaeval musical instruments, Andrew and Chris began to research and make the instruments themselves, acquiring a knowledge of woodworking techniques as they went along. Without any formal musical training they taught themselves how to play their ever increasing collection of instruments, and gathered together a large anthology of mediaeval secular music.
After some successful performances of mediaeval music to various music societies in the Midlands, Chris and Andrew decided to make music their full-time profession, playing in such varied places as Folk-clubs, schools, churches and shopping precincts. For over two years GOLIARD has been entertaining guests at the mediaeval banquets held regularly at Warwick Castle.
The prime objective of GOLIARD's performances is to achieve as authentic a sound as possible, removing the instruments from the hallowed atmosphere of the museum showcase to present their strange voices to as wide an audience as possible. Because they themselves started from scratch in both the fields of music and instrument-making, a great sympathy has grown between GOLIARD and mediaeval music, for they are following exactly the same pattern set by 12th and 13th Century wandering musicians who had to construct their own instruments and develop their own styles of performance.
A lot of beautiful recordings of mediaeval music have been made in the last ten years by many skilled people, but GOLIARD hope to add some correct perspective to the mediaeval sound by giving to their performance a vitality and understanding which they feel cannot be created by classically trained musicians, nor approached by a large group of specialist musicians brought together on the concert platform.
PROVENANCE OF THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS USED IN THIS RECORDING
Constructed by CHRIS BROWN:
Pibcorn, tanbura, tanbura with parchment belly, spike-fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, jingle-stick
Constructed by ANDREW GEUTER:
Reed-pipe, citole, psaltery, fiddle.
Shawm made by Gunter Korber
flute - modern Chinese
six-holed pipes - modern Indian
bagpipe - modern Spanish
goblet-drum - modern Arabic
tambourine, finger-cymbals, cymbal - modem British.
Taking their theme from the title of a later English song, "Fortune my foe", a little ditty popularly sung at public hangings, GOLIARD present a selection of 12th and 13th century song and dance-music from the vagrant repertoire, performed as authentically as possible on accurate reconstructions of the instruments of the day.
The life of a vagrant musician in this period was far from secure, and generally unrewarding. His status was no higher than scum: he was classed with, and frequently lived like, a beggar. Unlike the gentry who had entered the music field as Troubadours in 11th century Provence (Trouveres in England and Northern France), performing their own poetry not for financial gain but rather for the acclamation of their peers or the favours of their ladies, the vagabond musicians were professionals, scratching a living from their art. They seldom wrote their own songs, increasing their repertoire and learning skills like juggling, conjuring and acrobatics at special "schools" held during Lent when they were not allowed to perform in public.
Unless he had a noble patron who commissioned him to perform his poems throughout the castles of Europe, the vagabond's repertoire consisted of popular dance tunes and long epic ballads of heroic deeds. He would also take news from district to district.
In England the name for such a vagrant was "gleeman", in Germany "gaukler", in Spain "joglar", in Italy "jogliar" and in France "jongleur". Bruno Latini, in the 13th Century, made the following entry in his encyclopedia:
"A jongleur is a man who laughs and jokes in public, ridiculing himself, wife, children and everyone else."
For the lucky jongleur there might be a permanent place in some feudal household. Then his status would change to that of the slightly more respectable "Minstrel".
The jongleurs and their counterparts were uneducated, most certainly could not read music, and sang their songs only in the vernacular. But there was another class of person tramping the roads from town to town, sometimes writing songs, and performing for enjoyment and occasionally for alms.
These people were abusively called "goliards", probably a corruption of "jogliar", although some claimed that they inherited the name from a mythical prelate, Golias, whose notorious dissipation they emulated. They were mostly middle-class drop-outs who had gained a church education, taken some minor religious orders, but had not taken monastic or priestly vows, although some there were who had absconded from monasteries, preferring the life of the road.
