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"The Codex Faenza and the Tradition of Improvisation" (lecture-recital paper written in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the M.A. in Historical Performance Practice at Case Western Reserve University; recorded April 10th, 2018 in Harkness Chapel)

Radio Scripts


Harmonia – “Beasts And Bestiaries” (August 7th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  Physiologus” (August 8th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Renaissance Music In Theory” (September 4th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1163″ (September 6th, 2011)
Harmonia – “When In Rome . . .” (September 12th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1652 Rome” (September 15th, 2011)
Harmonia – “REBEL At The Indianapolis Early Music Festival” (September 26th, 2011)
Harmonia - “A Spotlight On Harry Christophers” (October 10th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule 1711″ (October 11th, 2011)
Harmonia – “The Far Side Of The Veil” (October 23rd, 2011)
Harmonia - “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1612″ (October 24th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1511″ (October 31st, 2011)
Harmonia – “Renaissance Bad Boys” (November 6th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1562″ (November 7th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harvest Season” (November 20th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1361″ (November 21st, 2011)
Harmonia – “Dancing In the Court Of The Sun King” (December 18th, 2011)
Harmonia - “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1512″ (December 19th, 2011)
Harmonia - “Seasonal Settings And Angelic Appearances” (December 19th, 2011)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1545″ (December 26th, 2011)
Harmonia – “A Musical Tour Of Prague” (January 1st, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1390″ (January 5th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1386″ (January 17th, 2012)
Harmonia – “A Musica Pacifica Retrospective” (January 22nd, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1445″ (January 23rd, 2012)
Harmonia - “Immortal Beloved” (February 5th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1170″ (February 6th, 2012)
Harmonia – “A Musical Tour Of Ferrara” (April 1st, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1618″ (April 2nd, 2012)
Harmonia – “A Spotlight On William Christie” (April 29th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1486″ (April 30th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Marcel Pérès:  Musician, Musicologist, Medievalist” (June 3rd, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1377″ (June 4th, 2012)
Harmonia - “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1474″ (June 25th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Catchy Tunes:  Gloria Tibi Trinitas” (July 29th, 2012) [segments:  "Listener's Guide to the Renaissance Consort:  Sackbut" and "Featured release: Bruce Haynes’ re-orchestrations of the Brandenburg Concertos"]
Harmonia - “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1535″ (August 20th, 2012)
Harmonia – “A Musical Tour Of London” (September 9th, 2012)
Harmonia - “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1500″ (September 10th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Catching Up With The Boston Camerata, Part 1″ (October 7th, 2012) [segment:  "Listener's Guide to the Renaissance Consort:  Shawm"]
Harmonia – “Tafelmusik’s Galileo Project” (October 14th, 2012)
Harmonia - “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1600″ (October 15th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1250″ (November 19th, 2012)
Harmonia - “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1700″ (November 26th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1400″ (December 17th, 2012)
Harmonia – “A Musical Tour of Paris” (December 30th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule: Père Lachaise Cemetery” (December 31st, 2012)
Harmonia – “Spotlight On Julianne Baird” (January 6th, 2013)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1156″ (January 7th, 2012)
Harmonia – “Celestial Sirens” (January 20th, 2013)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1350″ (January 21st, 2013)
Harmonia – “Musical Tour of Madrid” (February 17th, 2013)
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1801″ (February 18th, 2013)
Harmonia - “Music For Celtic Saints” (March 10th, 2013) [segment:  "Listener's Guide to the Renaissance Consort:  Harp"]
Harmonia – “Spotlight On The New York Pro Muisca, Part 1″ (March 24th, 2013) [segments:  "Listener's Guide to the Renaissance Consort:  Recorder" and "Featured release:  Hymnus"]
Harmonia - “Spotlight On The New York Pro Musica, Part 2″ (March 31st, 2013) [segment:  "Featured release:  Lord Gallaway's Delight"]
Harmonia – “Harmonia Time Capsule:  1410″ (April 1st, 2013)
Harmonia - “Spotlight On The New York Pro Musica, Part 3″ (April 7th, 2013) [segment:  "Featured release:  El Cicle de la Vida"]


