Musical Time Travel

The classical guitar repetoire reaches a long way back in time, with works by 15th century composers such as Francesco Da Milano (1497-1543) and Alonso Mudarra (c.1510-1580) holding a well established status. Those works were written for the lute or the vihuela, within the flourishing of purely instrumental music in the early Italian and Spanish renaissance.

Transcriptions of vocal works reach even further back however. I have recently enjoyed playing a guitar arrangement of Christ Est Erstanden which, as the title (Christ is Risen) suggests, is an Easter song. My arrangement is attributed to Hans Judenkunig (1445-1526) but the hymn can be traced back at least as far as 1100 and has enjoyed a distinguished career from the Renaissance through Johann Sebastian Bach , Franz Liszt , Carl Orff up to twelve-processing of Johann Nepomuk David (adapted from Wikipedia ). One cannot listen to such works without recognising that they come from quite another world aesthetically.


Personally I draw meaning from these links into the past. On a certain, perhaps academic level, one must acknowledge the worth of a culture which has not only created, but preserved such works through the turbulence of subsequent history. But as a player and composer I also like to imaginatively salute my temporally removed fellows: "Well done - music splendide indeed!"

Alonso Mudarra with lute
 Alonso Mudarra

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True generosity toward the future consists in giving everything to the present. ~Albert Camus, L'homme révolté

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