Although English medieval minstrels performed gestes, a genre closely related to romance, often playing the harp or the fiddle, the question of if, and how, Middle English romance was performed has been hotly debated. Here, the performance tradition is explored by combining textual, historical and musicological scholarship with practical experience from a noted musician. Using previously unrecognised evidence, the author reconstructs a realistic model of minstrel performance, showing how a simple melody can interact with the text, and vice versa. She argues that elements in Middle English romance which may seem simplistic or repetitive may in fact be incomplete, as missing an integral musical dimension; metrical irregularities, for example, may be relics of sophisticated rhythmic variation that make sense only with music. Overall, the study offers both a more accurate comprehension of minstrel performance, and a deeper appreciation of the romances themselves.
Linda Marie Zaerr is Professor of Medieval Studies at Boise State University.
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer Ltd
Number of pages: 296
Weight: 822 g
Dimensions: 234 x 156 x 25 mm
[O]ffers the first comprehensive list of references to minstrel performances in the Middle English romances. . . . Zaerr's vivid account . . . provides a strong sense of how much we have lost now that we can only read the romances on the page. EARLY MUSIC
Offer[s] a fresh perspective on Middle English romances not just as texts but also as performance acts. COMITATUS 44
[T]his is a splendid book, presenting a fine collection of textual evidence and commentary, which is a most valuable contribution to the field of medieval musicology. THE CONSORT
This is a fascinating book, a sort of dialogue between scholar and performer, both being the same person [. . .] stimulating. EARLY MUSIC REVIEW
With huge experience in performing Middle English romances, Professor Zaerr brings her valuable perspective as a performer to current textual, historical and musicological scholarship, in order to understand better how medieval minstrels performed romances with music. She shows how a broader, more fluid concept of romance can lead us to more profound understanding, and exciting revelations. --Professor Marilyn Lawrence, New York University.