Blog Posts


Keiskamma Trust – “Celebrating Bell” (November 14th, 2013)
Keiskamma Trust – “Keiskamma Music Academy students prepare for Cape Town” (February 25th, 2014)
Keiskamma Trust – “Easter Concert 2014 at Tea in the Trees” (April 24th, 2014)
Keiskamma Trust – “Keiskamma Music Academy Attempts World Record” (June 3rd, 2014)
Keiskamma Trust – “Keiskamma Music Academy at the Eastern Cape Eisteddfod” (June 13th, 2014)

Texts from Africa - "Texts from Africa" (July 27th, 2014)
Texts from Africa - "We've reached the end of August" (August 21st, 2014)
Texts from Africa - "We've reached the end of an era" (September 8th, 2014)
Texts from Africa - "Keiskamma Music Academy moves in" (September 16th, 2014)
Texts from Afirca - "Water and Time" (September 24th, 2014)
Texts from Africa - "From Notre Dame Polyphony to Umthi" (October 2nd, 2014)
Texts from Africa - "In Honor of Thanksgiving:  The Gratitude Challange" (October 14th, 2014)
Texts from Africa - "Shaping the Learning Space" (November 19th, 2014)
Texts form Africa - "Lisekho Mbioza" (December 24th, 2014)
Texts from Africa - "Stage Fright" (March 29th, 2015)
Texts from Africa - "Stage Fright (Pt. II)" (April 4th, 2015)
Texts from Africa - "Keiskamma Music Academy Today" (April 10th, 2015)
Texts from Africa - "Eve of New Year's Eve" (December 28th, 2015)

Program Notes


Ensemble Musica Humana – Ordo Virtutum (Friday, April 4th, 2014; Saturday, April 5th, 2014; and Sunday, April 6th, 2014)


Ensemble Musica Humana welcomes you to the Ordo Virtutum. This earliest surviving medieval morality play features a celestial battle between Devil and Virtues for a single human soul. A harrowing tale of the soul’s choices is highlighted by the music of 12th-century abbess Hildegard von Bingen . . . with diabolical shouting and laughter when the Devil shows his face.

The Ordo Virtutum (“Order of the Virtues”) tells the story of Anima in transit between the apparent pleasures and hidden perils of earthly existence and the everlasting rewards of an unblemished, virtuous life. Temptation of the flesh is personified by the Devil. The ancient seducer uses all power to compel Anima, while the Virtues eagerly invite her along a higher path. Anima falls, but in the end returns to the Virtues, who bind the Devil and celebrate both moral and physical victory.


A thematic “sketch” of the Ordo survives in the third and final part of Hildegard’s Scivias (c. 1151-2). Although Hildegard’s vision is sadly unaccompanied by either staging instructions or set designs, vivid depictions of the Virtues, including dress, are shown. Music for the Ordo appears as a series of plainchant melodies in the Riesenkodex, whose transcription is believed to have been supervised by Hildegard herself circa 1175-9. At the end of her life, the then-venerated abbess likely envisioned the importance of preserving her work for future generations.  In addition to writings on varied topics such as theology, botany, and medicine, we can glean rich biographical information about Hildegard from daily correspondence. Some 390 letters survive from her lifetime: a testament to the high esteem held for Hildegard by persons from all walks of life.