Having been taught in the Latin tongue, Goliards wrote their verse in Latin, setting them either to popular tunes or composing new ones often based on familiar liturgical music. Their wanderings, generally under the pretext of studying, took them the length and breadth of Europe, seeking refuge in any willing household or unsuspecting monastery. They lived life to the full. Their town haunts were taverns, brothels and the cathedral schools, and a lot of their songs mirror the licentious behaviour in these institutions.
Unlike the formalised love-lyrics of the gentry, Goliards' songs reveal a more honest lust for the flesh, a raw passion without the restraints of fine sentiment. But besides this aptitude for writing bawdy verse and drinking songs, Goliards were well equipped to parody the church liturgy, and lost no time in making a farce of the Mass and a boozing-song of many a venerated hymn; and when their luck was down they could neatly turn their pens to begging songs, asking help from the very ecclesiastics they had slandered in an earlier satire.
Suffice it to say, the church authorities fought a long running battle with the Goliards, trying to put a stop to these vagabond clerics by condemning them at Ecclesiastical Councils from the 5th to the 14th Century, with apparently little success.
A large collection of Goliards songs was discovered in the early 19th Century at a Bavarian monastery and subsequently called the "Carmina Burana" . Most of the Goliards songs in this recording come from that manuscript.
Band 1: The journey around the Wheel of Fortune starts in Springtime with expectations of a good Summer, with the joy of rebirth and the flush of new love. An instrumental dance leads into a dance-song, "A l'entrada del tems clar". Sung in Provençal it tells of the Queen of April (an obvious fertility symbol) as she frolics about the meadows with her minions.
Band 2: This Goliard song, "Dulce solum", is a lament about being in love; about how miserable it is to have ones head turned by a girl, to be dying of love for her; and what's more important, how wretched life will be without those evenings out with the boys. The singer ends with "where there is love there is misery". Although this could be a serious song, I prefer to see it as written with tongue-in-cheek, a warning rather than an experience.
Band 3: "Winder, wie ist nu din kraft" is set to a tune by the Minnesinger Neidhart von Ruenthal (1180- 1240). The words tell how May has smashed the power of Winter and allowed lovers to make full use of the countryside. In the final lines the singer encourages young girls to remain unattached, not giving themselves to any man in particular but always being available.
Band 4: "El mois de mai / De se debent bigami / kyrie" is a three-part motet combining the Kyrie from the Mass, a Goliard ditty and a French love-lyric. This mixture of sacred and profane music was not uncommon in the 13th Century ... perhaps it was in some way a reaction to the Church's futile attempt to turn popular bawdy songs into respectable hymns by providing new words of a devotional character. Just imagine the immeasurable joy in a 20th Century Rugby Club as the revellers are instructed to sing a twenty-five verse epic, "Love me O my Saviour", to the tune of "Four and twenty Virgins"! Far more to their liking would be the exploits of a certain Eskimo lady chanted to a well-known psalm tune.
"El mois de mai" tells of a man's springtime fancy for 'the loveliest girl in the world', while the Goliard song, 'De se debent bigami', gives comfort to any priest who may have committed bigamy. The singer reassures him that he needn't ask the Pope for a dispensation since Ovid makes it clear that Man's foremost duty is to take in and protect his fellow creatures. A fine excuse!
Band 5: We now move to the fringe of the courtly circle for the performance of an "Estampie Royale". Although the term 'estampie' was used fairly indiscriminately for dances of the nobility in the 13th Century, the 'estampie royale' is thought by some scholars to have been a solo instrumental piece, not intended for the dance but rather for the player's improvisations to be appreciated. The 'estampie royale' comprises a number of verses punctuated by a refrain.
Band 6: Remaining at court, we hear a song in the form of the Provençal 'Sirventes', a poem extolling the qualities and virtues of a noble patron. However, this particular song, "Der Kuninc Rudolp", composed by the Minnesinger 'Der Unvurzaghete' (The dauntless One), does not aim to merely flatter Rudolf, King of Germany from 1273 to 1291. After praising the king's upstanding nature ... his bravery, his virtue, his courtesy, etc. ... the singer adds that he hopes King Rudolf will get a just reward for his fine work; unlike the minstrels who play and sing all day for the king, getting no reward but his thanks.
