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Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Paul Halsall: Listening to Medieval Music

[Version 1 23 August 1999, revised 11 Jan 2001. An extended PDF version of this document is available.]



  • Ancient and Medieval Music: Performance
  • Ancient and Medieval Music: Periodization





Early Polyphony

Religious Orders and Music

  • Cluny
  • Cistercians
  • Dominicans
  • Franciscans

Saints, Pilgrimage and Music

The Crusades and Music


Regional Musics

  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • France
  • Catalonia




: 1600 and after




In the summer of 1999, I made a concerted effort to get a better grasp of medieval music -- better that is, than that acquired by listening to the odd recording here and there.

In this document, I outline the general development of music in proto-Western and Western cultures from the time of the earliest information until the beginning of the tonal era, around 1600. Since I am not a musicologist, this outline derives from reading in secondary sources [see bibliography at the end], information supplied with the better CDs and some online sources. Appreciation of almost all serious music is improved by some effort to understand its history and development -- and indeed until very recently any educated person would have had some music education. In the case of Ancient and Medieval music, such effort is essential to enjoyment of the music, unless appreciation is to go no further that a certain "new age" mood setting.

For each major period, I list suggested CDs [and occasionally other types of media] which document or attempt to represent the music. These CDs are not the only ones available to illustrate the musical history of Western civilization, but they are however, the ones I have available. [Those marked with * are additional titles that I have not been able to assess.] For a much greater selection of available CDs see The Early Music FAQ [], which provides general overviews, and lists of the contents of the vast majority of recordings of early music.

In addition, I have added excerpts, comments, and summaries of music history from reasonable online guides.

Ancient and Medieval Music: Performance

There are all sorts of problems with modern presentations of pre-1600 music -- but the current effort seems to be towards "historically informed performance" [HIP] with an awareness that however "right" you get the instruments, vocalization, etc. you will never get a "historically correct audience." It is HIP which distinguishes, for instance, even if sometimes tendentious, recordings of groups like Sequentiaor the Ensemble Organum from the new-agey, not to say trippy, recordings such as Vision:The Music of Hildegarde of Bingen. Almost all the HIP recordings available are of the music of socially privileged groups. There is no real basis whatsoever, it seems, for HIP reconstructions of folk music.

Ancient and Medieval Music: Periodization

Periodization is always a contentious matter, but there are some broad outlines:

Ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian Music.

Although there are efforts to present reconstructions of this music, data is very sparse, and even the small amount of annotated music seems to have no connection to later forms.

Greek and Roman Music.

About 70 minutes worth of annotated Greek music survives, and rather a lot of description of Roman music. There seems to be no direct stylistic link between this surviving music and later medieval forms. Greek theorists, however, did write about the mathematical principles of harmonics, and speculated on the philsophical implications of music. These ideas survived into the medieval world, and beyond.

Thus the period between the 2nd and 4th centuries represents a real break in musical history. Modern Western music develops from Medieval forms, but cannot be pushed back any further.

Early Christian Music.

There are no firm data -- with the exception of one hymn tune -- about the earliest Christian music. We do know that Christians rejected any music which was associated with pagan religion -- and that included instrumental music and theater music. From the 4th century we know there is a tradition of monodic chant in both eastern and western Christendom, and interchange of melodies and techniques. Augustine, for instance, describes Ambrose' introduction of Eastern singing at Milan. An important moment was the introduction of Psalm-singing into the eucharist, apparently in the mid to late 4th century.

Liturgical Chant.

There were a variety of chant traditions, some of which still survive.

  • Syrian chant, which may have impacted on Byzantine Greek music via monastic and hymnographical diffusion.
  • Coptic chant, representing the liturgy of the numerically largest early Christian church.
  • Armenian chant.
  • Byzantine chant, or the chant of the Greek Church. This must have been established in the 4-5th centuries, with huge numbers of hymns surviving from the 6th century and on. Its annotation is rather late, however. Apart from western chant traditions, Byzantine chant was adapted, and underwent distinctive development, in Slavic countries after the 10th century.
  • Early Western Chant, which had a variety of forms. Modern renditions of the early forms of this chant often emphasize the Eastern connections, and some use the "ison" -- the underlying tone heard in modern Greek Orthodox chant.
    • Ambrosian chant -- the chant of the church of Milan, a tradition that was able to survive all later efforts at uniformity because of the prestige of St. Ambrose.
    • Beneventan chant -- used in the Cathedral of Benevento and other parts of S. Italy.
    • "Old Roman" chant -- the chant of the Church of Rome from about the 7th to the 13th centuries. This is *not* "Gregorian chant" but a quite distinct singing style.
    • Mozarabic chant -- or the chant of Iberian Christians. It survived under the Islamic occupation, but was suppressed in the 11th century, and revived in the late 15th century.
    • Gallican chant -- a variety used in Merovingian Gaul.
  • Carolingian chant, usually known as Gregorian chant or Plainchant. In the mid-8th century, Carolingian leaders -- with their imperial ambitions -- decided to reject Gallican forms, and adopt Roman chant. In practice, however, the took over the chants and some melodies of the Roman church but then significantly modified what they had found. For instance the "eight modes" ("oktoechos") schema of Byzantine music was adopted, and singing styles changed. The result was the chant style which became by far the most common in the West -- and which was eventually ascribed to Pope Gregory I "the Great." Deliberate efforts were made to impose this style, and it eventually displaced other forms of chant -- for instance Mozarabic chant in the 11th century and Old Roman chant in the 13th. Unlike the other earlier forms of chant, which survive in a small number of manuscripts, "Gregorian" chant manuscripts are very widespread, and exhibit a great deal of consistency, with some regional variations.

    An important stage in the history of "Gregorian" chant was the transition from a neumatic notation system, in which the movement of melody was indicated, but not the pitch, to the use of a stave, which allowed proper recording of pitch. (Vocalization, speed, and other stylistic aspects were not recorded, which leads to the variety of modern efforts to record this music.)
    Plainchant continued to be used in churches and Cathedrals as the usual and normal method of singing until the 16th century and later.


Various and spontaneous efforts at polyphony seem to have taken place for centuries, but in the later 12th century, the development of stave-based notation allowed the creation of repertoires of written polyphonic music -- with two distinct centers in Aquitaine and Notre-Dame in Paris. This polyphonic music was often based on plainchant, which continued to be used for most services.

Non-liturgical Music.

The "high" culture music of the Western middle ages was connected to the forms set by chant. A great deal of "paraliturgical" music was written for uses by pilgrims, or for popular presentation. "Troubadour" music fits into this scheme -- it was composed not by romantic "wandering minstrels" but by members of the high nobility. In recent years the music of Hildgard of Bingen has become popular, although how much was performed at the time is open to question. There must also have been a tradition of popular music -- using more rhythm, percussion instrumentation, and with tendency to strophic lyrics.

Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-century Music.

A series of professional composers in the 13 and 14th century composed self-conscious music of great complexity and subtlety in a number of national styles..

Renaissance Music.

From circa 1400-1600 an international style of music developed -- with Plainchant continuing to be an important presence.

Protestant Reformation and Catholic Reformation.

These great religious movements both attempted to regulate music for ideological reasons. Luther and followers in Germany created the chorale and a huge number of hymns. Catholic composers such as Palestrina responded to reforming criticism of late-medieval polyphony and created liturgical music that enabled the words to be heard.

Music of American Conquest.

Despite an large number of recordings focused on "music in the time of Columbus," such music is simply the music of the Spanish Renaissance, and will not appear especially connected to exploration. [Listen to Vangelis' 1492 for that!]. Much more interesting are recent recordings of music composed in Spanish and French America, in some cases by indigenous composers.

The Baroque Era 1600-c.1750.

Around 1600 a number of changes in music occurred simultaneously, and we have a real break in musical history: a series of national styles emerged; opera began as an important form, and modern conceptions of tonality began to prevail. Although "baroque" music is counted as "early music" in modern categorizations - because, unlike the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, it does not have a continuous performance tradition -- it is quite distinct from earlier "medieval" music.



Near Eastern and Egyptian Music

Ankh: The Sound of Ancient Egypt
Michael Atherton
Celestial Harmonies
[Each set of tracks is based on a theme, beginning with an effort at vocalization, and then a series of instrumental tracks. It might be worth considering that the Oxyrhnchus hymn on the various ancient Greek CD's is using Egyptian themes.]

Notes from , May 17, 1999

A creative reconstruction of ancient Egyptian music... The artists: Multi-instrumentalist Michael Atherton composed and produced this recording. He is an internationally travelled performer, composer, author of books on musical instruments, an accomplished composer for the screen, and writes chamber music. Since 1993, he has served as a Foundation Professor at the University of Western Sydney, Nepean. The artists featured on this extraordinary reconstruction of the sound of ancient Egypt include some of Australia's finest musicians: Michael Atherton, Mina Kanaridis, Philip South and Greg Hebblewhite. Mary Demovic provides spoken word and the chorus is comprised of Maria Campbell, Angela Shrimpton, Stephen Clark, and Hasan Shanal. Using visual records, Atherton gathered and adapted a variety of similar instru-ments from various cultures (Greek, Turkish, Indian, Egyptian, etc.) to recreate the sound of ancient Egypt. These include: sambuca (boat-shaped harp), a trigon (angle harp), auloi (double-oboes), a shawm to simulate a Tutankhamun trumpet), adapting bronze disks and metal rods to simulate sistra, a pair of Turkish zils to simulate crotala, adapting a rewap to simulate thelong-lute, riq (tambourine), bendir and tar (framedrums), and udongo for timbral variety.
The project: The catalyst for ANKH: THE SOUND OF ANCIENT EGYPT was an exhibition—Life and Death in the Land of the Pharaohs, developed by the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, The Netherlands. The exhibition came to the Australian Museum in 1998. It provided the challenge of producing a creative reconstruction of ancient Egyptian music and the inspiration for a longer term research project. The first stage of the project began with a response to the contents of the exhibition itself, followed by a delving into the ever-increasing output of Egyptological scholarship, to establish a broader musical context. The big questions loomed large: what did the music sound like? How were the instruments tuned? Was the music polyphonic? One must proceed by conjecture and deduction, using the literary and visual record in conjunction with an examination of surving instruments. The answers remain elusive, mainly gleaned from instruments housed in museums, along with iconographic and literary evidence. There is no surviving music notation, nor any musical theory which might instruct one about pitch, rhythm and timbre. In approaching the composition and performance of the music, Michael Atherton drew on hisexperience in playing medieval monophony, eastern European and Turkish folk music, as well as his participation in intercultural music projects. Atherton primarily uses 5, 6, and 7 note scales based on specific pitches, resulting in a combination of Moroccan ramal mai mode and Persian afshari. He also gravitates toward pentatonic scales and major modes. The melodies move in small steps. The setting of the hymns is monophonic, with the inclusion of call and response development. Sung items include interpolated recitations, as a means of acknowledging a deep connection between language and music. ANKH: THE SOUND OF ANCIENT EGYPT is a contribution to giving a voice to the vivid images of a dynamic musical culture.

Anne Kilmer, Richard Crocker, Sounds of Silence: Recent Discoveries in Ancient Near Eastern Music
Bit Enki Records [in LP form, from Prof Kilmer at UC Berkeley].
[This is a recording of Anne Kilmer sings music in Hurrian), along with Richard Crocker doing Sumerian tuning schemes from c. 2200 BCE.]

Ancient Greek Music

There is very little evidence left of ancient Greek performance practice. What does survive is much philosophical discussion, and about 70 minutes worth of music with annotations, which some modern musicians can tentatively interpret. Greek theory philosophical texts about the effects of music, music treatises, and so forth continued to be important to later medieval and Renaissance musical theory. The mathematical theory of notation goes back to Pythagoras.

Musiques de l'Antiquité Grecque
Ensemble Kérilos - Annie Bélis
K617 069

Musique de la Grèce Antique
Atrium Musicæ de Madrid - Gregorio Paniagua
Harmonia Mundi musique d'abord 1901015

*Music of the Greek Antiquity
Petros Tabouris
F.M. Records 653
[With "middle-eastern" aspects.]

*Music of the Ancient Greeks
De Organographia
Pandourion 1001

Roman Music

No annotated Roman music survives, although some of the music on the Greek recordings above dates from the Roman period. The CDs below represents an effort to recreate the sound of Roman music using reconstructed instruments and historical descriptions. The music -- associated with temple practice, games, and theater -- is important in that early Christian music, from which all later Western music is derived and which rejected musical instruments for centuries, was formed in reaction to this Roman secular music.

Music from Ancient Rome: Volume 1 - Wind Instruments
Synaulia - Walter Maioli
Amiata 1396

*Music from Ancient Rome, Vol. 2 Music of the imperial court.
Synaulia - Walter Maioli
Amiata 2098

Disc notes

The first recording in a series, in which we have the honor to present a preview of a hypothetical reconstruction of the music of Imperial Rome, using original instruments, rebuilt by musician and musicologist, Walter Maioli, and his research group. This unique recording, dedicated to flutes and various wind instruments, has been highly acclaimed in the international press and media. Extensive reportage on, and documentaries about this production, have been made by several television companies in Europe and Japan. Produced in collaboration with the Museo della Civiltˆ Romana in Rome, and recognized by the Italian academic world for its authenticity, this fascinating project is excellently performed by the ensemble, Synaulia, a group of aleorganologists and musicians dedicated to the study of ancient music.

Biblical Music(Reconstructed)

Music clearly played an important part in Jewish worship, and Jewish synagogue liturgy must have formed the context of early Christian practice. Virtually no manuscripts of Jewish musical documents survive from before 900 CE. These texts -- the so-called Masoretic texts -- are marked with some sort of chanting marks, but many scholars think the marks to be indecipherable. There are 19 such musical among the vowel signs of the Hebrew text of the entire Bible. On the assumption that the marks were preserved on the basis of a copyist tradition, even as the meaning of the marks was not understood, the French musicologist Suzanne Haïk Vantoura claims to have decrypted there musical meaning. Several CDs have been released on the basis of her work.

In addition to specifically Jewish music, there is reason to consider the music of the Aramaic- (or Syriac-) speaking Christians. Aramaic was the language of Palestine during the time of Jesus, and is the language of the Talmud. The Christian dialect known as Syriac is still the liturgical language of several churches in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel.

La Musique de la Bible revélée (Vol 1)
notation millénaire décryptée
Suzanne Haïk Vantoura
Harmonia Munid France/Music d'abord 190989
[The first of a number of recordings of "deciphered" music from Masoretic Bible texts.]

La Musique de la Bible revélée Vol 3
notation millénaire décryptée
Suzanne Haïk Vantoura
Alienor AL 1051
[Various cantorial possibilities are explored on this disk, which if it is not as accurate as it claims, does present the music attractively.]

Psaumes de David en hébreu biblique
Esther Lamandier
Alienor AL 1041
[Lemandier uses the same "decryption" of Masoretic markings as La Musique de la Bible revélée, but with a much dryer vocal production.]

Chants Chretiens Arameens
Esther Lamandier
Alienor AL 1034'
[Lamandier includes a synagogue chant from the Zohar. The extent to which one accepts continuity in oral musical transmission directly impacts on how "genuine" you consider this music.]

Notes from John Wheeler, the editor of "The Music of the Bible Revealed" (book)

A seminal and still-underestimated discovery. This is the first of six recordings of the music contained in the "musical accents" of the Hebrew Masoretic Text, as deciphered by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. It is the shortest recording, and in some ways the least well-produced -- but it has the greatest variety of musical samples and emotions for its size.

The most astounding thing about this music is that it sounds so "modern" (that is, tonal and harmonic in its structure), despite the fact some of it is 3,000 years old. One senses this is so because of the way the tonal and verbal syntaxes interweave to form a "gestalt": it gives the impression that the music and the words were created, taught and transmitted together. Yet that very interweaving is what makes the "gestalt" sound so "modern", despite the obviously archaic music theory and practice behind it.

The splendid versions of Psalms 23 and 24 alone make this recording worth the purchase -- but there are many other fine selections, including both prosodic and psalmodic texts. The recording is marred only by errors of transcription in the melodies and accompaniments (compared to the Bible and the score published by Editions Choudens, Paris, in 1978), and by the seeming lack of understanding at times by the vocalists (especially the bass cantor) of the spirit of what they were singing.

From John Wheeler ( from Houston, TX. , June 24, 1999

The original LP was published in 1976 concurrent with the French book of the same title. That LP led to my association with Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, and in 1991 I became editor and co-publisher of the English translation of her French book. (The book may be ordered from as well.) I give this CD 4 stars because of transcription and performance problems on some tracks. But the music is one of the most important discoveries of biblical scholarship of the century, if not of the millennium. (See my description of the English book for details on the basis of the musical transcriptions.) Psalms 23 and 24 are my personal favorites among the tracks. For more information on Suzanne Haik-Vantoura's work and other CD's and musical scores available from France, feel free to contact me by e-mail.

Early Christian Music

The history of modern western music can be traced directly to the music of the Christian church of the early medieval period. Although annotated manuscripts only date from the late Carolingian period, they already represent a developed tradition. The interesting question, then, is where did early Christian music come from?