We know that Hildegard was the tenth child of Rhenish nobleman Hildebert of Bermersheim and his wife Mechthild. At the age of fourteen, Hildegard accompanied her older sister to become a religious recluse at the Benedictine monastery of Disibod and took her vows on All Saints Day, November 1st, 1112. The monastery then was relatively young and undergoing major renovation. Located on a hilltop south of Sponheim, Disibod housed both male and female members of the Benedictine community. Archeological excavations uncovered at least a dozen foundations for religious buildings, including the dormitory where Hildegard slept and the chapel where she and her sister worshipped. After her appointment as magistra in 1136, Hildegard received a vision to establish a new convent on Rupertsberg across from Bingen. To finance this move was no easy matter: Hildegard, reliant on her nuns’ endowments and family charities, could only accept novices from well-off nobility. At the new convent, Hildegard and her virgins gained notoriety for their dress on feast days. Wearing gold rings, crowns of gold filigree, and white silk veils that touched the floor, they sang psalms in clear violation of convent rule. To this controversy, Hildegard spoke that her nuns, unlike married women, were subject to no man, and could thus celebrate their chastity with ornament and unbound hair.


For our Ordo, we worked with a Latin text and translation based on definitive editions by Peter Dronke. Dronke’s chapter, “Hildegard of Bingen as Poetess and Dramatist,” ushered a wave of interest in the Ordo among English-speaking scholars and has encouraged numerous musical realizations in past decades. The Ordo has been performed at such prestigious locations as the Washington National Cathedral and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In 2012, Hildegard was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI, a modern-day honor that punctuated a centuries-long canonization beginning in the 13th century. It is with this knowledge that EMH proudly brings Hildegard von Bingen’s story to today’s stage. We hope to continue a legacy undoubtedly deserving of honor and cast a fresh vision to match Hildegard’s own.


The Broken Consort – “The Three Ms:  Muses, Modes, and Magic!”


The Broken Consort and The Dance Project welcome you to “Muses, Modes, and Magic!,” a music and dance extravaganza.

During the Middle Ages and renaissance, ancient myth featured prominently in new works of art and music. A revival of Classical literature provided musicians with a treasure-trove of narratives and characters to draw upon for inspiration. According to Greek mythology, the union of the god Zeus and the titaness Mnemosyne produced the nine goddesses called the Muses. Each divine daughter embodied her own branch of the arts.


Polyhymnia, the Muse of sacred hymns and dance, was considered a serious and meditative figure. In visual depictions, she is often shown wearing her symbol, the veil, and resting her elbow on a pillar. The first Muse on our program is commemorated by a movement from Patricia Van Ness’s composition for female voices, The Nine Order of the Angels. Terpsichore, whose name means “delight in dancing” reigned over sacred chorus. Terpsichore is widely depicted with a lyre, a plucked string instrument played widely during the Middle Ages and Antiquity. This Muse is accompanied by Istanpitta Isabella, a wild musical foray from 14th-century Italy.

Melpomenu, commonly known as the Muse of Tragedy, appears garbed in an imposing mask and boots worn by Greek tragic actors. Originally a Muse of singing, her name derives from the Greek verb melpô meaning “to celebrate with dance and song.” An appropriately tragic song by composer and lutenist John Dowland speaks to our Muse’s nature. “Weep you no more, sad fountains” entreats sad eyes to cease weeping and seek solace in sleep.

Erato is the Muse of lyric poetry, particularly poetry of an amorous or erotic nature. Beginning in the Middle Ages, she was shown with a wreath of myrtle and roses. She holds a kithara, an instrument in the lyre family, that later became synonymous with the small renaissance guitar. A suitably erotic chanson by famed renaissance composer Josquin des Prez honors Erato’s legacy. Its lyric’s state: “Soothe me, dark little beauty. Just below the navel. Soothe away all my pains. Your beauty makes me amorous, just below the navel.”

Clio, the Muse of history,carries with her a roll of parchment or a set of tablets. Our tribute to Clio features a two-voice vocal improvisation in the hypodorian mode using text from the medieval Carmina Burana. This and the Nibelungenlid in honor of the Muse Calliope point at similarities between musicians and poets in our culture and those in medieval culture.

Calliope, meaning “beautiful-voiced,” was the favored Muse of the poet Homer. Her domain has always been epic poetry. Along with music for Clio, our interpretations serve as examples of how we believe well-known texts might have been sung during the Middle Ages.

