The Performance Practice of David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London : Medieval Music in the 1960s and 1970s


Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy/Blogger Ref
This thesis focuses on the musical contribution of David Munrow and his Early
Music Consort of London (EMC) to the so-called early music revival of the 1960s and 1970s. By exploring the notion of shared cultural space in performances of medieval music by leading ensembles of the time, this thesis seeks to isolate aspects of performance practice unique to the EMC.
An assessment of literary sources documenting the early music revival reveals
clear nodes of discussion around Munrow’s methods of presenting early music in concert performance which are frequently classified as ‘showmanship’ with a focus on more scholarly performance practice decisions only evident in the post-Munrow period.
Close readings of these sources are undertaken which are, in turn, weighed against Munrow’s early biography to map out the web of influences contributing to his musical life. Having established David Munrow’s intentions in performance, this thesis uses techniques of performance analysis to question whether he and the EMC achieved such stated aims in performance, and identifies how different approaches are made manifest in recordings by other ensembles.
The findings, which seek to marry sonic analysis with reception history, are
interpreted in the light of the New Cultural History of Music and reposition David
Munrow, often seen as a showman who evangelized early music, as a musician who profoundly influenced the modern aesthetics and surface details of performance for subsequent generations of early musicians.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Date of Award2015


The document below is that of the above thesis. Unfortunately, images are missing at present, and to see those one will have to download the pdf version from the above link.

The Performance Practice of David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London
Medieval Music in the 1960s and 1970s
Breen, Edward George
Awarding institution:
King's College London
Download date: 14. Jun. 2018
The Performance Practice of David Munrow and the Early Music Consort
of London: Medieval Music in the 1960s and 1970s
Edward George Breen
King’s College London
April 2014
© 2014 by Edward Breen
All rights reserved.
‘I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers’. Blanche Dubois may
have been hysterical when she made that comment, but it endured for more than half a
century and will, no doubt, resonate for many years to come. As I approach the end of
this thesis I can reflect on times when I too depended on the kindness of strangers. Now,
I’m glad to say, they are no longer strangers but friends and colleagues.
Gillian Munrow, James Bowman, Christopher Hogwood, John Turner, David
Corkhill, Jasper Parrott, Martyn Hill, John Willan, Charles Brett, John Potter, Geoffrey
Shaw, Linda Hirst, Andrew van der Beek, Christina Clarke, Mary Remnant and Sally
Dunkley have all generously corresponded to share memories of their time with The
Early Music Consort. Similarly, Jeremy Montagu, Grayston Burgess, Andrew Parrott,
John Sothcott, John Dudley and Alison Crum have taken time to share their
recollections of Musica Reservata whilst Margaret Bent, David Fallows, Nicholas
Kenyon, Hugh Keyte, Guy Woolfenden, Deborah Roberts, David Cain, David Evans,
Peter Dickinson, Paul Elliott, Philip Pickett, Sally Cavender, Elizabeth Roche, Derek
Harrison and Jeremy Summerly have all given of their time to talk, write, email and
share their record collections with me. This thesis contains many of their memories and,
I hope, conveys my enjoyment at (re-)discovering these wonderful recordings and
finding out how they were made. The greatest compliment I can pay them is to say that
their music making has provided me with real enjoyment throughout this thesis,
throughout my life, and will continue to do so into the future.
There was also a considerable amount of archival research that would not have
been possible without the kindness and skill of librarians and archivists. I would like to
extend my gratitude to Bridget Palmer, Lesley Daniel and the staff at the Royal
Academy of Music Library, to Louise North and her colleagues at the BBC Written
Archives, to Katherine O’Brien and the staff at the KCL Archive and to Jackie Bishop
and her colleagues at the EMI Archive for allowing me to read through many files and
ask lots of questions. Special thanks must also go to Jonathan Summers at the British
Library Sound Archive where I was awarded an Edison Visiting Fellowship in 2011.
This fellowship allowed me to listen repeatedly to performances which have not been
preserved elsewhere and to ask many technical questions about the best ways to play
back and preserve recordings.
At King’s College, London I would like to offer particular thanks to Professors
Daniel Leech-Wilkinson and Emma Dillon for their supervision and generous advice.
And also to the staff and fellow students on the AHRC CHARM project and in the KCL
Music department at large for the countless kindnesses they have shown to a bewildered
part-time student struggling to balance full-time teaching with part-time study. On the
subject of work, I extend thanks also to my colleagues at Morley College, St Mary’s
School Hampstead, the choirs of St James’s Spanish Place and Westminster Cathedral,
Early Music Today magazine, Gramophone magazine and also at BBC Classical Music
Television who have employed and encouraged me throughout the process of writing
this thesis. Their conversation and good humour has been a joy and I am constantly
reminded of how fortunate I am to work with such erudite musicians who are willing to
converse about music in such detail.
I would like to thank my parents for helping me with the college fees and my
friends for their culinary support during the writing-up period which, necessarily,
happened in intense bursts during teaching holidays. Also heartfelt thanks to The
Stapley Trust, Musica Britannica Trust and The Newby Trust for their awards towards
my study fees. Most of all, I must thank Christopher Barton, Jo Barton, Edward Davies
and Peter Dyke for starting my interest in early music so many years ago when we all
sang together in Newport Cathedral Choir; William Leigh-Knight and Helen Killick for
proof-reading and insightful comments on my first draft; and Dr Robert Sholl, Dr Anna
McCready, Trish Shaw, Dr Hugo Shirley, Dr Sue Cole, Dr Terry Worrell, Dr Debra
Pring and Dr Grantley McDonald for being such wonderful friends and my cherished
musicological support group.
Needless to say, any mistakes that remain in this text are entirely my own fault.
Nobody is perfect.
The very last of my thanks are reserved for the big four themselves: Noah
Greenberg, Thomas Binkley, Michael Morrow and David Munrow for creating so many
superb performances.
