Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

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Program Archive

Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper

I. An Ode to Cosmic Harmony

In the neo-Platonic cosmos of many medieval thinkers (and certainly our harper belonged to this group), the visible world could provide tangible expression of the underlying order and harmony of the universe, whose elements vibrate in agreeable concord with their neighbors, symbolizing the unseen forces which keep our world intact.

Quod mundus stabili fide

Rhineland, early 11c)

This is one of the songs (metra) from the famous "Consolation of Philosophy", written by the Roman aristocrat, philosopher and learned musician, Boethius, as he sat in prison in ca. 524, awaiting execution on trumped-up charges of treason. The ‘Consolation’, arguably one of the most widely-read and important Western books of all time, is in the form of a long dialogue between the despairing Boethius and a numinous female personification of ‘Philosophia’ who visits him on death row. Their exchanges are interspersed with songs in verse, many of which have been found set to music in monastic manuscripts dated centuries later. Our harper’s songbook contains incipits to all of Boethius’s metra, attesting to their continued popularity in Germany, more than four centuries after Boethius was executed. In this song (from Book II / vii), the poet is reminded that our chaotic world is actually well-ordered, and that the source of this order is love.

Text: In regular harmony the world moves through its transformations; seeds in competition with each other are held in balance by eternal law;

[Refrain]: O happy race of men: if the love that rules the stars may also rule your hearts!

Phoebus brings rosy dawns in his golden chariot, that his sister Phoebe might rule the nights brought by Hesperus, [Refr.];

the waves of the greedy sea are kept within fixed bounds, nor may the land move out and extend its limits, [Refr.];

That which binds all things to order, governing earth, sea and sky, is love, [Refr.];

If love’s rein slackened, all things now held by mutual love would immediately fall to warring with each other, striving to wreck that engine of the world which they now drive, in mutual trust, with motion beautiful, [Refr.].

And love joins peoples too, by a sacred bond, and ties the knot of holy matrimony that binds lovers, and joins also with its law all faithful friends, [Refr.].

(Translation: S.J. Tester)

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Upcoming Concerts

30 September 2018
New York City (Music Before 1800)

17 October 2018
London (British Library)

7 December 2018
Amherst, MA / Amherst College
Monks singing pagans

14 December 2018
Gdansk, Poland / Actus Humanus Nativitas
Monks singing pagans

See full concert schedule



Benjamin Bagby's teaching activities in 2018

In addition to his teaching position at the University of Paris - Sorbonne, where he has taught since 2005 in the professional masters program, Benjamin Bagby travels widely in 2018 to teach other practical workshops for young professionals:

Milano, Scuola Civica di Musica (Milano, Italy) 29-31 January
The troubadours of the Milano manuscript R71 sup. (late 13th century)

Folkwang Universität der Künste (Essen-Werden, Germany) April-June
Benjamin will join the faculty of this renowned masters program for liturgical chant performance and medieval music, specializing this year in music from Notre Dame of Paris. The dates of his courses: 13-14 April, 18-20 May, 28-30 May and 15-17 June. More information

Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel, Switzerland) 25-26 May

7th International Course on Medieval Music Performance (Besalú, Spain) .
Music relating to the idea of the Crusades, especially in the 12th and early 13th centuries.

Amherst Early Music Festival (Connecticut College, New London CT) 15-21 July
An intensive course on the Roman de Fauvel (14th century)
July 21, 2018, 1 pm "Roman de Fauvel project" (student performance)

Burg Fürsteneck, Germany (31 August to 02 September
Fortbildung zur Musik des Mittelalters / Roman de Fauvel (guest instructor)

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