Medieval Music: Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast

This week Dame Aoife shares links relating to medieval and renaissance music.

Greetings everyone!

By request, here's a Links List of online Medieval and Renaissance music, some written, some lyrics, some filk, and some MP3's or .WAV's. This list will cover music for voice, instrument, and dance. Obviously we can't be comprehensive. But, there is so much great stuff on the 'net, this list is VERY long. Please dig in and enjoy, even if you are only a listener, as am I. Unfortunately since this list is so long, I concentrated mostly on European music. If there is a request out there otherwise, I could try another culture at a later date.

Several folks have requested a reprise of a musical Links List, not the least of which is my own revoltingly musically talented little brother and his nefarious acquaintances, so here you go, Willum! Research to your heart's content! There are, of course, many musicians and musical performers I'd also like to thank in this manner.Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brion en kazi, Erwilliam Bardo and company, the talented and ever-ready musicians of BMDL (what's in the water there that so many hugely talented people live in one place?), and others have all melodically enriched my life, and so I thank you. There are many more, too many to name. So on behalf of the rest of us, who aren't musical, thank you all those who filk, those who try, those who listen with educated ears, those whose standards of acceptable music have made them SCA legends, those who spread the word that Medieval Music is terrific (and you can dance to it), those whose ensembles and corps of musicians enrich our world. What you do for the rest of us is one of the great things that makes the SCA seem like the real thing.

As always, please forward this wherever it will come in handy, but please strip it of my address before you do so. There's some nasty bugs out there, and if I get them, the Links Lists cease operation! So be kind, be considerate, and strip my *email* bare, before sending it on.

Again, until I get my life in order and actually learn the new system SCAtoday is setting up for me, this list is going out to a select few. Please forward it if you can without my personal email address attached.



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
Now Known as: D2 the Terror Continues!
from the autumnal Canton of Riverouge, in the mountainous Barony of the Endless Hills, in the majestic Sylvan Kingdom of Aethelmearc.

Music resources:

Music Publisher's Association
Music Copyright Information

Stefan's Florilegium
Click on performance Art, then pick a topic! Several song-books, guides to story telling and musical instruments, bardic arts, etc are included here.

Legio Draconis's Aoife Files--aw shucks! (the previous Musical Links List is right here--Thanks Guys :)

Choral Public Domain Library
Free Choral Sheet Music Archive

Sheet Music Plus--Medieval Sheet Music
I don't normally list retailers, but this one has books of medieval sheet music starting at $5.00. Sounds like a bargain to me! Music is available for guitar, recorder, voice, piano, etc. and there are 106 selection in the Medieval Music category.

Early Music FAQ
SEE also:
Chord structure in medieval music
(Site Excerpt) For many musicians, especially those more familiar with other styles, a fundamental early question concerns the chords of medieval music. While a description of chords can become rather technical, the interested amateur will find it fascinating when supplemented by recorded examples, and when considered in small pieces. The following discussion is written in an open and inclusive manner, and should remain approachable for the careful reader.
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A Selection of Medieval Music
(Site Excerpt) Although the Medieval era stretches back centuries, and indeed plainchant repertories go back much farther, the starting point for this survey will be the early polyphonic music and contemporaneous monophonic songs of the 12th century. This is the time at which the medieval repertory can really be said to begin.
SEE also:
Midi and Sound Files
Approx. 40 sound files to choose from.

SCA Medieval and Renaissance Music Homepage by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl)
(Site Excerpt) Western European music in the SCA period has long been studied under the name `early music.' There are many groups which perform such music and many sources should be available in a good library. In addition, there is Usenet newsgroup,, which covers this topic. You may also obtain this newsgroup via a mailing list.

SCA Minstrel Homepage by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl)
(Site Excerpt) This is a homepage for the performing arts as practiced in the Society for Creative Anachronism. The arts include songs, filk (new words to an existing tune), story-telling, and juggling, but generally don't include consort music. The SCA covers (theoretically) mostly Western Europe from the fall of Rome until 1600.

A Singer's Guide to Bibliographic Resources for Medieval and Renaissance Music
Kirsti S. Thomas/Esther Mendes
(Site Excerpt) In keeping with the selective nature of this bibliography, I have attempted to keep primarily to general sources, as opposed to sources which deal solely with a specific time period or geographic location. At the same time, I have I have also tried to avoid works which are very scholarly in nature, or which assume an extensive background in music history or theory. Given that English is the primary language of the intended audience of this bibliography, there are some exceptions regarding works which deal with English song and/or language.

A collection of music from the Middle Ages (In French)

The Early Music Web Ring
Contains 97 sites, mainly of musical groups. Other good stuff is there, too.

