List of Music Classes


Reading Music from Facsimile

We'll learn a Ravenscroft Christmas carol from the original 16th century notation. If you can read modern notation you can do this!

Embellishing 16th Century Music
A class on adding ornaments, or extra notes, especially good for dance music.  Bring an instrument.
[excellent handout redone 2013] 1  1/2hrs
Let's Play Ortiz Tenors
We'll practice our improv skills by jamming on a few of the tenors or ground bass lines in Diego Ortiz's treatise on viol playing (he calls them recercadas). Any instruments welcome, but be prepared to improvise. [2017]
Improvising Medieval Melodies
Using a few tunes from McGee's Medieval Instrumental Dances, we'll analyze the basic structure of a medieval dance tune with the goal of making up our own.  Bring an instrument.  Good for both people who play by ear and "paper-trained" musicians.  [no real handout- just some of the music]
Parameters for Picking more Plausibly Period Tunes
What makes a tune sound more medieval vs more modern? While there are always exceptions, we'll review some guidelines that can help you write or choose more period-sounding melodies.  [2016-taught in 2018]
Those Crazy Neumes: deciphering the earliest musical notation
The first notes were written as reminders by monks who had already learned the music by ear.  We'll learn the names of some of the different squiggles, then compare them to current Gregorian chant notation to see how they match up. We'll watch the notation evolve as they gradually add staff lines, but lose something in the process.  bring a pencil  [2016]
Music before 1200 AD
We'll start at 1200 A.D. in Western Europe (very traditional history), but then work our way backwards in a whirlwind tour of 3 continents and stretching back as far as we can -- we might even get to the Egyptians and Sumerians! There is definitely some Chinese music from the Tang Dynasty extant -- let's see what we can find!  [2 hour class, 2015]   [lost handout order - should redo sometime as just non-Western music class]
12th Century Aquitainian Polyphony/ The Earliest Written 2-Part Music
The earliest 2 part music we have is from monasteries in Eleanor of Aquitaine's backyard.  We'll discuss the early evolution of written music, and the difficulties of reading it, plus listen to some examples.  This music pre-dates the Notre-Dame school of Leonin and Perotin.  Handout with musical examples and bibliography/discography.
[orig. handout from A.S.34, new 2 page summarization with Hucbald quote added 2013, 1 1/2 hrs]
[class of sight-reading this music also possible]
13 from the 13th: Songs from the (mostly) 13th Century
[Devised as a stand-alone handout, this is a compilation of tunes I think should be wider known. When done as a class, we go through and try to sing them all. (13 is ambitious for 1 hour, +1/2 hr covers all) ] aka Period Tunes for Filking
Montpellier Motets
Have you ever sung Alle Psallite? Did you wish you could do more music like that? The manuscript that song is from has over 300 more songs. We will sing (or play) several from this 13-14th century manuscript. This music is especially good for singing groups of only one sex, as the ranges are not as wide as later 16th century music. Handout includes music and sources. [2018]
Cantigas de Sta. Maria
We will sing/play about 4 or 5 fairly well known cantigas from this excellent source of over 400 songs. Will also mention possible approaches to arranging them, as they are all monophonic (one part only). If you write your own poetry, these are a great tune resource. [2017- not taught yet; cantigas #1, 100, 166, 353, 77]
Interpreting Cantigas on Your Own: one possible approach
The Cantigas de Santa Maria are a well-known music source, but can you read the original notation yourself? Yes! By learning just a bit of medieval notation, you can check current transcriptions or even do your own! Why? Because some of the current versions out there are arguably wrong, and because it's fun. [1 1/2 hrs, 2017; cantigas #100, 166, 1, 340, 77]
Cantigas d'Amigo: Songs of My Boyfriend

An introduction to the songs and poems of the women troubadours and trouveres, and the cantigas d'amigo from Iberia.  The cantigas d'amigo were written by men, but are from a woman's point of view, usually a young unmarried woman, but sometimes her mother.  Handout includes poems and music, plus some original singable English translations/compositions by the instructor. 

The Women Troubadours

Same as above, but without the cantigas d'amigo (ie no Spain, just France)


The 1st Troubadour
Duke William IX of Aquitaine (Eleanor's grandpa) is credited with being the first troubadour.  Come learn about this interesting guy -- he was ex-communicated twice -- perhaps for some of his raunchy poems.  Adults only.  Handout with poems and translations.
Troubadours, Trouveres, & Jongleurs, Oh My!
Introduction to the troubadour and trouvere genre.  Fat handout includes many examples of different types of poems, a select bibliography, and websites. Class also touches on the difficulties associated with performing this genre and some possible solutions.
Some Troubadours & Trouveres of Eleanor's Time
A first look at troubadour poetry, all tied in to Eleanor of Aquitaine.  We'll start with her grandfather, called the 1st troubador, and end with her great-grandson, a noted trouvere.  Short handout has a few noted poems in translation.
So You Want to Be a Troubadour
Period music and poetry has some challenges for the modern performer.  This class will discuss the issues and provide suggestions for places to start, whether you want to perform period stuff, write your own poems to period songs or some other combination.  (Specifically we'll look at different versions of 3 songs: Wolfram von Eschenbach's *Jamer ist mir entsprungen*, Raimbaut de Vaquiras' *Kalenda maya*, and Bernard de Ventadorn's *Can vei la lauzeta*.) Good sources included on short handout. (also a second extra handout with more tunes)
How to Learn a Troubadour Song/How to Memorize a Song
Could be a class, just a paper for now. See website. [2018]
Medieval Modes
Wondering how to make a tune sound more medieval?  Go beyond major and minor keys, and learn about modes.  We'll start at Do-Re-Mi, then go on.  Previous music theory not necessary.  We'll learn how to figure out the mode of almost any pre-written song.  Handout includes a period song in every mode.  Bring a pencil.
Medieval Harmonizing
A how-to class on adding harmonies to melodies for a medieval sound.  Good for period tunes or new tunes. 
N.B.: Not Renaissance. [1p summary]
The Problems of Performing Medieval Music
We'll try to cover most of the issues with performing this repertoire, such as rhythm, tempo, languages, dynamics, instrumentation, ornamentation, and holding the audience's attention!  [No handout, more of a discussion]
Period Arabic Music: what do we know?
What do we know about period Arabic music?  There are a number of extant treatises about music, and lots of poems/lyrics, but no notation until post period.  We'll review what material is available in English, and what we can only guess at.  [2016]
Mode, Maqam, Thaat
A class comparing Western music modes (more expansive than scales) with Arabic maqams and Hindi thaats, or raga families. Will help if you are already familiar with one of the systems.  [plan to teach Pennsic 2019]


Music Theory: Medieval vs. Modern
What are the differences in the ways medieval musicians thought about music versus the ways in which we think today?  Does it matter?   Class will cover the Guidonian hand and hexachords vs. scales, keys vs. modes,  musica ficta vs. sharps and flats, and different temperaments or tuning systems.  [1 1/2 hrs, difficult class, probably covers too many concepts]
Assumptions in Music: it's not just the notes on the page
In any genre of music, there are aspects that are not written down. Knowing how to add what's missing is critical in being musical. We'll look at examples from a variety of different times and styles, then extrapolate how that may apply to period music. (sounds erudite, but should be fun and mind-blowing!) [2016]
Bowed Instruments Petting Zoo
(Rarely offered because I don't usually bring more than 3 instruments.)  Instruments available cover medieval and renaissance, and even a few other locations (ex: erhu-Chinese).