Table of Contents
Index of Figures
Figure 1: David Munrow as a prefect in 1960 (front row, far right)...............................92
Figure 2: David Munrow, John Turner (standing) and Christopher Hogwood giving a
recital in Millers music shop, Cambridge c.1962 ...................................................99
Figure 3: Bagpipe dancing to gululka (rebec) accompaniment in 1950s Bulgaria (photo
by A.L. Lloyd).......................................................................................................149
Figure 4: Photograph by A.L Lloyd used by Columbia Records..................................149
Figure 5 Musica Reservata: Kalenda Maya, introduction ............................................158
Figure 6 Musica Reservata, Kalenda Maya: recorder trill............................................159
Figure 7 Musica Reservata, Kalenda Maya: Jantina Noorman’s voice ........................159
Figure 8 Jaye Consort, Kalenda Maya: introduction and vocal entry...........................160
Figure 9 Jaye Consort, Kalenda Maya: Gerald English’s voice ...................................161
Figure 10 Waverly Consort/ de los Angeles, Pase el agoa: introduction.....................165
Figure 11 Waverly Consort/ de los Angeles, Pase el agoa: first vocal entry ...............166
Figure 12 Waverly Consort/ de los Angeles, Pase el agoa: last note (including voice)
Figure 13 Musica Reservata, Pase el agoa: first entry .................................................167
Figure 14 Musica Reservata, Pase el agoa: Middle verse with two voices..................167
Figure 15 Early Music Consort of London/Bowman, Pase el agoa: beginning...........169
Figure 16 Early Music Consort of London/Bowman, Pase el agoa: last note .............169
Figure 17 Musica Reservata: Questa Fanciulla - first entry.........................................174
Figure 18: Early Music Consort – Questa Fanciula, opening ......................................177
Figure 19 Studio der frühen Musik: Questa fanciulla - opening ..................................181
Figure 20 St George's Canzona: Questa fanciula - verse 1...........................................183
Figure 21: Luci Serene - final cadence..........................................................................191
Figure 22 Jussi Björling’s voice spectrogram...............................................................198
Figure 23 Results table..................................................................................................201
Figure 24 JP...................................................................................................................201
Figure 25 PM.................................................................................................................202
Figure 26 TYT...............................................................................................................202
Figure 27 BW................................................................................................................203
Figure 28 JN..................................................................................................................203
Figure 29 JB..................................................................................................................204
Figure 30 LT .................................................................................................................204
Figure 31 AD.................................................................................................................205
Figure 32 CL .................................................................................................................205
Figure 33 LC .................................................................................................................206
Figure 34 CD.................................................................................................................206
Figure 35 HY.................................................................................................................207
Figure 36 BL .................................................................................................................207
Figure 37 MK................................................................................................................208
Figure 38 HS .................................................................................................................208
Figure 39 Results graph ................................................................................................214
Figure 40 Deller: developing vibrato ............................................................................216
Figure 41 Laine: developing vibrato.............................................................................216
Figure 42 LC: first entry (second note of the piece) pressure vibrato ..........................217
Figure 43 CD: first entry ...............................................................................................218
Figure 44 CD: changes of intensity during vibrato cycles............................................219
Figure 45 HY: first note ................................................................................................220
Figure 46 BL: developing vibrato on a long note .........................................................221
Figure 47 HS: characteristic portamento and developing vibrato shapes .....................222
Figure 48 De home vray................................................................................................226
Figure 49 Martyn Hill and regal....................................................................................227
Figure 50 Hill: vibrato on a long note...........................................................................228
Figure 51 Nigel Rogers: Questa fanciull'amor .............................................................229
Figure 52 Christina Clarke: Chanterai por mon corage ...............................................230
Figure 53 Inviolata, integra et casta es, Maria: Sally Dunkley and Rosemary Hardy.232
Figure 54 Rosemary Hardy ...........................................................................................233
Figure 55 Swingle Singers: opening notes....................................................................238
Figure 56 Swingle Singers: digital remaster .................................................................239
Figure 57 Swingle Singers: characteristic shape of vibrato at the end of a long note ..240
Figure 58 Panpipe vibrato: What should it all sound like? (track 5) ............................242
Figure 59 Breathy flute playing: What should it all sound like? (track 6)....................243
Figure 60 Plucked Ud: What should it all sound like? (track 7)...................................244
Figure 61 Opening cry 'Venezuela': What should it all sound like? (track 8) ..............245
Figure 62 Munrow indicates tempo with the recorder at his lips ready to start playing
Figure 63 The ensemble for Tre Fontane .....................................................................261
Figure 64 Munrow: physical effort in Tre Fontane ......................................................261
Figure 65 Tyler: stamping to the beat in Tre Fontane ..................................................261
Figure 66 Tyler: chordal accompaniment .....................................................................262
Figure 67 Corkhill: percussion......................................................................................262
Figure 68 Munrow: final note .......................................................................................262
Figure 69 Munrow: releases final note..........................................................................263
Figure 70 Munrow: introductory beats with Shawm at his lips ....................................263
Figure 71 Ensemble for Saltarello ................................................................................264
Figure 72 Munrow: physical effort in Saltarello ..........................................................264
Figure 73 Munrow: long note at end of Saltarello........................................................264
Figure 74 Munrow: releases final note..........................................................................264
Figure 75: Ancestral Voices (BBC) Estampie: performers watch Munrow for his final
Figure 76 Percussionists watch Munrow for his final note...........................................266
Figure 77. Tre Fontane in Munrow's hand (used by kind permission of the Royal
Academy of Music, London) ................................................................................267
Figure 78 Blachly: analysis of Wolf’s transcription. ...................................................270
Figure 79 Blachly: analysis of the Wolf’s Ghaetta transcription. ................................276
Figure 80 New York Pro Musica: Douce dame jolie. Soprano solo.............................281
Figure 81 Early Music Consort of London: Douce dame jolie. Introduction. ..............282
Figure 82 Early Music Consort of London: Douce dame jolie. Martyn Hill solo. .......284
Figure 83 Pro Musica Antiqua: Vergine Bella. Opening. .............................................293
Figure 84 Pro Musica Antiqua: Vergine Bella. End of first phrase. .............................294
Figure 85 Early Music Consort of London: Vergine Bella. First entry. .......................295
Figure 86 Studio der frühen Musik: Vergine Bella. Opening. ......................................296

This thesis focuses on the musical contribution of David Munrow and his Early
Music Consort of London (EMC) to the so-called early music revival of the 1960s and
1970s. By exploring the notion of shared cultural space in performances of medieval
music by leading ensembles of the time, this thesis seeks to isolate aspects of
performance practice unique to the EMC.
