Music of the Renaissance Banquet From a musical perspective, the most important music heard at Renaissance banquets was that heard when the banquet was concluded. The brief concerts, that is to say the moment when music was actually listened to by contemplative listeners. Which were always specified as taking place “after the tables were cleared,” were really an important step toward today’s concerts of aesthetic music.
As we have discussed these small after banquet concerts in other essays, the focus of the resent essay will be to attempt to place in perspective the changing fashion of the music played while the company Is actually dining. Needless to say, the only surviving descriptions of such occasions are of the banquets of the aristocracy. Some 14th century accounts of banquet music tend to speak simply of minstrels, without identifying the actual instruments.
A passage in Chaucer, for example, speaks of the music played before the king at dinner, While that this king sit thus in his ennoble, Hearkening his menstruates hair things apple Born hymn at the bored deliciously. A scalar reference to minstrels In general Is found In the English classic, “Sir Gain and the Green Knight. ” We are told here that the minstrels, while the guests and “all manner of meats, they made as much merriment as any men might. ” With mirth and minstrelsy, with metes at her willed, That madden as merry as any men mighty.
Another description of banquet music In the Sir Gain tale mentions trumpets, take to mean shams. Then the first source come with cracking of trumpet, Ninth moony banner full bright that either hanged. New angry noose with the noble pipes. Nile the reader may wonder about digestion when eating in a relatively small palace room to the sound of trumpets and timpani, this passage is very similar to another account, that by a visiting French Journalist who described Macmillan I dining alone in 1492! His Majesty sits in a hall covered with tapestry, without another person except his court [Jongleurs].
At every meal, mid-day or evening, there were 10 trumpeters and 10 other kinds. There were two large timpani of fine copper covered Ninth ass skins and standing in two baskets. In the middle sat a man with a thick stick Inch he let loose in beats on [the timpani] so that the tone was in unison with the other instruments, as is used in Hungary or Turkey, it was amazing and humorous to rhea early English tale of Sir Gain also has several references to banquets which included the singing of English carols. In one case, the banquet had been continuing already for 1 5 days!
Sixteenth cared to the court Carole’s to make. For there the fest was ‘lechery full fifteen dates. Another occasion refers to Christmas, Nell becomes such craft upon Criticisms, Lacking of interludes, to laugh and to sang, Among these Kennedy Carole’s of knights and ladies. ND yet another to dancing while singing carols, Daunted full dryly with deer Carole’s. Ay the 1 5th century we begin to see accounts of banquets which place a new emphasis on variety in the music heard – no more diet of trumpets! In 14th century Italy we already see this new style in Vocation’s reference to “many and various musical sounds. The silver trays offered abundant food and the fine gold gave delicious wines to the thirsty; indeed the royal halls were soon to be seen filled with noble youths at every table; and the many and various musical sounds often caused he glittering hall to tremble. A visitor to a dinner given by Rene II of Enjoy, in 1489, reports that while the various courses were served with great ceremony with the music of trumpets, shams [fifers] and tambourines, the actual music during the dining was performed by “all sorts of instruments. Tinctures, the great theorist of the Low Countries, mentions a wide ‘rarity of instruments, now including singers, the importance of music in increasing pleasures, observing that, singers and all types of instrumentalists shams, drummers, organists, Latinists, recorder and trumpet players add to the significance of great banquets. N banquet music in more poetic terms, Around the festive board zithers, harps, and lyres set the air vibrating with delightful sounds, with soft harmony and tuneful notes.
There was song, too, song of love’s Joys and ecstasies, and recitals of pleasing fantasies framed in verse of happiest inspiration. A later, 1591, translation of this passage gives the instruments used as “trumpets, showboat, cornets, flutes… Virginals, vials and lutes. ” The most complete account we have for this period of the heterogeneous mixture of instruments for the music of unquiet is found among the eye-witness reports of perhaps the most famous banquet of the 1 5th century, the banquet of the Order of the Golden Fleece Joiner’s] hosted by Philip the Good in 1454 in Lie.