Band 1: Now we start the fall from grace; the long slide from court to beggary, via the taproom. The dance, "Tassin's choice", introduces the song "Chramer, gip diu varwe mier". This song may be seen as the last attempt by an ageing woman to captivate the young men. She asks a shopkeeper to sell her some rouge for her cheeks. Thus adorned, she launches her campaign with the optimistic slogan .... "Look at me, lovely boys, I'm here to make you happy".
Band 2: "Vite perdite" is a fine poem by Peter of Blois (1135- 1212), an extremely learned man, Archdeacon of Bath and later of London, and a one-time profligate. Peter looks back on his mis-spent life, lamenting that in his youth he couldn't distinguish right from wrong, and led such a debauched existence that "even a trough of pigswill couldn't satisfy his lewd appetite". He is not blind to the dangers involved in such behaviour, citing Genesis for the retribution brought by the brothers of Dinah upon the man who had raped her. Towards the end of the poem he realises that whilst he has so far escaped any retribution for his sins, all the time he has been blotting his copy-book, and even if he changes his ways divine judgement awaits him.
Band 3: Here we have part of a 12th Century parody of the entire Mass. "Vinum bonum" exactly reproduces the form of "Verbum bonum", a hymn on the Annunciation, which tells how the Virgin's offspring, the Good Word, brings comfort and warmth to the world. "Vinum bonum", however, tells of the Grape's offspring, the Good Wine, and what comfort and warmth it brings into the world. The song also deplores the fact that while the Abbot and Prior gulp down their choice vintage, the rest of the monks have to make do with the dregs. It ends with a prayer: "May the devout community of monks, the clergy and the whole world drink the same good wine now and forever".
Band 4: This English estampie of the 13th Century is one of the most extended dance-melodies of the period, comprising twelve distinct sections. Nothing more can be said of it but the obvious, that it possesses all the necessary vitality of a good dance-tune and has enough variations to eliminate any monotony.
Band 5: "In taberna quando sumus" must surely rank as one of the greatest drinking-songs of all time, providing the 20th Century with a vivid tableau of tavern-life eight centuries earlier. The verses are found in the Carmina Burana manuscript and have been freely set to a melody of Neidhart von Ruenthal. Here follows my own English translation of the complete Latin text, written to the same metre and rhyme-scheme as the original.
Band 6: We are now reduced to beggary. "Exul ego clericus" was written by a student-cleric who had probably squandered what little money he possessed. Penniless in a strange land he begs alms from some rich churchman, leaving a gap in the fifth verse to insert the relevant town where the wealthy ecclesiastic lived. This obviously suggests that while bewailing his ruined studies, cut short by poverty; and while lamenting that illness keeps him away from church ... the student made a habit of begging, preferring a life on the road to his religious calling.
Band 7: To conclude, we hear a funeral lament, written at the death of Charlemagne, an apt tune for the bottom slot of the Wheel of Fortune. However, to signify the wheel's perpetual rotation, GOLIARD wind up the sequence with a rousing "Danse Royale", looking forward to a new Springtime.
In the Middle Ages, the most important instrument, and of course the most common, was the human voice. Unfortunately, although we can reconstruct every other instrument from manuscript illustrations and a knowledge of the materials used by the mediaeval makers, it is no such easy task to reproduce the mediaeval voice; that is if there was such a distinct thing. There have been suggestions that the Middle-Eastern nasal type of singing was inherited by Europeans with the Middle-Eastern instruments. Certainly it is known that Arabic rhyme forms and verse structures were adapted by Troubadours and other poets; but does this necessarily follow for the voice timbre?
The problem remains unresolved. However, considering that the prime requisite of a vagrant musician is to attract and hold the attention of a far from captive audience, in the hope of raking in as much as possible; and considering the absence of voice-training for such musicians; GOLIARD perform this music in their natural untutored singing styles, making no pretence of possessing well-trained classical voices in the modern sense, and imposing no false style of intonation to create a bogus "Mediaeval voice".