An assessment of literary sources documenting the early music revival reveals
clear nodes of discussion around Munrow’s methods of presenting early music in
concert performance which are frequently classified as ‘showmanship’ with a focus on
more scholarly performance practice decisions only evident in the post-Munrow period.
Close readings of these sources are undertaken which are, in turn, weighed against
Munrow’s early biography to map out the web of influences contributing to his musical
life. Having established David Munrow’s intentions in performance, this thesis uses
techniques of performance analysis to question whether he and the EMC achieved such
stated aims in performance, and identifies how different approaches are made manifest
in recordings by other ensembles.
The findings, which seek to marry sonic analysis with reception history, are
interpreted in the light of the New Cultural History of Music and reposition David
Munrow, often seen as a showman who evangelized early music, as a musician who
profoundly influenced the modern aesthetics and surface details of performance for
subsequent generations of early musicians.
David Munrow (1942–1976) was a popular and successful performer on the
recorder, bassoon and early wind instruments. As director of The Early Music Consort
of London (EMC) and as a regular broadcaster on British radio and television channels
he created a strong public profile within the traditional classical music industry. A
review of literature has made it apparent that existing discussion about the early music
revival does not adequately explore the influence of Munrow and the EMC; no study of
performance practice undertaken to date attempts to explain how they came to be such a
large part of our arts culture, and so quickly. This thesis contextualizes the
performances of David Munrow within his cultural environment; it explores the
multiple crossovers within his performance practice between the English choral
tradition and world musics and it examines his subsequent reception history and
The decision to study David Munrow and his Early Music Consort of London
can be summarized by several reasons. First, David Munrow is one of the most
popularly remembered figures from the early music revival of the 1960s and 1970s and,
as the first chapter will show, has been written about consistently over several decades.
David Munrow and his Consort were also one of the first financially successful early
music specialist ensembles in Britain and recorded and broadcast a substantial body of
medieval music. Lastly, due to David Munrow’s untimely death, the time span of his
professional performances is just 8 years, which allows for a focused case study
Few ensembles prior to the formation of the Early Music Consort of London
achieved an international reputation for their performances of medieval music and even
fewer ensembles used styles of playing that were consciously removed from mainstream
chamber-music performance practice. In fact, performances of medieval music were
frequently undertaken with noticeable bel-canto style vibrato from the singers and a
nineteenth-century influence to dynamics and tempo from the instrumentalists. In
gathering together an ensemble of specialists who both stood apart from traditional
performance practice yet maintained the highest of performance standards, Munrow is
frequently remembered as one of the pioneers of the early music movement. He was
not, however, the first person to experiment with style, nor was he the first early music
specialist to question the suitability of prevailing performance practice for early music
during the 1960s and early 1970s.
The aim of this research therefore, is to identify the influences behind David
Munrow’s performances of medieval music and to open the question of how these
influences were filtered and developed by Munrow. The central research questions of
this thesis ask: is it possible to indentify influences on the performance of medieval
music by David Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London? And also, is it
possible to isolate particular performance practice traits that were unique to David
Munow and his Consort in medieval music?
This aim is realized in three main ways:
1. By collating and discussing sources of information concerning Munrow’s
musical career.
2. By exploring how performance practice can be quantified and described so that
comparisons can be made between performances in a meaningful and revealing
3. By contextualizing Munrow’s work within the early music revival, a period that,
for this project, is defined as the second half of the twentieth century. This
period is considered as shared cultural space.
My research brings together recordings, interviews and archival sources to
assess the performance practice of David Munrow and the EMC during three broad
phases of their output from 1967, when the consort was founded, until 1976 when
Munrow died.
This study focuses on medieval music, and although reference is occasionally
made to renaissance, baroque and later repertoire; they are not considered in detail
within the scope of this investigation. The reasons for limiting the repertoire under
consideration in this way are twofold: Munrow’s recording career with the EMC
launched with an album of Italian Trecento music which itself was an important
commentary on ideas that Munrow encountered as a performer in another London-based
Ensemble, Musica Reservata. This medieval repertoire, including the famous Lo Ms
dances, remained in the EMC repertoire for the entire duration of the ensemble’s
existence and as such provides a solid body of work with which many meaningful
comparisons can be drawn.1 Munrow was also famous for his own multi-instrumental
talents as a performer. That so many of these instruments were from the medieval and
early-renaissance periods demonstrates a keen preoccupation with this historical timespan
and its music. By focusing on a single period it is hoped that this study can come
closer to understanding Munrow’s musical thought processes.
The thesis falls into six chapters: the first chapter necessarily functions along the
lines of a traditional literature review. The early music revival has been the subject of
rigorous academic study since the late 1970s when specialist publications began to
proliferate and this was to a large extent caused by the success of the ‘authenticity
movement’ whose claims led to the successful marketing of many records and concerts
1 Lo refers to London, British Library, Additional manuscript 29987.
despite the academic debate that raged alongside it. An example of this is described by
Nicholas Kenyon: ‘Eventually we reached the absurd situation where the American
company releasing the Academy of Ancient Music’s recording of the Pachelbel Canon
affixed a sticker to the disc proclaiming: ‘Authentic Edition. The famous Kanon as
Pachelbel heard it’.2
David Munrow was an artist who straddled the end of an older phase of the early
music revival and only witnessed the beginnings of the audience appetite for
authenticity that, at its apex, led to that ‘eventually’ moment described by Kenyon
above. Despite pre-dating this part of the revival, Munrow experienced the seeds of
such a musical sensibility, as he was increasingly criticized for his use of historically
inappropriate instrumentation. Towards the end of his life Munrow began to remodel
his consort with a view to performing renaissance sacred vocal music. One colleague
tells me that Munrow was coming to realize that by performing so much instrumental
music he had been concentrating simply on the periphery of the Renaissance and
wanted to reform his consort to tackle the sacred corpus of music that he felt formed the
musical backbone of that age.3 Indeed plans to reform his consort are also remembered
in an interview with the tenor Martyn Hill.4 Sadly, Munrow took his own life in May
1976 before his new ideas could fully come to fruition, but the beginnings of his new
approach can be heard on his albums The Art of the Netherlanders, and Monteverdi’s
Contemporaries.5 The details of those plans have not previously been discussed at any
length in print.