Like the Jewish communities from which they originated, Christians sang psalms (although not, apparently, in the eucharistic liturgy until the 4th century), but from the earliest days they also seem to have sung hymns, several of which are embedded in the New Testament. The earliest Christian music to survive is a Greek hymn to the Trinity found about a century ago among the Oxyrhynchus papyri. There is an agreement that it represents some form of Egyptian musical tradition.

Apart from that, we know that Christians deliberately rejected all forms of pagan music -- music for the theater, ritual music, and music which used instruments and orchestras. What was acceptable was monodic singing of psalms and hymns. The complex issues presented by music are seen in Augustine's reaction to his own pleasure in musical psalms.

Augustine on Listening to Psalms

At other times, shunning over-anxiously this very deception, I err in too great strictness; and sometimes to that degree, as to wish the whole melody of sweet music which is used to David’s Psalter, banished from my ears, and the Church’s too; and that mode seems to me safer, which I remember to have been often told me of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who made the reader of the psalm utter it with so slight inflection of voice, that it was nearer speaking than singing. Yet again, when I remember the tears I shed at the Psalmody of Thy Church, in the beginning of my recovered faith; and how at this time I am moved, not with the singing, but with the things sung, when they are sung with a clear voice and modulation most suitable, I acknowledge the great use of this institution. Thus I fluctuate between peril of pleasure and approved wholesomeness; inclined the rather (though not as pronouncing an irrevocable opinion) to approve of the usage of singing in the church; that so by the delight of the ears the weaker minds may rise to the feeling of devotion. Yet when it befalls me to be more moved with the voice than the words sung, I confess to have sinned penally, and then had rather not hear music.

Source: Confessions [trans. Pusey.]

Musiques de l'Antiquité Grecque
Ensemble Kérilos - Annie Bélis
K617 069
Track 15: Oxyrhynchus Hymn
[Bélis' group perform this in the style they perform the other ancient Greek pieces on the album.]

Musique de la Grèce Antique
Atrium Musicæ de Madrid - Gregorio Paniagua
Harmonia Mundi musique d'abord 1901015
Track 16: Oxyrhynchus Hymn
[In contrast to the Bélis "ancient" approach, Paniagua treats the hymn as "Byzantine" and performs it as it might be performed by modern Greek Orthodox cantors.]

The Sacred Bridge: Jews & Christians in Medieval Europe
Boston Camerata - Joel Cohen
Erato 45513


Medieval Jewish Music

Overview Programs

Chants Mystique: Hidden Treasures of A Living.Tradition
Alberto Mizrahi & Chorale...
Polygram Special Markets 20340
[Synagogue music through the ages is here sung in very lush, almost "new age" versions. Unlike the Hildegard Vision CD, however, which has no relation to any music written by Hildegard, the music here is "real", and worth comparing with the more scholarly versions on the Boston Camerata Sacred Bridge approach to the same material.]

The Sacred Bridge: Jews & Christians in Medieval Europe
Boston Camerata - Joel Cohen
Erato 45513

Program notes by Joel Cohen

Much of the music you are about to hear was produced in the saddest and most shamefully cruel corners of old Europe - its ghettos. Yet the Jews and Christians, thoughforced to live apart, were in many ways, both large and small, dependent on each other. Our program will attempt to trace some of those ways through the music and poetry of pre-Enlightenment times.

In spite of the enforced segregation of the Jews, exchanges with the Gentile world were frequent, continuous, and bilateral. The synagogue gave to the Early Christian church some of its ancient melodies; the recitation formula of the psalm B'tset Yisrael ("When Israel went forth out of Egypt"), for example, survives in the Gregorian chant repertoire as the tonus peregrinus. It is thanks to a Christian that we have the oldest surviving example of written-down Jewish music, the beautiful Eulogy of Moses. It was composed by Giovanni, a monk, who, converting to Judaism, took the name Obadiah. Since he was a child of the Mediterranean world -- Sicily, then Egypt -- we have imagined accompaniments of near-Eastern kind to this sketchily notated melody.

Jewish minstrels were apparently not uncommon during the Middle Ages, though only a few have left traces of their activities. Two songs are attributed in French manuscripts to a mysterious "Matthew the Jew". The conventions of courtly love -- an adoring trouvère, and his distant, cruel Lady -- are deepened and darkened in Par grant franchise. Here, the poet's wounds are real, his parting envoi nearly a curse. Like Matthew, the minnesinger Sueskint suffered from his break with the Jewish community. In Wa Heb'uf, he vows to forsake courtly life and to return to the Jewish fold..

If the Jewish musicians felt themselves to be different, their ways of being were nonetheless infused and informed by the majority cultures in which they evolved. The Judaeo-Spanish melodies we perform were collected only a few years ago in Morocco and the Balkans; there, remnants of the Jewish comunity exiled from Spain in the fifteenth century clung tenaciously to their Spanish heritage.

We have dared to juxtapose these songs and prayers with the Christian music of medieval Spain. The scale patterns, the melodic profiles, and the spiritual intensity of these two repertoires allow them to be heard together in neighborly good concord, just as Jews, Christians, and Moslems managed to exist together for many centuries in the Iberian peninsula. Though separate in many ways, the different peoples who created Spanish music were all contributing, consciously or not, to the making of some uniquely precious musical dialects. From diversity came harmony and wholeness, as they will come again someday on our troubled planet, when the nations finally cease so furiously to rage.

Sephardic Music

El Canto Espiritual Judeoespañol
Alia Musica, Miguel Sánchez
Harmonia Mundi "Ibèrica" 987015, 1997
[Liturgical songs and "mystical" poems from the Spanish Jewish tradition recorded in a convent in Toledo.]

Secular Music from Christian and Jewish Spain 1450-1550
Hespèrion XX. Jordi Savall
EMI "Reflexe" CDM or 555 7 63 431 2 [2 CDs]
also Virgin Veritas 61591
[A two CD set. CD 1: Court Music and Songs from the Age of the Discoverers 1492-1553; CD 2: Sepahrdic Romances from the Age before the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain 1492.   This is a budget CD and contains minimal information, no texts, and no translations.  This recording was issued in 1976 on LP. The same ensembler has more extensive selections of the music on CD 1 in:
*El Cancionero de la Colombina, 1451-1506
Música en el tiempo de Cristóbal Colón
Hespèrion XX - Jordi Savall
Astrée 8763
*El Cancionero de Palacio, 1474-1516
Música en la corte de los Reyes Católicos
Hespèrion XX - Jordi Savall
Astrée 8762.]

For many more suggestions see the discography at

Islamic Music

The tradition of music in Islamic culture is extensive, and very diverse -- from Arab cultures all the way to Indonesia. In most genres, however, the traditions were passed down orally or from teacher to student: historical reconstruction is thus problematic. Koranic cantillation (chanting or reading) is an important genre, but most people will probably enjoy Qawwali more than anything else. The Mouwachaha music from Andulusia is also interesting.

The Music of Islam (Sampler)
Music of Islam (Celestial Harmonies Series)
Celestial Harmonies
[A really useful disk for people wanting to get an overview of types of Islamic music for teaching. Serious investigators should buy the whole set.]

The Music of Islam: Volume 9: Mawlawiyah Music of the Whirling Dervishes
Music of Islam (Celestial Harmonies Series)
Celestial Harmonies 13149-2
[Dervishes were members of a Turkish Sufi "Mevlevi" (or "Mawalawi" in Arabic) order. Sufis are Islamic mystics who emphasize above all the love of God and the goal of union with God. Mystical groups in various religions use physical practices to help attain certain mental states -- for the Dervishes this consisted of a progressively more intense whirling ritual dance called sema. In classical Ottoman music there exist a large number of settings for this ceremony: on this recording the setting used was by the Sultan Selim III (1760-1808 CE/1174-1223 AH), a member of the order. Although Kemal Atatürk made an effort to ban this music in 1925, since 1946 it has been allowed in an annual commemoration of the Death of Rumi, the great poet and founder of the order. In recent years, sema performers have toured the world. The recording has extensive notes on Islam, the Sufis and Sufi music. Tracks 1-6 present a complete Sufi ritual, with a number of other types of music on tracks 7-9. As modern fans of the great Pakistani Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan will know (even though the Qawwali music he sings is rather different), this music cannot create its effects quickly. It works slowly with gently increasing intensity.].]

*The Music of Islam [BOX SET - 17 CDS]
Celestial Harmonies

From Celestial Harmonies,

Voted the Best Traditional World Music recording at the 1998 AFIM Indie Awards (Association for Independent Music). Ten years in the making, THE MUSIC OF ISLAM series recorded in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and Qatar represents the most comprehensive sound documentation available to Westerners today, of a world religion dating back to 1/622. With nearly 80 minutes playing time, this recording is a complete introduction (sampler) of the series, featuring one selection from each of the fifteen volumes, seventeen CDs respectively. The musicians and reciters recorded in this series are masters of their chosen art, regionally and worldwide, with numerous years of intense study (or a lifetime devotion to studying) from a long lineage of great composers, reciters, mystics and spiritual leaders, such as the world-famous Whirling Dervishes of Turkey and living legend Ustad Bary Fateh Ali Khan of Pakistan. A perfect gift for world music lovers from novice to connoisseur, and a starting place for those interested in exploring THE MUSIC OF ISLAM series.

Mouwachah - Arabo-Andalusian Songs
Aida Chalhoub, et al
Studia SM D 2669 SM 50
[Attractive attempt to render one form of medieval Iberian music (compare the increasing numbers of Sephardic music recordings). It must be noted that, since Arabic music was transmitted from teacher to student, the degree of "authenticity" is impossible to assess.]

Les croisades sous le regard de L'Orient / The Crusades seen through the Eyes of the Orient
Omar Sarmini  - Ensemble Al-Kindi - 2001
Le Chant du Monde 5741118/5741119 [Distributed by Harmonia Mundi]
["Arab music and poetry from the time of the Crusades. A tribute to the Syrian prince Usama Ibn Mundiqh." This a a two CD set with extensive notes and translations in both French and English.]


Byzantine Music

With recordings of Byzantine music the name to look for is Lycourgos Angelopoulos and the Byzantine Greek Choir [aka Choeur byzantin de grece]. There are both secular and religious recordings available. Most of the surviving music is from quite late in Byzantine history. The big question is about authenticity of the music - in particular how much modern performance has been affected by Turkish music (which is a subset of Persian music). Most commentators suggest that the many disks by Christodoulos Halaris are to be disregarded.

Byzantine chant

Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom
Lycourgos Angelopoulos, Greek Byzantine Choir,
Opus 111 OPS 30-78
[Be careful when buying the "Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom," since most CD's by this name are (sometimes excellent) Slavonic chant or modern classical versions. This is the Greek music one might here in an excellent modern Greek church, based on editions of Byzantine chant made in the 18th century. The texts are given in English and French, but not Greek.]

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom/ Theia Leitourgia Ioannou Chrusostomos
Byzantin Music of the Orthodox Church, Vol 2
Byzantine Choir - Costas Zorba (All Saints Cathedral, Kallithea)
Christina Zorba (14 Haldeas St, 18450 Nikea, Pireaus, Greece
[Another Greek version of the "Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom," directed by the head Chorister of an Athenian choir.]

Ancient Voices - Vox sacra
Anonymous 4, Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, Soeur Marie Keyrouz
Harmonia mundi HMX 290 608
Track: 8 Byzantine Chant
[Sister Keyrouz singing is always stunning, but I am not clear if female cantors would have performed anywhere outside female monasteries?]

Ioannis Papadopoulos Koukouzelis: Mathimata [13th Cent.]
Lycourgos Angelopoulos, Greek Byzantine Choir
Harmonia Mundi/Jade JAD C129
[Koukouzelis was the dominant late Byzantine composer. The final 33 min track of a Kratima is especially impressive - a vocal composition based on meaningless syllables. The notes are very informative and well illustrated.]

*Byzantine Mass - Akathistos Hymn
Lycourgos Angelopoulos, Greek Byzantine Choir
Playasound (Fra) 65118

*Music of Byzantine Liturgy
Lycourgos Angelopoulos Ensemble
Le Chant Du Monde (Fra)

Byzantine Patmos: The Sacred Island of Christianism / Documents of Greek Orthodox Church Music
Convent of St. John of Patmos 1995/1998
Mariposa MCPD 3034
A live recording of a liturgy on May 31st 1995 celebrated by Bishop Isidoros. Unfortunately, there are no track notes, nor proper account of the feast being celebrated -- presumably the Octave of Easter.

*Liturgy of Saint Basilius
Choir of abbey of Chevetogne
Art et Musique CH/CD 105389

Byzantine Chant: Passion and Resurrection
Soeur Marie Keyrouz, choir of Saint-Julien le Pauvre
Harmonia Mundi HMC 901315

Mysteries of Byzantine Chant
Mihail Diaconescu, Kontakion
Philips/Special Imports (Ger) 454057
[Greek and Romanian renditions of Orthodox liturgical music.from the 8th to 20th centuries. The cover and title indicates it was designed to take advantage of the Chant boom. The booklet gives original words and translations, which is useful, but this is a disc of essentially modern performance.]

*Musica Deo - Chants liturgiques Byzantins de Grèce
Theodore Vassilikos Ensemble
Arion (Fra) 58427

*Byzantine Chant From the Greek
Arion (Fra)

*Byzantine Hymns
George Koros
FM Records (Gre);

Syrian Music

Aramean Music

Chants Chretiens Arameens
Esther Lamandier
Alienor AL 1034
[Esther Lamandier's voice is clear, and appreciated by many. This CD contains Aramaic music from various periods, including several versions of the Lord's Prayer sung in the language Jesus used on a daily basis.]

Église Syriaque Orthodoxe d'Antioche: Chants liturgiques de Carême et de Vendredi Saint/ Liturgical Chants of Lent and Good Friday
Members of the Choire of St. George and St Ephraim, Alepp0 - Nouris Iskander
Inedit (Fra) - #260072
[The male and female singers chant unaccompanied music in an austere and impressive manner -- there is no concession to "new age" or "world music" sensibilities. It is interesting to compare this recording, by a choir from a still living community with limited resources, to the high polish of recordings of Western music by groups such as the Anonymous 4 or Hilliard ensemble. The recording has a short introduction to Syrian Orthodoxy, Syrian music, and the eight modes. Parts of the texts are given in English and French translation, but not the original.]

Maronite Music

Ancient Voices - Vox sacra
Anonymous 4, Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, Soeur Marie Keyrouz
Harmonia mundi HMX 290 608
Track: 10: Maronite Chant
[Sister Marie Keyrouz' voice is quite stunning. The only problem -- one doubts the music sounds or sounded as attractive as this in usual usage.]

Chant Traditional Maronite: Noël - Passion - Résurrection/
Traditional Maronite Chant: Christmas, Passion and Resurrection (Lebanon)
Soeur Marie Keyrouz, Choeur and ensemble instr. de la Paix. 1991
Harmonia mundi HMC 90 1350
[Music texts in Aramaic/Syriac and Arabic. Texts are given in original languages with French, English, and German translations. The album also includes some Syrian Orthodox music.]

Gesänge der Maronithischen Liturgie/Chants of the Maronitic Liturgy
Père Louis Hage, P.Paul Rouhana, Choir of University of the Holy Ghost, Kaslik, Lebanon
Christophorus/Entree/Qualiton CHE 0078, [1982, 1996]
[A selection of chanted unaccompanied Aramaic songs from Maronite liturgies of Christmas, the Passion and Easter. The voices are not as beautiful as Sr. Keyrouz', but a good sense of usage in church emerges. The liner notes are in German and (badly translated)English, and are wildly inaccurate about the history of the Maronite Church. The texts of the songs are given only in German translation -- but it is likely that more listeners will be able to make out German than Aramaic.]

Melchite Music

Ancient Voices - Vox sacra
Anonymous 4, Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, Soeur Marie Keyrouz
Harmonia mundi HMX 290 608
Track: 10: Melchite Sacred Chant

Melchite Sacred Chants: Hymns to the Virgin
Soeur Marie Keyrouz
Harmonia mundi HMC 90 1497
[Sr. Keyrouz' voice is, as ever, spectacular, as she sings songs to the Virgin in both Greek and Arabic. Texts are givenin English translation, but not the original language.

Armenian Music

The Music of Armenia, Volume 1
Sacred Choral Music
Celestial Harmonies 13115
[Recorded in partly in a caves church at the Geghard monastery, and partly in the Cathedral of Holy Echmiadzin, the CD presents a lengthy selection (75 mins.) of Armenian sacred music in both ancient and more modern (i.e. Westernized) forms. Useful liner notes are extensive, but there are no texts or translations. The more "ancient" tracks -- e.g. 5 "Yekyalks" are compelling.]

