Thursday, November 12, 2009

Exploring Music: Tone Poems

This week on Exploring Music, the world of Tone Poems is contemplated.

In a literal case of art imitating life, symphonic music is freed from its traditional structures and takes a programmatic turn.

Tone poems usually tell a story without words.  Instrumentation is used to let the ear know what is going on.  The week's opening piece told a story with AND without words.  The King's Singers perform Janequin's  Escoutez tous gentilz "La bataille de Marignan; La guerre"

I don't know French, but this song has something to do with a battle!  You'll notice in the song that eventually the words disappear and the singers use syllables to mimic different sounds.  When I listened to the recording on Monday, it sounded like there was laughter.  As you view the video, pay attention to the performers, and you will notice one guy thumbs his nose.  I am guessing the opponents on the battlefield were taunting each other during this section of the piece.

This is one song that you should watch as well as listen to.  If you don't know French, the actions and expressions of the performers can give you a clue as to what is going on.

Those of you who do know French or know something about this piece, drop a comment here at All for Hymn and tell us the story!

You can listen to Exploring Music on weeknights at 7:00 pm Central. 

This website will tell you if the program is airing at this minute, and will give you some station information as well.


  1. Ok, here's the translation from the King's Singers "Madrigal History Tour":

    Listen, all gentle Gauls to the victory of the noble King Francis.
    You will hear, if you listen, blows thudding on all sides.
    Fifes, resound, beat the drums, turn and wheel, perform your manoeuvres, blow, play, beat, etc. (Drums always!)

    Adventurers, good countrymen, together cross your staves, bend the bow, noble Gascons,
    noblemen, leap into the saddle, lance in hand and ready as lions!
    Sackbut players, make your sound!
    Gird on your arms, gay squires, and lay on!
    Strike and shout the alarm!

    Be bold and joyful, let each urge himself on,
    the fleurs de lys, the noble flower, is there in person.
    Follow Francis the French king, follow the crown.
    Resound, trumpets and clarions, to gladd your count-, your count-, your country men.

    [Second part]
    (various noises of battle)
    To the standard straight 'way advance
    spur on your mounts yet cavalry, etc.

    Blast and boom bombards and cannons.
    Thunder great curtals and falcons to help our countryment.
    (Noises of battle)

    Courage, courage, strike your blows,
    pilfer, plunder, dub and leer.

    Kill! To the death!
    Take courage, Strike, kill.
    Gentle Gallants, be valiant,
    Strike on, press on.
    Grind your steel, gobble them up.
    Alarm, alarm!

    They are in confusion, they are lost.
    they are showing their heels!
    Pursue the cowards, the jangling rabble they are defeated.
    Victory to noble King Francis!
    Pursue: all is lost, by God.

  2. Thanks, Southern Lutheran Kantor, for giving us the words.


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