Interlude: A Happy Accident

As we are wrapping up the Renaissance with Monteverdi breaking from the strict Palestrina mode of composition, I am editing future entries on Jean-Philippe Rameau, whose 1722 treatise, Traité de l’harmonie réduite à ses principes naturels, set forth the rules that would govern composition for the better part of the next 200 years. And, as it also turns out, I am simultaneously writing the first draft of the entries on Claude Debussy, who, perhaps more than anyone, systematically shattered Rameau’s harmonic constructs.

In listening to these three composers simultaneously, I chanced upon a recent album from the Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson, which pairs the works of Rameau and Debussy. In his words:

I decided to play through the entire keyboard works fo Jean-Philippe Rameau. I found things I could not believe in terms of the quality and the scope of expression: I would say about 5 to 10 of the [compositions] are things keyboard aficionados will know, but so many of them are under-performed and equally wonderful, if not more wonderful, than the famous pieces. In so many ways, Rameau was ahead of his time. The way he wrote for the instrument and the way he could perceive music, he does things that we have to wait another 150 years to see re-occurring in music history.

And I found traces of Rameau in Debussy; there was a direct link.

Much like many contemporary bands, Debussy looked back and was influenced by Rameau, as Olafsson compelling demonstrates in his performance. In the NPR interview excerpted above, Olafsson relays that Debussy, once a music critic, reported on a concert of Rameau works, declaring: “He is one of us.” It is exactly this dialog, these Conversations across the centuries that inspire the ever evolving sonic landscape of music, that inspired this blog.

A Gertus History of Music will return after Labor Day. But until then, do download Olafsson’s remarkable album “Debussy-Rameau” for a preview of what’s to come.

https://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/catalogue/products/debussy-rameau-olafsson-11900

Renaissance Music IX: The End of an Era, Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Part I

We now arrive at the singular musical genius of Claudio Monteverdi.  In any list of the most important composers in history, he’s Top 10, easily.  As much as I love Tallis and Allegri, neither is on Monteverdi’s level artistically.  Unlike Bach, who fully embodied his age with such mastery that (at least for me) his death took the entire Baroque Period with him to the grave, Monteverdi’s genius for innovation ended the Renaissance, began the Baroque, while pretty much inventing and perfecting opera along the way.  More to say about him as a Baroque composer later, but for now, a true late Renaissance madrigal to close out that singularly gilded period.  A standard form to be sure, but for Monteverdi a chance to incite a revolution in sound—Monteverdi dabbles in that black art of dissonance to achieve a more dramatic effect to his music, a technique that he would use to great effect in his operas.  Instead of composing solely on closely related chords, Monteverdi experimented with combining chords that had no relationship to one another, adding additional color to his music and which enabled him to express a broader range of emotions. 

Here is the story.  In 1598, a group of composers and performers met in Ferrara in connection with the wedding of Philip III.  Details of what emerged during those concerts was memorialized in the writings of Giovanni Artusi, a noted music theorist.  Monteverdi used this occasion to trot out some of his more inventive compositions, which Artusi described as “harsh and little pleasing to the ear.”  Chief among Artusi’s complaints was Monteverdi’s “open and exposed” use of dissonance, breaking Palestrina’s golden rules of harmony and counterpoint.  The Artusi-Monteverdi debate raged without cessation much of the next decade—Artusi published his anti-modernist treatise on music theory in 1603 and Monteverdi responded in kind.  Best not to debate a genius on his own turf:  Monteverdi’s landmark Fifth Book of Madrigals compiled these innovative compositions and, in the introduction, the composer announced his intention to publish a treatise of his own, one that has come to be known as the Seconda practica, although Monteverdi’s full title was Seconda practica, overo Perfettione della moderna musica.  Translation is probably not needed there.

The first selection, Cruda Amerilli, leads off the Fifth Book.  Monteverdi undoubtedly placed it first, since this madrigal and come in for the harshest criticism from Artusi.  In it, Monteverdi uses dissonances in the opening bars to convey the wounds of love suffered by the protagonists, the shepherdess Amaryllis and the shepherd Mirtillo:

Cruel Amaryllis, who even with your name, to love, alas,
instruct bitterly;
Amaryllis, more pure and beautiful
than the white privet,
but more deaf and more fierce and more fleeting than the deaf asp;
since in speaking I offend you,
I will die in silence.

