The Cultural Context of Medieval Music

By Nancy Van Deusen | Go to book overview

1
Introduction: Principles,
Vocabulary, Concepts

Music in the Middle Ages was closely related to and made comprehensible by life experience. Not at all a dry academic field, far removed from what people did and thought about all day long, music as a discipline bridged the gap between learning and life, and as such had intense relevance to the way one lived and thought about the world. Let us examine the medieval priorities we have mentioned by observing how the concepts of mass, portion (chunk), particular figura, and connection/relationship, as well as motion, can be found in what might appear, on the surface, to be a folktale. (Read it carefully, with patience, since these priorities are imbedded within the story. Priorities are unlocked only with effort.) The story brings out, one by one, through repetition, all that is necessary to understand key aspects of a medieval mentality toward composition with music and words.


NOVELLA 59: “FIORDINANDO”

According to 19th-century compiler Gherardo Nerucci, this story was told to him by one Giovanni Becheroni, a farmer (contadina). In the following English translation, capitalizations have been retained from the original edition of Nerucci, since each figura indicated by a uppercase letter delineates a recognizable and consistent type within the entire group of figurae, or “varied and diverse characters.” Phrase lengths and punctuation within the original Italian have also been retained for the most part, to communicate the conversational tone of the narrative. This English translation has retained the nuances of Nerucci’s Italian text, which also includes shifts between past and present tenses.

In the old days, a King had a son called Fiordinando, who almost never
left his room but went on reading and studying. He would go out of

-1-

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