Beloved Christmas carols: In dulci jubilo / Good Christian men, rejoice

Most of what we call Christmas carols are actually Christmas hymns. “In dulci jubilo” is a true carol, that is, a medieval dance tune. Carol texts could be either sacred or secular. Sacred texts usually concerned major feast days, including the birth of Jesus, thus the association of carols with Christmas music. Folk instruments, including drums and other percussion, frequently accompanied carols and other dances. The use of dance rhythms, instruments, and non-Latin texts made carols like “In dulci jubilo” unsuitable for use in Roman Catholic church services. But the Medieval world knew no separation between religious and secular life. … Continue reading

Street music from antiquity to now

In many places in many cities all over the world, pedestrians are treated to live music. Pop singers, jazz musicians, gospel singers, even classical musicians perform for whomever passes by, most often with instrument cases or some other container open in order to solicit donations. Collectively, these entertainers are known as buskers. They represent an ancient tradition. I say all over the world, and I’m sure that’s no exaggeration, but this post concerns only street entertainments that can be traced back to the Roman Empire. … Continue reading

Nighttime dangers and the beginning of a musical tradition

                                      The Towers of 11th-century Bologna Brass players know the term Stadtpfeifer mostly in reference to a group of municipal trombonists and cornettists in Leipzig, whose members included composers  Johann Pezel and Gottfried Reiche in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Other German towns sponsored similar bands. The first such bands (known in the literature as alta Bands) formed in the Middle Ages, and the last ones persisted into the nineteenth century. Bands started in other countries at about the same time (in England they were called waits), but the tradition did not last as long. These bands, and similar ones … Continue reading