Although English medieval minstrels performed gestes, a genre closely related to romance, often playing the harp or the fiddle, the question of if, and how, Middle English romance was performed has been hotly debated. Here, the performance tradition is explored by combining textual, historical and musicological scholarship with practical experience from a noted musician. Using previously unrecognised evidence, the author reconstructs a realistic model of minstrel performance, showing how a simple melody can interact with the text, and vice versa. She argues that elements in Middle English romance which may seem simplistic or repetitive may in fact be incomplete, as missing an integral musical dimension; metrical irregularities, for example, may be relics of sophisticated rhythmic variation that make sense only with music. Overall, the study offers both a more accurate comprehension of minstrel performance, and a deeper appreciation of the romances themselves.
Linda Marie Zaerr is Professor of Medieval Studies at Boise State University.
Please click here to view a clip of the performance of a Tournament of Tottenham by Linda Marie Zaerr
This is a fascinating book, a sort of dialogue between scholar and performer, both being the same person [...] stimulating. EARLY MUSIC REVIEW
"With huge experience in performing Middle English romances, Professor Zaerr brings her valuable perspective as a performer to current textual, historical and musicological scholarship, in order to understand better how medieval minstrels performed romances with music. She shows how a broader, more fluid concept of romance can lead us to more profound understanding, and exciting revelations." Professor Marilyn Lawrence, New York University.
First Published: 16 Aug 2012
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843843238
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Series: Studies in Medieval Romance
Subject: Medieval Literature
BIC Class: DSBB
Details updated on 26 May 2013
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Continental Traditions of Narrative Performance
- 3 The English Minstrel in History and Romance
- 4 Musical Instruments and Narrative
- 5 Meter, Accent, and Rhythm
- 6 Music and the Middle English Romance
- 7 Conclusions
- 8 Appendix A: Minstrel References in the Middle English Verse Romances
- 9 Appendix B: Medieval Fiddle Tuning and Implications for Narrative Performance
- 10 Glossary of Terms
- 11 Bibliography