Euterpe, the muse of music and lyric poetry, was held in special regard by composers. Euterpe is often depicted playing a flute, and she is believed by some to have invented the aulos, a wind instrument with two windways and one mouthpiece. To celebrate this Muse, we’ll hear Non è di gentil corefrom Claudio Monteverdi’s seventh book of madrigals, followed by the anonymous Scottish folksong “If I were a blackbird.” Two time-removed pieces both speak on the tireless subject of love. Monteverdi’s madrigal pronounces, “he has not a gentle heart who does not burn for love,” and in “If I were a blackbird,” a lover longs to assume the shape of a blackbird to reunite with his faraway beloved.

Our last Muse, Urania, is the Muse of astronomy. Her name refers to the heavenly bodies, at which men wondered for centurues. Urania wears a robe embroidered with stars, her gaze fixed on the mysterious heavens. She often holds a celestial globe.


To conclude our program, we perform In hydraulis, a four-voice motet by Antoine Busnois that pays homage to his esteemed contemporary Johannes Ockeghem. Throughout our program, instrumental interludes and improvisations weave through and introduce new musical sets. These are drawn from Vincenzo Galilei’s lute songs for the nine Muses.

ROOK – “The Heritage of San Marco”


Today, Rook delves into a rich collection of works for instruments and voices by composers active during the 16th and 17th centuries. Those showcased on our program represent the pinnacle of composition, performance, and improvisation in their time. Many were celebrated as preeminent virtuosi who, through a working combination of practical talent and intellectual prowess, won choice musical positions within prominent chapels and powerful courts. Many are still recognized as galvanizing musical forces behind artistic developments throughout the seicento.


Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) was elected as organist for the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano’s Cappella Guilia in 1608. A legend forwarded by author Antonio Libanori states that Frescobaldi’s first appearance for the Cappella drew over 3,000 listeners. Works such as Frescobaldi’s Canzon quarta and Toccata prima demonstrate a command of traditional Francoflemish contrapuntal style, plus interplays of musical ideas ranging from madrigalian chromaticism to metrical hallmarks of the seconda pratica. Vocalist Costanzo Festa (c. 1485-1545) was long considered the premier Northern Italian contrapuntist during the 15th and 16th centuries. From 1517 till his death, Festa sang as a member of the Cappella Sistina. His three-voice setting of Ingiustissimo amor . . . from Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso is but one of nearly a hundred extant madrigals. Festa’s numerous secular compositions accompany a comparable wealth of Masses, Mass movements, Magnificats, Lamentations, and hymns written for the Roman Liturgy. Violinist Antonio Bertali (1605-1669) also contributed greatly to to the life of the liturgy, following his appointment as Kapellmeister to the Viennese imperial court in 1649. In addition to music for the worship service, he frequently crafted musical compositions for solemn and festive occasions. These compositions include contrapuntal works, such as his Sonata quarta, as well as large, multi-sectional pieces for trumpets, cornetts, strings, and continuo. Dario Castello (c.1590-1658) worked as a wind player at the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco from 1621 onward. In the Sonata quarta, drawn from Castello’s first collection of instrumental compositions, one hears rapid successions of contrasting affects and sharp shifts from one section to the next. Such patterning and pathos became emblematic of the then-nascent stile moderno. The number of reprints Castello’s sonatas enjoyed in the years subsequent to their original publication suggests relatively wide dissemination and points at the popularity of the new compositional style. Another wind player, Giovanni Bassano (c. 1558-1617), was appointed one of the six pifferi del doge (or “pipers of the Doge”) while still in his teens. From there, he went on to serve as leader of the Basilica of St. Mark’s instrumental ensemble, wherein much of his work called for improvisation. Elements of Bassano’s technique for improvising divisions on polyphonic vocal lines survive in his treatise Ricercate, passagi et cadentie . . . (1585). The technique could easily have been applied in Bassano’s Fantasia; and a similar style of composition (or recorded improvisation) fills Susana Pasegiata Basso Solo by the Spanish bassoonist Bartolome de Selma y Salaverde (c. 1595-1638). Once again, divisions pervade variations on the popular Lachrime Pavan by lutenist, cornettist, trombonist, and violinist Johann Schop (c. 1590-1667). Schop attracted both an engagement as a musician for the Wolfenbüttel Hofkapelle and a position as musician to Christian IV of Denmark in Copenhagen in 1615. Still to come was work as a municipal violinist for the city Hamburg, an opportunity that afforded Schop freedom to venture from his employ for performances at foreign courts. Marco Antonio Ferro (d. 1662) worked intermittently as a composer and lutenist in the Vienna Hofkapelle between 1642 and 1662. A single collection of twelve compositions, to which his Sonata quinta belongs, features skilled writing for different string ensembles. Such sonatas have also been scored to include the usage of cornetts, bassoon, trombone, and theorbo. Not least on our program is a setting of Psalm 150: Laudate Dominum by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). A product of a skilled composer in all then-prevalent instrumental and vocal genres, Monteverdi’s oeuvre embraces the majority, if not the entirety, of music styles heard in his day. Works by Monteverdi still tend to be cast as dichotomies of prima and seconda pratica aesthetics. But the influences from which Monteverdi—and, indeed, most of his contemporaries–drew inspiration from are far more numerous and nuanced than we might be led to think.