In an age when manufactured musical instruments were scarce, the most common accompaniment to the human voice must have been percussion, ranging from hand-clapping and foot-stamping, through the whole gamut of domestic utensils, to actual drums and cymbals.
The jingle-stick (2) is really a sophisticated rattle. Rattles were used in ancient civilisations as an aid to worship and mystical rites, but by the Middle-Ages they were merely easily-constructed rhythm-instruments, fashioned from any articles that lay to hand.
Three of the percussion instruments, the finger-cymbals (3), cymbal (4), and tambourine (5), need no introduction for they are more plentiful today than they were in 13th Century Europe. These instruments originated somewhere in the East and were introduced into Europe by the Ancient Greeks. In Roman times, the tambourine was associated with Bacchic rites, and the cymbals were used by some Barbarian tribes to induce battle-ardour. In the Middle-Ages, these instruments seem to have had indiscriminate associations, being depicted in the hands of all and sundry.
The only drum used in this recording is the goblet-drum (1), sometimes called the hourglass drum. It is fashioned from a pot, open at both ends, to which a single skin has been tied. It is played with the fingertips. The goblet-drum was obviously introduced into Europe by the Muslims, but such pottery drums could well have been made independently by vagrant players, using pottery jars or beakers as their base. This type of drum is capable of producing a great variety of tone contrast; and indeed, the "Zarb", the modern Iranian version of this drum, is used by virtuoso drummers in magnificent solo performances.
Distinct varieties of wind instruments seem to have been few and far between in Mediaeval Europe, and it was not until the Renaissance that the complex families of reed-instruments increased the selection.
The flute (1) is basically a logical extension of the panpipe principle where the player blows across the opening of a cylindrical tube. Rather than having a separate pipe for each note, the flute possesses six finger-holes which produce a scale on the single tube. The flute has been a classical instrument in India and China since antiquity, but in Europe it emerges in 11th Century, probably imported through Byzantium. Its use spread into southern France, Spain, and most importantly, Germany, where in the 13th Century it was one of the favourite instruments of the Minnesingers.
Despite its seemingly more complex construction, the six-holed pipe (2) with its whistle mouthpiece has an ancestry stretching into pre-history. Originally having perhaps only one finger-hole, it was probably used by Paleolithic Man to imitate birdsong. By the Middle-Ages it had acquired six holes which could, like the flute, comfortably produce a range of two octaves with over-blowing. The most common British counterpart nowadays is the tin-whistle, but in many countries as far apart as Peru and Thailand, the six-holed pipe fashioned from cane, reed or bamboo, is still a popular folk-instrument.
Typically an instrument for shepherds and wandering musicians, the six-holed pipe acquired in the 13th Century a pastoral image, transferred today to the recorder.
The two instruments mentioned above fall into the class of "soft" instruments; i.e. suitable for indoor performance: The mediaeval reed-instruments are definitely in the loud class; i.e. more suitable for outdoor playing. This does not mean that the instruments of the loud class were banned from indoor use, or vice-versa, but anyone living next door to an enthusiastic bagpiper will get the point.
The reed-instruments fall into two categories, depending upon their method of sound-production: a) single reed, similar to that used on a clarinet; and b) double reed, as used on an oboe. The single reed variety generally had a cylindrical bore and the double reed a conical one.
Pipes with a single reed were once made from a length of cane into which both the tongue and finger-holes were cut. When the reed wore out or became damaged, the player would merely discard the complete instrument and make another. This disposable version was later improved by the more sensible practice of making the reed separately and fitting into the body. This instrument's ancestors are abundantly figured on Assyrian statuettes and Greek pottery. The aulos, used by the Greeks in their Dionysian orgies, were two such pipes played simultaneously, a practice common with such reed-pipes.
The reed-pipe (4) used in the recording, is made from a length of cane, fitted at one end with a copper bell and at the other with a single reed of cane. Four finger-holes with a ...