*Arménie 1: Chants Liturgiques du Moyen Age
Ocora 559001

Georgian Music

Georgie: Chants de travail - Chants religieux
Pierre Toureille, 1989
Ocora Radio France/Harmonia Mundi HM 83
[A collection of music from the Caucasion country of Georgia, including both secualr music, and a series of religious chants. Notes are in both French and English, but no texts or translations are given. Track 11 is a hymn to St. George. ]

Coptic Chant

Night Vigil in the Desert
Saint Macarius Monastery (Scetis, Egypt)Rec Jan 17, 1999
Musica Sancta Ltd.
[A recording by monks of the Monastery fo St. Macarius in the Scetis Desert, a revived monastery in the homeland of Coptic monasticism. Translations are given, but not original texts. Note on the recording: the disk is part of a set of disks of Christian liturgical music directed by F. Elisha (Monastery of St, John in the Desert), and recorded/edited at Cinema Factory Ltd, Tel Aviv. The disks are probably somewhat difficult to acquire outside Israel/PA.]

*Liturgy of the Coptic Orthodox
Christophorus (Ger) 77200

A large number of long musical files of Coptic chant are online at

Ethiopian Chant

* Peter Jeffery with Kay Kaufman Shelemay. Ethiopian Christian Liturgical Chant: An Anthology. 1: General Introduction; Dictionaries of Notational Signs. 2: Performance Practice and the Liturgical Portions. 3: History of Ethiopian Chant. 3 vols., 1 compact disc. Recent Researches in Oral Traditions of Music 1-3. Madison, Wisconsin: A-R Editions. Volume 1 was published in 1993; volume 2 and the CD in 1995; volume 3 in 1997. The volume with the CD appears to cost $59 []

*Liturgie de l'Eglise Chretienne Orthodoxe Ethiopienne
Ocora 558 558/59
[Recorded in 1969 and released in 1980, and re-released in 1983. A web search turned up this apparent CD reissue as ETHIOPIA - The Ethiopian Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. 2 CD C 560027/28 at See also It is a 2 CD set of recordings made in the Ethiopian monastery which sits on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.]

Slavonic Music

Russian Medieval Chant: The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
Patriarchal Choir of Moscow
Opus 111 OPS 30-120
[A rendition of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Russian monodic, or Znameny, chant. The informative notes include examples of Russian notation and modern transcriptions.]

Kiev Christmas Liturgy
Moscow Liturgic Choir, Father Amvrosy, 1992
[Beautifully sung, by a choir that performs both liturgically and in concert halls. Even when singing ancient Kievan melodies, the interpretations are clearly affected by modern Russian practice. The result is so beautiful, however, that this will be listedn to for more than antiquarian reasons. Annoyingly the CD notes do not give either texts or translations.]

Credo in unum Deum -- Dei Botschaft der Mönche -- Le message des Moines
Chor der Mönche aud dem Höhlenkloster Kiew (among others) 1996
KOCH Schwan 3-6474-2
[A very oddly titled German disk of music by the Monastic Choir of Lavra of Kiev, founded in 1051, and now restored to Orthodox religious life. The selections come from a variety of seasons and office, and are wonderfully sung, but no texts are given (although there are partial German and French translations.) Although the notes seem to claim that some of the pieces are ancient, this is not an "early music" performance and the musical goal is clearly the "saturation sound" of modern Orthodox Slavic music.]

Celestial Litanies - Ultimate Journey to Mystical Russian Soundscapes
Celestial Litanies
BMG/Melodiya 18540
[Includes some early Greek and early Slavonic chant as well as compositions by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.]

*Early Russian Plain-chant (17th c. Russia)
Patriarchal Choir of Moscow
Opus 111 OPS 30-79

*Ancient Orthodox Chants (Bulgaria, Greece, Ukraine)
Drevnerousski Choir
Chant du Monde LDC 288033

Pascha: Hymns of the Resurrection
St. Vladimir's Seminary Male Choir
St Vladimir's Seminary Press [1-800-204-BOOK]
[This varyingly available CD, by the choir of St. Vladimir's Seminary of the Orthodox Church in America is not "medieval" in any sense. It presents the current Easter music of the Russian Orthodox church in English versions. This music, impressive in itself, derives from many sources, but a substantial part of it was composed in the past 150 years. For English-speakers, however, the didactic nature of Orthodox music is hardly apparent in Greek and Slavonic recordings -- but to miss the didacticism is to miss muchof the power of musical traditions which preserved a faith in political (and educational) situations where preaching was either forbidden or ineffective. Far more explicitly than much Western liturgical music, Orthodox traditions explain -- repeatedly -- the dogmatic formulations of the Church.]

Sainteté Russe: Chants liturgiques orthodoxes / Russian Holiness: Orthodox Liturgical Chants
Choeurs Saint Nicholas - Nicolas Spassky 1996
Studio SM D2543/SM 62
[No texts or translations are given with this recording, and the short notes are confusing rather than helpful, but it retains an interest. The traditional monastic melodies from Kiev, Sarov, and Valaam (along with new compositions and harmonizations by recent composers) are used for chants to St. Nicholas, All Saints of Russia, Saints of Northern Russia, St. Germanus of Valaam, and St. Vladmir. Some easter music is also included on the disk.]

La divine liturgie de saint-jean chrysostome: rite byzantin-slavon
Chorale Sofia - Dimitre Rouskove
Harmonia Mundi France 90641
[Although Bulgarians were among the earliest Slavic converts to Orthodoxy, this disk (without texts or translations) presents the Slavonic liturgy as it might be heard if performed by an exceptional choir today -- in other words with all the post medieval polyphonic and Italianate influences that modern Slavonic music exhibits. The sound is attractive to modern ears, but not medieval.]

Liturgie paschale de st. Jean Chrysostome/ Easter Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
Choeurs de la Radio-Télévision de Belgrade 1990
Jade JACD 045 SM 61
[Presents a recording of the Easter liturgy as celebrated in April 1990 in the Cathedral of St. Sava using the liturgical music of Stevan St. Mokranjac. As with the Bulgarian recording above, this is current Orthodox music, not an effort at historical performance. No texts, and only sketch translations are given.]

Mariage et nouvel an Orthodoxes / Orthodox Wedding Ceremony and New Year Celebrations
Choeur mixter bulgare - Miroslav Popasov
Jade JADC 081
[Recordings by a choir of male and female voices of Slavonic chants for marriage ceremonies and for the new year. The music was largely by composers of recent centuries. No texts or translations are given.]


Origins of Chant
See discussion at The Gregorian Association (London, England)

Chant Recordings and Monastic Reality

Almost all modern chant in Roman Catholic monasteries (and Anglican ones, where they still exist) derives from the reconstructions of the monks of Solesmes in the late 19th century -- where the system of singing was imposed as uniform across the Church (which was never the case in the middle ages) and which emphasized the delivery of a very smooth, beatless, line. In modern monastic usage, the sound is often improved by resonant architecture, which provides the attractive harmonics, and by "non-professional" variation in among the singers. The entire sound of a given monastic choir might sometimes depend on the presence of one or two monks with good voices.

In practice, most of the time modern monks spend on the monastic office (by far the larger amount of the time spent in choir) is spent chanting psalms. Psalm tones are, overall, rather simple melodies that go on and one through the psalm. The more interesting and elaborate chants, however, were reserved for antiphons, sequences, Mass propers and ordinaries, and the texts used on major feast days. The famous CHANT recording is of this type, and there are many recordings by the monks of Solesmes, not to mention many others made for monastery gift-shops.

All this makes a difference between what one hears on disk and what one will experience when visiting one of the few monasteries which still use Latin chant. First it is the "exciting" chants which are recorded most frequently -- but which put a distance between "lived experience" and what you will find on disk. Even recordings by monks use the best tracks or the sounds of monks who are simply tired because of split sleeping schedules (now almost completely abandoned).

A note on Ensemble Organum and the "ison"

Some of the very best recordings below are by the French Ensemble Organum -- a group which has explored all around the Gregorian (i.e.Carolingian) repertory -- and has some stunning disks of Ambrosian, Beneventan, and "Old Roman" chant. Here's the problem -- the director of the group, Marcel Peres has taken seriously the Eastern origins of these forms of chant, and so adopts a distinctly Eastern approach to these forms by working with the modern Greek cantor Lycourgus Angelopoulos on many tracks. The means that Ensemble Organum uses to "orientalise" is the ison -- under underlying "tone" so familiar in modern Greek music. The consensus among most scholars is that the ison was a relatively late (possibly post-Medieval) addition to Byzantine/Greek liturgical singing style, and this makes its used hard to justify for types of chant which flourished in the 7th century.

A more complex view on the "ison"

It is true that Ensemble Organum sings Ambrosian, Beneventan, and Old Roman chant in the style of a modern Greek monastery, and that most Western scholars regard the ison, microtonic intervals, and augmented seconds of Greek chant as late developments under Turkish influence. Western scholarship on Byzantine chant, founded by Wellesz, Hoeg, and Tillyard, was based on their deciphering of the Middle Byzantine neumatic notation. The neumes are taken to stand mostly for single notes, and the scale is assumed to be diatonic.

Greek students of the chant have mostly disagreed with the Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae school, holding that the chant in use today is essentially quite similar to that of a thousand (or more) years ago. They espouse the "stenographic" theory--that the neumes represent melodic figures rather than single notes. They are often reluctant to allow Turkish influence, and prefer to think that the borrowing was in the reverse direction.

While the Greek position is questionable in various respects, it must also be allowed that the Western approach has been rather prejudiced against the chant known from nineteenth- and twentieth-century printed books and from living practice. In the past decade or two, the two sides have been in fruitful discussion, and the former antagonism may now give way to something more edifying. Pérès apparently thinks that the allegedly "Turkish" features may be a good deal earlier. In fact, it is hard to prove the case either way. Some solid scholars of Gregorian chant believe that certain Gregorian neumes may indicate microtonic intervals. An ison-like drone is employed in Georgian singing, and also in Latvian folksongs of the old variety--the dainas. It is really hard to date aspects that are not clearly represented in the neumatic signs. So Pérès daringly Byzantinizes the chants from Italy that may be older than the standard Gregorian repertoire, pointing to the great Byzantine influence on Italy in late antiquity and the early middle ages. [The authentic sound of Gregorian is itself controversial--do we prefer the Solesmes sound, the updated Solesmes of Caradine, the proportional rhythm of Blackley or the Deller Consort, the sound of Binchois, of Reznikoff?]

So the consensus that ison etc. are late developments is quite possibly correct, but the opposite view cannot, I think, be ruled out. In any event, Peres has accomplished something quite remarkable is displaying these old chants in Eastern dress. The Ensemble Organum can sing in my church any day, although we shall likely never know for sure whether the style they adopt for this material is a gross anachronism or not.
Source: Stephen Reynolds [], email of 11/19/1999. [Edited and used by permission.]

Ambrosian Chant

Augustine describes the institution of chant in Milan

Not long had the Church of Milan begun to use this kind of consolation and exhortation, the brethren zealously joining with harmony of voice and hearts. For it was a year, or not much more, that Justina, mother to the Emperor Valentinian, a child, persecuted Thy servant Ambrose, in favour of her heresy, to which she was seduced by the Arians. The devout people kept watch in the Church, ready to die with their Bishop Thy servant. There my mother Thy handmaid, bearing a chief part of those anxieties and watchings, lived for prayer. We, yet unwarmed by the heat of Thy Spirit, still were stirred up by the sight of the amazed and disquieted city. Then it was first instituted that after the manner of the Eastern Churches, Hymns and Psalms should be sung, lest the people should wax faint through the tediousness of sorrow: and from that day to this the custom is retained, divers (yea, almost all) Thy congregations, throughout other parts of the world following herein.

Source: Augustine, Confessions [trans. Pusey]

Chants de l'Église Milanaise
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901295
[The distinctive feature of this disk is that Pérès takes Augustine seriously, and renders the texts in a very Greek or eastern style - with the use of the ison (the underlying sustained tone which is a such a feature of modern Greek Orthodox music.) It is highly unlikely that the ison was used at this early a date, but its use does succeed in giving the music an "Eastern" aspect which accords well with historical accounts of the chant's introduction.]

Ambrosian Chant: Early Christian Chant of the Ambrosian Rite- In Dulci Jubilo
Alberto Turco, with female voices.
Naxos 8.553502
[Dealing with the same music as Pérès, Turco's version is very different -- and will not seem very different from "Gregorian" chant to many listeners. The female voices are somewhat dry and precise.]

*Ambrosian Liturgical Chants
László Dobszay, Schola Hungarica
Hungaroton/White Label (Hun) 12889
[For those who object to Ensemble Organum's use of the ison, this might be better recording. Male and female choirs are used on different tracks. This recording does not sound as western as Turco's, but does not go to Pérès' extremes in adding "Eastern" flavor.]

Beneventan Chant

Beneventan chant is one of the oldest surviving bodies of Western music: the Latin (sometimes intermixed with Greek) church music of southern Italy as it existed before the spread of Gregorian chant. Dating from the 7th and 8th centuries it was largely forgotten after the Carolingian desire for political and liturgical unity imposed 'Gregorian' chant throughout the realm. [See Thomas Forrest Kelly, BeneventanChant, Cambridge UP 1989 ]

Chants de la Cathédrale de Benevento - Semaine Sainte & Pâques / Holy Week & Easter
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi HMC 90 1476
[Pérès again uses an Eastern or Greek approach to texts, an approach which is surely justified by the use of both Greek and Latin texts in the Cathedral of Benevento. The result is stunning.]

Ancient Voices - Vox sacra
Anonymous 4, Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, Soeur Marie Keyrouz
Harmonia mundi HMX 290 608
Track: 7 Music from the Cathedral of Benevento (7-11th centuries)
[A track from Pérès' Benevento CD.]

Beneventan Chants: Holy Saturday - Feast of the Holy Twelve Brothers / Beneventan liturgikus enekek. Nagyszombat - A Tizenket Szent Testver uennepe
Janka Szendrei, Lászlo Dobszay
Hungaroton HCD 31168
[For those who object to Ensemble Organum's use of the ison, this might be better recording. The CD comes with notes, and texts in Latin and English. Unlike the Ensemble Organum disk, Schola Hungarica manages to make the sound of the music comes across as simply a variation of Gregorian style, and is, in modern terms, far less compelling.]

Mozarabic Chant

Chant Mozarabe Cathédrale de Tolède (XVe siècle)
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, dir.
Harmonia mundi HMC 90 1519
[The CD is based entirely on the chant books prepared at the end of the 15th century for the "Mozarabic" chapel at the Cathedral of Toledo. Before that the chants had survived orally in outlying churches of the diocese after the Gregorian chants were imposed in the 11th century. Pérès argues that these 15th century documents reflect a much older tradition -- going back to the "African church" -- while acknowledging the problems of "accuracy." Part of his problem lies in the fact that while the full Mozarabic mass and office chants were suppressed in the late 11th century, the music continued to be used for other ceremonies and 21 such chants have survived copied into diastematic notation (on a stave, rather than with less clear neumatic notation), but these chants do not match those of the 15th century "salvage" effort.]

Old Roman Chant

Chants de l'Église de Rome: Période byzantine/ Chants of the Church of Rome: Byzantine Period
Ensemble Organum, Marcel Pérès dir.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 901218
[The first of three Old Roman Chant recordings by Pérès.]

Messe de Saint Marcel: Chants de L'Église de Rome (VIIe & XIIIe siècles)
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901382
[As with the Milanese and Benevento disks, Pérès assumes, with some grounding, that Old Roman chant is best rendered with "Eastern" styling, including the use of the undertone or ison. The stunning singing on the disk almost demands that this chant be restored to liturgical use.]

Vêpres du Paques Chants de L'Église de Rome (VIIe & XIIIe siècles)
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès 1998
Harmonia Mundi
[The latest of Ensemble Organum's wonderful series of Old Roman Chant recordings. This one presents the Vespers for Easter Day. The notes to this disk directly address the issue of the use of the ison. Pérès argues that the "organum" -- a sustained note given to bass voices -- is "not an imitation of the Byzantine ison but one of the forms of vocal organum found in Roman chant since the 9th century and described by Guido d"Arezzo in the 12th century." In fact this disk does sound less "Byzantine" than the other The singing on this disk is as accomplished as others in the series. Full texts and translations are given.]

*Old Roman Liturgical Chants: Mass of the 2nd Sunday after Michaelmas.
Janka Szendrei, László Dobszay, Schola Hungarica
Hungaroton/White Label (Hun) 12741
[Nothing to object to here -- but this approach emphasizes Old Roman chant as variant from of Carolingian "Gregorian" chant, and is less impressive as modern music that Ensemble Organum's three recordings.]

*A Pilgrimage to Rome: Old Roman Chants
Janka Szendrei, László Dobszay, Schola Hungarica
Hungaroton HCD 31574
[For those who object to Ensemble Organum's use of the ison, this might be better recording.]

Gallican Chant

Chant grégorien - Répons et monodies gallicanes
Deller Consort - Alfred Deller, dir.
Harmonia mundi "Musique d'abord" HMA 190 234
[Includes a number of Gallican chants contained within the "Gregorian corpus."]

