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Mediaeval Baebes, Worldes Blysse (1998): Song Meanings and Origins
Medieval Baebes is the first name on the lips of any music lover who appreciates the lush, intoxicating medieval atmosphere. They featured prominently in the soundtrack of almost every party I hosted. I’m passionate about medieval music and most of my friends can tell you how I cornered them after a few drinks to tell them the true origins of this or that medieval Baebes song. So I’ve decided it’s time to shut the page of this geek enthusiasm, get it out of my system, and save my friends from my rants and raves.
This series of articles explores the discography of the medieval Baebes, briefly discussing the origins and history of the music used to make their classic recordings. It will focus on their album Worldes BlysseIt was published in 1998.
First of all, it is worth mentioning Worldes Blysse in fact, it consists mainly of original music. 11 of the 16 numbers (Dear, Everyone Turns to Yesterday, Love Me Brought, Beatrice, Waylaway, When Thy Turuf Is your Tour, Erthe Upon Erthe, Passing This Alone, Pearl, Swete Sone, and How death comes) are the original locations of contemporary poetry. Two of the remaining 5 were aggressively reworked. So this is hardly a medieval album.
I have not been able to trace the origins of all the medieval poetry used in these compositions, so I will skip the numbers about which I cannot tell anything interesting. Readers, as always, if you know something that I don’t, write it in the comments.
3. Love Me Brought
The source of these lyrics is a book of Middle English poetry published in 1372 Commonplace book by John Grimstone. It is a love song from Christ to humanity.
This is the original setting of Dante’s passage Hell. The language is Tuscan.
5. Ecci Mundi Gaudium
This is a 13th century Anglo-Norman Christmas carol, and interestingly, its source is the same manuscript as the Baebes carol. Salva Well (the title track of their first album).
This song is called correctly Reis glorioso, and was written by the troubadour Guiraut de Bornelh (1138-1215). One of the most beautiful troubadour tunes. The Troubadours were the poet-musicians of southern France who wrote and sang in Occitan (a now dead language) and are the ancestors of the entire Western tradition of love songs and poetry. I love this song in particular, and I’m actually working on recording it myself. So please keep that in mind when I say I can’t stand what the medieval babes did to her. They have artificially imposed a 3/4 rhythm, which spoils the beauty of the melody and the syntax of the poetry. Their pronunciation is bad and they are delivered completely without emotion. I encourage you to check out the other recordings of this beautiful song. You can find a lot of them on YouTube, although many of them are instrumental. The band Estampie creates a gorgeous, albeit very unconventional performance.
8. When Te Turuf Is Your Tour
This is an original setting by Blake of a Middle English poem, numbered 232 by Luria and Hoffman. Index of Middle English Poems. The theme is mortality, decay and the irrelevance of earthly pleasures after death.
9. Erthe Upon Erthe
This is a very nice shot. The lyrics are a Middle English poem that survives in 24 manuscripts with many variations, the earliest of which is from the 14th century. This recording represents a version of the poem from around 1440.
10. Passing away alone like this
This is an eerie fragment of an English ballad, An excellent ballad of the courtship of an English prince to his daughter Frances, and how the duke is disastrous (sic) killed; and how the aforementioned princess later married a Forrester. It narrates the historical events surrounding the courtship of Judit, the daughter of Károly the Bald, by King Ethelwulph of England. The ballad was intended to be sung to the tune of Crimson Velvet, but this recording features another original arrangement.
11. La Volta
Volta is a Renaissance dance form. If I’m not mistaken, this piece comes from a 16th century Italian manuscript.
This text is 121-156 of the 1213-line Middle English poem of the same name. consists of lines. The poet is anonymous, but is generally believed to be the same poet who composed it Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and other famous English works. The setup is similar to the Undrentide about the Baebes’ next album, which I’ll talk about in the next article.
13. Sweet son
This is a Middle English poem, one of many religious poems from the period that deal with the Virgin Mary at the scene of the crucifixion. Its source is Commonplace of John Grimstone, 1372, which, as you remember, is also its source Love Me Brought.
14. So Spricht Das Leben (So Sayeth Life)
This is a wonderful 16th century German song in which life and death argue over who owns the world. For whatever reason, the Baebe’s decided not to sing most of it, but to say it in English with traditional music playing in the background. I suggest you check out some other covers of this song that are closer to the German original. I love it so much I might have to make my own version.
15. C’est La Fin
This is a beautiful late 13th century virela by trouvere Guillaume d’Amiens. In this recording, the Baebes remained quite faithful to the medieval original.
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