This week we’re talking to Dr. Jenna Phillips about a fascinating form of singing in the high middle ages that’s basically like medieval battle rap. Two singers debate a topic in song, and make appeals to two judges, who then declare the winner. It’s a great episode because it has everything. We discuss just what on earth the High Middle Ages are through talking about the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Then Jenna takes us into the world of popular singing: the troubadours and the crusaders. Finally we talk about one particular style of singing, the juex partis. Then, as an added bonus, Dr. Phillips talks to us about how an archival discovery let her understand how people actually sang the jeux partis back in the day.
And since we’re talking about music, Dr. Phillips has kindly given us a ton of period music to listen to!
Here’s an example of the polyphony that came out of the school at Notre Dame de Paris:
And here’s Bernart de Ventadorn, 'Can Vei la Lauzeta Mover'
There aren't many recordings of jeux partis, but here is one modern performance, which came out of a collaboration between the Oxford musicologist Elizabeth Eva Leach and the Belgian musicians, Grandelevoix:
Check out Dr. Phillips article, Singers without borders: a performer’s rotulus and the transmission of jeux partis in the Journal of Medieval History!
William Chester Jordan, Europe in the High Middle Ages
Christopher Page, The Owl and the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France 1100-1300
Samuel Rosenberg, Margaret Switten and Gérard le Vot, eds., Songs of the Troubadours and Trouvères: An Anthology of Poems and Melodies
Jennifer Saltztein, "Cleric-Trouvères and the Jeux-Partis of Medieval Arras"