Nicholas Kenyon’s comments characterise the fervour that surrounded an age in
which a specialist journal Early Music was founded to cater to the thirst for
2 Nicholas Kenyon, ed., Authenticity and Early Music: A Symposium (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1988), 6.
3 This person did not wish to have their name printed: ex-BBC employee, letter to author, August, 5,
4 Martyn Hill, conversation with author, London, March 25, 2009.
5 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of the Netherlands, EMI (His Master's
Voice) SLS 5049, 1975, 3 LPs.
musicological and performance knowledge that both amateur and professional
musicians felt when the idea of ‘authentic performance’ was rife. Munrow clearly
acknowledged this trend when he divided his monumental survey Instruments of the
Middle Ages and Renaissance into two halves separating the instruments into their
appropriate historical ages; an action which could been seen as an indication of his
regret at certain ‘inauthentic’ performance decisions in the earlier part of his career.6
Furthermore, this intriguing shift to focus on Munrow’s use of medieval instruments
rather than later models in medieval repertoire suggests that the medieval period itself
was under particularly dynamic consideration during the 1970s as Munrow wrote his
Having established a roadmap of previous scholarship, the next chapter explains
the influence on my work of standard methodologies; in particular a balancing of
Empirical Musicology and New Cultural History. It also explores the implications of
my research methods and the problematization of both the notion of ‘performance
practice’ and the issues involved in writing biography and history.
Chapter 3 provides a new and more detailed biography of Munrow’s early life. It
explores his formal musical education and the web of social and professional
connections that developed prior to the founding of the EMC and during its early years
until 1970. Since David Munrow is the central figure of this thesis it is important that
there be a detailed biography of his life and work so that the various interviews and
materials in subsequent studies can be orientated and justified within a time-line of his
development as an artist.
Chapter 4 is entitled ‘Between Morrow and Modernity’. David Munrow and
Michael Morrow dominated the performance of medieval music in England in the early
1970s and during the late sixties Munrow played in Morrow’s ensemble. By exploring
6 David Munrow, Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
folk music and the relationship of voices to groupings of loud and soft instruments, this
chapter uncovers the philosophy behind Morrow’s performance style and identifies the
point of departure for the EMC and the reasons why Munrow ceased to perform with
Musica Reservata after about 1970.
The fifth chapter, ‘What Should It All Sound Like?’, is a reconstruction: a spool
of magnetic tape and an unpublished paper in Munrow’s private archive shows an
interest in world music and a preoccupation with vocal vibrato. This chapter
reconstructs the arguments behind these two documents and analyses the audio
examples that Munrow chose to illustrate his presentations. The chapter asks to what
extent Munrow’s aural observations agree with the recordings when observed through
signal-processing software and suggests a line of reasoning which links the recorded
examples in sequence.
Having built up a toolkit of analysis and influences in the previous three
chapters, Chapter 6, ‘Shared Cultural Space’, is a set of case studies that implement this
toolkit by considering a sense of shared cultural space in performances of medieval
dances and motets across the major performing ensembles from the 1960s and 1970s.
David Munrow’s interpretation of medieval dances was so central to his success
in touring with the EMC that this chapter traces the development of his highly
personalised style of playing such pieces, dubbed ‘Turkish nightclub music’ by James
Bowman, which frequently provided crowd-rousing encores. This chapter opens
questions about how these dances, alongside other medieval works containing singers,
spawned a departure from the approach favoured by Musica Reservata and how the
results of that departure are made manifest in EMC performances. It also questions how
they contributed a lasting influence to medieval vocal performances until the end of the
In particular, Munrow’s boxed set albums Music of the Gothic Era and The Art
of Courtly Love were lavish presentations of medieval music of a sort hitherto unseen,
yet the multicoloured instrumental participation in these performances was
musicologically outdated within a decade. With this change in mind, the chapter also
explores Munrow’s approach to several pieces of medieval vocal music and compares
them to performances both before and after his recordings with an emphasis on vocal
styles rather than instrumental participation.
Finally, in chapter 7, ‘Discussions and Conclusions’, the main themes of the
EMC’s performance style are teased out of the narrative and a consideration is
undertaken of how these themes interface with existing literature on the early music
revival with particular emphasis on the latest studies (published in 2013) celebrating
anniversaries of several post-Munrow performing ensembles founded in 1973.
Chapter 1 - Literature Review: David Munrow
This chapter examines existing literature on the early music revival and writings
about David Munrow, and in doing so seeks to explore and summarize previous work in
this topic area. However, it also exceeds the traditional boundaries of a literature review
as it surveys evidence and sources for this thesis as a whole, including documentary and
archival evidence. This latter function creates a coherent plan of sources used in this
investigation and provides the reader with an overview of the available evidence.
Further archival details are contained in the appendix.
Review: Remembering David Munrow
Following his suicide, aged 34, in 1976, the main body of writing about David
Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London has been obituary. Therefore, there is
a paucity of work to date that reflects upon their musical impact outside of this
memorial context, despite many leading artists claiming that EMC performances have
been an important influence on the general direction of the early music revival. There
has, however, been a persuasive background of criticisms leveled at Munrow for
popularizing ideas developed by other artists and also a feeling that he ‘played to the
gallery’ with his performances of dance music. Despite extensive literature on the early
music revival and its reception history, it remains unclear which aspects of EMC
performances are the product of original thought, and which, if any, simply rework
ideas gleaned from other ensembles.