STRINGED INSTRUMENTS (Plucked)
The Middle Ages in Europe was a period of great experimentation in the use of stringed musical instruments. The two "native" instruments, the harp and the lyre, were joined by a whole new range of finger-board instruments, making their way slowly from the East via Byzantium, and from the Mediterranean via Spain and Italy. The varieties are numerous and the names often superfluous, being frequently localised terms for the same instrument. To simplify the matter might injure local or national pride, but essentially the ingredients for many stringed instruments were the same, but the quantities and mixtures varied with taste.
The citole (1) appears in many disguises, but basically it is a plucked stringed instrument with a rounded body, a short neck and flat back. (The shape of the peg-board is immaterial; the number of strings is optional; and the tuning suits the individual musician). The citole is carved from a single plank of wood, its belly being glued onto the body. This instrument, with its round-backed counterpart the mandora, was very common amongst travelling musicians. It was sturdy, relatively easy to make and string, and was small enough to be easily portable. It should be mentioned that the lute, that star of many a Hollywood Epic, was extremely uncommon in 12th and 13th century Europe, possessing all the qualities opposite to those of the citole.
The two tanburs (2 and 3) are basically long-necked lutes. I use the Islamic name "Tanbur" to characterize a type of instrument, ignoring variations. The tanbur is a small-bodied, dome-backed, long-necked, stringed instrument which is plucked. Tanburs are hollowed from a log and the belly added. The long neck, sometimes having gut frets tied around it, extended the compass of the instrument in an age when suitable gut strings of varying thickness were not very plentiful. (With a long neck on his instrument a musician can readily produce a range of an octave and more on a single string).
In the recording there are two varieties of tanbur; the one with a wooden belly, the other with a belly of parchment. Skin was more readily available and easier to prepare and attach to an instrument than a thin plank of wood. Its use must have been very common in the Middle Ages. The sound of a skin-covered instrument is far more percussive than that of a wooden-bellied one, (compare the banjo and guitar), and has a greater carrying-power, very useful for the solo performer before the advent of the microphone. The gut strings on the tanbur are tuned 'ad libitum', although a common tuning for three strings was an open mixture, e.g., G d g.
The tanbur, inherited by Mediaeval Europe from the Islamic Empire where tanburists were highly paid, was most common in Spain and Southern Italy being called respectively "chitarra saracenica" and "colascione". Variants are still found in the Balkans, U.S.S.R., and of course Greece where it is called the "bousouki".
It is from the Greeks that we get the name "psaltery" (4). The psaltery is a flat box varying in shape and size. Across this box are stretched gut, or, more rarity in the Middle Ages, metal strings. These are. plucked with plectrums or finger tips. The psaltery was introduced into Europe by the Muslims, who today still use the "santur" in their classical music. The decorative soundholes in the psaltery retained for a long time their links with traditional Islamic patterns. The simplicity of this instrument where all the notes are displayed in front of the player made its popularity immediate. Besides being capable of great things in the hands of a virtuoso, the psaltery was the diletante instrument "par excellence". In mediaeval manuscripts it is found in the hands of minstrels, kings, angels, and even God at times.
The psaltery used in this recording has sixteen pairs of strings, each pair being tuned an octave apart.
STRINGED INSTRUMENTS (Bowed)
The advent of the bow into Europe, probably in the 10th or 11th Century, started a slow and long-lasting revolution amongst the players and makers of stringed instruments. Spreading across the Byzantine Empire into Northern Europe, and up from North Africa into Spain and Italy, the use of the bow must have been one of the most exciting innovations in the production of Western European music. By the 13th Century almost every type of stringed instrument had been tried with a bow. In manuscript illustrations we see the citole being played with a bow and called the "lira"; the mandora becoming the bowed "rebec". Even the lyre was bowed and existed in that form amongst the Welsh until about 1800 as the "cnvth". If the grand-piano had existed in the Middle Ages someone probably would have tried to play it with a bow, as indeed one man did with the harpsichord in the 16th Century, calling the resulting freak the "Nuremberg Geigenwerk".