Alleluias & Offertoires des Gaules
Iegor Reznikoff
Harmonia mundi "Musique d'Abord" HMA 190 1044
[Sung by one voice, this was one of the earliest efforts to break away from the Solesmes method. The pacing is extraordinarily slow. Liner notes suggest that because the pieces chosen are from an office for St. Martin, they represent Gallican survivals within the overall Gregorian Corpus.]

Carolingian Chantaka Gregorian or Plain Chant

Gregorian chant [From The Gregorian Association (London, England)]

The Gregorian Modes
see The Eight "Gregorian" Modes at

Solesmes Method

Solesmes [From The Gregorian Association (London, England)]

Chant: The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos
Ismael Fernandez de la Cuesta & Francisco Lara
EMI Angel 55138
[The most famous "chant" album of all! Don't let musical snobs suppress your enjoyment of this disk. The 20 man choir sings beautifully in the Solesmes style, which if nothing else formed the basis of all modern scholarship on chant, and has enthralled visitors to Catholic monasteries for the past century.]

Requiem Aerternam
JADE BM 91008-2
[A 1997 presentation of a recording of a Mass for the Dead made in 1959.]

Ego sum Resurrectio: Gregorian Chant for the Dead
Aurora Surgit (female vocal ensemble), Alessio Randon, soloist and dir.
Naxos 8553192
[Another collection of chant from various eras organized around the needs of the modern Catholic liturgy. (Of course, the chances a modern Catholic would receive a funeral with music of this quality are virtually nil in a guitar-happy age.) Texts are given in Latin only. Randon's voice is just right for this type of disk -- rounded, more confident than on Solesmes-style recordings, but not operatic.]

De Angelis: Missa De Angelis. Chants grégoriens festifs
Schola grégorienne de l'église Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal -- Dom André Saint-Cyr 1997
Fonovox 7874-2
[Chants from Mass VIII - popularly known as the "Missa de Angelis" and among the most popular among Catholic parishes which manage to maintain a musical life connected to the Gregorian tradition.]

Le Temps de Paques [Eastertime]
Vol 1: Rameaux, Jeudi Saint
[Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday]
Vol 2: Semaine Sainte
[Holy Week]
Vol 3: Paques
Choir of the monks of the Abbey of Liguge - 19941
Studio SM2
[This set presented the "Gregorian" chant of the modern (post 1965) reform of the Holy Week liturgy.]

Le Dimanche des Rameaux [Procession and Mass of Palm Sunday]
Choir of the monks of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes - Dom Joseph Gajard 1965, reissued 1991
Accord 201472
[This is a recording in which which Dom Joseph Gajard uses the  now largely discredited rhythmic theory of Dom. André Mocquereau.. More recent Solesmes recordings are directed by Dom. Jean Claire, whose direction is more likely to be informed by the more recent rhythmic theories of Dom Eugène Cardine (for more on this, see]

*In Passione et Morte Domini: Gregorian Chant for Good Friday
Nova Schola Gregoriana - Alberto Turco
Naxos 8.550952

Tenebrae of Good Friday
Choir of the monks of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes - Dom Jean Claire 1991/1993
Solesme S834
[Solesmes is the center of current Catholic monastic studies on plainchant. This recording of the three nocturnes and lauds of Good Friday is well documented, with texts, translations and comments for each track. Especially notable are the two great hymns by Venatius Fortunatus (6th Century), Pange Lingua and Vexilla Regis. The performances by a monastic choir is strikingly different from those by professional choirs. Although not an "early music" recording, the sound here is less overtly "new age" than that of the much pushed Chant recording from Silos.]

Paschale Mysterium - Gregorian Chant
Aurora Surgit (female vocal ensemble), Alessio Randon, soloist and dir.
Naxos 8553697
[A budget CD that takes chant from various eras to create what might be a program for the modern "renewed" Catholic Easter vigil. Most of the tracks are with female voices. The Exsultet -- with Randon's voice -- is especially impressive.] 

Gregorian Sampler
Choir of the monks of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes - Dom Jean Claire 1988
Solesme S829
[A useful sampler of the current Solesmes method.]

*Gregorian chant
Choir of the monks of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes
Accord 20088a (4 CDs)

Advent - Gregorian Chants
Orchestra: Capella Gregoriana
Laserlight 12350

Gregorian Christmas - Chants and Motets
László Dobszay, Schola Hungarica
Laserlight 14107
[The disk -- focused on Christmas music -- includes both chant and polyphony so it is not strictly "Gregorian." As a recording by one of the most renowned ensembles for the interpretation of chant it is available at a ludicrously low price. The singing is accomplished, but there are no useful notes or texts.]

Musique et poésie à Saint-Gall: Séquences et tropes du IXe siècle
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard 1996
Harmonia Mundi "Documenta" 905239
[The Monastery of Saint-Gall, on Lake Constance in modern Switzerland, was the origin of the first new development after the stablization of "Gregorian" chant under the Carolingians. The opportunity for innovation was in the use of tropes and sequences. "Tropes" were phrases added on to standard Gregorian texts, and "Sequences" were much longer pieces sung after the Alleluia. In the case of Saint-Gall we know the composer of many of new pieces -- the monk Notker of St. Gall (c.840-912)(also known for a life of Charlemagne) was responsible for a series of sequences in completed in 884. Other named composers on this recording are Tuotilo (d.c.913) and Ratpert (d.c.890). Saint-Gall's musicians also began to notate chant with a new level of detail, known as the Saint-Gall neumes, and the manuscripts now represent some of the oldest examples of complex musical notation. It was now possible to express longer and shorter notes, and which notes were emphasised. The CD has informative notes, Latin texts, and translations. The singing of the male voices on this most interesting disk is up to the group's high standards. Note that the historical interest of this recording requires that the notes and texts be read, otherwise it will sound just like other Gregorian recordings. ]

Revisionist Method

[See The Gregorian Association (London, England)]

Adorate Deum: Gregorian Chant from the Proper of the Mass
Nova Schola Gregoriana - Alberto Turco
Naxos 8.550711
[Turco continues the work of Eugène Cardine. This disk covers four selections for each part of the Mass proper.]

Chant Grégorian: In Navitate Domini: In Epiphania Domini
Nova Schola Gregoriana - Alberto Turco 1993
Arion 68247
[An interesting recording that includes both Gregorian and Ambrosian texts and music. The notes are especially interesting, as, in addition to French and English translations, they give the text in Latin under a standard chant stave, but above the tave the much older notation is also given.]

Alleluias & Offertoires des Gaules
Iegor Reznikoff
Harmonia mundi "Musique d'Abord" HMA 190 1044

Music for Holy Week, *Vol I and Vol II
Schola Antiqua - John Blackley 1989
L'oiseau Lyre 417 324-2 [Vol I]
L'oiseau Lyre 425 114-2 [Vol II]
[A multi CD set of music performed in "proportional rhythm." The extensive and interesting notes to the set argue that, while in the 11th century and later chant books clearly defined pitches are undifferentiated in length, the neumes of the 9th and 10th century were differentiated into longs and shorts in a two-to-one proportion. Volume II of the set includes music of Palm Sunday (CD 1) and of the Paschal Vigil (CD 2). Especially interesting is the presentation of a complete Paschal Vigil play. In all honesty, this is not as endearing as the "smoother" method of chant performance, but the singing is well-done and the recording is a significant addition to a collection.]

Tenth-Century Liturgical Chant in Proportional Rhythm: Masses for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday
Schola Antiqua / John Blackley
Nonesuch cassette 9 71348-4

*Les Tons de la Musique: Gregorian Chant
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard
Harmonic 8827

Varieties of Plain Chant

Regional chants

As well as a set of chant melodies in universal use, there were also regional or national variations in the practice of chant.

*Columba, Most Holy of - Scottish Medieval Plainchant
Cappella Nova - Alan Tavener 1992
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 129

Sarum chant

See [Accessed 16 July 1999].

Sarum Chant: Missa in gallicantu
Tallis Scholars - Peter Phillips, 1988
Gimell 454 917
[The Missa in gallicantu was the "mass at cock crow" on Christmas morning. This recording comprises the full setting of the Sarum rite plus, four other Christmas hymns from the corpus. The disk notes are informative and provide both texts and English translations. The singing is impressive, but, although Sarum ritual chants and melodies form a distinct corpus, the music will sound simply "Gregorian" to most ears.]

The Miracles of St. Kentigern - Scottish Medieval Plainchant
Cappella Nova - Alan Tavener 1997
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 169
[The recording presents the contents of a secular (i.e. non-monastic) office for St. Kentigern (aka Mungo)(February 13), the patron saint of Glasgow, from the Sprouston Breviary (MS Edinburgh NLS Adv.18.2.13B). The notes state that, while music for local saints may reveal regional melodic material, in the case the MS follows the Sarum use dominant in England. The texts of this recording, presented here in Latin and English, include both proper responsaries, collects, and (for Matins) a series of readings about the childhood miracles of Kentigern.]

My Fayre Ladye: Tudor Songs and Chant: Images of Women in Medieval England
Lionheart, 1997
Nimbus 5512
[The CD includes a number of types of late medieval English music, with a number of tracks based on the Processionale ad Usum Sarum printed in 1502, and on the Eton choirbook. Texts and English translations are given, but beware the new-agey and inaccurate "introduction." The singing style emphasizes "spirituality" and is clearly post Chant!]

Sibyl Song [adapted from various online reviews]

The Song of the Sibyl was a widespread kind monophonic chant on the topic of prophecy., and was one of the medieval church's most mystic ceremonies. It was performed widely in Spain, as elsewhere, as part of the Christmas ceremonies. After the Council of Trent it was suppressed by the widespread adoption of the 1568 Roman breviary. However, it continued to be (and still is) sung as part of the Christmas ceremonies in the Cathedral at Mallorca. The "Sybil" in these ceremonies was a boy-singer who was brought out dressed as a woman.

El cant de la Sibil-la: Mallorca - València, 1400-1560
aka El Cant de la III]
Montserrat Figueras / La Capella Reial de Catalunya - Jordi Savall
Alia Vox 9806
[A real "hear and buy" disc. There are two versions of the Song of the Sybil here -- from a mid- 15th century Mallorcan choirbook and, for the Valencian reconstruction, mid- 16th century harmonisations, together with verses from a Barcelonian source of 1560.]

*Cant de la Sibilla
Montserrat Figueras / La Capella Reial - Jordi Savall
Astrée 8705

*El Canto de la Sibila Galicia-Castilla
Montserrat Figueras, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Jordi Savall, dir.
Auvidis/Fontalis ES 9900

*Barcelona Mass / Song of the Sibyl
Obsidienne - Emmanuel Bonnardot
Opus 111 30-130

"Unofficial" Uses of Chant [From The Gregorian Association (London, England)]


Le Jeu des Pèlerins d'Emmaus, Drame liturgique du Xiie sircle/A Liturgical Drama XII C: Pilgrims at Emmaus
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901347

Vox Iberica I: Donnersöhne - Sons of Thunder: Music for St. James the Apostle: Codex Calixtinus [c.1140]
Vox Iberica I
Sequentia - Benjamin Bagby / Barbara Thornton
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77199
[Stylistically, the music is typical of French conducti of the 11th & 12th century.]

Codex Las Huelgas: Music from The Royal Convent of Las Huelgas (13th/14th cent.)
Vox Iberica II
Sequentia, 1989
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77234
[The women's convent of Las Huelgas, founded in 1187, was one of the most important women's religious houses in Europe. Although the manuscript basis of this CD dates to c.1300, it contains music from various periods.]

El Sabio: Songs for King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon (1221-1284)
Vox Iberica III
Sequentia, 1991
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77234
[Songs mostly from the collection of over 400 Cantigas de Santa Maria, collected for Alfonso X "The Wise."]

Alfonso X el Sabio: Cantigas de Santa Maria
Camerata Mediterranea - Joel Cohen 1999
Abdelkrim Rais Andalusian Orchestra of Fès - Mohammed Briouel
Erato 3984-25498-2
[This compelling recording is admittedy highly experimental. Cohen focuses on the "loores," the one in every ten cantiga that reflect Alfonso X's personal praises of the Virgin Mary and that gives the lyrics a certain personality.  Even more interesting is Cohen's cooperation with Arabo-Andulusian musicians in Morocco (the recording was done at  Mnehbi Palace, Medina in Fèz, Marocco). Although the Cantigas manuscript sets out the melodies clearly, it does not indicate performance style, and Cohen uses this lack of information to experiment by using singers from different musical traditions to suggest possible ways the music might have been performed at a time when three traditions (Jewish, Muslim, and Christian) still held sway in Spain. The notes, texts, and translations are all most helpful, and should be used to appreciate the music.]

*In Gottes Namen fahren wir - Pilgerlieder aus Mittelalter und Renaissance
Odhecaton, Ensemble für alte Musik, Köln
FSM 97 208

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Primarily because of feminist scholarship in both history and musicology there has been an explosion of interest in Hildegarde. She was one of the most productive female writers in the middle ages, and as feminist scholars have been keen over the past 15 years or so to go beyond a model of scholarship which looks simply at the history of women's oppression, to one which looks at women's agency in the past. Hildegarde, whose writing directly addresses issues of gender and godliness, could not fail to generate interest and excitement.

See Hildegard Discography:

See Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard: Heavenly Revelations
Oxford Camerata - Jeremy Summerly
Naxos 8.550998

Hildegard: Canticles of Ecstasy
Sequentia - Barbara Thornton
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77320

*A Feather on the Breath of God
Sequences and Hymns by Abbess Hildegard of Bingen
Gothic Voices - Christopher Page
Hyperion 66039
[The 1981 recording that began the modern popularity of Hildegard's music, and of the group Gothic Voices.]

Hildegard von Bingen - 11,000 Virgins
Anonymous 4
Harmonia mundi HMU 90 7200

*Hildegard von Bingen - Laudes de Sainte Ursule
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia mundi HMC 901626
[Avoids new age interpretations!]

"New Age" Hildegard of Bingen

Vision - The Music of Hildegard von Bingen
Richard Souther with Emily van Evera & Sister Germaine Fritz (OSB)
Angel CDC 7243 5 55246 21
[A very well-known "new age" interpretation. It is worth comparing specific tracks to more realistic versions. It might, however, make you want to go out and buy crystals to wave at whales.]

Illumination - Hildegard von Bingen: The Fires of the Spirit
Richard Souther with Emily van Evera & Sister Germaine Fritz (OSB)
Sony SK 62853

Post Medieval Gregorian Chant

Ancient Voices - Vox sacra
Anonymous 4, Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, Soeur Marie Keyrouz
Harmonia mundi HMX 290 608
Track: 6: Plainchant from the Cathedral of Auxerre
[A track from the Pérès effort to document the distinct chant of Auxerre in the 17th century.]

Plainchant: Cathédral d'Auxerre XVIIIe siècle
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, 1990
Harmonia mundi/Music d'abord HMX 1901319
[Pérès full effort to document the distinct chant of Auxerre in the 17th century. One of Pérès' most important insights is that the all too common discussion of "purity" about liturgical chant -- and the need for "reform" - is a discourse of politics and/or theology not music. Chant practices were always changing and there was no perfect time.]

Plain-chant parisien: XVII and XVIII siècles: Messe du jour du Noél/
Parisian Plainchant - Mass For Christmas Day

Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, 199*
Harmonia mundi/ HMX 7901480 /
[Pérès again shows that "Gregorian chant" was being composed (by, among many others, Dufay and Palestrina) at least through the 18th century. 17th-century France saw an effort to Gallicize plainchant: virtually the entire liturgical repertory was recomposed in French Baroque style--including trills and ornaments.  This CD sung by ensemble organum and a boy choir is derived from a missal compiled for Nôtre-Dame as well as chants by Campra and Delalande.  Following French custom, the chants alternate with verses improvised on the organ.]

Alternate Vocalization

Chant Corse: Manuscrits franciscains des XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles
Ensemble Organum
Harmonia Mundi 901495
[This disk focuses on orally transmitted monodic chant from Corsica and uses local vocalists, whose knowledge was salvaged just in time. The interesting aspect of this phenomenon is the vocalization techniques of the singers. In reconstructions of medieval chant, the melody is usually quite ascertainable, and sometimes the rhythm, but there is no way of knowing what vocalization techniques were used, and certainly not if the very smooth vocalization in most modern Chant recordings was the norm.]

Cunfraterna di a pieve di a Serra
Cunfraterna di u Santissimu Crucifissu
Albiana & Casa CDAL 009
[With advice from Marcel Pérès, this disk presents traditional Corsican monophonic music. Texts in Corsican. French, and English. Stunningly beautiful.]

Cunfraterna di u Santissimu Crucifissu
Gimmel LC 8591
["Reconstructed" simple polyphony from 14th and 15th century Italy. Disk notes present this as the "music of ordinary people."]