Early Music Facsimiles webring

Free Sheetmusic webring

Sixteenth Century Ballads: A work in progress... by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl)
(Site Excerpt) Much attention is paid to post-1600 ballads, both traditional and broadsides, but only a few sixteenth century ballads are known. Of the ones which are known, most are not printed with the lyrics and tunes together, so are not very accessible to the casual reader. The goal of this project is to produce a collection of "interesting" ballads from before 1600, containing sheet music and lyrics, both in their original form, and in a form intelligible to a modern listener.
SEE also:
Ballads from Non-English Cultures
SEE Also
Joseph Lilly's "A Collection of Seventy-Nine Black-letter Ballads and Broadsides"

Does it *sound* period?
From Newsgroups:
From: andrew@........(Andrew Draskoy) email masked
Subject: Re: Authenticity & Analogy
Message-ID: <1992Jul3.193957.7078@.....> ID masked
Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1992 19:39:57 GMT
(Site Excerpt) When I learn a new piece, I look at it's elements to see if they are period, blatantly non-period, or somewhere in between. I also check my overall impression of the piece, since quantitative analysis only works so well on an abstract artistic object. If *any* element is obviously non-period to my perception (being vaguely knowledgable about it) then I won't sing it at an event, though I might consider it at a post-revel. Period english songs are unfortunately rare, so I think it's valid to flesh out a repertoire with pieces that still maintain a period feel.

Dance Music:

University of Waterloo SCA Web Server
Scroll down a good bit to find the Music links.
SEE also:
Lady Phaedria d'Aurillac's Music Arrangements
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Eric Praetzel's music that's easy to learn on recorder:
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The SCA Dance Music of Alaric MacConnal (Robert Smith)
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The SCA Dance Music of Mistress Ellisif Flakkari
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Arianna of Wynthrope's Music Arrangements
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Kathy Van Stone's Music Arrangements (Note: aka Elsbeth Ann Roth)

The classical Midi Collection
Click on a title to hear the music

Misc. Historical Music Information:

Regia Anglorum: Music and Verse in Anglo Saxon and Viking Times
(Site Excerpt) In Saxon England there were professional storytellers, called 'scops', who would travel from village to village telling tales in return for food, lodging and money. A good scop was a respected member of the community and could be well rewarded for his skill. A scop could also use music to emphasise parts of the story, or as 'background music'. Indeed, another word for a poet or storyteller was 'hearpere' (harper), implying the use of this instrument (or the lyre it developed from) for this person.

Cantaria: A Learning Library of Bardic Music
(Site Excerpt) Cantaria is a library of "bardic" folk songs, mostly from Ireland, Scotland, and England, intended to be an educational tool for propagating the living song tradition through passing on folk songs (old and new) in a medium where far-flung singers can share songs as easily as if we were all circled up around a fire. So, come join us; there is always room for one more singer and always time for one more song. Cantaria is unique among lyric web sites because almost every song in our archive has an accompanying recording of the song being performed. The library currently contains lyrics for over 225 songs, contributed by a variety of singers, including Andy Irvine and Andy M Stewart.

Labrynth: Medieval Music
(Note that Labrynth no longer maintains it's pages. Navigate links with caution)

Music in Medieval Jewish Spain
(Site Excerpt) Many Ladino folksongs have been preserved through the Sephardic tradition after the expulsion. Most have been passed down orally from mother to daughter, who may have continued to speak in Ladino while the men, who worked outside the home, learned the local language of their non-Jewish countrymen. It is thus hard to tell which ones can actually be traced to Spain. However, the same songs can be found in the Sephardic communities of Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Bosnia, Bulgaria and Israel, which implies that the songs are from before 1492. Many of these songs were sung unaccompanied.

The Music of Henry VIII

Early Child Ballads
Dani of the Seven Wells mka Dani Zweig
(Site Excerpt) A ballad is a story, distilled to its essence and set to song. The song itself tends to be unpretentious - usually a simple verse form set to a modal melody - but an unpretentious song can still be lovely, as many ballads are. It is probable that simplicity has had much to do with the ballad's continued survival and popularity: Ballads have been passed down through the centuries, changing to suit the tastes of the singers, borrowing from the music of the day, borrowing from each other. Every few decades the ballad seems to undergo a revival, with old books and manuscripts being searched for old ballads and new inspiration. The result is a living musical tradition whose roots can be traced back over half a millenium.

Legends, Ballads, and Broadsides
This site is a series of links and bibliographies on the subject.

