Recorded on 26, 27 June 1982
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Music And Poetry Are Everywhere combined in the art of song; in primitive cultures the two are rarely found apart. The function of song simply as entertainment, however varied the emotions and situations it expresses, can only be seen as an impoverishment of its role in pre-literate societies. Song for primitive man could wear a public or a private face; appropriate songs would accompany many different aspects of his life; indeed, the role they played was often vital. Underlying this was the magic potency of the word, whether sung to oneself, declaimed to others, or chanted together in rituals. Something of this deeply integrated expression survives, even as society evolves into a mixture such as our present technological and self-conscious environment. It is found lingering in folksong, emerges in what we loosely call 'popular' music and, with the rediscovery of early music, can be surprised lurking in the Middle Ages like a unicorn at the edge of a forest.
The 'wandering minstrel' image fashioned by the nineteenth century for the troubadours of operetta has sadly diluted our presentation and understanding of medieval song. We should be careful, though, not to criticise too carelessly. In the decades preceding the First World War, a way to the troubadours was found via Dante, and a flurry of scholarship produced dictionaries, anthologies, translations and a lively interest from Ezra Pound, one of our century's seminal poets. This declined with the war and only now are many of these early recoveries of troubadour culture being superceded by new scholarship.
The medieval lyric in general has been popularised in such anthologies as Helen Waddell's Medieval Latin Lyrics'. For the most part, the earliest surviving medieval lyrics have a distinctly religious character shaped by the tradition of Latin hymnody, and even the few surviving examples in vernacular tongues are religious in tone. Latin was the common language of educated men in christianised Europe and remained the major poetic tongue into the twelfth century. In the Sequence a large-scale form was established (notably by Notkcr in the ninth century) which is composed traditionally of paired lines of verse sung to the same melody, with a new melody for each new pair. (Both the Planctus and the Wedding Song on this record are in sequence-derived forms.)