Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Music Blogging*


There are many renditions of Sumer is Icumin In on Youtube. This is my favorite, since it faithfully retains all of it's striking characteristics.

This is a remarkable song in many respects. Dating from the mid 13th century, it is clearly in a major key, perhaps the earliest known example of tonal music. It also features an ostenato base line, doubled in canon, and melody in canon - also possible firsts.** In all there are six distinct voices. Probably a first for that as well.*** This song anticipates later musical developments (ostenato, canon, tonality, multi-voice texture) by hundreds of years.

Wow. Really. Just -- WOW!

Here are the lyrics, per Wikipedia:

Middle English

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.
Pes:
Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

Modern English translation

Summer is a-coming in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!
The ewe bleats after the lamb
The cow lows after the calf.
The bullock stirs, the stag farts,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Don't you ever stop now,

Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo.
Sing Cuckoo. Sing cuckoo now!
Given the cuckoo's symbolism for infidelity, I think there may be a bawdy subtext*** that the modern translation misses.

______________________________________________
* Manuscript image from this source.
** All true, according to this source.
*** Verified at this source.
*** Explored here: Roscow, G. H. 'What is "Sumer is icumen in"? Review of English Studies 50 (1999), 188-95, according to this.

1 comment:

rootlesscosmo said...

Ancient Music
by Ezra Pound


Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!
Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!

Winter is i-cumin in,
Lhude sing goddamn!
Raineth drop and staineth slop
And how the wind doth ram
Sing goddamn!

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing goddamn.
Goddamn, goddamn, tis why I am goddamn,
So gainst the winter's balm.

Sing goddamn, sing goddamn, DAMN!