By 1977, a year after the death of David Munrow, a palpable change in the way
that UK-based early musicians considered their relationship with the traditional
classical music scene was making itself known. In the space of about a decade, they
were no longer a cottage industry pursuing an interest in old music; rather, they appear
to have joined forces to consider themselves as a movement. This new sense of
unification was exemplified in 1976 when John Cruft, the then Music Director of the
Arts Council of Great Britain met with Anthony Rooley, Director of The Early Music
Centre and The Consort of Musicke to propose the first early music conference. The
Future of Early Music in Britain took place the following May at the Royal Festival
Hall. Howard Mayer Brown chaired the conference and J.M. Thomson, founder and
editor of Early Music magazine edited papers for publication.7 This conference was
among the first organized meetings for the massed factions of early music research and
performance, and the resulting message was an overriding call for the various camps to
work together towards educating audiences.
Thomson, in his preface, summed up the general feeling by saying that ‘[u]ntil
now, almost everything in early music had been achieved through dedication, good will
and the ability to survive in a musical culture still largely dominated by the 19th
century.’8 The final day of the conference saw the beginnings of a mechanism by which
this new early music movement might go mainstream and compete with the music of
the previous century; an invited audience heard short presentations appealing for grants,
subsidies and other forms of help. Early music was going mainstream.
Looking back on that publication, nowhere was the rate of change more acute
than in the field of medieval music. In his conference talk, David Fallows lamented the
recent demise of ‘three of the world’s most influential performing groups for medieval
7 Anthony Rooley et al., The Future of Early Music in Britain: Papers Delivered at the Conference Held
in the Waterloo Room of the Royal Festival Hall, London, 14-16 May 1977: Chairman Howard Mayer
Brown, ed. J. M. Thomson (London: Oxford University Press, 1978).
8 Ibid., x.
music’ and listed them as New York Pro Musica, the Early Music Consort of London
and Studio der Frühen Musik.9 Only Musica Reservata remained active.
1977 happened also to be a Machaut celebration and the year in which the first
York Early Music Festival had taken place (April 1977) at which Andrew Parrott,
director of The Taverner Consort, organized a performance, a cappella, of Machaut’s
Messe de Nostre Dame in York Minster which sent ripples through the world of early
music. He later described the whole festival as a ‘heady event’.10 Christopher Page was
in the audience and remembered that although it was not the first time an all-vocal
performance of the mass had been presented this particular performance was unusually
powerful because:
it was heard on this occasion by many of the country’s professional musicians
and scholars committed to medieval music and is unlikely to be forgotten by
those who were present. The dignity of conception, and the complete absence of
triviality, gimmickry and undue haste, left a profound impression. Many
devotees of medieval music discovered voices on that day.11
The [re-]discovery of medieval music as all vocal performance has already been
explored in detail by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, but Page’s memory of that concert also
betrays some interesting opinions about the way medieval music was perceived pre-
1977 that would, necessarily, allude to the performances of Munrow and those three
other influential groups mentioned by Fallows.12 Page’s comment implies that the sort
of Machaut mass that was heard previously would have contained triviality, gimmickry
or undue haste; and possibly all three. It may not have even been dignified. This note of
distain is not unique to Page; Leech-Wilkinson himself, when reviewing Parrott’s album
9 David Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music," in The Future of Early Music in Britain, ed.
J.M.Thomson (London: Oxford University Press, 1978), 1.
10 Andrew Parrott interviewed by Daniel Leech Wilkinson, 19 June 2000, quoted in: Daniel Leech-
Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology, Performance (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2002), 107.
11 Christopher Page, "The English a cappella Heresy," in Companion to Medieval & Renaissance Music,
ed. Tess Knighton & David Fallows (California: University of California Press, 1992), 25.
(California: University of California Press, 1992), 25.
12 For the history of medieval music performance see: Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of
Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology, Performance.
of the Machaut mass (which was not recorded until 1984) thought that it was one of the
rare times the music had not been mistreated:
There can be few medieval compositions that performers have treated so often
and so badly as Machaut’s Mass. Few of the string of recordings made since
performing editions became widely available in the early 1950s have come
anywhere near doing justice to Machaut’s likely intentions, either historically or
This evangelistic air cannot be ignored: a possible reading could be that in 1977
Machaut was somehow perceived to have been rescued from nearly three decades of
maltreatment and only in 1984 was an honorable performance recorded. The clue to
understanding this change is in the phrase ‘doing justice to Machaut’s likely
intentions…’ that Leech-Wilkinson used. What had so inspired musicians active
between about 1977 and 1984 was a feeling that they were getting closer and closer to
an historically accurate performance. Indeed ‘authentic’ was the word used most
frequently when describing the sort of performances that early music ensembles were
then offering, but it was also a word David Munrow had used several times previously
in the years prior to 1977, when it was a less loaded term and less linked to the ‘likely
intentions’ of composers.
By 1984, such was the groundswell of feeling that Early Music magazine, now
under the editorship of Nicholas Kenyon, produced an issue exploring this very notion
of authenticity. In its pages Richard Taruskin chose to focus on the way the term
‘Authenticity’ was developing into a byword for textual adherence which was at odds
with its old meaning of personal conviction. He felt that those who were dealing ‘with
‘authentic’ interpretation of music approached musical performance with the attitudes
of textual critics, and failed to make the fundamental distinction between music as
13 Leech-Wilkinson, Daniel, "Review: Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut, Taverner
Consort, Andrew Parrott, Taverner Choir; The Mirror of Narcissus by Guillaume de Machaut; Gothic
Voices by Christopher Page " Early Music 12, no. 3 (1984): 411.
tones-in-motion and music as notes-on-page.’14 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson took a more
positive approach explaining how he felt that more musicians were now ‘prepared to
admit that most of what they do in constructing a performance style is—of necessity—
of their own invention.’15 He referred to a paper published five years previously by
Michael Morrow who makes the same point about his own performances.16
It would seem that much had changed in a short a space of time. Fortunately, in
describing their new situation, the musicological community found themselves
comparing it to their old situation; which for the purposes of this thesis might usefully
be thought of as the pre-authenticity era, the era they had just left, and in medieval
music in particular, this was an era dominated by David Munrow and his EMC.