Philip organized this gathering n the hope of attempting to convince the participating nobles to Join in a crusade, Constantinople having fallen to the Turks the previous year. The banquet associated Math this meeting of the Order is probably the most documented single banquet of the Renaissance. Taken together, the various eye-witnesses report the following amazing variety of music. First there were two special constructions within the dining hall (itself specially built for this banquet) which were for the purpose of music.
One Nas a model church, complete with stained glass windows and a bell in the steeple. It contained four singers and an organ. Across the room was a great pastry pie Inch contained twenty-eight musicians. One can not be entirely sure of the instrumentation of the ensemble in the pie, as the eyewitnesses were somewhat confused by the resultant sound, but taking all the sources together there were mentioned bagpipes, cornets, trumpets, lutes, dalliances, flutes and drums. When all the guests were seated, a bell rang in the model church, followed by a chanson sung by the musicians inside.
This was apparently the first of the musical selections performed as the food was being made ready. The chanson was followed with a performance by a musician of the bagpipe, dressed as a shepherd. Then a performing horse entered the hall, walking backward, and on its back were two trumpeters, sitting back to back and dressed in gray and black robes and wearing masks and “surprising” hats. The organ in the church played next, followed by a ‘German coronet” from the pie, “sounding very strange. As the banquet proceeded there was continual music.
One heard the singers again in a motet and a three-part chanson, “La salvaged De ma vie. ” In through the doors of the hall came four trumpeters, in white robes playing gold trumpets, followed by more vocal music. Now a young boy (one account says a girl) seated on an artificial white stag with gilded antlers entered the hall. The boy wore a short costume of crimson silk, a little black hat and shoes of pony skin and sang Duff’s chanson, “Jew en visa onuses la particle,” accompanied by the stag (another hidden musician). Next a play, “The
Mystery and Adventure of Jason,” was performed on a stage, followed by more singing and organ playing from the model church. One heard a fanfare by the gold trumpets, from behind a green stage curtain, and then a four-part recorder performance from inside the pie. The duke’s two blind vile players performed with young girl, followed by an instrumental work by pipe and tabor players inside the dressed in white, representing the captive Church begging for delivery by a crusade. At this time Duff’s “Lamentation sancta matrix ecclesiae Constitutionality” was performed.
The banquet lasted until 4:00 AM. The distinguishing characteristic of 16th century Renaissance music was the adoption of the consort principle. Due to technical advances in the art of wood-working it had become possible for the first time to make a true bass instrument for the various wind families. This led to instrument makers constructing “families” of instruments, bass through soprano, Inch they sold together in a large case and which when performed together became known as a “consort. This made possible great progress in, among other things, the possibility of a group of instrumentalists playing in tune in an era with no agreed pitch standard. By the end of the century players began to mix the better sounding instruments of the various families and this is styled a “mixed-consort. ” It was such a consort that was reported in a series of entertainments held at Fontainebleau in 1564, in honor of the visit there by Charles ‘X. One evening we read that when the king was seated at the banquet table, “as the first service was presented there began concert of cornets and a sackbut. During Elizabethan England it was apparently Shawn consort which was favored at banquets and for this reason there are several references to this practice in Shakespeare. In Timing of Athens, l, it, there is also a banquet scene, where the stage direction call for “Youths playing loud music. ” During this banquet there is a masque featuring “Cupid and Ladies of the Amazons,” who play lutes and dance. After the masque, the guests dance with the Amazons to music which the stage directions identify as “a lofty strain or two of the youths. In Antonym and Cleopatra the stage direction reads only “Music plays” while servants bringing in a banquet. It is likely Shakespeare used oboes here as well, for later in this play (V, iii) a stage direction reads “Music of the youths is under the tag,” referring to music of the underworld performed from the “music room. ” In Coriolanus, ‘V, v, as well, we suspect that the banquet scene carrying the stage direction, “Music plays,” refers to the oboe consort. While the oboes performed during the banquet, it was still a trumpet signal which called the guests to the table. Hush, in Othello, a stage direction reads “Trumpets within” and Ago remarks, “Hark how these instruments summon you to supper. ” But, musicians, and no doubt guests as well, soon discovered that listening to one consort throughout a long banquet became tonally boring. Therefore the practice which became common was the performance of alternating consorts. This meant the noble, or the city in case of civic banquets, had to supply the 5 or 6 musicians with perhaps 100 instruments. Rush with a number of different consorts the musicians could perform each composition on different instruments for variety.
