Lecture and Concert by Asteria

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Asteria © Courtesy of the Artist and Legion of Honor
Lecture and Concert by Asteria

Clement St & 34th Ave
Lincoln Park
94121 San Francisco
November 20th, 2011 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Tue-Sun 9:30-5:15
Lecture, music, performance


Inspired by the special exhibition The Mourners, Asteria presents a lecture and concert of medieval music. Take home their music after the event: the Museum Store will be selling Le Souvenir de Vous me Tue, Soyes Loyal, and Un tres doulx regard. Enjoy a sample now. 

Lecture: "In Search of the Lost Song: Bringing Medieval Chansons to Life"
Florence Gould Theater
1:00 p.m.

How do you bring alive today music that was written half a millennium ago?

Many linguists, musicologists, and historians first encounter historical source material through the lens of a modern printed edition. While a fine starting point, a modern, scholarly music edition is typically a far cry from the precious, often richly-ornamented manuscripts that originally contained this music. For the members of Asteria, specialists in the performance of late medieval polyphony, pursuing an historical informed performance means going beyond even what the manuscripts tell us to include a healthy amount of what might be called "cultural archeology."  The current Mourners exhibition of Burgundian statuary from the mid-15th century offers a unique opportunity for exactly this sort of contextual elaboration. Commissioned by the very dukes whose tombs they would later adorn, these works bear unique visual witness to the high degree of artistic achievement attained through the generous patronage of the Valois dynasty in Burgundy, a patronage that also notably extended to the visual and musical arts.
In today's presentation, Asteria takes a musical tour of some of the sites where music was written and performed in the late Middle Ages, including the last remaining palace belonging to the dukes of Burgundy, to discover what these sites tell us about the role of music in 15th-century Europe: Why did so many songs deal with such unusual themes as slander and loving someone from afar? Who really were the medieval troubadours and what was their legacy? What does a lute sound like, and where did it come from? Is it true that men had to sing the women’s parts because women weren’t allowed to perform in public?
Asteria will address these questions and many more with the help of numerous visual aids and musical examples from their repertoire, including songs that might well have been performed for duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy himself, more than 500 years ago.

Concert: "Music for a Rash Prince: Medieval Love Songs from the Court of Charles of Burgundy"
Florence Gould Theater
3:00 p.m.

The artistic legacy of the court of Burgundy remained legendary well after the demise of chivalry at the end of the Middle Ages. Nowhere was this more evident than in the superb love songs written during the reign of Charles the Bold at the end of the 15th century. Charles, a prince of the French royal family, was brought up in a household that bathed in extravagance, with elaborate feasts and tournaments a regular part of daily life. He was educated, as most children of noble birth at this time, by personal tutors in history, philosophy, and of course music. His father, Philip the Good, also had a keen appreciation for music and went so far as to personally supervise the selection of singers for his chapel. Charles, who both sang and played the harp, continued his father’s legacy and ultimately presided over a musical establishment that was the envy of Europe.

Though the quality of his chapel choir was widely praised, it was in the domain of secular music that the musicians and composers of Burgundy particularly excelled. The courtly love songs that delighted Charles (by one account Charles insisted on having a new song sung to him each and every evening) are like tiny vignettes of life at court, with knights, ladies, and gossip taking center stage. Today’s program presents songs by three of his most famous court composers: Antoine Busnoys, Robert Morton, and Hayne van Ghizeghem, composed roughly during the period of the Mourners sculptures currently on display at the Legion of Honor. The presence of any one of these men, who enjoyed international reputations, would have raised the artistic quality of the court to a remarkable level; all three together in one place quite literally made history.

Asteria, specialists in music of the late Middle Ages, recreate the luxurious and passionate atmosphere of court life in medieval Burgundy through the words and music of the time, along with illustrative stories and historical anecdotes for those not fluent in old French.
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