Claudio Monteverdi, Cruda Amarilli: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNbkiB7ILqw

The next selection, which closes the Fifth Book, has become the most famous of the lot.  Here, Monteverdi takes harmony to new places, creating dissonances and ambiguity, augmenting the lyrics musically to drive the emotionally points home.  The lyrics and music, in Monteverdi’s skilled hands, are fused to one.  While these brief dissonances fall relatively easily on our 21st century ears, they would have seemed like harsh daggers to the brain in 1605.  This pain, this music, is all too real—we are still singing songs about it today:

O Mirtillo, Mirtillo, my love,
if only you could see
the inner life and feelings of her
whom you call most cruel Amarilli,
I know well that you would feel for her
that same pity which you ask of her.
Oh, our souls are too unhappy in love!
What joy is there, my heart, in being loved?
What joy is there for me in having so dear a lover? Why, cruel Destiny,
do you divide us when Love unites us?
And why do you unite us,
treacherous Love, when Destiny divides us?

Claudio Monteverdi, O Mirtillo, Mirtillo anima mia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKbMolqK-5M

The use of dissonance has become more common over the centuries, but it still can be effectively employed to convey emotional pain.  By 1964, The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular, had reached a tipping point.  The extreme popularity of the Fab Four had completely eroded their privacy, subjecting The Beatles to constant attention—the pressure of fame had become literally physical as photos of the band from that era will attest.  Lennon wrote a song about his emotional pain, which The Beatles would predictably lampoon in a movie by the same name.  But the title and that remarkable opening chord tell a story as old as time.

The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx2TFk0vh1I  

Monteverdi’s Fifth Book was a landmark in music history—this is where Monteverdi slams the door on the Renaissance for good, in compositions that would influence scores of musicians, from Mozart to Beethoven and right through to The Beatles and beyond.  Bigger things to come next time, as Monteverdi’s genius reaches its full flowering; but for now, a farewell to the Renaissance and, oh, what a way to close out that glorious age.

Renaissance Music VIII: Pop Stars

In the late Renaissance, music began to change in substance, form and function.  The Church, the mighty patron of composers since the beginning of the European musical tradition, was about to take a back seat to secular music, led by a wave of popular songsmiths of the late 16th century.  Chief among these new pop stars was Jacques Arcadelt (1504-1568), who was so famous, no less a celebrity that Caravaggio (the baddest of the bad boy artists of all time—set aside an hour and watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX_KWIvIVM8) memorialized his sheet music in his paintings.  Here is his most famous chanson (the French version of the Italian madrigal):

Jacques Arcadelt, Margot labourez les vigneshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NjZ4WAVvvY

Arcadelt may seem a bit old fashioned to our ears today, but take him to the beach, add a backbeat and you’ve got the early Beach Boys:

The Beach Boys: Catch a Wave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLgWbH-qhVo

Arcadelt was hardly alone.  The English singer-songwriter John Dowland (1563-1626) created beautiful tunes that seem to exist out of time to my ear.  Are they so very different from what we consider 450 years later to be our pop songs?  Paul Simon? John Lennon?  Here are the origins of their music. Simple melodies about human emotions.  Radical and revolutionary.

John Dowland, Flow My Tears: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3clX2CJqzs

John Lennon, Oh My Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3QZVdqUidw

Some composers are sadly lost to history.  But here is a tune that everyone knows, likely the first on this list to claim that honor.  Several contemporaries claim the honor of its composition, but the actual author is likely unknown.  A perfect expression of Renaissance popular song-craft and still popular to this day:

Anon., Greensleeveshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCpF2cwm_04

Greensleeves is, I think, the first #1 hit, a simple melody simply told, as the great guitarist Jeff Beck explained by way of an acoustic guitar on his first solo album:

Jeff Beck, Greensleeves (after Anon.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCLv-kPra2I

Renaissance Music VII: Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652)