With the passing of time many instruments, for as many reasons, were found unsuitable for use with the bow, and in Western Europe it was the figure-of-eight shape with its sharp waist that was chosen as the model for succeeding bowed instruments.
The popularity of the bow is obvious. The reason is that it alone can give a long sustained note on a stringed instrument, enabling a singer to follow and mimic his voice to perfection, however slow the song.
The spike-fiddle (1) and the fiddle (2) show respectively the most primitive and most developed stages of mediaeval bowed instruments. The spike-fiddle (kemange) is copied from a modern Arabic model. Nothing seems to have been mentioned of this specific type of instrument in the Middle Ages, but it is of such a rudimentary construction that I feel it, or something very similar, must have been used by beggars and such other low-caste musicians.
The neck of the spike-fiddle is merely a pole with holes bored for the pegs. The body is half a coconut-shell (a wooden, pottery or metal bowl would do just as well) covered with a skin belly. A metal spike pierces the coconut shell and is embedded in the wooden pole. Strings of gut or twisted horse-hair are fastened to the spike and taken up to the pegs. The bridge is a little slip of wood. The bow, unlike the modern version, is convex. Tying bells to the bow adds another dimension to the music as they jingle to the rhythm of the bow-strokes. With the materials already collected I have made a spike-fiddle and bow in one day; this is one of the best references possible for an instrument made by a vagrant musician, especially in an age when specialist shops were few and far between, and travelling was a rough and gruelling business.
The fiddle was the favourite of the jongleurs in France, where it was called a "vielle". It was considered a prime accomplishment of a jongleur to be able to accompany his own singing on the fiddle. Minnesingers also considered this art a mark of distinction. Although
most fiddles in the Middle Ages were hollowed from one piece of wood with the belly added. some were made in the modern way by assembling back, sides, front and neck from separate pieces. This method is only suitable for a musician who is not continually on the road, for it necessitates a fairly well-equipped workshop. The most likely place to find such pre-fabricated instruments being played would be in the larger feudal households where minstrels and instrument makers might be permanently retained.
Unlike the violin, the fiddle has a flat back and belly and a flat peg-board. The incurve of the sides is usually more gradual than that in the violin, and the characteristic "f"-shaped soundholes were not adopted in the Middle Ages; an abundance of different soundholes existed. The number of gut strings varied from one to five; but generally, if more than three were used, some strings were paired so that only three different notes were actually present on the open strings.
Nothing was standard about the playing position either. The oriental method of holding the fiddle on the knees in 'cello.fashion was as common as the conventional method, and there were numerous styles somewhere in between. In Germany the minnesingers preferred to hang the fiddle around the neck on a strap in the guitar position and bow it from below.
While the fiddle and its various successors remained a medium for producing art-music from the Middle Ages onwards, the hurdy-gurdy (3) had its ups and downs. In the 12th Century a large version of the instrument called an "organistrum" was used in the church to support the chanting of the choir. This two-man-operated instrument was gradually superseded by a one-man model, called the "symphony" because of the continuous harmony produced by it. (Here let us pause to reflect upon the improbability of a mediaeval "symphony" orchestra.) In 13th Century manuscripts it is shown in the hands of clowns and kings; but by the 15th Century it was relegated to travelling players and by the 16th Century it was frowned upon as being only suitable for beggars. Here it has remained until the present day with only a brief excursion into the Royal Court of 17th and 18th Century France.
The hurdy-gurdy is really a fiddle where the bowing and fingering have been mechanised. The bowing is done by a rosined wheel, turned by the player, which rubs all the strings at once; the fingering is done by wooden keys, each bearing small teeth called tangents. These keys are located in the tangent-box. When released, the key drops away by force of gravity.
In the Middle Ages, hurdy-gurdies employed from one to four strings. One, or sometimes two, of these were used for the melody; the remainder were drones. The compass of the mediaeval hurdy-gurdy was generally about one octave and four notes in a diatonic scale.