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On homophonic secular music of the Middle Ages
by Monika Fahrnberger

   Reports about the medieval secular songs in Poland date back as far as the beginning of the 15th century. Jan Długosz (+ 1480, the chronist of the Jagiellonic epoche) makes note about two historical songs that were sung by the people of his time: on the death of prince Roman at Zawichost (1205) and on Ludgarda, the wife of prince Przemysław who had been strangled upon the order of her husband (1283). From numerous synodes on which all customs in connection with heathen cultic actions were banned and from Latin homilies we know the incipits of the folksongs that had accompanied the then banned practices: 'Miły mił± miłuje' ('The lover loving his beloved', ca. 1390), Nie wybiraj junochu oczyma (ca. 1460), etc.

   Secular monody was cultivated by scholars, vagants and the patriciate; the Silesian duke (of the Piasts) Heinrich IV Probus (1270 - 1290) was a minnesinger himself. His poems are conserved in the Manessian song manuscript.

   The existence of vagants (around 1200 or even earlier) and players is certified and documented. There is, e. g., a document written by Pope Gregor IX which dates from 1236, in which scholars and vagants from Cracow are being condemned for the reason that their songs about happy style of life during Christmas time would disturb the quietness of the Benedictine monks of Tyniec.

   An interesting example of a vagant-song is the Gregorian, yet secular, antiphon 'Defectus misit nos' which was written only in 1510. The temporary closure of Cracow university (1370 - 1400) forced part of the academic youth to leave Poland and study abroad, most of them in Prague. That is where the tradition of the Bohemian singers' movement in Poland at the turn of the 14th to the 15th century has its origin. Most popular were the song 'Buoh vsemohuci' which was sung in the Polish phonetic version 'Bóg wszechmog±cy' and numerous satirical (political) songs in connection with religious conflicts (Hussites movement). The danger of having Hussite tendencies within Poland made the clergy no longer allow secular songs to be sung in the vernacular language (1415). The few remaining monuments are the frivolous scholars' song (notated in 1416) of the lady who didn't want to feed the scholar's horse with oats, the origin of the text being somewhere at the Polish-Bohemian language border on one hand and the work of Jędrzej Gałka from Dobczyn 'Pie¶ń o Wiklefie' (1447) to the tune of the Christmas song 'imber nunc coelitus'.

   Music of the bourgeoisie is reported from approx. the beginnings of the 14th century onwards; in 1336 King Kazimierz granted the patriciate of the towns the right to engage up to eight musicians for festivities such as weddings, baptisms and a few other occasions but already in 1378 the town council of Cracow reduced that number to a maximum of four again. Names of musicians of that kind are well documented from the middle of the 14th century onwards.

   At the end of the 14th century Polish musicians started to wander throughout Europe (e. g., Zwickau, Hamburg, Leipzig, Torino). In comparison to Germany there was no such thing as mastersingers , however, there is evidence of Polish knightly troubadours. But the reports on Polish knights' songs with secular topic are only through indirect sources (Chronicles of Gallus, 1113, and of Wincenty Kadłubek, 1202). After the death of Bolesław Chrobry (1025) the knighthood sang a "carmen lugubre"; Kazimierz, the Renewer who rebuilt Poland after the period of heathen reaction (1038/39), was honoured through a song of knights as well.

   Many songs were made on the occasion of Boleslaw Krzywousty's fights in Pommern (ca. 1104 - 1109) and of Bolesław Kędzierzawy with the Pruzzen in 1166. These works were most likely closely to the type of the "Sirventes" which is an indicator that Poland must have had its own lyrics of the knighthood at that time. Unfortunately there are no melodic notations that survived until today.

   Several comments in chronicles mention noblemen who surrounded themselves with musicians for their courts already at an early time. However, although we know of earlier mentions, there was no fully developed court music before the time of Queen Jadwiga (1384 - 1399) and King Jagiełło (1388 - 1434).

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