Rondeau: Belle, bonne, sage
Baude Cordier (late 14th or early 15th century)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 2 Track 11
Mr. Cordier's heart-shaped song speaks to the love of notation as much as the love for fair ladies. It is a healthy reminder for us whose art of calligraphy has passed: pushed aside by the help of technology. Writing music with pen and paper was a thankless process that often caused blindness. We could never know, yet it is possible that the process of writing may influence the way music sounds. For instance, in this tune, the metrical independence each voice has may be a stylistic feature of music written without bar lines. And, in contemporary music, frequent repetition may be the sad result of the tempting cut and past commands.
This rendition of Baude's love song is, I suspect, good evidence of how instrumental music, long disdained by the church, was helped in its development by vocal music. The tradition of vocal music preceding this work, as we know it from what documents we have, appears to have focused heavily on the expressive possibilities of musical lines that move mostly by step. Instruments provide us with the ability to move faster than we could sing, to leap more frequently and farther than we could sing. But the foundation of our instrumental heritage is music like this rondeau.
What I like about Baude's New Year's salute is the frequent use of descending lines. In a piece that has so much rhythmic interest, a simplicity of line is helpful to the listener. Also, in this performance, the descending scales provide an easy basis for improvisation.
posted by Isaac Watras