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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:50 am 
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Seeking to continue the discussion on medieval music here, since it's not really what the OP of Best fantasy/medieval NES music was looking for (medieval was used in a loose sense to describe a range of game settings).

"Medieval music" seems to be often used to describe what seems to be largely english or french music traditions from relatively late-medieval times. Given that the middle ages ranged different centuries in different, and relatively separate regions including but not limited to europe, there must be more than that. So there's maybe some confusion between this notion of "medieval music" as a genre, and all of the music and various styles made in times we call medieval.

re: rainwarior, on greensleeves - that does indeed seem to be a very common root for many games' and films' at the tavern/castle hall/homestead/introduction theme. Also, looking at the commentary section, many there seems to be gamers.

Anyway, i just found this "medieval party mix" and found it inspiring. When i think of "medieval", i tend to naïvely think of accents being made on first and third in a 4/4 bar or just the first in tripple time (that's the way folk music works around here, mainly). The percussion section of these songs are a lot more elaborate.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaRNvJLKP1E

(edit to fix a few things, among them the title :P )

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Last edited by FrankenGraphics on Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:53 am 
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Heh, well I'll just quote myself instead from that thread of trying to write this all again:
rainwarrior in this post wrote:
For a long time I've felt that "fantasy" or "medieval" isn't really a genre of music, even though it is a genre of setting.

There is actual historical medieval music but generally that's never used in games or films depicting that time. There's examples where someone has developed a strong successful style while working mostly in games of one genre, like Nobuo Uematsu or Hitoshi Sakimoto, and their example gets imitated... I've looked at this question of what is fantasy/medieval music over and over again, and every time it breaks down; there isn't really a big coherence to it as a genre, in my opinion.

Neverthless, here's a few vague ideas that I think fit the trends a little bit:
  • Late romantic classical music and orchestration. A string orchestra. In particular the work of Debussy (example) which had a very dominating influence on film music for a very long time, and Nobuo Uematsu makes many direct references to Debussy in his work.
  • Modal scales and harmony. I think Greensleeves is basically the archetype for the "fantasy/medieval" melody and harmony. This helps set it apart from just being derived from classical music, and modal scales were prominent in that historical period. I don't think it's used in a historical way, but it is effective at cultivating a mood that's different from common practice major/minor stuff.
  • Influence from various folk music, which includes modal scales, unusual dance rhythms, etc. and also things like instrumentation. Acoustic instruments, but especially ones that aren't the common modern version, wooden flute instead of metal, lute instead of guitar, a simple tambourine instead of a snare drum...
  • Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is another huge touchstone for this genre, maybe even its most representative work. Very strongly medieval "themed" but not trying to be a historical performance by any means, it does have that kind of anti-classical, strange/folk instrumentation/rhythm, modal melodies, etc.

(...and the way my 3 main examples here, Orff, Debussy, Greensleeves are all also drastically different from each other is an indication of what I mean when I say I don't think it's really a coherent genre.)


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:55 am 
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If you want to talk about actual historical medieval music, that's a whole other thing though. It was one of my focuses in my undergraduate degree so I'd gladly discuss it, just I think it's almost entirely unrelated to the film/media idea of a "medieval" themed soundtrack. (It's also a time period, and not a genre, of course, so the basic definition of category is simpler too.)

Civilization IV's soundtrack was a big deal to me, as one of very few games that I've ever seen try to use historically accurate music to depict its time periods.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:39 pm 
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I think my personal scope for this topic would primarily be:

-what can be learned from (actual) medieval music* when doing a game sountrack (especially a nes sountrack)?
and
-The technical limits of medieval instruments (useful knowing if one wants to synthesize them/compose for them)

For example, gregorian/plain chant/plain song can be very effective, being in unison. (Is it always in unison? Would they never layer in octaves?). Since there's only melody, the melody naturally becomes a very dominant part of what is told via lyrics (or in a NES game context, graphics, animation and text).

I'm going to use the Castlevania franchise here.

In castlevania III, the prologue opens with a very strong unison, IIRC, to set the tone/basic motif before elaborating. In Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, it is perhaps a solo and not really a unison, but it seems to follow the principle of gregorian well (i'm not terribly good at scale recognition). In SoTN, they seem to draw inspiration from Ars Antiqua (since there's harmonies) instead for the menu, but it could also be from later times' ave maria.

*but why really stop there - there are known pieces of pre-medieval music that could be interesting, like this, which according to the poster is the oldest recorded piece of music in history.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:12 pm 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
Is it always in unison? Would they never layer in octaves?

