We were back down in rm. 16, having vacated 152 for audition activities. Joining us were about half a dozen prospective students, most of the cellists.
As a warm up, we sang a drone on D, and then sang and played D Dorian scales. We then introduced ourselves to our visitors, singing in the Dorian mode. With a number of cellos and Adam on bass, we had quite a drone going.
We discussed the subtitle of the course: “Musicking before, during, and after the (dominance of) the work concept.” This served not only to create a context for the visiting students, but also to help review for the test/test alternative. As an example of classically-trained professional musicians creatively “musicking,” we listened to selections from the Baltimore Consort’s CD “La Rocque n’Roll,” which features improvised/newly composed instrumental accompaniments to and arrangements of popular French songs of the Renaissance. Here we have contemporary, post-work concept musicians creating music (musicking) using pre-work concept techniques.
We then discussed the Renaissance technique of creating melodic divisions over a ground bass. I passed around two volumes of “The Division Violin,” an English 17th-century publication that is a good document of late-Renaissance, early Baroque practice. We experimented with division technique, with Adam playing a ground bass (D-E-F-G-F-E, repeated over and over), and members of the class and guests trying their hand (or voice) at varying the rhythm of the ground and/or using some of the division techniques in the handout I gave out in class on Friday.
At the end of class, I played one of the composed sets of divisions from “The Division Violin” while Adam played the ground bass. A very important point is that highly-trained, professional musicians in the Renaissance were expected to be able to improvise divisions, including imitative counterpoint such as canons. Imagine improvising a canon with another vocalist!
Books such as “The Division Violin” would have been of interest to professionals as a source of tunes and accompanying grounds, but many would have improvised or composed their own divisions. Amateurs, however, would have been a market for these mostly easy-to-play pieces.