If we can consider, for the moment, that due to his higher profile Munrow is a
key example of part of this perceived pre-1977 generation, invoked by the above quotes,
we could make an argument suggesting that performers post-1977 had begun to see his
style of performances as trivial, gimmicky and unduly hasty. We might also infer from
Taruskin that Munrow may well have been a tones-in-motion sort of performer and,
according to Leech-Wilkinson, he probably would not have admitted readily to his own
inventions.17 It should go without saying that such a line of logic is built on huge
assumptions, since in the examples I have chosen so far no one is actually talking about
Munrow directly. However, such abstract generalizations are one way in which we can
get a feel for the way the next wave of early musicians viewed the pre-authenticity era
of early music.
14 Richard Taruskin, "The Limits of Authenticity: A Contribution," Early Music 12, no. 1 (1984), 4.
15 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, "The Limits of Authenticity: A Contribution," Early Music 12, no. 1 (1984),
16 Michael Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity," Early Music 6, no. 2 (1978).
17 Leech-Wilkinson has since informed me that at the time of writing he mainly had in mind the
Clemencic Consort as an example of those who would not have readily admitted to their own inventions.
He did not think this of Munrow and the EMC. Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, e-mail message to author,
August 18, 2013.
Immediately after David Munrow died there were many obituaries written which
contained kind sentiments and fond memories which acknowledged his celebrity status
and sought to survey achievements. Frequently, writers felt that Munrow had been a
catalyst for early music’s transition to the mainstream. The Times thought that ‘more
than any other musician of the present generation, he had fostered interest, through
precept and practice, in a period that was until a few years ago the province only of
specialists.’18 Bernard Levin, writing in the same newspaper a day later thought that no
one else in his lifetime had ‘so enormously enriched (or, for that matter, enlivened)
Britain’s music-making and music-going.’19 This general feeling of innovation and
change was invoked again when over the weekend that immediately followed his death,
Christopher Hogwood and Arthur Johnson (BBC producer for Munrow’s Pied Piper
series) put together a tribute programme to replace the scheduled transmission. Their
script began by saying:
It’s very rare, I think, to be able to say that one person has been able, almost
single-handed, to change the musical taste of an entire nation.20
And if Hogwood thought that Munrow was influential in redefining the national musical
taste, Howard Mayer Brown knew how Munrow went about it:
The special quality that set David Munrow apart, or so it seems to me, was a rare
combination of abundant musical talent, the energy and skill to organize and
lead other people, and an uncanny ability, given only to a few great teachers, to
convince large numbers of people that what was important and attractive to him
should also be attractive and important to them.21
This idea that Munrow educated his audiences was mooted several times in a
special collection of Tributes to David Munrow in Early Music. Sir Anthony Lewis
(Principal of the Royal Academy of Music) remembered that Munrow’s ‘insistence on
the same (or higher) standards for the execution of medieval and renaissance music as
18 "Obituary: Mr David Munrow," The Times (London), May 17, 1976, 16.
19 Bernard Levin, "Farewell to a friendly Pied Piper," The Times (London), May 18, 1976, 14.
20 "Christopher Hogwood Pays Tribute to the Life and Work of David Munrow," Christopher Hogwood,
Pied Piper, aired May 17, 1976 on BBC radio.
21 Howard Mayer Brown, "Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance: In Memoriam David
Munrow," Early Music 4, no. 3 (1976), 288.
was expected in the repertoire of later periods’ was what made him stand out and he
concluded that Munrow had ‘established a standard that can now never be ignored’.22 It
would also appear that his flair for education was not limited to audiences; performers
were also convinced of the importance of early music and in the case of James
Bowman: ‘He succeeded in convincing me that there would be a future in singing early
music with his consort, and from then onwards I had complete faith in him, which was
never shaken.’23 James Tyler wrote that although early music ‘hitherto had been the
domain of amateurs’ Munrow had infused it with ‘a glittering professionalism’.24 This
was surely the same quality that Jasper Parrott remembered as ‘unsurpassed
professionalism’ and which Andreas Holschneider described as knowing ‘how to bring
the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to life and make it convincing in our
quite different world.’25 Robert Donington felt that after David Munrow’s memorable
performances he did not believe that ‘our notions of the earliest of available great music
will ever be quite the same again’, and Jeremy Noble remembered three key talents of
Munrow as a combination of ‘mastery’ on a range of instruments, ‘intellectually
curiosity […] and the performer’s flair’ with which he presented his findings to ‘diverse
So with Munrow’s passing, we are told by his colleagues and peers, we lost a
great communicator and first-rate performer, a musician who presented the unfamiliar
to the unknowing and convinced them, through a combination of practical mastery and
professionalism, that it was worthy of their attention and deserving of their enjoyment.
He was, in their eyes at least, a pioneer, and perhaps the last pioneer that early music
had on such a scale and the one who laid much of the groundwork for changes felt at the
1976 conference.
22 Anthony Lewis et al., "Tributes to David Munrow," Early Music 4, no. 3 (1976): 376.
23 Ibid., 377.
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid., 378.