La Camaraderie – “Antico è Nuovo:  di Stile Moderno” (November 14th, 2010)


Our program offers a sampling of musical innovation from 16th- and 17th-century Italy.  Although the list of composers and pieces presented this afternoon is by no means thoroughly representative of that time period’s musical wealth, we may envision the common threads that connect the relatively old and the relatively new.  While it might be convenient, for the sake of ease in this present age of consumer categorization, to drive a wedge between these and other centuries, the historical landscape of 16th- and 17th-century Italy, and that of all Europe at this time, rightfully resists the modern imposition of firm boundaries.


Let us then recall the Catholic Counter-Reformation, for which Vincenzo Ruffo was an influential figure, as well as the Council of Trent, which, in the realm of music, secured for set texts a position beyond that of the polyphonic texture and allowed for an elevation of words and their meaning.  Let us also recall the “northern heritage”:  the tides of Franco-Flemish musical tradition that washed over the Italian peninsula, and the Oltremontani, such as Ciprano de Rore, who, in the filed of secular composition, were swift to adapt and forward the indigenous Italian frottola and ballata.  Let us place among these and other vernacular forms the madrigal, noting its development from an unaccompanied, polyphonic genre through levels of greater sophistication, to Claudio Monteverdi’s vehicle of drama and declamation.  In doing so, we must, of course, heed the significance of humanistic thought and the cradle formed of converging actions and ideas:  Petrarch and the careful exemplification of his work, the invention of the printing press, of movable type, and the subsequent spread of compositions en vogue.  In the intermeddii for La Pellegrina, for which Emilio de’ Cavalieri and Cristofano Malvezzi composed, exist marriages of conjugal bliss with exaggeration of myth, of pageantry and pomp, of tradition and experimentation, of travail and spectacular triumph.  At last, in the sonatas written by Dario Castello, a collection of the earliest violin-family-specific compositions, we witness yet another development–this time, within an instrumental realm–of the canzona, or instrumental chanson, into the sonata.


What all of this will underscore is that 16th- and 17th-century acts of musical creation cannot be categorized with free conscience unless we understand that compositions were subject to myriad mandates, milieus, and tastes.  Furthermore, few seemingly crystalized genres can be well represented without taking into account their respective metamorphoses.  With this understand, even in an era far removed from renaissance Italy, we may delight in musical compositions extraordinarily varied in their inception, even if further thought given to their origins leaves us feeling both elated and ill-at-ease.  “The past is a foreign country:  they do things differently there.”


For more writing by Laura Osterlund, visit Texts from Africa.


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