Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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The Music of Agincourt

Drawing of the Battle of Agincourt from a French manuscript of the late 1400s

Last week, I was off doing what I call “saturation genealogy.”  That’s where I immerse myself in research until I can’t absorb any more names, dates, places, lineages..lots of work, but fun too as new discoveries are made.

I know, fun summer vacation, right?

Anyway, somewhere along the way I found a family tree that someone else had created that would seem to indicate that an ancestor of my spouse was at the Battle of Agincourt (on the French side).  That will have to be investigated further, but it got me to thinking about what sort of secular music those folks might have been listening to.

1415 would have been rich in chansons, and the first name that sprung to mind was Guillaume de Machaut.  Here is his Douce Dame Jolie.

A song of the 14th century that might still have been making the rounds is Je Voy Mon Cuer.  You can see it here, played on a cool modern reproduction of a portative organ.

A little later, survivors would have recounted the battle to their rapt listeners while the music of Guillaume Dufay sounded through the hall. Here is the lovely Vergine bella, che di sol vestita .

Sadly, the supposed ancestor was one of the casualties.  By that time, poet Christine De Pizan had written the heart-wrenching Deuill Angoisseux, written in 1390 on the death of her husband.  Gilles Binchois set it to music in the mid-1400s.  The French and English words can be found here.  An extended version filmed at Chateau de Germolles, a residence of the dukes of Burgundy, can be seen at the link.

I guess the account would not be complete without the Agincourt Carol, written in England in celebration of the English victory.  The instrument at the very beginning is a crumhorn, in case you’re wondering.  You can see manuscripts containing the carol here.

If you’re in the mood for more Medieval music, there are a number of extended playlists available online, including the interestingly-named “Medieval Music – ‘Hardcore’ Party Mix” full of lively dance tunes.

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Image attribution:  Battle of Agincourt, from the Chroniques d’Enguerrand de Monstrelet (early 15th century) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASchlacht_von_Azincourt.jpg.  Original manuscript Biblioteque National de France.

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