Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 1 Tracks 25-29
It has been text, thus far in our survey, that has given shape to music. And this piece seems to revel in a cheerful ignorance of text. Other than sharing a general concept of form with the sequence on track 17, this piece has little resemblance to Gregorian Chant or any of the vocal music that precedes it on this CD. The most significant instrumental contribution we have heard has been Adam de la Halle's Robins m'aime
. Mostly, the instruments there presented melodic lines in which the listener could place the text. The exception, of course, was the drumming.
The tune A chantar
, track 23, also relied on instrumental support. However, unlike Beatriz de Dia's beautiful complaint, the melodic lines here have no interest in holding you. There are too many repeated notes, too many ornamental notes. The melodic line of any istampita is only interested in groove. And where has groove been up until the 14th century? Who can say? Europe was a much larger place in the past. It is likely that most music listeners created their own music impulsively and with little training and no thought of documentation. As Adam de la Halle happily reminds us, there has always been a need for groove.
What I like about this piece is the way the performers have thrown themselves into it. The introduction, climax and coda are distinct because of the contrasts and improvisational flourishes of these performers. The freedom the score allows, I imagine, would make it easy for the instrumentalists to react to their listeners who, in the best circumstances, would be dancing.