Early Polyphony

The Age of Cathedrals: Music from the Magnus Liber Organi
Theatre of Voices - Paul Hillier, 1995
Harmonia Mundi USA 907157
[Works by Leonin and Perotin, along with some tracks from St. Martial of Limoges in Aquitaine, all pointing to the emergence of polyphony. The disc comes with a deluxe set of notes, including texts, translations, and color photographs of the manuscript basis of the music. ]

Polyphonie Aquitaine du XIIe siècle [St. Martial de Limoges]
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901134

Paris 1200: Perotin & Leonin - Chant and Polyphony from 12th Century France
Lionheart, 1997
Nimbus 5547
[Pleasant enough singing, although far from robust, and rather too "relaxing." Texts and translations are given. The introduction by Jeffry Johnson is obtuse beyond measure -- from its reifications of what "medieval people" thought and did, to its use of completely non-contextualized numbers. The music here is genuine, but the underlying intent seems to reflect the commercial success of the New Age versions of Hildegard of Bingen's music.]

Hilliard Ensemble - Paul Hillier, 1988
ECM New Series 1385
[One of the most famous and respected recordings of music from Notre Dame in the crucial early years of the 13th century. As with some Ensemble Organum recordings, the Hilliard Ensemble added underlying drones to some songs, although there is much doubt that this was ever done in pratice.]

Philippe Le Chancelier - School of Notre Dame
Sequentia, 1986
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77035
[Music of Philip the Chancellor, c. 1165-1236, who was active in Paris around the same time as Leonin and Perotin, and chancellor of Notre Dame in 1217. About 80-90 Latin songs can be attributed to him, of various genres.]

École Notre Dame: Mess du Jour de Noël
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès 1985
Harmonia Mundi "musique d'abord" 1901148
[This early attempt at the Notre Dame repertory was well received. The more recent effort -- devoted to music for the Virgin, and sung in an "Eastern" style -- has been rejected by many scholars.]

Le jeu des pèlerins d'Emmaüs: Drame liturgique du XII siècle
Ensemble Organum / Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901347

Religious Orders and Music

Music was such an important part of medieval worship that various religious orders manifested their charisisms in the music they used. The Cistercians tried to purify and simplify standard Gregorian melodies, and in doing so evolved their own tradition. The Dominicans typically sang faster than other orders -- supposedly to allow more time for study. Franciscans in contrast, were sedulous in adhering to Roman norms for music in church, but did sponsor a certain amount of para-liturgical music.


Cluny: La Transfiguration: Chants de Pierre le Vénérable
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Anne-Marie Deschamps 1998
L'Empreinte digitale ED 13 091
[Peter the Venerable was abbot of Cluny 1122-57. By this stage it was no longer the center of reform it had been in the 10th and 11th centuries, but was the biggest and most powerful Benedictine abbey in Christendom. The French ensemble Venance Fortunat presents Peter's music for the  Feast of the Transfiguration sung by unaccompanied voices, alone, in unison, or with a drone.

*Cluny: La Vierge: Chants of Pierre Le Venerable
L'Empreinte Digitale (Fra) - #13109


Chant Cistercien: Monodies du XIIe siècle
Ensemble Organum / Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901392
[Cistercians were concerned with "purity" and simplicity, and modified the standard Gregorian Chant in what they thought were "purer" ways -- e.g. by limiting the range of the melodies.]

Chants des voûtes cisterciennes: Les anges et la lumière
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Anne-Marie Deschamps
L'Empreinte digitale 13073
[Sung in part by a joint male/female choir, which must limit the authenticity of the disc.]

*Mystic Chants from Cistercian Abbeys - Chants mystiques des abbayes cisterciennes
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - A.-M. Deschamps, dir.
L'Empreinte digitale ED 13 106

Les Saints Fondateurs de l'Ordre Cistercien
Schola de l'Abbaye d'Hauterive and Choeur des Ambrosiennes 1988
Studio SM D2655
[The abbey choir of Hauterive (in Switzerland) and the professional Gregorian choir of Dijon joined to sing the Lauds, Mass, and Vespers of the founding saints of the Cistercian order (Robert de Molesme, Alberic, and Etienne Harding) on the 900th anniversary in 1998. The recording represents the "living musical tradition" of Hauterive and combines music from the Cistercian version of the mass of St. Benedict's day, a vesper's hym ste to a medieval melody in the 17th century, and texts adapted in the 20th century from a 12th century exordium from Citeaux. Texts are given in Latin with facing French translation. English translations of none-standard texts are given later in the accompanying notes.]


Dominican Liturgical Chant/ Chant Gregorien - Liturgie Dominicaine
Père André Gouzes/ French Choir of Dominican Monks 1994
Bmg/Milan/Jade - 91009
[The Dominicans developed a complete rite of their own, for both the mass and the office, as well as in singing style. Perhaps the most notable feature is that things move faster -- so that the friars can return to study.]

*O spem miram: Ufficio e Messa per S.Domenico secondo il canto dell'Ordine dei Predicatori - secolo XIII
Ensemble Cantilena Antiqua - Stefano Albarello
Symphonia 96145


Laudario di Cortona: Un mystère du XIIIe siècle - A Medieval Mystery - Ein Mysterienspiel des 13. Jahrhunderts
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia mundi HMC 901582
[Franciscans stuck very closely to standard Roman chant (i.e. the Carolingian or Gregorian chant), but did develop a whole slew of new popular devotions. The Laudario of Cortona is a manuscript containing settings for a paraliturgical Christmas celebration in 13th-century Umbria (compare the Song of the Sibyl in Mallorca). Pérès uses his Corsican singers to give a "popular" edge to these texts. The result is an immediately attractive recording. This version by Ensemble Organum, has recieved the highest praise of those available. For other suggestions see]

Saint Francis and the Minstrels of God
Altramar medieval music ensemble
Dorian Discovery DIS-80143
[Music taken from the Laudario di Cortona, with a specific focus on St. Francis. The CD begins with a setting of the Canticum creatorum by St. Francis.]

Saints, Pilgrimage and Music

"Gregorian" or Plain Chant comprised a complete corpus of music for all the seasons of the Church's year, including the many saints' days. The music of the Mass and the Divine Office scarcely makes manifest, however, the massive importance of the cult of saints in medieval Christianity. Saints inspired not only chant but also polyphony and an array of para-liturgical music. Collected here are recordings that focus on the cult of saints and associated practices such as pilgrimage. The recordings are arranged according to the time the saint in question lived.

*Opéra Sacré Médiéval - Daniel Medieval Sacred Opera
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Anne-Marie Deschamps 1996
L'Empreinte digitale ED 13 052

Ludus Danielis - The Play of Daniel
The Harp Consort - Andrew Lawrence-King 1997
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77395
[The Play of Daniel formed part of the post-Christmas celebrations at Beauvais Cathedral in the 13th century (see other recordings here about the Feast of Fools). The play was presented can be understood, at least according to the extensive notes, as a sort of medieval opera -- combining a variety of characters, dramatic staging, and roles for both soloists and chorus. The performers faced the problem that the manuscripts present a simple melodic line, with no indication of when the performers used instruments, polyphony, clapping, and so forth -- although descriptions make it clear that all these were part of the production. In this recording, choices are made to convey the ecstatic and "ludus" aspect of the play. Some of the other recordings just stick to the manuscripts, but in this case that would not be more "real" than the well-articulated effort here. The disk is well packaged, with notes, texts, stage directions, and translations. There are a number of other recordings of this play -- see the list at ]

Visions from the Book
Sequentia - Benjamin Bagby 1994
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77347
[The recording focuses on 13th and 14th century monophonic Latin songs which celebrate the heros of Biblical stories.]

*Anonymous from Beauvais - Ludus Danielis: Liturgical Drama of the XII Century
Clemencic Consort - René Clemencic 1976
Aura Classics 184

*Les Trois Maries - Jeu liturgique du manuscrit d'Origny-Sainte-Benoîte
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Anne-Marie Deschamps 1989
Studio SM 12 17 46 [CD]

*Les Trois Maries - Jeu liturgique médiéval d'Origny-Sainte-Benoíte
Académie Internationale de Sées - Bernard Gagnepain 1993
Koch/Schwann 3-1425-2

Donnersöhne - Sons of Thunder: Music for St. James the Apostle: Codex Calixtinus [c.1140]
Vox Iberica I
Sequentia - Benjamin Bagby / Barbara Thornton
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77199
[Stylistically, the music is typical of French conducti of the 11th & 12th century.]

Miracles of Sant'Iago: Medieval Chant and Polyphony for St. James from the Codex Calixtinus
Anonymous 4
Harmonia Mundi 907156
[Anonymous 4 perform medieval music with utter beauty and scholarly concern, but it is unlikely the music was ever heard in the middle ages in the form of four perfectly blended female voices. This recording focuses on the cult of St. James at Compostela, has a useful introduction, and provided Latin texts and translations.]

*Missa sancti iacobi: Solemn mass for the feast of the passion of Saint James of Compostella according to the Codex Calixtinus c. 1140
Choeur Le Feu de Jésu 1990
McGill 750 0037-2

*Le grand livre de saint Jacques de Compostelle: Intégrale des polyphonies du Codex Calixtinus
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Anne-Marie Deschamps 1993
l'empreinte digitale 13023

*Ultreia ! Sur la route de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle / A Pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella
Ensemble de musique ancienne Polyphonia Antiqua - Yves Esquieu 1982
Pierre Verany PV 7 90 042 [CD]

*Sur les Chemins de Saint-Jacques - On the Roads to Saint James
Ensemble Amadis 1998
Jade 74321 64760-2

Saint-Jacques de Compostelle: Le Chemin de Compostelle
Aurore 1999
Suisa CD 840
[Recorded at the abbey of Hautrive at Fribourg in March 1999, this disk contains a series of sings from the Codex Calixtinus, a manuscript from Pay-en-Velay, and the Codex Las Huelgas. Texts are given in Latin with interlinear French translation. Rather oddly, it contains endorsements from Cardinal Schwery and the Dalai Lama.]

*The Pilgrimage to Santiago
Disc #1 : Navarre and Castile
Disc #2 : Leon and Galicia
New London Consort, Philip Pickett 1989
L'oiseau Lyre 433 148-2

*Dufay: Music for St. James the Greater
Binchois Consort - Andrew Kirkman
Hyperion 66997
[A 15th century musical setting of music from the cult of St. James.]

*Dufay: Missa Sancti Jacobi, Missa Se la face ay pale, etc.
Capella Cordina - Alejandro Planchart
Lyrichord LEMS 8013 (2 CDs)

Les Chants du Livre des Miracles de Sainte-Foy conservé à la Bibliothèque Humaniste de Sélestat. Vol 1: Ad Laudes
Heinrich Isaac Ensemble of the Musikhochschule Karlesruhe - Hans-Georg Renner 1994
Sacem FOY 9401
[Recorded on July 1-2 at the Abbey of Murbach, this is one of a multi-volume collection of Gregorian chants as used in Conques.]

*Hildegard von Bingen - Laudes de Sainte Ursule
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia mundi HMC 901626
[Avoids new age interpretations!]

Hildegard von Bingen - 11,000 Virgins
Anonymous 4
Harmonia mundi HMU 90 7200

*Aines: Mistero Provenzale Medioevale
Ensemble Cantilena Antiqua - Stefano Albarello
Symphonia SY 99 165
[The Mystery of St. Agnes from manuscript, Chigi C.V. 151, from the end of the 14th century.]

Chants épiques et populaires de Chypre/ Epic and Popular Songs from Cyprus
Ensemble cypriote de musique ancienne/Cypriot Early Music Ensemble -- Michaël Christodoulides 1982
Arion 64182
[A recording of different types of traditional Cypriot songs with the claim that they represent a melding of Middle-Easten, Byzantine, and Western Medieval traditions to produce "Kypraphony" (a "Cypriot Voice") which is neither oriental nor the same as continental Greek voices. This music is an especially interesting to the Court music of the two Ars Nova albums noted below. The CD includes an Akritic "Tale of the Saracen," local epic songs, a love song, "The Legend of St. George," "Myroloyi" -- a song of lamentation, and another Akritic song, "The Tale of the Crab." The notes summarize the music and the stories of the songs, but do not give either texts or translations.]

Beneventan Chants: Holy Saturday - Feast of the Holy Twelve Brothers / Beneventan liturgikus enekek. Nagyszombat - A Tizenket Szent Testver uennepe
Janka Szendrei, Lászlo Dobszay
Hungaroton HCD 31168
[For those who object to Ensemble Organum's use of the ison, this might be better recording. The CD comes with notes, and texts in Latin and English. Unlike the Ensemble Organum disk, Schola Hungarica manages to make the sound of the music comes across as simply a variation of Gregorian style, and is, in modern terms, far less compelling. The named saints in question in the second part of the recording are Donatus, Felix, Arontinus, Vitalis, Satorus, and Repositus, all early Christian martyrs under Valerian.]

Legends of St. Nicholas
Anonymous 4 1999
Harmonia mundi HMU 907232
[A selection of chants, polyphony, and "sung readings" (in middle English from the Golden Legend) about St. Nicholas, whose cult was one of the major hagiographic developments of the Medieval cult of saints. As usual, Anonymous 4 sing beautifully, but there are real problems with this disk from an academic standpoint. First, although the accompanying booklet claims that all the texts (except one) were transcribe by Anonymous 4 from original sources, the sources (dates, compistion, context) are given only in summary form in the introduction, not with each text. Second, the disk was clearly pitched to the large audience for "Christmas Disks," and in at least one occasion (which, to be fair, is noted) the original anti-Semitic text is altered to make it more palatable. Still, as a collection of recordings focused on one saint's cult, this is an essential recording.]

*Les Miracles de Saint Nicolas
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Anne-Marie Deschamps 1991
L'Empreinte Digitale 13013

Plays of Saint Nicholas /Szent Miklos-jatekok
(St. Nicholas and the three girls, St. Nicholas and Getron's son, St. Nicholas and the robbed merchant, excerpts from the Mass and Vespers of St. Nicholas)
Schola Hungarica -- Laszlo Dobszay and Janka Szendrei 1987
Hungaroton HCD 12887-88 (2 CDs)
[This is a most useful recording, and contains both a number of Nicholas plays as well as the excerpts for the mass and vespers of St. Nicholas. The notes explain both the background of liturgical plays, and the rise of the cult of St. Nicholas. The play music here derives from a notated manuscript known as Orleans 201, but which was originally written in Blois around about 1200. The celebration of the feast (December 6th) was an all day affair, and the various playlets were arranged to occur at various times before or during specific offices. Music on the disk for the liturgy is taken from somewhat later manuscripts, although all in the Plainchant idiom -- the Passau Antiphonal, a 15th century Gradual and some late medieval Hungarian manuscripts. The texts are given in Latin and English.]

*La Nuit de Saint Nicholas
La Reverdie / I Canto Gregoriani 1998
Arcana A 72

Adémar of Chabannes: Apostolic Mass for Saint Martial
New York's Ensemble for Early Music -- Frederick Renz 1999
Ex Cathedra EC-9002
[An altogether remarkable recording. Adémar of Chabannes (989-1034) was an 11th-century monk, historian and composer who tried to pull off an act of stupendous forgery. He claimed, contrary to public knowledge, that St. Martial (a 3rd century bishop) was one of the apostles. To effect this claim, he composed an "Apostolic Mass" that just happens to still exist in Adémar's own hand (Paris. Bib Nat. MS latin 909), making it the earliest autograph musical composition we have. The local bishop and abbot seem to have cooperated in the project and the mass was first sung on Sunday, 3rd August 1029. Unfortunately for Adémar, the liturgy was disrupted by a travelling monk Benedict of Chiusa, who denounced the liturgy as offensive to God. Adémar was forced to leave town, and spent the rest of his life forging evidence about Martial's "apostolic" status. In the long run he was successful -- by the late 11th century Martial was indeed venerated in SW France as an apostle. In a very direct way, this Mass shows the power of liturgy to affect worship.
Adémar composed his Mass and office largely from the standard "Gregorian" music for St. Martial, as well as texts and music for Apostolic feasts, but he also added some of his own compositions, especially in the tropes (extended musical items added to existing liturgical texts). The recording comes with extensive notes by James Grier, Latin texts and English translations, not to mention a photograph of Adémar's manuscript. The Ensemble for Early Music sing the chant without flaws.
For more on this most interesting figure see the standard work on Adémar by Richard Landes -- Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995).]

*Historia Sancti Emmerami: The Regensburg Office in Honour of St. Emmeram
Schola Hungarica - Janka Szendrei & Lazló Dobszay 1996
Calig CAL 50 983

*Columba, Most Holy of Saints - Scottish Medieval Plainchant
Cappella Nova - Alan Tavener 1992
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 129

The Miracles of St. Kentigern - Scottish Medieval Plainchant
Cappella Nova - Alan Tavener 1997
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 169
[The recording presents the contents of a secular (i.e. non-monastic) office for St. Kentigern (aka Mungo)(February 13), the patron saint of Glasgow, from the Sprouston Breviary (MS Edinburgh NLS Adv.18.2.13B). The notes state that, while music for local saints may reveal regional melodic material, in the case the MS follows the Sarum use dominant in England. The texts of this recording, presented here in Latin and English, include both proper responsaries, collects, and (for Matins) a series of readings about the childhood miracles of Kentigern.]

