CEMS Mini-Courses, 2015-2016

During the 2015-2016 Fall and Spring semesters, the Center for Early Music Studies will offer three mini courses, by the Cappella Pratensis & Joshua Rifkin (November 4-5), by harpsichordist Peter Sykes (February 18-19), and lutenist Crawford Young (April 13-14).  Students wishing to register for these courses, which carry one elective Musicology credit, should enroll in MH 629 Early Music Studies.  This course can be repeated for credit. Prior to registering, students should complete the CEMS-2015-16-Mini-Course application and send to Victor Coelho <blues@bu.edu>

April 20-21, 2016

Crawford Young (Schola Cantorum, Basel)

“A Nutshell Guide to Music Before 1600″

  • Wednesday, April 20:  10 – 1 pm & 2 – 5 pm, CFA 216
  • Thursday, April 21: 10-1 pm & 2-5 pm, CFA 410

A two-day course for practical participants and interested auditors (all instruments and voice types welcome; any historical-type instruments before c. 1600 will be more apt, but the practical content of the course can be applied to any instrument; pitch = A 440).

The premise of the course is simple: the basics of Western music of all periods are easiest to absorb – in practical exercises and theoretical knowledge – through the music-culture of the Humanists (for our purposes, 1450 – 1500). The musical styles of the High Renaissance, Baroque and beyond stand upon the shoulders of this ‘Golden Age’, while it itself is a reaction to, and an evolution of, the new Art of Guillaume de Machaut and his followers in the previous century.

Polyphonic music, vocal and instrumental, chordal or non-chordal, regardless of number of voice parts, is typically dependent upon the authority of one voice part, the so-called tenor. How does it generate and structure the piece? Counterpoint, phrasing, mode, musica ficta, rhythm, text setting, composition vs. improvisation…these are some of the technical labels that may come up in discussion during the course, but the emphasis will also be on practical application in sound. A special item to look at is the cantus firmus tune, La Spagna, a classic tenor melody found in sources spanning a century-and-a-half. Before the course begins, try to memorize the tune, which has forty-six notes of equal value in rhythm, and be able to sing it (octave transposition is ok for singers with high voices) or play it on an instrument.

Students are also encouraged to perform prepared pieces from all repertories c. 1350 – 1580 of their choice, as soloists or as ensembles. Bring any piece you are working on that you want feedback on, regarding your interpretation or performance skills. It is ideal (although not essential) if I know in advance which pieces will be performed.