Medieval England

Compared to the great collection of secular and sacred music from mainland Europe, there is very little surviving English music from before the 15th century. Even smaller is the repertoire of English music containing English texts only, as is the case in this programme. As is often the case, music for the church has been preserved in far greater quantity than for courtly and other secular settings. Oral transmission may have remained a dominant method in England, maintained as the norm in guilds and courtly circles for which writing music and text on paper was unnecessary. Or, perhaps, was there no courtly and lyric tradition the way there was in other countries? This seems unlikely considering the large number of vernacular texts (most of these texts appear without music, but many with empty staves set above them). However, there is no corresponding collection of secular song from England comparable to that of the Troubadour and Trouv?re song. Any large collection of music in England seems to have been lost or destroyed. The surviving music is eclectic: obvious linguistic differences appear as well as musical differences. One can not really speak of an ?English style?. Some English-texted paraliturgical music of the 13th century seems to have been based on similar music containing Latin texts like, for example, some surviving one- and two-voiced crucifixion laments. While the Latin texted versions would have been used in church it remains a mystery where the English version fitted in. Is it possible that the popular Mary-Masses (in some churches as many as one a day due to its popularity) were also held in the English language? Instrumental music in England seems the same as it was elsewhere in as much as it was probably of an oral tradition. Moving into the 15th century, the English repertoire becomes more prominent in European sources, among which Dunstable and Frye (who both maintained connections to the Courts of Burgundy) are some of the more famous composers. Of both composers we find music set to English as well as French texts. One could conclude that it is hard to define an ?English style? as such. The scarcities of the repertoire, as well as the regional and linguistic differences make this difficult to define. Grand Désir?s interpretation of the repertoire has been based on several linguistic, musical and social aspects in the 13th to 15th centuries such as references to England?s social structure, knowledge of the linguistic development and sources of (mainland) ornamentation practice.