La Messe de Saint Hubert
Rallye Trompes de L'Hertogenwald 1996
Ricercar RIC 149134
[According to the CD notes, the legend of St. Hubert goes back to the 7th century when one Hubert of Aquitaine attended a hunt in the Ardennes region. In disregard of the Church's commands he hunted and caught a ten-point stag. When he looked at the stag, between its antlers shone a  cross of light. Hubert fell to his knees in penitence. After serving seven years in a monastery, Hubert became bishop of Maastricht and Liege. Hubert, perhaps inevitably, became patron saint of hunters. At Saint-Hubert in Ardennes every November 3 a mass is celebrated in his name. This recording focuses on that event. The mass setting is the usual missa de angelis, but the other music - specifically composed for the mass of St. Hubert during the 19th century - has what might, in other circumstance, be considered an overemphasis on trumpets, hunting horns, and organs! The liturgy allows expert hunting horn players to show there skill to a wider audience than usual -- track 13, here, for instance allows a horn player to accompany the organ in Schubert's Ave Maria.]

*Historia Sancti Eadmundi: De la liturgie dramatique au drame liturgique
La Reverdie 1996
Arcana A 43

*Officium Sancti Willibrordi
Choir of Echternach and others 1998
K617 (Fra) 7087
[A recording of the proper parts of the anniversary liturgy of this important missionary.]

*Erik den Heliges Historia - The Historia of St. Erik
Schola Hungarica, Malmö College of Music, The Lund Cathedral Boys' Choir - Janka Szendrei & Lazló Dobszay 1994
Musica Sveciae MSCD 103

Memoria Sancti Henrici : Medieval Chant for the Patron Saint of Finland - Keskiaikaisia liturgisia sälmiä Suomen
kansallidsyhimyksen elamästä ja ihmetöistä
Cetus noster, Köyhät ritarit
Ondine 874-2

Les Saints Fondateurs de l'Ordre Cistercien
Schola de l'Abbaye d'Hauterive and Choeur des Ambrosiennes 1988
Studio SM D2655
[The abbey choir of Hauterive (in Switzerland) and the professional Gregorian choir of Dijon joined to sing the Lauds, Mass, and Vespers of the founding saints of the Cistercian order (Robert de Molesme, Alberic, and Etienne Harding) on the 900th anniversary in 1998. The recording represents the "living musical tradition" of Hauterive and combines music from the Cistercian version of the mass of St. Benedict's day, a vesper's hym ste to a medieval melody in the 17th century, and texts adapted in the 20th century from a 12th century exordium from Citeaux. Texts are given in Latin with facing French translation. English translations of none-standard texts are given later in the accompanying notes.]

Memory of Thomas Becket: Matutinum, Laudes, Misa, Vesperae
Schola Hungarica -- Laszlo Dobszay and Janka Szendrei 1983
Hungaroton HCD 12458-2
[The office of St. Thomas Becket sung by male and female voices. An interesting aspect is that the vita of the saint is read in Hungarian! The Latin texts are give, and the Hungarian is translated into English. There are notes for every track.]

Saint Francis and the Minstrels of God
Altramar medieval music ensemble
Dorian Discovery DIS-80143
[Music taken from the Laudario di Cortona, with a specific focus on St. Francis. The CD begins with a setting of the Canticum creatorum by St. Francis.].

*O spem miram: Ufficio e Messa per S.Domenico secondo il canto dell'Ordine dei Predicatori - secolo XIII
Ensemble Cantilena Antiqua - Stefano Albarello
Symphonia 96145

St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Two Medieval Offices / Magyarorszagi Szent Erzsebet. Ket koezepkori zsolozsma
The Cambrai Office - The Central European Office
Schola Hungarica - Lázsló Dobszay & Janka Szendrei
Hungaroton HCD 31605 1995 

From the Ends of the Earth: Gregorian Chant Liturgy of St. Anthony
Gregorian Choir of Lisbon
Decca London 444 494-2 1994
[Texts and music from the masses and office of St. Anthony of Padua, known in Portugal, where he was born, as "Anthony of Lisbon." Anthony is still one of the most popular Catholic saints, owing perhaps to his skill in finding lost things! A short introduction focuses on the saint, not the music, and both Latin texts and English translations are given. The chant itself is standard Gregorian repetoire delivered with the very "resonant" timbre familiar from the monks of Silos.]

Guillaume Du Fay (c.1397-1474): Mass of St. Anthony (Missi Sancti Anthonii de Padua
Pomerium -- Alexander Blachly
Deutsche Gramaphon/Archiv 447 772-2 1994
[Du Fay, qualified in the disk's notes as the first Renaissance composer, possibly composed this mass after a visit to northern Italy in 1450.]

*Dufay: Music for St. Anthony of Padua
Binchois Consort - Andrew Kirkman 1996
Hyperion 66854

Ludovicus Rex: Estraits des Offices de l'adoration de Saint Louis
Choeur Gregorian de Paris - 1996
Disques Pierre Verany PV797082
[Recordings made at the Sainte Chapelle of various texts for the feast day of St. Louis (King Louis IX) on August 25. The texts emphasize Louis as a biblical king and as a standard bearer of the cross.]

Hildegard - Saints
Sequentia - Barbara Thornton & Benjamin Bagby 1996
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77378 (2 CDs)
[Saints include: Boniface, Disibodus, Maximus, Ursula, Matthew, Holy Widows, Eucharius.]

The Feast of Fools - La Fête des Fous - Das Narrenfest
New London Consort - Philip Pickett 1990
L'Oiseau Lyre "Florilegium" 433 194-2,
[The "Feast of Fools" or "Feast of the Ass", was a "turning the world upside down" feast held during the Christmas season (often on New Year's day, or the Feast of the Circumcision) in which the lower clergy and choir members took on the functions of their superiors. This could involved wearing masks, dressing as women, and singing rude songs, or using burning shoe-leather as incense. On occasion, plainchant would be screeched or sung backwards or interspersed with animal noises. Note that many of the texts were quite conventional, but could be read with more than one (lascivious) meaning. This recording uses the basic "Office of the Circumcision" from Beauvais Cathedral along with texts from other sources such as the Carmina Burana. Most of the music is of various later medieval provenance (i.e. not plainchant) and appreciation of the recording probably requires that the texts and translations be followed. As a joke, this feast is no longer side splitting, but as a social document it retains interest.]

*La Fête de l'Âne - Traditions du Moyen-Age
Clemencic Consort - René Clemencic 1990
Harmonia mundi HMC 90 1036 [CD]
Harmonia Mundi "Suite" HMT 7901036 [CD]
[Adapted from "Officium Circumsionis" - London, Brit. Museum, Egerton 2615 & other sources.]

Le Jeu des Pèlerins d'Emmaus, Drame liturgique du Xiie sircle/A Liturgical Drama XII C: Pilgrims at Emmaus
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901347

*In Gottes Namen fahren wir - Pilgerlieder aus Mittelalter und Renaissance
Odhecaton, Ensemble für alte Musik, Köln
FSM 97 208

On the Way to Bethlehem: Music of the Medieval Pilgrim
Ensemble Oni Wytars / Ensemble Unicorn 1994
Naxos 8.553132
[An interesting and hugely enjoyable, if historically dubious, recording. The conceit is that of the overland journey of crusaders and pilgrims to Bethlehem and the sort of music they would have heard on the way. Thus English, French and, German art songs are mixed with traditional music performed on "period-similar" instruments. The music in question is Croatian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Turkish, and Syrian music.]

Sainteté Russe: Chants liturgiques orthodoxes / Russian Holiness: Orthodox Liturgical Chants
Choeurs Saint Nicholas - Nicolas Spassky 1996
Studio SM D2543/SM 62
[No texts or translations are given with this recording, and the short notes are confusing rather than helpful, but it retains an interest. The traditional monastic melodies from Kiev, Sarov, and Valaam (along with new compositions and harmonizations by recent composers) are used for chants to St. Nicholas, All Saints of Russia, Saints of Northern Russia, St. Germanus of Valaam, and St. Vladmir. Some Easter music is also included on the disk.]

Llibre Vermell de Montserrat - Medieval Pilgrim Songs from Spain
Sarband & Osnabrücker Jugend Chor 1994
Jaro 4171-2 /Dorian 93202
Also released in the US as Mesa R2 79 080, and as Rhino 79080.
The Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (Codex Ripoli BN lat. 5132), or Red Book of the Montserrat monastery (near Barcelona) is a collection of late-14th century songs and dances written by monks of the monastery of Montserrat for pilgrims. The texts are mostly in Latin, but two are in Catalan. The Saraband version is a bit "new agey." See the EMFAQ for more information, especially, which contains a list of other recordings.

*Cantus Mariales: Chants sacrés du Moyen-Âge à la Vierge Marie - Sacred Chants to the Virgin Mary from the Middle Ages
Abbaye Bénédictine de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac - Dom André Saint-Cyr 1995
Analekta AN 2 8101
Analekta "Fleur de Lys" FLX 2 3054

The Crusades and Music

Music of the Crusades - Songs of love and war
The Early Music Consort of London - David Munrow, dir.
London/Decca "Serenata" 430 264-2DM
[Superb early entry into field and still unequalled.]

Crusaders in nomine domini
Estampie, Münchner Ensemble für frühe Musik - Michael Popp, dir.
Christophorus CHR 77 183
[The CD has a theme with one track following from the other. It is based on Crusade texts (which are given in original language and German translation), but the music is very modern and New Age-y (compare the "Hildegard" recordings by Richard Souther.) It cannot be used in class to indicate anything about crusade era music. On the other hand, some listeners may enjoy the renditions, phony as they are.]

*Musiques Croisées: Orient-Occident XIIe-XIIIe siècles
Ensemble Isengrin
Studio SM "Viva Voce" D 2775, 1999
[A recording which stresses Arabic influence on western music, even though the liner notes agree that such interpretations are extremely questionable.]

Jerusalem: Vision of Peace: Songs and Plainchants of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
Gothic Voices - Christopher Page
Hyperion 67039 1998
[The entire CD focuses on the crusades, with extensive notes, texts and English translation. Three of the tracks (5, 12, 16) are explicitly anti-Semitic, one relates to the loss of Jerusalem to Saladin (14, and another stresses the crusade as a pilgrimage (7). Tracks 9-11 are from a graduale of 1128-30 written in the workshop of the Holy Sepulcher and used for the Mass of Easter Day in that Church  - the central reason for the existence of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. The disk contains a quite beautiful rendition of the plainchant Te Deum -- the great Latin chant for victory.]

Montségur: La tragédie cathare
La Nef - Sylvain Bergeron
Dorian 90243
[As the disk notes say, no information on Cathar music survives, so this is an "original musical realization" for voice and early instruments based on medieval sources and reflecting the idea of "opposition": Good v. Evil: North v. South; Crusaders v. a Martyred people; the Church of Rome v. the Perfecti. The disk notes are informative and texts are given both in original form and with English translation. One commentator was extremely negative about the recording -- "Dreadful. The music is mediocre; the notes extremely misleading and are of the Grail/Templar-myth variety, with very little relationship to fact. This is not history but rather fantasy - it belongs in a class with the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail."]

Provence mystique: Sacred Songs of the Middle Ages
Anne Azéma et al. 1999
Erato 3984 25503
[Anne Azéma's voice is highly prized by many lovers of medieval music. This recording covers Troubadour music. Three of the tracks have some connection with the Cathar movement and the crusade against it.  In "D'un sirventes far" (track 8) Guilhem Figueira attacks the betrayal of Rome; in  "Una ciutatz fo" (track 9), Peire Cardenal presents a vision of a world astrange from God that may reflect Cathar views; and in "En bon ponto" a song written in Galician and presevered as the Cantiga de Santa Maria 363, a trouabdour sings of the wrongdoing of Count Simon de Montfort, who had wronly thrown the singer into a dungeon during the Albigensian Crusade.]

*Croisade - Musiques vocales et instrumentales
Alfons X (El Sabio), Conon de Béthune, et al.
Orchestra: Concert dans l'Oeuf, La Compagnie Medievale, et al.
Solstice - #155 

Chants épiques et populaires de Chypre/ Epic and Popular Songs from Cyprus
Ensemble cypriote de musique ancienne/Cypriot Early Music Ensemble -- Michaël Christodoulides 1982
Arion 64182
[A recording of different types of traditional Cypriot songs with the claim that they represent a melding of Middle-Easten, Byzantine, and Western Medieval traditions to produce "Kypraphony" (a "Cypriot Voice") which is neither oriental nor the same as continental Greek voices. This music is an especially interesting to the Court music of the two Ars Nova albums noted below. The CD includes an Akritic "Tale of the Saracen," local epic songs, a love song, "The Legend of St. George," "Myroloyi" -- a song of lamentation, and another Akritic song, "The Tale of the Crab." The notes summarize the music and the stories of the songs, but do not give either texts or translations.]

Les croisades sous le regard de L'Orient / The Crusades seen through the Eyes of the Orient
Omar Sarmini  - Ensemble Al-Kindi - 2001
Le Chant du Monde 5741118/5741119 [Distributed by Harmonia Mundi]
["Arab music and poetry from the time of the Crusades. A tribute to the Syrian prince Usama Ibn Mundiqh." This a a two CD set with extensive notes and translations in both French and English.]


Ars Antiqua

Messe de Tournai c. 1330
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901353
Reissued as: Harmonia Mundi Suite 7901353

Guillaume de Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame & Perotinus Magnus and Philippe Le Chancelier - Musique à Notre Dame de Paris
Deller Consort & Members of the Collegium Aureum - Alfred Deller, dir.
Deutsche Harmonia mundi (EMI) "Editio Classica" 555 (or CDM) 7 69 479-2

Perotin and the Ars Antiqua
The Hilliard Ensemble
Hilliard Live HL 1001
[One of the most famous of all recordings of Medieval Music. The perfect singing of the Hilliard Ensemble, and the complexity of the music makes the disk worth many many listenings.]

*Codex Bamberg
Camerata Nova / Ensemble Chominciamento di Gioia - Luigi Taglioni
Stradivarius 33476

Ars Nova


Nova Cantica: Latin Songs of the High Middle Ages
Dominique Vellard & Emmanuel Bonnardot
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77196

Le Roman de Fauvel
Clemencic Consort - René Clemencic 1975
Harmonia Mundi HML 590 994 [CD-Book]
Harmonia Mundi "musique d'abord" HMA 190994
[The Roman de Fauvel (1301-16) -- Part I probably and Part II certainly written by Gervais du Bois, and both were revised into an elaborate manuscript by Raoul Chatillon du Pesstain -- was a "multimedia" satire on the court of France under Philip IV and Philip V. The manuscript consists of pictures, text to be spoken, and a series of motets. The story focuses on fawn-colored ass -- symbolizing wickedness -- and its adventures. This recording includes a good deal of the spoken text as well as the music. The "musique d'abord" edition gives a very sketchy introduction, and the texts only in Latin and French.]

*Le Roman de Fauvel
The Boston Camerata / Ensemble P.A.N. - Joel Cohen 1991
Erato 96392
[The Boston Camerata recording was the soundtrack of a Video of the Roman de Fauvel. Notes are considerably more useful that the Clemancic Consort "musique d'abord" edition.
See discussion at]

Guillaume de Machaut: Motets and Music from the Ivrea Codex
The Clerks' Group - Edward Wickham 1998
Signum 011
[The recording is program of early-14th century motets and mass movements from two important manuscript sources: the Ivrea Codex, a manuscript of c.1380-90 that preserves musci from the first half of the century, making it a major source for the period of the Ars Nova style of composition that began c.1310; the music of Guillaume de Machaut, most of whose motets come from c.1320-50. The program intersperses the Ivrea music with Machaut's motets, for no clear reason, and is well performed. Texts and translations are given, as well as a short informative introduction.]


Il Solazzo - Music for a medieval banquet
The Newberry Consort
Harmonia mundi HMU 90 7038


Das Moosburger Graduale, 1360/ The Moosburg Gradual of 1360: Christmas Cantiones
Capella Antiqua München,-dir. Konrad Ruhland, 1977, 1980
Sony "Seon" SBK 63 178
[Now a classic recording of German music of the period.]

Ars Subtilior

Codex Chantilly
Airs de Cour du XIVe siècle
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès
Harmonia Mundi 901252

Febus Avant! Music at the Court of Gaston Febus (1331-1391)
Huelgas Ensemble - Paul Van Nevel
Sony Vivarte 48195

Music from the Court of King Janus at Nicosia (1374-1432)
Huelgas Ensemble - Paul Van Nevel, 1993
Sony Vivarte 53976
[Instrumental and vocal music of the Ars Subtilior was developed in the French court in Cyprus. It survived in one manuscript, now in Turin.]

Cypriot Advent Antiphons
Anonymous c.1390
Huelgas Ensemble - Paul Van Nevel 1989
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 7977
[The  cycle of "O" Antiphons is part of the Christmas vespers ceremony -- and is best known to non-specialists as the basis for the hym "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."  This version is from the Cypriot manuscript now in Turin. (Torino, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS J. II 9), the one source for the Cypriot repertory.]

