In Time of Daffodils / Heliotrope
Songs of the Trobairitz
© 2003 KOCH International Classics 3-7522-2 HI

In memory of Ethan James

1. Ar em al freg temps vengut   [9:51]
Azalais de Porcairagues (born c. 1140)
melody: Marcabru; instrumental T. Chandler

2. Ja de chantar non degra aver talan   [6:26]
Castelloza (born c. 1200)
melody: adapted from Arnaut Daniel, arr. J. Todd McBride

3. Instrumental Cantiga   [3:28]
arr. S. Kammen · CSM 49

4. Vos qe·m semblatz dels corals amadors   [6:44]
La Contesa de Proensa, Garsenda de Forcalquier (born c. 1170) and Gui de Cavaillon
melody: S. Kammen

5. Ab joi et ab joven m'apais   [6:03]
La Contessa de Dia (born c. 1140)
melody: Bernart de Ventadorn In consirers; arr. J. Todd McBride

6. Estampie Sweet Thing   [2:31]
adapted from anon. trouvere melody L'on dit qu'amours est dolce chose
J. Todd McBride

7. Volez-vous que je vous chant   [3:05]
anonymous 13th century trouvere
arr. J. Todd McBride

8. In time of daffodils   [5:32]
e.e. cummings
melody: Peire Vidal Quant hom est en altrui poder; instrumental T. Chandler

9. May my heart always be open   [1:57]
e.e. cummings
melody: Gace Brule Au renovel de la douçour d'este
arr. J. Todd McBride and S. Kammen

10. Motet (Instrumental)   [1:57]
anonymous, 13th century, Montpellier MS

11. Being to timelessness as it's to time   [3:41]
e.e. cummings
melody: Gace Brule Au renovel de la douçour d'este
arr. J. Todd McBride and S. Kammen

12. Two Arabic Muwashshat   [14:39]
Da hikub an fuman · Dam un masfuhun
al-A'ma at-Tutili (d.1126)
melodies: T. Chandler

Joyce Todd McBride, voice, harp, percussion
Shira Kammen, voice, vielle, harp
Ethan James, hurdy-gurdy
Tom Chandler, oud
Tobias Roberson, percussion

Recorded October 29-Nov. , 2001 at Bayvíew Studios, Richmond, California
Producer: Kit Higgínson
Engineer: Robert Berensen
Editor: Eliot Bates

"...for the heliotrope moves to the extent that it is free to move, and in its rotation, if we could hear the sound of the air buffetted by its movement, we should be aware that it is a hymn to its king, such as it is in the power of a plant to sing."

— Proclus

This recording, entitled "In Time of Daffodils", brings together diverse songs in the rich, varied tradition of the 12th and 13th century troubadours of what is now known as Southern France. It begins with songs in the Langue D'Oc by four of the known trobairitz (women troubadours).

The performance of this repertory presents interesting challenges to modern musicians

1) the poems do not have accompanying melodies,
2) the poems were recorded some 100 years after their composition, well after the oral tradition that fostered them was over, and
3) the language is not understood by most modern audiences.

In response to the first two points, we have chosen, adapted, or composed melodies for these poems, and created arrangements that interact with the texts. Thus the performance is a process of invention, both on the part of the performer, and the original author. We are not aiming to reproduce these songs as historical artifacts, but rather to "revive" them; we are collaborating with the poems to create something new. The third point, that the language is remote, led me to the idea of setting modern poetry to medieval melodies. I chose three poems of e.e. cummings that resonate with the themes often explored by the troubadours, and found melodies that fit the texts, both in character and syllable count. As sung poems, listeners can experience the text and melody in the way a medieval listener might experience sung poetry in her native tongue.

Ar em al freg temps vengut evokes the images of winter: "Now we are come to the cold time, when there's snow and ice and sludge, and the little birds are mute..." to mirror the poetess's sadness. Azalais thus plays with the more common pairing of Spring with Love to set the scene of her song. The song shifts its tone at the last strophe when it becomes a lament, with a reference to a local landmark, a Roman ruin.

Ja de chantar non degra aver talan is one of four songs of the trobairitz Na Castelloza. This song describes the singer's reluctance to sing and at the same time her need to sing, since that is all she has left. In one stanza she describes how she stole her lover's glove, but then returned before he knew, so as not to incur the wrath of his mistress. Castelloza's songs evoke a theme of powerlessness in the face of "fin amors" that she nevertheless surmounts through the act of song itself. She could be described as the Billie Holiday of medieval song. Ab joi et ab joven m'apais by the Contessa de Dia, is quite contrasting in tone. Here, the poetess speaks of joy in her choice of lovers, and her confidence is apparent. Vos quem semblatz dels corals amadors is a tenso, a song composed with two (or sometimes more) voices. This short dialogue, between the Contessa de Proensa and Gui de Cavaillon, is an argument about appearances. The Contessa wants more boldness from her lover, especially in the form of courtly words (i.e. poetry!) while he responds that it is only her high status that makes him pause. He exhorts her to take note of his service, even if his verbal skills are lacking.

—Joyce Todd McBride

In the culture of Moorish Spain, called Al-Andalus (711-1492c.e.), poetry was held in extremely high regard. Poems adorned the walls of palaces and poets frequently were elevated to high political position and kept at the various courts around the Iberian peninsula. As with the troubadours, much of Andalusian poetry was meant to be sung, even though in most cases prior to the 15th century, none of the music remains, only the poetry. The muwashsha (pl. muwashshat) was Al-Andalus' great contribution to Arabic classical poetry, and many muwashshat are still sung today, handed down in the traditions of Andalusian music of North Africa.

The poet al-A'ma at-Tutili (d.1126), translated literally as "the blind poet of Tudela" lived during the time of political fragmentation in Al-Andalus known as the Taifa era. The Caliphate of Cordoba had disintegrated, leaving many cities to carve out their own political powers, leaving poets like al-A'ma t-Tutili to spend his life as a traveling poet, seeking the kind of royal patronage that had waned with the demise of the caliphate. But poetry and the arts were still held in high esteem, and his muwashshat were famous throughout the Islamic world of his time for their rich melancholy.

Of the two pieces presented here, D'amun Masfuhun has a couplet in Spanish at the end, indicating which well-known melody would have accompanied the poem, but this melody is lost to us. We have recreated the music using the Andalusian mode of Maya, roughly analogous to a modern C major scale, but the tonic resting on the third. The short prelude, or tushiyya, is adapted from D'Erlander's transcriptions of Andalusian modes, and the rhythms are an adaptation of al-basit, in 6/8, and al-qa'im wa'nisf in 8/4. Frequently, modern interpretations of Andalusian poems/songs are much more melismatic than those presented here, which are condensed due to the length of the poems themselves. We have also presented both songs as a mini-suite, with no break, another tradition noted in the historical references to Andalusian musical culture.

—Tom Chandler