Performance Workshop 1: JP27a

A first post from the performance workshop with graindelavoix, sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust and held at St Hugh’s College, Oxford in March 2017.


This is the first of a series of posts giving the audio tracks and an introduction for the songs from Douce 308 that we workshopped in Oxford in March 2017 with graindelavoix and my students and postdocs. This first song, Amins ki est li muez vaillans (RS365) is a jeu-parti included seamlessly and without a new large initial letter, separate index listing, or number after JP27, thus given the number JP27a. As well as being found in an eight-stanza version in Douce 308, the text is found in TrouvC with empty staves and in TrouvO with notation, although with only the first three stanzas of text. The notation in TrouvO reveals that this is one of a number of texts that were sung to the tune of Bernart de Ventadorn’s widely copied song, Can vei la lauzeter, which is why listeners might recognize the melody. (The Douce 308 texts can be found starting on f.190v if you follow the link to the manuscript images here.)

The JP text stages a debate between woman and a man, with the woman asking which is better: the lover who comes and takes all his desire quickly and leaves, or the man who stays all night but does not do the whole deed? The man, responding in stanza 2 argues for the first option, claiming that desire needs sating; the woman therefore agues the other side. The text is replete with musical and textual parallels in the two sides of the argument and the man ultimate breaks into the regular pattern of stanzaic alternation to wrest the seventh stanza from the woman mid-way through (the pretext is his answer of what is surely a rhetorical question on her part). The laughter at the end of the track was occasioned by the singer playing the woman (Meghan Quinlan), storming offstage in extreme disapproval at this terrible behaviour.

The tracks below give the song first in an English singing translation by Meghan Quinlan (the singer of the male part is Joseph Mason), and then in the original French, sung by members of graindelavoix. Much of the acting is audible in the audio, but I hope also to post video footage as well, which will show just how many additional possibilities for generating meaning from these pieces are available when performed as a ‘scene’.

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English version of JP27a: Meghan Quinlan and Joseph Mason: 

French version of JP27a: Anne-Kathryn Olsen and Adrian Sîrbu: 

(Accompaniment in both recordings by Thomas Baeté)

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Douce 308 complete images now online!

Dead peacock

Porrus kills Fezonas’s peacock in the first item in Douce 308, The Vows of the Peacock. Image, Bodleian Library.

The first thing promised as part of my Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship is now done.

The complete images of the manuscript Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce 308 are now online. The photography is funded by part of the Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship that I was awarded for 2015-18 specifically to write a book on this source and what it might tell us about the culture(s) of vernacular song in the few decades either side of 1300. (Some viewers may find it easier to use this alternative link to view the images.)

Many thanks to the Bodleian Library for their great efficiency in getting this done in time for the project start date (1 Oct 2015), which will mean I can get going straight away. I was interested to be asked whether I actually wanted to withhold the open-access web-mounting of the images until after I’d written my book. While I’m glad they asked, I think anyone’s going to ‘beat me’ to saying exactly what I would say about it, and my general view is the more the merrier on people using these images and finding things to say about this wonderful and complex source. I certainly won’t exhaust it!

I’m looking forward to blogging bits and pieces of interesting stuff as I go along.

At the Medieval Academy of America Annual Conference 2015

EEL opening plenaryI was honoured to be invited to give the opening Plenary lecture at the MAA annual meeting, this year held at the University of Notre Dame in the US. Continue reading

Review of Helen Deeming’s edition of Songs in British Sources (with link to full text)

My review of Helen Deeming’s edition of Songs in British Sources (Musica Britannica, vol. 95), has just become available via the advance access section of Early Music. Continue reading