Shortly after the obituaries, the post-Munrow early music movement became
preoccupied with new theories of performance, particularly with medieval song, and the
sort of instrument-laden, colourful performances that Munrow pioneered were no longer
considered the closest to authentic. Looking back on Munrow’s work a decade later,
Philip Pickett felt that the world of medieval music had moved on significantly:
There has been a lot of information come to light since the seventies. For
example we know now that instruments did not play a major role in the
performance of Burgundian chanson, either they were sung or they were played
and generally the instruments and the voices were not mixed. That’s just one
example. We [the New London Consort] tend to use women, David used James
Bowman. We know very well that the countertenor had very little to do with
secular performance in the middle ages but we do know now that women had
rather a lot to do with the performance of secular music in the middle ages.26
Here, Pickett was suggesting that new advances of musicology had, within the space of
a decade, outmoded Munrow’s performances. Fast forward another ten years and
Pickett’s views remained unmoved, and if anything were phrased even more strongly:
Many critics who write about today’s performances of early music seem to have
a very rosy picture of what early music was like when David was alive, and I
really wish they would go back and listen to some of those recordings and
compare them with what is being produced by a number of people now because
there is a very great difference in standard, and in approach, and in knowledge
and scholarship. However exciting and new and interesting the work was that
was being done then it falls far short of what’s being done now. So, rosy
spectacles off!27
The subtext to Pickett’s complaint would appear to be that he felt compared to
Munrow’s audiences, fewer people were listening to what was being produced by his
generation; and we can sense Pickett’s frustration as he admitted that Munrow’s
concerts were exciting, new and interesting. Yet in the same programme that Pickett
wanted listeners to remove their rosy spectacles, Christopher Page was keen to point out
that Munrow and his Early Music Consort had not been deliberately misrepresenting
medieval music but rather they ‘were doing exactly what the textbooks at that time,
26 "Knights, Fools and Clerics," Michael Oliver and Philip Pickett, Music in Camera, aired October 12,
1986, on BBC television.
27 Philip Pickett interviewed on: “After Munrow,” Anthony Burton, Early Memories, aired 1992, BBC
Radio 3. British Library Sound Archive reference: H777/01.
such as they were, on performance told them to do’ and that the concept of the Middle
Ages as a time of colourful contrasts had been universally accepted right up until the
end of the 1970s.28
In both broadcasts, the change discussed in medieval performing practice was to
do with the type of chanson that Pickett mentioned above. A cappella performance as
theorized independently by Christopher Page and Craig Wright in 1977 changed the
way medieval song was heard during the 1980s and performances of medieval song
proliferated to a high standard relatively quickly in Britain due to the choral training
provided by cathedral schools and Oxbridge colleges.29 Much the same could be said
about the Oxbridge influence on a cappella renaissance music. John Potter thinks that
the quality of voices from the cathedral tradition also influenced the sound of early
vocal performances:
There has been no revolution in singing to compare with that of instrumental
playing. In England the very musical, Oxbridge-trained light voices adjusted to
the new requirements [of the early music movement] with the minimum of
change in their existing techniques […].30
Thus, it appears that a cappella performances post 1977 were enabled by a body
of suitably skilled people in the right place at the right time. This quintessentially
English sound was already familiar to audiences through the indigenous choral tradition
and now more repertoire was [re]claimed through new theories in musicology.
Although no accusations of carelessness could be levelled at the old
performances for their use of instruments in medieval songs (especially when they
played untexted lines) the one criticism that could be, and often was applied was the use
28 Ibid.
29 Craig Wright, "Voices and Instruments in the Art Music of Northern France during the 15th century: a
Conspectus" (paper presented at the International Musicological Society: Twelfth Congress 1977,
Berkeley, 1981). Christopher Page, "Machaut's 'Pupil' Deschamps on the Performance of Music: Voices
or Instruments in the 14th-Century Chanson," Early Music 5, no. 4 (1977).
30 John Potter, "Recontructing Lost Voices," in Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music, ed. Tess
Knighton and David Fallows (California: University of California Press, 1992), 311.
of anachronistic instrumentation, the ‘crumhorn-with-everything’ approach.31 Despite a
few notable performances of a cappella medieval music, there was no movement to
found an entire school of performance practice based on this setup, and the debate
during Munrow’s lifetime was largely confined to choosing combinations of
instruments in medieval music rather than whether or not to use instruments at all. This
is exemplified in an article by Jeremy Montagu from 1975:
Players must realize that if they use cornets and sackbuts, crumhorns,
rauschpfeife, gemshorns and viols, all of which date from the end of the 15th
century at the earliest, and recorders, which are only a century at the most
earlier, in 12th to 14th century music, they might just as well use oboes, clarinets
and violins.32
Munrow was not immune to the rising tide of this debate. He mentioned it
himself in the introduction to his own book Instruments of the Middle Ages and
Renaissance, the writing of which preoccupied him during most of 1974 and 1975.33
Authenticity to Munrow, for the purposes of his book at least, was at this time largely
concerned with instrumentation (and orchestration) and therefore only the tip of the
iceberg that the early music movement was about to encounter.
David Fallows, however, offered an interesting slant to this debate when he
commented that he felt compelled to:
flesh out a comment that I have found myself making more and more in relation
to statements by younger writers, who seem to think that in those days of the
revival the discussion was entirely of instruments and groupings, not of the
music or the means of musical communication. They could not be more wrong.34
31 This expression, ‘crumhorn with everything’ is drawn from a record review: ‘…but Mr Munrow is at
least honest with his audience. He even explains his sparing use of the crumhorn as a substitute for the
bladder-pipe and douçaine, which is refreshing after some of the crumhorn-with-everything performances
one has heard.’ Richard Rastall, "Review: Music of The Crusades," The Musical Times 113, no. 1549
(1972). It makes reference to the blandness of London’s East End café culture parodied in a popular
British play: Arnold Wesker, Chips With Everything: A Play in Two Acts, (London: J. Cape, 1962).
32 Jeremy Montagu, "Talking Points-1: The 'Authentic' Sound of Early Music," Early Music 3, no. 3
(1975): 243. Considering the frequent use of crumhorns in medieval music by Musica Reservata, this
comment is not without irony.
33 David Munrow, Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
34 David Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s: Michael Morrow and Thomas
Binkley," in Essays in Honor of Laszlo Somfai on His 70th Birthday: Studies in the Sources and the
Interpretation of Music, eds., Laszlo Vikarius and Vera Lampert (Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2005), 51.