The Contemplator's Short History of Broadside Ballads
(Site Excerpt) Folk music is viewed primarily as a rural tradition where songs are passed down by word of mouth. In fact, printed folk music was extremely popular for more than four hundred years, beginning in the sixteenth century. Words to popular songs were printed on sheets of varying lengths. They came to be known as broadsides. Broadsides originally had no music but a note that the words were sung to a well known tune. Broadsides were popular in Britain, Holland, France, Italy, Spain and Germany and later in America. Interestingly, many early scholars distinguished between traditional ballads and broadsides, considering broadsides "bad representations of the original." (1)

Filks and Songbooks:

On Filks And Music In The SCA
Sarra Graeham
(Site Excerpt) Previously, I argued that the major problem with encouraging modern tunes (say 17th C. "traditional" and onwards) for SCA songs on the grounds that our ears hear those tunes as familiar, and therefore the effect on the listener is authentic, is that medieval and Renaissance music takes some listening-to to get used to, and if we are continually offering up OOP music, the less educated ears among us will never get the opportunity to become more educated. The effect of this is to have what we have now, a Society where most SCA members hear "traditional" music as "period", because it's old, or at least older than the Billy-Joel-tune filks that are not uncommon enough. (My suggested fix, BTW, is *not* to make an attempt to ban all music written after 1600, but rather to sing some of the more tuneful pieces written before then in the most casual of circumstances, like during feast or at bardic circles, so that people become educated in spite of themselves.)

The Known World Virtual Songbook
(Site Excerpt) Welcome to the Lochac Virtual Songbook! This undertaking was commissioned by His Occidental Majesty Fabian King of the West in AS XXXV, and was prepared by Master Dafydd of the Glens with the technological assistance of Mistress Yseult de Lacy, OL, and too many other singers and musicians to relate, but thanks are due especially to Hey Nonny-Nonnymous in the Barony of St Florians. You guys rock! To listen to and download music from this site, you will need Noteworthy, which is the generally accepted music program in the Kingdom of Lochac. It runs perfectly on Windows, is no trouble to anybody and (best of all) takes up very little bandwidth. It is now available from the web at

The Music of Darklands

Medieval Melodies for Filking
A collection assembled by Vladislav the Purple lst edition, July A.S. XXXI
(Site Excerpt) One of the defenses for performing modern folksongs in an SCA context runs as follows: since almost no Scadians understand Provencal, Old French, or Latin, it is pointless to prepare songs in those languages for performance; modern folksongs in English, on the other hand, are accessible to the audience. However, the practice of filking, of taking an existing melody and providing new, usually topical and/or satirical, lyrics, is in fact the direct counterpart of the Medieval practice of writing contrafacta. Following a suggestion by Duke Sir Cariadoc of the Bow and Mistress Elizabeth Dendermonde, this collection provides a selection of authentic Medieval and Renaissance tunes for which one can write new lyrics, SCA-specific or not as one prefers. (note: files appear in .giff, .tiff, compressed .tiff, midi and .gzipped postscript)

SCA Songs
(Site Excerpt) Darn near all the SCA filks on the Web (plus some period songs and related stuff). Last updated December 9, 2001. (Note that some of these sites are no longer up).

Kestrel's House of Poetry and Song
(Site Excerpt) Kestrel's house is a game I play where in medieval times you would have a central place to go to if you wanted a song or poem. I collect the songs and poems from all over. I will look at and read anyone's poem or song. Often times I will add it to my personal collection. Items that I find on the web will have links placed here. Items that I am sent via email may find their way to this page as a zip file. This page is a central location for links that I find and poems and songs that I have permission to post on the web. In some cases I will link directly to a file on another site. Usually I just link to the page.

Katriana's Song Book

The Bards of Northsheild (and their works)

Ioseph of Loxsley Songbook Website (by Joe Bethancourt)
(Warning: graphics and silliness intense--not for those in a hurry or in a bad mood)
about 2/3 OOP content, but some good SCA-related material as well. Scroll, click and confuse your way through this site, where you will find, among other things: The Mongol Birthday Song linked above, which includes these verses unknown to me:
*Raise your cup of bitter cheer, Make the barman eat his ear
*Fear and gloom and darkness but no one found out YOU KNOW WHAT
*You're a period cook, its true ask the beetles in the stew
*Now your jail-bait days are done let's go out and have some fun!
*You must marry very soon baby's due the next full moon

Database: Songs Sung in Ealdormere
Includes three songbooks as well as lyrics pages

The Unofficial College of St. Golias Songbook
(Site Excerpt) Several of our singers came up with a bright idea of putting the songbook online, whereas I had gotten the idea of putting Lady Lill of the Vanishing Woods' (aka Mom aka Lill Kracke) songbook on the computer. I got the task of typing/scanning, formating, organizing, and maintaining the songbook. There are currently over 300 songs in our songbook. Then I got the bright idea of putting it online in time for the fall event season, silly silly me. So here it is for better or worse.

College of Sainte Katherine Songbook (West Kingdom)
(Site Excerpt) This is the offical site for the Kates Songbook. This song book is free to download, and print. You may also distibute copies to individuals provided that you do so free of any charge.

Mot's Songbook

The Charric Van der Vliet Songbooks
(C) 2001 by C. A. Powers - All Rights Reserved
(Please note that this site is filk at it's most massive: huge and comprehensive---and it makes my screen freeze).

SCA-Lochac Bardic Links

Ana'a Crafts: Making Music
A massive list of links to Music sites.

SCA Songbook