When François I met with Henry VIII in 1520 he obviously wanted to represent himself with the most elaborate entertainment music available to him. In their first banquet he had Henry greeted by 24 trumpets and one account of the final banquet describes music by numerous tooting consorts. During the meal, the royal musicians played in turn; trumpets, cornets, fifes [shams? ], sackbuts, trombones, surrounds, a tabor, a viol and a dutiful. The court of Albert V of Munich. … Sometimes with corona-MUSM, sometimes with recorders or with flutes, or cornets and trombones in French chansons or other light compositions.
For Albertan wedding banquet in 1568, we have a detailed report by Titration of the instrumental variety achieved through changing the instruments in the consort. During the first course the guests heard a 7 part motet by Lasses played by cornets ND trombones. The second course featured a 6 part madrigal by Stirring performed by 6 grosser trombones, the bass of which was reported to have sounded an octave lower than the rest. Another course was served to an ensemble of doodling, surnames, Shawn and mute coronet.
Praetorian provides an illustration of how this might work in a typical banquet, but he arrives at this topic by first giving several definitions of reiteration. In the last of these, he mentions a work by Monteverdi for v’ices and instruments where in some places there is no text and the word reiteration appears. This, says Praetorian, means only the instruments play, and the purpose Implied is variety of tonal color. He then mentions that the term confusion is also sometimes found in such places and he finds some composers make no clear distinction between reiteration and confusion in such cases.
Praetorian, however, recognizes a difference in style. A confusion is not unlike an agreeable paean or stately sonata. A reiteration, however, is like a gaillardia, accurate, Volta or cannons, full of faster note values. In any case, he describes these as relatively brief instrumental interludes and he ads that they are not unlike the intermezzi which are performed between the acts of Italian comedies, “to enable the actors to change costumes and catch their breath. ” One can proceed in a similar manner when trying to arrange some good music for banquets of noblemen and other Joyful gatherings.
Thus after one has had two or more boys sing with a harpsichord, regal or similar fundamental instrument, one immediately begins to play something else with lutes, Pandora, violins, cornets, trombones and the like, with instruments alone and no voices. Then one has the v’ices start again, thus instruments and voices alternating by turns. Similarly after a concerto or a splendid motet a gay canon, gaillardia, accurate, or the like can be presented with instruments only. This can also be done by a single organist or a Latinist.
Playing at banquets he may after performing a motet or madrigal quite slowly and gravely continue with a gay allemande, antiradar, bearable, or gaillardia, to be followed again by another motet, madrigal, paean or artful fugue. Finally, we should report that there have always been some Renaissance philosophers who were not moved by all this musical brilliance and disliked everything about the banquet scene. Vocation, for example, complains in one place that, “we may… Hear entertainers sing their dirty songs at banquets…. ” In another place he asks, Do you think those who spend their time at great banquets and drinking are happy?
Far from it. They are weak and soft from their indolence. Our attention away from the enjoyment of eating. There is, he says, a “Jealousy and rivalry among our pleasures: they clash and get in each other’s way. ” He supports his argument by mentioning that Localities banished music from his table so that it should not interfere with the conversation, Justifying this with the reason which Plato scribes to him, that it is the practice of commonplace men to invite musicians and singers to their feasts since they lack that good talk and those pleasant discussions Ninth which intelligent men understand how to delight each other.
But, perhaps one Just cannot expect more from a philosopher. Erasmus, in fact, suggested that perhaps it is better not to invite such a man to dinner in the first place. Ask a wise man to dinner and he’ll upset everyone by his gloomy silence or tiresome questions…. Haul him off to a public entertainment and his face will be enough to spoil the people’s enjoyment.