The Island of St. Hylarion: Music of Cyprus: 1413-1422
Ensemble Project Ars Nova 1991
New Albion 038
[The Cypriot manuscript of c.1413-22 (Turin. Bib.Naz. J.II.9) is the focus of this recording as also the one above. The manuscript represents the output of one royal chapel's musical resources at one period and is a witness to the efforts of King Janus to develop polyphonic music for his court. It contains several mass cycles, offices for St. Hylarion and St. Anne, 41 motets, 43, virelais, and 21 rondeaux. Apart from the Latin of the liturgical texts, many of the works are in French. The singing and musicianship of the recording is admirable, although customers seem to see it as "soothing" in the style of Chant!]

Neo-Medieval - Medieval improvisations for a Postmodern Age
Hesperus, 1996
Dorian Discovery DIS-80155
[In this recording Hesperus, whose members are also involved with the Folger Consort, rejects the "Historically Informed Performance" (HIP) paradigm, The group seeks, instead, to "create a living tradition" using what has been left from the middle ages. The tracks are mostly instrumental.]

*Ars Subtilior
Pickett, New London Consort
Linn Records (Sco) 39

Songs: Troubadours, Trouvères, and Minnesingers 1100-1300

Troubadour Songs and Medieval Lyrics
Hillier / Stubbs / Kiesel
Hyperion 66094
[An austere presentation.]

Music of the Troubadours
Ensemble Unicorn & Oni Wytars - Michael Posch, dir.
Naxos 8.554257
[Hugely enjoyable, the songs are sung with instrumental accompaniment, and a certain freedom of interpretation.

Music for the Lion-Hearted King [c.1200]
Gothic Voices - Christopher Page
Hyperion 66336
[12th century conducti - mostly French -- recorded in commemoration of the coronation of Richard the Lionheart.]

Lo gai saber (Troubadours et Jongleurs 1100-1300)
Camerata mediterranea - Joël Cohen, dir.
Erato 2292-45 647-2
Some tracks are available on the Boston Camerata's web site
[A splendid program of Troubadour songs, with useful notes, texts and translations. Anne Azéma's singing is especially noteworthy, bit each of the soloists brings something special: Azéma is a well-known early music specialist; François Harismandy is an opera singer, and Jean-Luc Madier an Occitan folk-singer. Cohen himself sings on track 8. The ensemble singing on track 13 shows the various voices especially well. Since there are many more Troubadour texts than melodies, this recording uses some known melodies for texts with no known melody.]

Provence mystique: Sacred Songs of the Middle Ages
Anne Azéma et al. 1999
Erato 3984 25503
[Anne Azéma's voice is highly prized by many lovers of medieval music. This recording covers Troubadour music. Three of the tracks have some connection with the Cathar movement and the crusade against it.  In "D'un sirventes far" (track 8) Guilhem Figueira attacks the betrayal of Rome; in  "Una ciutatz fo" (track 9), Peire Cardenal presents a vision of a world astrange from God that may reflect Cathar views; and in "En bon ponto" a song written in Galician and presevered as the Cantiga de Santa Maria 363, a trouabdour sings of the wrongdoing of Count Simon de Montfort, who had wronly thrown the singer into a dungeon during the Albigensian Crusade.]

Cansós de Trobairitz
Hespèrion XX - Jordi Savall 1977
EMI 7 63417 2
Virgin Edition 61310
[There were about 20 female troubadors (called trobairitz) and two female trouvères. This disk explores their works--along with the chanson de toile and chanson de femme - songs written from a woman's point of view. Sadly only one song survives with a melody -- A chantar m'er by the Comtessa de Dia. To provide music for the other lyrics, Hespèrion XX uses the medieval practice of contrafactum, i.e., fitting existing melodies (from songs written by male troubadours) with the new texts (by the trobairitz)

*The Sweet Look and the Loving Manner: Trobairitz love lyrics and chansons de femme from Medieval France
Sinfonye - Stevie Wishart 1992
Hyperion 66625
[Sinfonye uses same method as Hespèrion XX to provide music for the texts of the trobairitz.]

Troubadours et Minnesänger - "En chantan m'aven a membrar"
Ensemble Lucidarium - Avery Gosfield and Franci Biggi, 1997
L'Empreinte digitale ED 13079
[The recording focuses on the transmission of troubadour song from Provence to Germany.]

Minnesänger und Spielleute/ Minnesong and Minstrels
Studio der frühen Musik - Thomas Binkley 1988 [rec'd 1966, 1968]
Teldec "Das Alte Werk - Reference" 8.44015 ZS
[A CD combination of two LP recordings: Minnesänger und Spruchdichtung/Music and Prosody (ca.1200-1320) (tracks 1-14) and Musik der Spielleute/ Music of the Minstrels (tracks 15-23). The first part presents songs from the High-German composers of the 13th century - Walther Von der Vogelweide, Niedhart von Reuntal, Reinmar von Brennenberg, Wizlaw and others - a period defined by the notes as the "golden age of courtly poetry." Genres include "Spruchdichtung" -- songs sung by itinerant professionals about subjects such as God, Mary, princes, ethics, politics, but rarely Minne or "love"; the Minnesang (love song) refers instead to the love poetry written by noblemen of southern German courts. Walther's Palästinalied -- "Nu alrest lebe ich mir werde" ("Now my life is elevated") possibly composed for the crusade of 1228, is among the songs. The singing is splendid, although perhaps the voices sound a little operatic! Notes and texts, plus source information, are given from tracks 1-14. No information is given about the five instrumental tracks at the end of the CD.

*Minnesänger & Meistersinger - Minnesinger and Meistersinger: Lieder um Konrad von Würzburg - Songs around Konrad von Würzburg
A. von Ramm, S. Jones, T. C. Nelson, C. Schmid-Cadalbert
Christophorus "musica practica" CD 74 542

Sumer is Icumen in: Medieval English Songs
Hilliard Ensemble - Paul Hillier
Harmonia Mundi 901154

Medieval English Music: Anonymes des XIVe et XVe siècles
Hilliard Ensemble 1982
Harmonia Mundi "musique d'abord" HMA 90 1106 [Twelve Latin and two English songs from the late middle ages. The notes stress the eminence of the English "contenance" in the 14th century, and the relatively conservative In comparison to the Netherlands and France) nature of English music in the 15th century. There are no texts or translations with the recording.]

English Songs of the Middle Ages
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77019

*Alfonso X El Sabio: Cantigas de Santa Maria
Ensemble Unicorn
Naxos 8.553133

Carmina Burana
Boston Camerata - Joël Cohen 1996
Erato 14987
[The Benediktbeuren manuscript (c.1230) provides some of the most well-known medieval poems, although they are better-known more for the 20th-century setting by Carl Orff than with the original melodies. The manuscript contains hundreds of Latin poems, and not all have musical settings. The texts are notable for their worldliness and satirical eye. Although the manuscript is 13th century, the monodic settings that survive are somewhat conservative compared to what was happening in France at the same period. The notes to this recording are excellent, point to the choices made in interpretation, and the limitations of the material available. See for a list of other recordings and background.]>/p>

*Carmina Burana
Clemencic Consort - René Clemencic 1974
Harmonia Mundi 90335
[A classic recording.]

Regional Musics

Catalonia (see also Sibyl Song above)

Moyen-Age Catalan - de l'art roman à la renaissance
Ars musicae de Barcelone - Eric Gispert 1970
Harmonia mundi "Musique d'Abord" HMA 190 051 [CD]
[A wide-ranging selection of Catalan music from the 12th century school of Ripoll to the 16th century. Texts and music from various manuscripts are sung, as are selections from the Mass of Barcelona and Sibyl chant. These days, as an older recording, it is issued in combined sets -- which means that the good price is spoiled by minimal notes and no texts.]


A Lammas Ladymass: 13th and 14th Century English Chnat and Polyphony
Anonymous 4 - 2001
Harmonia Mundi USA HM 90 7222
[The luminous and scholarly singing of this group is one of the great commerical successes of modern Medieval music.]

Robin Hood: Elizabethan Ballad Settings
Paul O'Dette - 2001
Harmonia Mundi USA HM 90 7265
[Lute, orpharion, and cittern settings, but no singing.]


*Chanterai: Music of Medieval France
Sonus Ensemble
Dorian Discovery 80123
[Contains at least one crusade song -- Guiot de Dijon's Chanterai pour mon coraige[also on the Jerusalem: Vision of Peace CD.]


Crossroads of the Celts
Dorian 93177
[A serious effort to identify and recreate medieval Irish music -- as opposed to modern "Celtic" music. The notes are excellent, and honest about the difficulty of locating genuine medieval Celtic melodies. For more discussion see]

*Insula Feminarum: Résonances médiévales de la Féminité Celte
La Reverdie
Arcana A 59


Edda: Myths from medieval Iceland
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77381
[This is "reconstructed" music -- based in extensive study, but with not annotated manuscripts to work on.]


Hoquetus: Medieval European Vocal Music
Theatre of Voices - Paul Hillier
Harmonia Mundi USA 907185
[(Summary from notes) Hocketing, from the French "hoqueter", to hiccup, dates back to the 12th century and refers to the practice where two voice parts are arranged so that while one voice has rests the other voice has notes, and vice-versa. In this way, even though the individual voice parts are discontinuous the the heard music is continuous. This technique is heard for instance in Perotin, and laid the path for the layered voice music of later medieval music. This recording is mainly of French, English, and Italian short pieces from the 13th and 14th century. Texts and translations are give in a well illustrated and informative booklet.]

Ioculatores: Lieder und Tänze des 13. bis 15. Jahrhunderts - Chants et danses du XIIIe au XVe siècle - Song and Dances of the 13th to 15th Centuries
Ioculatores 1993
Raum Klang RK 93 01
[The recording aims to re-create the popular secular music of the late middle ages.]

*Songs & Dances of the Middle Ages
Sonus Ensemble
Dorian Discovery 80109

*Agricola: Fortuna desperata: Secular Music of the 15th Century
Ensemble Unicorn - Michael Posch
Naxos 8.553840

Ancient Voices - Vox sacra
Anonymous 4, Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, Soeur Marie Keyrouz
Harmonia mundi HMX 290 608
[A very useful, and cheap, survey of Harmonia Mundi's CD issues.]

Musica humana
Anonymous 4; Ensemble Discantus; Ensemble Gilles Binchois; Choeur byzantin de Grèce; Ensemble Organum; Musica Nova; Crawford Young & John Fleagle; Gothic Voices; Hilliard Ensemble; Houria Aiumlchi; Yann-Fanch Kemener; Ozan Firat; Kalenda Maya; FrançoiseAtlan
Empreinte digitale (L') ED 13 047

Anges/ Angels
Ensemble Venance Fortunat - Anne-Marie Deschamps, dir. Ensemble Lyrique ibérique
L'Empreinte digitale ED 13 050


The Renaissance in Music (National Public Radio Milestones of The Millennium)
Guillaume Dufay to Tallis and beyond.
Sony/Columbia 60992

Renaissance Masterpieces
Oxford Camerata - Jeremy Summerly
Naxos 8.550843
[A survey disk, with works by Ockeghem, Josquin?, Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, King João IV of Portugal, and others.]

Vox Neerlandica 1
Netherlands Chamber Choir - Paul van Nevel, dir., 1996
NM Classics 92064
[Program of music by Low Countries composers from the 14th to 17th centuries.]

Guillaume Du Fay (c.1397-1474): Mass of St. Anthony (Missi Sancti Anthonii de Padua
Pomerium -- Alexander Blachly
Deutsche Gramaphon/Archiv 447 772-2 1994
[Du Fay, qualified in the disk's notes as the first Renaissance composer, possibly composed this mass after a visit to northern Italy in 1450.]

Walter Frye
Hilliard Ensemble, 1992
ECM New Series 1476
[Walter Frye (fl.c.1440-c.1475) was an English composer whose works survive in various places. Little is known about him, but some of his compositions survive in continental manuscripts.]

Henry VIII and His Six Wives: Music from the Film Soundtrack
The Early Music Consort of London - David Munrow, dir.
HMV CSD A9001 [LP], Angel 4XS-36895 [Cassette]
[No notes with the cassette. A mix of music, some by Henry VIII.]

*Two Renaissance Dance Bands, etc
Composer: Tylman Susato, Thomas Morley, et al.
David Munrow and The Morley Consort, Early Music Consort of London
Testament (UK) 1080

*Court & Dance Music from the Renaissance & Early Baroque
Facoli, Rogers, Normiger, Booke, &
Bis (Swe) 126

*A Golden Treasury of Renaissance Music
Composers: Josquin Des Préz, Antoine Brumel, et al.
James Wood and New London Chamber Chorus
Amon Ra (UK) 65

*Music of the Italian Renaissance
Shirley Rumsey
Naxos 8.550615

*Music of the Spanish Renaissance
Shirley Rumsey
Naxos 8.550614

*Francesco Canova da Milano: Lute Music: Fantasias, Ricercars and Duets
Christopher Wilson
Naxos 8.550774


Protestant Reformation Music

Psaumes de la Réforme
Claude Goudimel / Paschal de l'Estoquart / Jan Sweelinck
Ensemble Claude Goudimel - Christine Morel
Naxos 8.553025
[Psalm singing was characteristic of Reformed (i.e. Calvinist) congregations. This disk presents the kind of settings one might hear in a French church, if that church had a good professional choir.]

Musik der Reformation/ Music of the Reformation
Schreier, Grüss, Capella Fidicinia
Berlin Classics 9120
[There are pluses and minuses to this album. Peter Schrier's tenor voice is beautiful, and the settings of Lutheran hymns (this is all German music) avoid later harmonizations. But the songs are sung as if they were lieder (art songs), and that simply does not convey the importance of congregational participation. For classroom use, modern renditions of Ein Feste Burg by the American Boychoir or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir might succeed in conveying more of the elan. To get the full flavor of congregational hymns, however, it is probably best to by recordings of non-professional group singing. Hymns don't sound right unless somebody is out of tune.]

*Martin Luther und die Musik/ Martin Luther and the Music
Klebel, Musica Antiqua Wien
Qualiton 25

*Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: Musik der Reformation
Luther / Walter / Müntzer
Mitglieder des Dresdner Kreuzchores / Capella Fidicinia - Hans Grüß
Berlin Classics 0091192 (2 CDs)

*Salve festa dies: Musik der Reformationszeit
Bläser-Collegium Liepzig
Raum Klang RK 9501

*Chants of the Reformation in Hungary
Sandor Berkesi/Debrecen College Cantus
Hungaroton/White Label (Hun) - #12665
[Hungarian Reformation hymns.]

*Tugend und Untugend (Virtue and Vice): German Secular Songs and Instrumental Music from the Time of Luther
Convivium Musicum / Ensemble Villanella - Sven Berger
Naxos 8.553352

Catholic Reformation Music

Palestrina (Italy) and Lassus (Flanders) (both died. in 1594) were prolific Catholic composers. Palestrina, in particular is credited with "saving" polyphony in Catholic usage. Some of the late medieval compositions had made the words of the liturgy undecipherable -- an aspect which upset not only Protestant commentators, but the Catholic reformers at the Council of Trent. Palestrina succeeded in writing polyphonic music in which every word is clear.

Lassus: Missa pro defunctis / Prophetiae Sibyllarum
Hilliard Ensemble, 1993
ECM 1658
[Missa pro defunctis (1587) and Prophetiae Sibyllarum (c. 1555). ]

Palestrina, Missa hodie Christus natus est, Stabat Mater/ Lassus, Missa "Bell' Amfitrit' altera"
Jeremy Summerly, Schola Cantorum Oxford
Naxos 550836

Victoria: Tenebrae Responsories
Pro Cantione Antiqua - Bruno Turner
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77056
[A classic version, although there are other more modern disks.]

Byrd: Masses for 3, 4, and 5 Voices, Ave Verum
Hillard Ensemble
EMI Reflexe 102333

William Byrd: Motets and Masses for Four Voices
w/ Edwards / Sheppard / Tallis / Taverner
Theatre of Voices - Paul Hillier, 1994
ECM New Series 21512
[Presents Byrd's music, written for recusant Catholics in England, as "vocal chamber music," likely to have been performed with only one singer per voice.]

Lamentations: Holy Week in Provence / Semaine Sainte en Provence
Gilles - Bouzignac - Carpentras
The Boston Camerata - Joel Cohen 1995
Erato 4509-98480-2
[A recording of mostly 17th century French music from Provence. It shows the way composers of the era would interweave their own music with the Gregorian repetoire.]

Renaissance Masterpiece Volume III - Paris: Eustache du Caurroy
The Choir of New College, Oxford - Edward Higginbottom
Collins Classics 14972
[Du Caurroy (1549-1609) was a major composer of the French Renaissance and this recording contains a well performed selection of his music. Of most interest for historical reasons, however, are tracks 2-8 which contain a setting of the Requiem mass (written 1606) and which was first performed at the funeral of the assassinated king, Henry IV. This setting was then performed at the funerals of subsequent French kings of the absolutism period. As such it is a remarkable example of an early modern musical piece with an extended period of performance.]

