Rondeau: Robins m'aime
from Jeu de Robin et de Marion
Adam de la Halle (ca. 1237- ca. 1287)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 1 Track 21
As I recall, the secular joy expressed in this tune is generally embraced by freshman students of music history. I hope that it is still a hit.
While considering this piece my attention is first drawn to the meter. Up until now the pieces we have been listening to on this CD have seemed to foreshadow Sprechstimme
. In this rondeau, however, we find a text that is fit into a strong musical meter. And meter lends itself to music without text which brings up another interesting issue lurking in this happy piece. The form, as seen in the score, is ABaabAB. However, the presentation in this recording presents some variation. Each section of the tune is repeated and the entire piece is presented twice. The first time through a singer alternates with a plucked string instrument, no chorus. The second time, without singer, drums and a drone are added to the background and the plucked instrument is joined by woodwinds. The highest woodwind instrument breaks away with improvisational flourishes over the last three sections. This discrepancy between score and recording makes me wonder what was really going on musically during Adam's life time. Most curious, though, are the drums. How developed was the drumming language and how long had it been going on?
What I like about this piece is the drumming. It is easy, listening to the drums, to imagine these piece being played long ago and to imagine improvisations that were never written down. There must be entire musical traditions that have simply disappeared from a lack of archives.