Right on the heels of Thomas Tallis comes what may be my favorite work of Renaissance music.  In the 1630s, Gregorio Allegri produced what for more than a century was considered—widely considered—to be the most beautiful music ever composed.  As most of us will recall, chasing after obscure bootlegs even before the CD age, scarceness itself enhances the perceived specialness of the music (example: Led Zeppelin’s Hey Hey, What Can I Do, a much-revered song until everyone could get their hands on it).  Well, the OG bootleg was Allegri’s Miserere, composed for the Pope for services in the Sistine Chapel.  Successive popes all conspired to keep the score under lock and key for more than a century, making it more legend than anything else.  Want to hear it?  Go to Rome, get invited to service at the Sistine Chapel and hope you attend on the right day.  That was until the 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart secured a pass to a performance.  Famously transcribing the score entirely from memory, he used his transcription as his ticket to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor.  At least that’s the story as I remember it and after finding some of my other treasured stories of musical history to be little more than myth, I have no desire to discover whether or not this story has been debunked.  It’s a good story and should remain as such.  Likewise, I have no desire to ponder the details of its composition, trace its origins, note its effects, or do anything other than revel in its absolute magnificence.  It is still performed annually during Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel.  Attending that performance might just be at the very, very top of my bucket list (knowing full well that this will never happen).  But until then, I have the Tallis Scholars and their justly famous recording from the 1980s.

Gregorio Allegri, Miserere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKj1iK2WKS8

Polyphony is comparatively rare in contemporary music, but always finds a special place in my heart when I hear it. I am a sucker for an achingly beautiful polyphonic melody. No band in the rock era does polyphony better than The Beach Boys. And it never got any better than the ending of the most gorgeous song in history: God Only Knows. There is no better parallel to the high Cs in the Miserere than this Brian Wilson classic.

The Beach Boys, God Only Knows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yN6iaaOyk0

Renaissance Music VI: Thomas Tallis (1505-1575)

For me, Thomas Tallis is the unparalleled genius of Renaissance music.  Tallis was my gateway early music drug, leading me to a rabbit hole of music that I will never bottom out.  Nearly within living memory of Tallis’ older contemporaries, music had existed in two parts, male and boy, singing octaves, fourths and fifths only.  Tallis exploded the idea of what was possible in music like no one before him.  The sheer texture of his music is unrivaled, even by Bach’s most complex fugues.  I lack the skill to explain how I hear Tallis, but perhaps my description of him as the most tactile of Renaissance composers will find common ground with your ears.  Here is the pinnacle of his achievement: Spem in Alium.  Scored for 40 individual voices, the work is divided into eight choirs of five voices each. The opening theme moves through each of these choirs individually, until all 40 voices come together in a climax at the 40th bar.  This has led many to suggest that Tallis composed this work to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 40th birthday in 1573.  I like to think that’s true. 

Again, we turn to the Tallis Scholars for one of my absolute favorite pieces of music of all time and another Desert Island Disc:

Thomas Tallis, Spem in Alium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT-ZAAi4UQQ

Bonus:  In the 1980s, the avant-garde Kronos Quartet had Tallis’ masterpiece transcribed for string quartet.  Through the magic of overdubbing, four instruments become Tallis’ 40 voices.  Placing this track here, a decade before their Early Music album, Kronos shows us the musical conversation that stretches across the centuries and binds us all together in a world of sound.  Their transcription appears alongside works by Charles Ives, Dimitri Shostakovich, George Crumb and others.  While all of the compositions on this album are linked by the subject of war, Kronos also appears to argue that you cannot understand modern music without understanding Tallis first.  I agree.

Kronos (after Thomas Tallis), Spem in Alium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFl875yOgpY

Renaissance Music V: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)

All visits to Rome trace (at least in part) the career of Giovanni Palestrina, who at times was employed at Santa Maria Maggiore, the Vatican, and San Giovanni in Laterano. Palestrina is also arguably the most important composer in history, even if the most celebrated story about him turns out not to be true. No composer was more revered or studies by other composers. Bach’s titanic B Minor Mass (which will get an entry all to itself later on), for example, reflects his careful study of Palestrina. In sum, Palestrina’s music is the embodiment of the Renaissance ideal.

