Thursday, October 8, 2009

how viol!

The bass viol [a 6 (or 7) stringed precursor to the cello] sounds, to me, the way good red wine tastes. It's not too sweet, it has an exciting edge, it has growly depths, it has glowing resonance. Viols were used in medieval consorts and that type of thing, but I'm talking here about the bass viol as a solo instrument, in the early 18th century. I think this is the very beginning of classical music, but I'm no musical historian.

In the early 18th century we have "Late french viol music," which is, perhaps, my favorite music ever composed. Two of the best-known composers of this period were Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray. Somebody described Marais as a very angel, and Forqueray as a devil....


les Voix Humaines just kills me, I think it's one of the most beautiful things. A lot of Marais' songs were made to dance to, and named after the dance. A sarabande is a stately, slow dance.

performed by Jordi Savall
Les Voix Humaines

Performed by Wieland Kuijken and Gustav Leonhardt, you can hear the bells!

La Sonnerie de Sainte Genevive du Mont Paris


performed by Jordi Savall
2eme Suite Chaconne La Buisson
1ere Suite La BEllemont

Performed by Wieland Kuijken and Gustav Leonhardt

La Sarabande (tendrement)

Mr. De Sainte Colombe was, I believe, a teacher of Marin Marais, and he wrote the beautiful Concerts a deux violes esgales. Here's an excerpt as performed by Weiland Kuijken and Jordi Savall

Concert Le Retour

A british contemporary was Tobias Hume. He was a soldier as well as a musician, and in the second song you can hear the soldier marching off to war. It gets quieter and quieter until finally it's just the back of the bow - the wood - hitting against the strings to make the melody.

Good Againe
A Souldiers Resolution

Bach composed a sonata for Viola da Gamba, which has long been one of my favorite pieces of music. The viol is accompanied by a harpsichord, which is not everybody's favorite instrument. (somebody once described it's sound as "two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof"). But I like it here.

Here are a few movements of the sonata, performed by Jordi Savall


Jordi Savall has an ensemble called Hesperion XX, which includes his wife (who has a beautiful voice). Here are a few tracks from some of their albums. These tend to be a little wilder, and I believe they're frequently Spanish. (Savall is Catalan)

Anon. Saltarello
Paduana del Re - Anonyme
ay perdut mon saber
Anon Danza Del Viento
Todo el mundo en general
Canarios Anonyme

If anybody has seen Tous Les Matins Du Monde then they will know what a viol looks and sounds like, and will have heard Jordi Savall playing, because he did the soundtrack for that. (I found the movie a bit over-wrought. I think it's so hard to make movies about musicians or artists).


steenbeck said...

Sorry this turned out to be so long. I fretted over this like I've never fretted over a post before. I'm not sure all the songs uploaded properly. So if there's anything you can't hear, let me know, and I'll upload it again.

Makinavaja, if Jordi Savall is Catalan, would you say Yordi, hordi, zhordi?

treefrogdemon said...

And Naomi's partner Stuart can make you one of those, if you want.

Makinavaja said...

Steen - the initial "J" is pronounced like the "Ge" at the beginning of the name "George" so, in fact, the name Jordi is pronouncd very similarly to the word "Geordie".

goneforeign said...

Steen: Suddenly I'm busy, but I'm really looking forward to this list, thank you.
I'm busy because yesterday at Costco I bought a 6 qt cast iron enamelised Dutch [French] oven, a dead copy of Le Creuset, fiendishly clever these Chinese. $254 for Le Creuset, $49 for the Chinese copy!
So right now I have Julia Child's book open and I'm making Boeuf Bourguignon to christen it and am simultaneously listening to an interview with Nick Hornby who's latest book I'm reading.
Be back in a bit

And for 10 points, who said that about 'these Chinese'?

Shoey said...

Nice post Steen, should make a relaxing soundtrack for midnight madness/happy hour. About time we had something for grownups on the 'Spill. **runs away**

ejaydee said...

I'm liking this, especially Les Voix Humaines, Sarabande was a bit too stately for me. I'm only up to La Bellemont though.

BloodyParadise said...

How delightful - and quite a shock - to see Marin up there in the 'charts'!
We try to feed our summer course people good music as well as good food : and with various languages and cultures loose around the house then 'jazz' and 'classical' stuff get played before 'song stuff'.
So it's Satie with croissants, for breakfast, and Marais with olives for aperitifs. We just have La Gamme - an elegant and elaborate run through the music scale.

Something I've meant to look into is his name : first name = sea, family name = marsh . . . ?
Irrelevant note: he and his wife had 19 children . . . and he had time for music?

DarceysDad said...

Blimey, what a thread. I promise I will get round to all of this, steenbeck, but I've no idea when!!!


steenbeck said...

Ejay, I put an album in our folder. I'll put a few more in a lazy fashion. But I'll tell you when they're there.

And they have horchata at the bodega around the corner! It seems to be rice and cinnamon. I haven't decided yet if I should purchase the liquid or the powder variety. Hmm...

ejay said...

I would go for the liquid to start with, then if you like it, go for the powder, which is slightly more of a hassle but this way you can make it the way you like. Thanks fo the music, I think I'll pay you back with some early Mos, kweli, and other "then" underground MCs from the late 90s I recently reripped.

steenbeck said...

Oooo! Early Mos and Kweli! Very excited.

Makinavaja said...

Steen and Ejay - Have you guys ever come across the Spanish version of Horchata? Made with "chufas" or tiger nuts and very refreshing in summertime. It's originally from the Valencia region of Spain, but is so popular these days that a guy from Valencia has set up Fairtrade plantations in Malawi and Cameroon (I think) to satisfy the demand for said nuts. I have no idea which Horchata came first - and of course it doesn't matter - but if you get the chance to try the Spanish version I recommend you do.

DarceysDad said...

Well I was going to listen to this lot now, steenbeck, but the player won't work - or at least won't give me any volume.

This is likely to be an issue at my end, as Gordon & I had to mess with my PC's sound card preferences to get his Ion deck to work, and now some programs have sound ans some don't.

My head hurts, and I don't think it's (just) the wine.


goneforeign said...

Steen: I just came across a CD I didn't know I had, a freebe from my radio days. It's Crystal Tears by Andreas Scholl accompanied by Concerto di Viole, a quartet of traditional string instruments. They perform music of John Dowland and his contemporaries, Scholl is a counter-tenor.
There's a piece at youtube you might enjoy, it's at:

Shoey said...

Late, but enjoyed the whole viol thing, couldn't do all in one sitting - took 3 sessions. Clearly I am uncultured. Been listening to quite a lot of classical in the car in recent years, thanks to NPR. Also useful for news (real journalists & skilled interviewers) and the wonderful Echoes chill-out, ambient/electronic music show - remixed, Russian throat singing the other evening - quite amazing. The host, John Diliberto, has a voice as relaxing as a warm bath. Give it a try if you are still having trouble getting to sleep. Cheers.