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Early Music MIDI Files

I don't create MIDI files as an end in itself. They are simply a by-product of other things that I do. Apparently some people spend a lot of time trying to get MIDI files to sound good. I'm not convinced that this will ever work. However, I thought that these MIDI files might be interesting for study purposes. And in fact if you read below, you will see that in least one case it has been of use to someone.

The reasons why these particular pieces have been selected are arbitrary. However, in general they are ones that I like. The synthesizer voices are chosen in a fairly quirky manner. They sound okay with my sound card (considering that they are generated by a computer). This may be different with your sound card. The more contrapuntal pieces have been done in stereo for better separation of voices.

  • Novus miles sequitur, hymn on the death of Thomas a Becket (1170) composed in the early 13th century.
  • Die Katzen Pfote, Glogauer Leiderbuch, c. 1480. This book contains a number of pieces named after animals.
  • La Royne d'Escosse, pavane and gaillarde from Septieme Livre De Danceries, one of a set of books of dance music published by Estienne du Tertre, 1557. Thought to be composed for (or possibly by) Mary, Queen of Scots.

Gilles Binchois (c. 1400-c. 1460), served at the Burgundian court, a renowned centre of musical activity during the 15th century. In early life he was a soldier, but he later took holy orders, becoming chaplain to Philip of Burgundy. He is best remembered for his elegant polyphonic chansons. Besides his music, he was also a fashion pioneer. As far as I have discovered, he was the first musician who is known to have worn sunglasses indoors.
  • Adieu, adieu mon joyeux souvenir
  • Jamais tant que je vous revoye
  • Nous vous verens bien, Malebouche, a song which has an interesting story attached. I got this piece, and some of the others, from Stainer's Dufay and his Contemporaries. This is a rather strange book, in which the author devotes a lengthy introduction to describing how awful the music is in the rest of the book, with detailed criticisms of the various ways the different pieces offend the taste of the musically cultured. Then he describes how a concert was put on in which a number of pieces from the book were performed, and, to his great chagrin, the audience appeared to enjoy it thoroughly! Despite the fact that the book contains pieces by composers widely acclaimed by their contemporaries as the greatest artists of the 15th century, this seems to come as a surprise to him. It makes one wonder why he bothered putting out the book!

    I received an e-mail from a Canadian folk guitarist who told me that he had been looking for this piece for the last 30 years. It seems it appeared as a guitar arrangement on an early album by the Canadian folkie Bruce Cockburn. However, Bruce did not supply the title of the piece (to prevent other guitarists learning it?). I didn't know this, as I only ever bought one of Bruce's albums, and since I didn't like it, I never got another one. But anyway, it turns out that this piece can be played quite nicely on the guitar. (If you want to try it, I recommend "galoot" tuning—EADF#BE)

    But the strangest thing about this story is that I have a strong suspicion that Bruce learned the piece from the exact same copy of the book that I first encountered—the one in the Toronto Music Library.

  • Tristre plaisir et douloureuse joie, was one of Binchois' greatest hits.

Charité, possibly "M. Jacques Carité", Canon of Cambrai, died 1451.

Guillaume Dufay (c. 1400-1474) was considered the greatest composer of his time. He excelled both in sacred and secular composition. Loyser Compère (c. 1450-1510) wrote of Dufay: "Moon of all music; light of singers".
  • Bon jour, bon mois, bon an. A New Year's song, in which gratuities to musicians are strongly encouraged.
  • Ave, regina coelorum I. Dufay set this text three different times. This is the first one. The one he asked to be played at his funeral was the third one.

Johannes le Grant. I have no information on him. Evidently a contemporary of Binchois.

Thomas Morley (c. 1557-1603), is remembered mostly for his madrigals and settings of Shakespeare's songs.

Diego Ortiz, born in Spain in the early 16th century, maestro di cappella to the Viceroy of Naples (then politically connected to Spain), published a treatise in 1553 describing how to improvise variations. These are three examples based on popular Renaissance "Tenores" or bass patterns.

Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina (c. 1525-1594), the major musical figure of the Counter-Reformation. Many consider him the greatest composer of church music of all time. His works are considered even today to be models of pure counterpoint.
  • Hosanna from Missa Gabrielus Archangelus

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