*Du Caurroy: Requiem des Rois de France
Doulce Mémoire - Denis Raisin Dadre, 1998
Astrée 8660
[Another recording of the Du Caurroy Requiem.]

Mess des Jesuites de Peking/
Mass of the Jesuits in Beijing

Composer: Joseph-Marie Amiot, Charles D'Ambleville, et al. 1998
Conductor: Jean-Christophe Frisch, Paris Chinese Catholic Center Choir
Ensemble: Paris Chinese Catholic Center Choir, Meihua Fleur de Prunus Ensemble, et al.
Naive Astree (Fra) 8642
[From 1589, Jesuit missionaries had settled in Peking, where they proceeded to establish a significant Catholic presence, and to build up religious institutions, incuuding churches, choirs, and libraries. This CD takes examples of music -- composed by Europeans -- which were in the Jesuits libraries and "reconstructs" how it was likely to have been sung in China by the Jesuits. In addition, the CD presents recordings of Catholic canticles composed in Chinese. The assumption is that because of limited resources, the Jesuits would have used Chinese music resources, and the extensive notes give the rationale for this. The result is a CD which combines very European liturgical music with distinctly Chinese sonorities -- in effect a Chinese version of the SAVAE disks on Aztec Catholic Music.]


The Art of the Bawdy Song
Baltimore Consort, and The Merry Companions, 1992
Dorian 90155
[The music is not especially wild, and would not work at an English soccer match, but the lyrics are as bawdy as one would want them to be.]

How the World Wags: Social Music for a 17th century Englishman
The City Waites - Douglas Wootton, dir.
Hyperion CDA 66008-2
Reissued as budget Helios 55013

*The Musitians of Grope Lane: Music of Brothels and Bawdy Houses of Purcell's England
The City Waites - Douglas Wootton
Musica Oscura 070969

*Low and Lusty Ballads: The Elizabethan Underworld
The City Waites - Douglas Wootton, dir.
Sound Alive SA-MT 006

COLUMBUS AND MUSIC: Origins of Latin American Music

Music in the Time of Columbus
Grupo de Música "Alfonso X el Sabio"
London 436 11602

*1492 - Music From the Age of Discovery
Waverly Consort - Michael Jaffee, 1992
EMI Reflexe 54506
[Has some non-Medieval electronic variations at the end, but much of it is very good; includes music relevant to the end of the Reconquista and Columbus' voyages, which were partly inspired by a desire to revive and continue crusading.]

*El Cancionero de la Colombina, 1451-1506
Música en el tiempo de Cristóbal Colón
Hespèrion XX - Jordi Savall
Astrée 8763

*Music from the Time of Columbus
Picket, New London Consort
Linn Records (Sco) 7

*Música en tiempos de Velázquez
Ensemble La Romanesca - José Miguel Moreno
Glossa 920201

*Ave Maris Stella: Music to the Blessed Virgin from Seville Cathedral (c.1470-1550)
Orchestra of the Renaissance - Richard Cheetham
Almaviva 0115

*A Royal Songbook - Spanish Music from the time of Columbus
Naxos - #553325 /

Nueva España: Close Encounters with the New World, 1590-1690
Boston Camerata - Joel Cohen
Erato 45977
[An earlier program than the now famous SAVAE Guadaloupe recording. Cohen and the Boston Camerata play music from the new on period instruments. Compositions inlcude ones by both Spanish and native composers - including a chant in honor of the virgin Mary in Quechua (the language of the Incas).]

Guadalupe: Virgen De Los Indios
SAVAE: San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble 1998
Iago 210
[This disk has been a sensation since it was played on NPR in December 1998. It combines music written in the early Baroque style by *native* Aztec and Nahua composes -- especially Tomás Pascual -- with indigenous percussion instruments. The result is guaranteed to interest students.]

El Milagro de Guadaloupe
SAVAE: San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble 1999
Iago 214
[A follow-up to the earlier recording. This recording includes the "Teponazcuicatl" (procession of the drum) -- the Aztec procession announcing the miracle of Guadaloupe. Translations of the texts, but not the original texts, are provided.]

From the label, Ben Tavera King , October 28, 1998


Walk into a church where the vocal group SAVAE performs and step back 400 years to a turning point in the history of the Western Hemisphere and the Catholic Church.

The seven-member group specializes in the music of Colonial Mexico and recently released a CD, "Guadalupe - Virgen de Los Indios," featuring music written by native Aztec, Nahua, and Spanish-Mexican composers honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe in the decades following her appearance to the Nahua Indian Juan Diego on a hill outside Mexico City on December 12, 1531.

Even though much of the music honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe on the CD (released by San Antonio-based Talking Taco/Iago Records), hasn't been performed for more than 400 years, it is in the process of being welcomed back into the contemporary liturgical music of the Catholic Church.

The connection with contemporary Catholic audiences is due to the popularity of the Virgin of Guadalupe with Hispanic Catholics. The appearance of the Virgin in the form of an Indian woman sparked the conversion of thousands, and later millions, of Native Americans to Catholicism throughout Latin America.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated in Catholic churches throughout the U.S. and Latin America. "The appearance of the Virgin foretold the fusion of two cultures--Spanish Catholic and Native American. Millions have found and continue to find their faith through this divine gesture of acceptance," explains SAVAE's director Christopher Moroney. Prior to the Virgin's appearance there had been few conversions to Catholicism by the native peoples of Mexico.

The music featured by SAVAE (San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble), in concert and on its CD reflects the cultural fusion between Europeans and Indians that occured in the period following the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

The vocals sound like the sacred music heard in European Cathedrals during the Renaissance, but the rhythms and percussion instruments are unmistakeably pre-Columbian--pitched rocks, log drums, rattles and clay ocarinas. The Dallas Morning News described SAVAE's sound as "spiraling, echoing harmonies of sacred music...with a percussive, rhythmic urgency."

"There's something special about this music. It's extremely old, but it has a contemporary sound that speaks to modern audiences," says Laura Dankler, of World Library Publications, which is considering publishing several of the songs included on the CD to be distributed to Catholic parishes throughout the U.S. The Illinois-based company is the largest publisher of Catholic music in the U.S.

The story behind the discovery of much of the music on "Guadalupe - Virgen de Los Indio" stretches back to the early 1960s and two Maryknoll Fathers, Edward F. Moore and Daniel P. Jensen, who happened to be working in Santa Eulalia, a small village in Northwestern Guatemala.

"Going through old manuscripts in the village church the two priests came across a collection of musical manuscripts in a deer-skin binding," explains Christopher Moroney. "The binding still had the deer's hair on it and turned out to be a manuscript written by Tomás Pascual, an Indian who had converted to Christianity and who was the Chapelmaster at the church in Huehuetenango, Guatemala."

The manuscripts eventually found their way to Denton-based musicologist Sheila Raney Baird at North Texas State University and later surfaced in the Lilly Library of Indiana.

However, the existence of the music remained a secret among musicologists until Dr. Oscar Garcia-Landois, a Mexican musicologist studying at the University of Texas at Austin happened to attend a SAVAE concert where they performed music from their debut CD, "Native Angels" (Talking Taco/Iago Records), which also features music of Colonial Latin America.

"He told us about the transcriptions made by Baird and that set us out discovering works by other Mexican composers," Moroney said. The search led them to the works of Don Hernando Franco, an Aztec noble who converted to Catholicism, and other composers with similar backgrounds who mastered European-style composition.

However, the "missing link" between contomporary audiences and the ancient manuscripts was the use of pre-Columbian instruments, such as the log drum (teponatzli)and clay flute (ocarina), with the European-style singing. SAVAE found that link in the 16th-century writing of a native Tepanec drummer, Don Francisco Placido, who was a devotee of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Placido wrote about the instruments and rhythmic patterns that are used on the CD in a manuscript entitled "Canticos Mexicanos."

The ancient music and contemporary devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe come together during SAVAE's concerts at Catholic churches throughout the U.S. "It's extremely touching as a musician to talk to people after the concerts," says Moroney. "People come up with tears in their eyes saying how much the music means to them. Even though many of the songs are in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the emotion and message of the music still reaches the people--four centuries after it was written."

The Les Chemins du Baroque series constitutes a wonderful survey of early music in the post-Conquest Americas.

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 1: Lima La Plata - Missions Jésuites
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 025

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 2: Mexico-Versailles - Vêpres De l'Assomption
Grande Écurie et Chambre du Roy - Jean-Claude Malgoire
K617 026

Les Chemins du Baroque, 3: Mexico - Messe De l'Assomption
Vocal Ensemble de Mexico / La Fenice - Yvan Reperant
K617 024

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 4: Zipoli: Vêpres de San Ignacio
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 027

Les Chemins du Baroque, 5: Torrejon y Velasco: Musique à la Cité des Rois
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 035

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 6: Zipoli l'Américain
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 036

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 7: Zipoli l'Européen
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 037

Les Chemins du Baroque, 8:Araujo: L'Or et l'Argent du Haut Pérou
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 038

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 9: Corse - Missa Corsica in Monticellu
A Cumpagnia - Nicole Casalonga
K617 043

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 10: Mexique - Orgue de Tlacochahuaya
Dominique Ferran
K617 049

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 11: Mexique - Orgue historique de Cholula
Francis Chapelet
K617 048

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 12: Rubino: Vespro per lo stellario della beata Vergine
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 050 (2 CDs)

Les Chemins du Baroque, 13: Québec - Le Chant de la Jérusalem des terres froides
Studio Ancien de Montréal - Jackson
K617 052
[This disk documents early music in Quebec.]

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 14: Autour du livre d'orge de Mexico
Gustavo Delgado Parra & Ofelia Castellanos
K617 059

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 15: Musique Baroque a la real audiencia de Charcas
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 064

*Les Chemins du Baroque, 16: San Ignacio - L'opéra perdu des missions jésuites de L'Amazonie
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 065

Volumes 1,4,6,and 8 have been reissued in a 4 for 1 set, but with out the excellent album notes of the regular series, as:

*Musiques Sacrées Missionnaires
De la cordillere des Andes a l'Amazonie
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido
K617 070/4 (4 CDs)

Volumes 2, 3 & 12 are have been reissued as a 4 for 1 set:
*Offrandes a la mère du Baroque Universel
K617 074/4

Mission San Francisco Xavier: Opera y Misa de los Indios
Ensemble Elyma (Coro Niños Cantores de Córdoba) -- Gabriel Garrido 2001
K617 (Fra) - 617111

*Musica Sacra do Brasil
Rio de Janeiro - Minas Gerais - Sao Paulo
Orchestra & Choir Vox Brasiliensis Sao Paulo - Ricardo Kanji
K617 096

Jerusalem: Matins for the Virgin of Guadalupe
Wea/Atlantic/Teldec - #21829
[Liturgical music from the 18th century.]

THE TONAL PERIOD: 1600 and after

Baroque: Classical: Romantic

No CD's are listed, since the full development of the key structure and instrumentation of modern Western serious music marks a major transition in Western music history -- indeed one of the clearest breaks between "medieval" and "modern" periodization.


[Best to start with those marked with *]


Boethius, d. 524. De institutione musica as Fundamentals of Music. Translated by Calvin M. Bower; edited by Claude V. Palisca. New Haven : Yale University Press, c1989.

Godwin, Joscelyn, ed. The Harmony of the Spheres: A Sourcebook of the Pythagorean Tradition in Music. Rochester VT: Inner Traditions International, c1993.

Godwin, Joscelyn. Music, Mysticism, and Magic: A Sourcebook. London; New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.
Useful translations of excerpts.

Strunk, Oliver, ed. Source Readings in Music History. Rev. ed. New York: Norton, c1998. [1st ed. 1950]
Includes the musical section of Cassiodorus's Institutiones, the "harmonics" section ofAristides Quintilianus; all of Cleonides, Gaudentius, and Sextus Empiricus's Against the Musicians; the musical section of Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae. and treatises ranging from the 9th-century Musica enchiriadis through the Speculum musicae.

Secondary Literature

*Abraham, Gerald. Concise Oxford History of Music. London: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Anderson, Warren D. Music and Musicians in Ancient Greece. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Bélis, Annie. Les musiciens dans l'antiquité. Paris: Hachette, 1999.

Comotti, Giovanni. Music in Greek and Roman Culture. Translated by Rosaria V. Munson. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991

Conomos, Dimitri E. Byzantine Hymnography and Byzantine Chant. Brookline MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1984

*Farmer, Henry George. A History of Arabian Music to the XIIIth Century. London: Luzac Oriental, 1967, 1994, repr. Weatherhill, 1996.

Godwin, Joscelyn, ed. Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: The Spiritual Dimension of Music from Antiquity to the Avant-garde. London: Thames and Hudson, c1987.

Haik-Vantoura, Suzanne. The Music of the Bible Revealed: The Deciphering of a Millenary Notation. Translated by Dennis Weber. Berkeley CA: BibalPress; San Francisco CA: King David's Harp, 1991. 2nd rev, edition. D & F Scott 1991.

*Hiley, David. Western Plainchant: A Handbook. London: Oxford University Press, 1993. [The standard work in English.]

Hoppin, Richard H. Medieval Music . The Norton Introduction to Music History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.
[General survey. Uses somewhat obscure examples.]

Jefferys, Peter. Re-envisioning Past Musical Cultures. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992

Landels, John G. Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. London: Routledge, 1999 [$85.00!]

Levy, Kenneth. Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

*Manniche, Lise. Music and Musicians in Ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press, 1991. [The books that forms the basis for Michael Aethertons' modern reconstructions.]

McGee, Timothy J. The Sound of Medieval Song: Ornamentation and Vocal Style According to the Treatises. Latin translations by Randall A. Rosenfeld. London: Oxford University Press, 1998

McGuickin, John A. At the Lighting of the Lamps : Hymns of the Ancient Church. Harrisburg PA: Morehouse, 1997. [Greek and Latin texts with translations.]

*McKinnon, James, ed. Antiquity and the Middle Ages: From Ancient Greece to the 15th Century Music and Society Series, Vol 1. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990. [A collection of relatively thorough articles.]

*McKinnon, James, "The Book of Psalms, Monasticism, and the Western Liturgy," in The Place of the Psalms in the Intellectual Culture of the Middle Ages. Edited by N. van Deusen,. 43-58. Albany NY: SUNY Press, 1999

Mathiesen, Thomas J. Apollo's Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999).
In an internet post, Dr. Mathiesen noted that "with the exception of the volume by Zaminer and Riethmueller, all of [the other books] approach the topic from the perspective of the classicist... my own new book on the subject [is] written from the perspective of a musicologist....Among other things, it includes a bibliography of 1622 items."]

Riethmuller, Albrecht and Frieder Zaminer, eds. Die Musik des Altertums. Laaber: Laaber-Verlag, c1989.

Schueller, Herbert M. Idea of Music: An Introduction to Musical Aesthetics in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 9. Kalamazoo MI: Western Michigan University, 1988.

Stolba, K Marie. The Development of Western Music: A History. Brief 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998. With Recorded Examples to Accompany The Development of Western Music: An Anthology, VolumeI (From Ancient Times through the Classical Era). 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Tardo, Lorenzos. L'Antica melurgia bizantina nell'interpretazione della Scuola Monastica di Grottaferrata. Grottaferrata, 1938.
[See especially pp. 390-95 on the ison.]

Tillyard, Henry Julius Wetenhall. Byzantine Music and Hymnography. London: The Faith Press, 1923. repr. AMS Press, 1976.

*Wellesz, Egon. A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography. 2nd. ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961. [The standard work.]

Wellesz, Egon. Ancient and Oriental Music, New Oxford History of Music, Vol.1. London: Oxford University Press, 1957, repr. 1979.

*West, M.L. Ancient Greek Music. London: Oxford University Press, 1992. [Discusses each piece of surviving music, gives a transcription in modern notation, Greek lyrics and prose translation.]


Commercial Sites: Many short samples from the CDs listed here can be heard at  or These websites also sell the CDs, and it is worth looking at both -- CDworld seems to be cheaper while Amazon delivers more quickly.

The Early Music FAQ:
A misnamed site that is far more than a FAQ. This is the net location with the most extensive and useful information about Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance music. Its CD search engine lets you call up the vast majority of the CD's here, with track listings, short reviews, and links to places to purchase the CDs.

Greek Music:

Coptic Chant:

Byzantine Music:

ORB: Medieval Music:
-- Useful introduction, but very much defines "medieval" as "western," with no coverage of Byzantine or other eastern medieval musics.

Gregorian Chant Links:

NPR Milestones of Millenium Program on Chant
-With a rather pietistic and non-too accurate commentary by Fr. J.F. Weber, a Catholic priest.

NPR Milestones of Millenium Program on the Renaissance in Music

The New Republic (February 27, 1995) FINDING GOD AT TOWER RECORDS, by Katherine Bergeron

Music 2115: Survey of Music from Antiquity to c. 1750
Prof. John R. Howell

The home page of the Benedictine Abbey that single-mindedly revived Gregorian Chant in the 19th century.


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