In Palestrina’s music, Renaissance polyphony reaches its zenith, utilizing a somewhat reduced counterpoint to create the luminous harmonies that would so inspire Bach a century plus later. Reducing his use of counterpoint also enabled Palestrina to limit dissonance. Palestrina’s rules of composition, especially regarding the succession of intervals, produced a gorgeous harmony known as “the Palestrina style”—arguably, the most beautiful sonority ever achieved in vocal music. Led by the Catholic Church in full Counter-Reformation zeal, composers sought to codify Palestrina’s style, creating rules that would govern composition for more than 200 years:

  1. The flow of music should be dynamic, not rigid or static.
  2. Melody should contain few leaps between notes.
  3. If a leap occurs, it must be small and immediately countered by stepwise motion in the opposite direction.
  4. Dissonances are to be confined to suspensions, passing notes and weak beats. If one falls on a strong beat (in a suspension) it must be immediately resolved.

These rules would hold sway over Western music at least until Ludwig van Beethoven’s final years.  And while Beethoven would go off to explore soundscapes that only he could imagine, Palestrina’s rules continued to provide the grounding structure of musical composition until Richard Wagner intentionally and purposefully shattered them in his Ring cycle of operas in 1874. 

Palestrina’s magnum opus is the Missa Papae Marcelli.  Even if the Church was unwilling to hand over responsibility for singing to the congregation as Protestants had, Church leaders wanted the word of God to be clearly articulated.  Polyphony, as practiced in the high Renaissance, involved overlapping voices making many of the words totally unrecognizable.  According to legend, a panel of cardinals at the Council of Trent threatened to put an end to beautiful music forever.  But music had a savior: because Palestrina’s music was so beautiful, not even these draconian cardinals would dream of banning it.  For this, Palestrina earned both the sobriquet “The Prince of Music” and everlasting glory. Unlike most composers, who saw their fortunes ebb and wane both during and after their lifetimes (even Mozart went out of fashion for a while)—the legend of Palestrina endured, as did his rules of composition.

Despite the indelible image of Palestrina composing music so beautiful as to persuade the Church to preserve polyphony, that story is, sadly, apocryphal.  Here is the entry from Wikipedia: “According to this tale, it was composed in order to persuade the Council of Trent that a draconian ban on the polyphonic treatment of text in sacred music (as opposed, that is, to a more directly intelligible homophonic treatment) was unnecessary. However, more recent scholarship shows that this mass was in fact composed before the cardinals convened to discuss the ban (possibly as much as 10 years before). Historical data indicates that the Council of Trent, as an official body, never actually banned any church music and failed to make any ruling or official statement on the subject.” 

Regardless of the truth, here is Palestrina’s Missa, in all of its glory, sung by the incomparable Tallis Scholars. In it, we can hear three distinct styles of music. First, we get all of the power and the glory of High Renaissance polyphony (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus I). Second, Palestrina presents a newer form of composition, which seems to incorporate the Church’s movement towards shorter phrases and clearer word-setting. Palestrina adopts this style during arguably the highlight of the mass (Gloria) and the most important (Credo). Third, a proto-Baroque style appears to emerge during the Agnus II, in which counterpoint predominates. Palestrina. Genius. Bringer of Light.

Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRfF7W4El60

Renaissance Music IV: Martin Luther (1483-1546)

“Why should the devil have all the good tunes?” In my last entry, I made a casual reference to the great reformer Martin Luther. Luther finds his way into much of my thinking, having studied his religious texts across two years and four classes at Duke. Yet more than the percussive sounds for which he is most famous, Luther was an important composer and musician. In short, Luther took formal music out of the hands of the monks and other church choirs and gifted it to his congregation, using the popular secular songs of his day for inspiration (because they were more tuneful and easier for the congregation to remember). His great innovation was deceptively simple: a note for each syllable, progressing in a clear melodic line. Luther wrote in the strophic (AAA) form, sung in 4 parts. These chorales would echo down the centuries in the German School, as his theology animated new thinking in the German states.

Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is Our Godhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB5XvHq8UHk

If there is a musical parallel to Luther in our age, it surely must be the Nobel laureate, the voice of a generation, Mr. Bob Dylan. Dylan’s early songs display much of the same simple songcraft that has enabled Luther’s hymns to survive across the centuries. This brilliant protest song, an anthem of the 1960s, is also a model example of the strophic form, where the same music block repeats to support the entire song.

Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a Changin’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90WD_ats6eE

Renaissance Music III: Josquin des Prez (1450-1520)

Josquin des Prez was the best composer of his time, with a gift for melody that surpassed his peers. Beginning with Josquin, musical evolution begins in earnest.  Why?  Look no further than Guttenberg—and you thought that was important only for bibles (spoiler alert).  His printing press, quickly employed to print sheet music, disseminated musical ideas on paper all over Europe.  Now, composers could study on paper what they previously would have either had to travel to witness or, more distressingly, rely on oral accounts of. 

Josquin was the first to not only to ensure that his lyrics were clearly understandable, but that his music reflected the emotions of the text.  The idea that music and lyrics should express the same emotions seems second nature to us. Consider this classic rock track written by Eric Clapton:

Derek and the Dominoes, Laylahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TngViNw2pOo

Where is Clapton’s anguish expressed more clearly?  In his lyrics or in his guitar? The music works on the same emotional level as the text.

But music didn’t always express the emotive power of the lyrics or the idea behind the composition.  Someone had to invent that concept and that guy was Josquin.  While the struggle between composer and librettist is eternal, no composer before Josquin gave any thought to the meaning of the words they were setting to music.  Josquin’s revolution connecting the emotions of music to the emotions of the words is made palpable by one of his most famous motets—his Miserere mei, Deus (“Have mercy on me, Lord.”), written while he was the court composer for the Duke of Ferrara. 

The story behind this composition is epic. I don’t trust myself to tell the story correctly, so I consulted Wikipedia.  Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry (with some edits from me): 

During the 1490s, the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole I d’Este, kept in close contact with Savonarola [the revolutionary priest of Florence who briefly deposed the Medici and whose cell can be viewed at the Dormitorio di San Marco today—forget David, this is the best thing to see in Florence], who was also from Ferrara, and supported him in his efforts to reform the Roman Catholic Church. About a dozen letters between the two survive: the Duke sought advice both on spiritual and political matters.  Even after Savonarola’s arrest, Duke Ercole attempted to have him freed, but his last letter to the church authorities in Florence, in April 1498, went unanswered. After Savonarola’s execution, Ercole, then in his eighties, probably commissioned his newly hired composer, Josquin, to write him a musical testament, very likely for performance during Holy Week of 1504.

Savonarola’s impassioned meditation on sin and repentance, Infelix ego, composed in prison after his torture, and published in Ferrara in mid-1498 shortly after his death, was the probable model for Josquin’s setting.  It is an extended prayer to the God against whom he believes he has sinned, based closely on Psalm 51, and unified by a boldface-type repetition of the phrase “Miserere mei, Deus” throughout the text.  In keeping with Savonarola’s dislike of polyphony and musical display, the Miserere is written in a spare, austere style . . . The tenor part, which contains the repeating phrase “Miserere mei, Deus,” was likely written to be sung by the Duke himself, who was a trained musician and often sang with the musicians in his chapel. . . As the tenor sings these words, the other voices join in one at a time to reinforce the first, an effect analogous to boldface type in a printed text. 

Savanarola’s text was nothing less than a condemnation of the Borgia papacy and their banker-allies the Medici.  Setting this text to music was a powerful political statement.  Thanks to the printing press, both the text and the music traveled like wildfire throughout Europe, influencing composers across the continent.  There are many wonderful inventions in Josquin’s music, including the use of a cascading downwards chorus to replicate the tears falling and having all parts come together after a pause to sing block chords.  These inventions have been copied by composers ever since and across all forms of music, from jazz to pop. 

Also revolutionary was his setting of a highly political text to music.  If history is any guide, this musical stone cast at the Church may have done as much damage as Martin Luther would do the following decade.  I struggled to find a recording that lives up the hype but failed.  I would urge you to seek out the recording by the Capella Amsterdam under Daniel Reuss and crank it to 11.  With the addition of female voices, the music soars above this more historically accurate version.

