Medieval Concert: Unexpected Innovations


People’s Museum of Limerick

Vlad Smishkewych, voice, sinfonia, percussion

Sarah Groser, vielle

Michelle O’Connor, vielle

(40 mins, followed by Q&A)

Most modern impressions of the medieval period tend towards an antiquarian and dismal view of this period, so often referred to as the “Dark Ages.” Although it had its share of social backwardness (one could equally argue the same of our present age) it was nonetheless a time of great musical, literary, and artistic flourishing. Each generation of the so-called “long medieval period”—between the 9th through to the 14th centuries—saw itself as the vanguard of its time. Musical styles shifted rapidly in Europe, as plainchant incorporated the novel forms of polyphony that arose from within its own musical matrix (organum) and interwove this with versus, the new song genre that brought the troubadours to the fore in the 12th through 14th centuries. Freer polyphonic styles incorporated modal rhythmic structures, evolving into highly ordered motets that would eventually culminate in the Ars Nova, even giving rise to such esoteric forms as the jazzy Ars Subtilior. The opening concert of H.I.P.S.T.E.R.’s Early Music Day celebrations brings together many of these innovative musical styles, representatives of various forms of medieval-style Avant-garde from the 11th through 15th centuries, from Machaut’s songs and Dufay and Vitry’s motets to the offbeat wackiness of Ars Subtilior composers Ciconia, Solage and Cordier.

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