Gregorian chant was officially in unison, yes, though I'm sure octave doublings were normal (esp. if young boys and adults sang together). Keep in mind also that it was a ritual practice, not just for musicians; the vocal range of most chant is pretty narrow and easy to reach for everybody. The fancy stuff was reserved for skilled singers at special moments/occasions.

Early polyphony introduced to chant was called organum, and there is "parallel organum" where they might sing in a parallel 4th/5th interval, so... not just octaves either. ;)

FrankenGraphics wrote:
In castlevania III, the prologue opens with a very strong unison, IIRC, to set the tone.

It is a little bit chant-like, yes. The wide leap it takes is not so common (but not out of the question), and it's also dorian mode, and with the chorused unison. Gregorian chant does not have explicit rhythm, though, so you'd never get a strongly defined rhythm like it has. Instead it would have very even syllables, sometimes with brief stresses, and pauses where syntactically appropriate.

I'm not sure which track you were referring to in Rondo of Blood, but the second track is very chant-like and the text is the Kyrie, which was generally the opening movement of a mass. You might even search for it in the usual book to see if it happens to be a historical one (probably not though).

The SOTN example does sound inspired by medieval polyphony, at least superficially.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:24 pm 
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Quote:
Rondo of Blood, but the second track is very chant-like and the text is the Kyrie
Yes, that's the one! I seem to remember reading or hearing some interview where details on who sang it and under what circumstances, but it's lost on me now. :(

It's quite well thought through to begin each playing session with the opening mass of the roman catholic church (especially since the message is "Lord, have mercy"). I think I'll save browsing through liber usualis for a day with nothing else to do, but it would be a bit exciting if there's historical merit to the variation used in Rondo of Blood.

It's not a bad move to sometimes start off a bgm song with a basic unison foreshadowing the rest. I've even unconsciously done it a few times. It reminds me of how the cantor prepares the worshippers at the beginning of each psalm, which probably has historical reasons beyond the practical use of telling what's next. You also have it in Super Castlevania when entering the castle/ the "Simon theme" (or in the intro for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for that matter - i think i'm seeing some sort of connection :wink: )

I know very little about secular medieval music, but i know its themes are much about courtly love. We see this in the form of the whole game concept in Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros, but presumably from folk tales rather than their (presumed?) minstrel origins.

It may also be that when we think of medieval, secular music we think of french (because it's the most preserved tradition) and english (because it's a dominant language).

I find it hard to find recorded examples which clearly state if it's an actual melody from that time or a 20th century reconstruction/interpretation with medieval lyrics.

Quote:
Organum

Citing wiki, this seems to be a fairly powerful thing to imitate, even for a portion of a song:
In its earliest stages, organum involved two musical voices: a Gregorian chant melody, and the same melody transposed by a consonant interval, usually a perfect fifth or fourth. In these cases the composition often began and ended on a unison, the added voice keeping to the initial tone until the first part has reached a fifth or fourth, from where both voices proceeded in parallel harmony, with the reverse process at the end.

Since the second voice would be improvised (organic), one can maybe assume there were some momentary deviations from singing the 4th or 5th (ideal), by mistake or impulse. But on the other hand, if the goal was only to highlight harmonics in the tone of the principle note, it would probably sound 'wrong' according to those expectations, especially for a person not used to the range of musical styles available today.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:09 pm 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
I think I'll save browsing through liber usualis for a day with nothing else to do, but it would be a bit exciting if there's historical merit to the variation used in Rondo of Blood.

To crush your hopes: it's electronically searchable, and it's not in there.

FrankenGraphics wrote:
It's not a bad move to sometimes start off a bgm song with a basic unison foreshadowing the rest. I've even unconsciously done it a few times. It reminds me of how the cantor prepares the worshippers at the beginning of each psalm, which probably has historical reasons beyond the practical use of telling what's next.

Yes, very often each movement of a polyphonic mass will start with one person singing a very short incipit. Its primary purpose in choral music is to really just give the others a pitch to start with. (Usually in modern choral music performance somebody plays a pitch pipe or a note on the piano or something instead. I think the incipit is much more elegant.)

FrankenGraphics wrote:
I know very little about secular medieval music, but i know its themes are much about courtly love.

I think that's true of the troubadours but there's a lot more secular medieval music than just that. The Goliards immediately come to mind (partly because their poetry was used in Carmina Burana). A little later on Josquin des Prez would write a song about a cricket as a tribute to a singer he knew with that nickname.


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