Josquin des Prez, Miserere mei, Deushttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6pBEHBXmKk&list=RDp6pBEHBXmKk&start_radio=1&t=0

Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a Changin’?  Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit?  That tradition of protest music began here, 500 years ago.

Renaissance Music II: The Origin of Popular Music

As Simon and Garfunkel and other 20th century pop bands have taken a bow in this blog, a few words about popular music are warranted—popular music would play an increasing role in the development of music, surpassing the importance of what I call “formal music” for much of the 20th century. Finding its origin in Muslim Spain, the singer-songwriter arose in the guise of the traveling troubadour in or around the 13th century. No different from early Bob Dylan, these performers would travel from town to town, tavern to tavern, plying their trade in song and music. Developments in music technology furthered their efforts. While formal music—and by that I mean largely church music—focused on the chorus and the organ, traveling musicians often used a cittern, but were quickly joined the lute, the viol (think something like the cello) and then, most importantly, the violin. Advances were also made in keyboards—virginals (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/505004) being the first step that would lead to the modern piano—during the Renaissance.

There has always been a fruitful symbiosis between formal and popular music, each borrowing from the other to find melodies, rhythms, and new technologies.  Examples are hard to come by as modern performances are typically gussied up with a full chorus and extra instruments.  But this one gets the gist right and the influence of contemporary church motets can be clearly discerned in this more popular form of song.

Bartolomeo Tromboncino, Zephiro spira e ‘l bel tempo rimena: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1jzcpex9ho

It comes as no surprise that the Scottish magpie Ian Anderson and his merry band of minstrels, Jethro Tull, have looked back in time for inspiration across one of the longest and most varied career in modern popular music. As this brief tune attests, the gulf across the centuries can be bridged by a man, a guitar, and some strings.

Jethro Tull, Wond’ring Aloud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqTJSUeZY98

Renaissance Music I: John Dunstable (1390-1453)

It was the English composer John Dunstable who introduced the third to music, creating the unique color palette that allowed Western music to flourish. In short, a “third” is simply the third note above the root note: If your root note is a C, the third interval is an E.  Thirds are referred to in music as imperfect because they can be both major and minor (depending on where you start).  And, of course, when you stack two thirds together, you get the 1-3-5 triad—the foundation of all Western music through to that pop tune that came out last week. 

Dunstable also found that there was an inherent logic that knitted together different triads, since each triad is composed of two notes of a different triad.  Moving from one closely related triad to another gives a logic to music that has informed our understanding of harmony to this day.  This video gives a great introduction to triads and chord theory: https://youtu.be/11CnyY_gzHk.  Don’t worry about diminished and augmented chords, as they won’t become really relevant for a few hundred years.

Of Dunstable’s other major developments, his revolutionary decision to move the melody from the tenor line to the top treble line is the most significant. In this, he broke the continental preference for dissonance and the primacy of lower voices. Before Dunstable, music was, with very few exceptions, dull, sparse and predictable. Dunstable is responsible for bringing the color of the Renaissance to music and with his music that we start our musical journey in earnest.

John Dunstable, Quam Pulchra Eshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gicvbxFESWg

Several hundred years later, a retired miner in the north of England composed a song based on a traditional Yorkshire ballad. Drawing his musical inspiration from the Middle English period (roughly from the 5th to 16th centuries), Ewan MacColl’s remarkable 1947 Canticle has been performed by many bands over the years, including most memorably by Simon and Garfunkel. From their legendary concert in Central Park, when these two brilliant musicians transported 1980s New York back to the English Renaissance, if just for a few minutes.

Simon and Garfunkel, Scarborough Fair: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ccgk8PXz64

Incidentally, I should note that my personal Rosetta Stone for Early Music was the Kronos Quartet’s remarkable album “Early Music” from the late 1990s. Kronos was, and remains, on the vanguard of contemporary music, but this album saw the group reach back across the centuries to find the inspiration for much of what they had been performing. The album effectively presents contemporary music along side music written several hundred years ago. The effect, for me, was remarkable and I recommend the album highly. It is one of my Desert Island Discs.