And this is an important warning that despite the almost total acceptance of the theory
of instrumental participation in medieval music, such concerns are not to be thought of
as occluding musical communication in other ways such as phrasing, tuning and diction.
The early music revival cannot be reduced to neatly compartmentalized arguments.
Munrow’s Place in Early Music Histories
In 1988, some twelve years after Munrow’s book hit the shelves, Nicholas
Kenyon discussed authenticity for the first time in a book-format. As editor of Early
Music magazine he had already presided over a special issue devoted to this topic in
February 1984 but he clearly felt that ‘the search for original styles of performance’
needed further explanation since it had already ‘brought about a sea-change in our
listening habits’.35 That Munrow was the first performing artist to be discussed in detail
in Kenyon’s introduction to his Authenticity symposium testified to the importance that
Kenyon attached to The Early Music Consort of London which he saw as having
‘galvanized audiences’ with its ‘highly professionalized skills and invigorating
performance style’ and as having displayed a ‘conviction and an enthusiasm that won
people over […]’36
But what did Kenyon mean when he said ‘it was not as purveyors of “authentic
performance” [his quotes] that the consort won such a following among audiences’?
Did he mean to imply that Munrow was therefore not interested in authenticity? Kenyon
went on to explain that in this case ‘scholarly certainty came second to the performer’s
instinct’ and quotes Christopher Hogwood remembering ‘There just wasn’t enough
evidence for all the things we were doing…It was just one invention on top of another
all the time’. These comments paint a picture of Munrow as a highly instinctual
35 Nicholas Kenyon, ed,. Authenticity and Early Music: A Symposium (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1988), 1.
36 Ibid., 3.
musician who was seeking inspiration in the textures of the music and liberally
enhancing the advice given by musicology as it was practised at that time. Soon enough
Howard Mayer Brown reintroduced Munrow’s now familiar leitmotif—that of
evangelism—when he described the foundation of the Early Music Consort of London
as being ‘the decisive event in the popularization of early music.’37
1988 was also the year in which Harry Haskell, an American journalist and
record critic, published the first attempt at an overview of the revival of interest in early
music in the twentieth century. Haskell took a broad view of the movement starting in
the nineteenth century with Mendelssohn’s performance of the Bach St Matthew
Passion in 1829 and ending with the Academy of Ancient Music’s recording of Mozart
Symphonies in the early 1980s. Despite such a sweeping time-span (in just 197 pages)
Haskell devoted several paragraphs to Thurston Dart whom he considered to have
‘galvanized Britain’s early music community much as Noah Greenberg did on the other
side of the Atlantic.’38 He also observed that Dart was a ‘maverick’ who brought new
standards of academic rigour to the performance of early music by combining the two
disciplines in his own career. His role as a soloist with the Boyd Neel Orchestra and
also with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields has a special mention.
Elsewhere Haskell drew a short comparison between Munrow and Gustav
Leonhardt whom he described as ‘disparate personalities’ united in inspiring a younger
generation of early musicians.39 Again, Greenberg was invoked as a charismatic
personality to whom Munrow may be likened but Haskill was at his most candid when
he said of Munrow:
37 Howard Mayer Brown, "Pedantry or Liberation?", in Authenticity and Early Music: A Symposium, ed.
Nicholas Kenyon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 48.
38 Harry Haskell, The Early Music Revival: A History (New York: Dover Publications, 1996), 162.
39 Ibid., 163.
Indeed, his penchant for showmanship—and the often controversial
inventiveness he displayed in doctoring up old music—marked him out as the
American’s natural successor.40
Haskell appears to have suggested that in this aspect of performance practice we
see how Munrow picked up where Greenberg left off when he died in 1966.
Showmanship, as we shall see, is a watchword in discussions of Munrow. However,
despite the pertinence of some of his remarks, there is still an argument to be made for
reading this volume lightly simply because it is such a long-range overview. As
Elizabeth Roche shrewdly put it:
Criticism, though, is not one of Haskell’s primary concerns, and neither is
detailed consideration of the precise repertories cultivated by the many
performers he mentions. This is particularly regrettable in […] developments
since the 1950s – we are left, for instance, with no clear idea of what music the
Early Music Consort of London actually performed so brilliantly, nor of how
their repertory differed from that of the Consort of Musicke.41
One might therefore read Haskell more as a basic chronology of early music
performance in the twentieth century, a roughly hewn path through the meshwork of the
early music revival, rather than a critical overview. Repertoire, Roche suggests, will be
key to understanding Munrow’s work.
A few years later in 1992 an eclectic collection of essays entitled Companion to
Mediaeval and Renaissance Music was published. Taking something of a maverick
stance from the very outset, Fallows explained the editorial decision: ‘the time was right
for a much more informal approach, outlining some of the ideas that are alive at the
moment’, and this both identified and celebrated the air of candour that pervaded the
text as a result of loosening academic frameworks. This is not to suggest that the
collection did not uphold academic standards, but rather that it deliberately courted
subjectivity. Indeed, what makes this collection so interesting today is that alongside
researchers, musicologists and philosophers of music were contributions from a number
40 Ibid., 164.
41 Elizabeth Roche, "Reviews of Books. Early Music: Its Revival and Interpretation," Music & Letters 70,
no. 3 (1989): 383.
of performers who previously had less opportunity, or likely inclination, to voice ideas
and opinions in print.42
The first group of essays bears a title ‘The music of the past and the modern ear’
and it is in this group that Munrow is mentioned most frequently. Both Christopher
Page and Tess Knighton group the same four ensembles together that David Fallows
mentioned back in 1977. Page refered to the directors of these groups as ‘miraculous
individuals’ because they did much to create faith in the orthodox view of medieval
performance practice’.43 That orthodox view, Page went on to explain, was the use of
anachronistic instruments (those crumhorns again) in music by Machaut and Dufay for
textless parts. He also suggested that the performances ‘pursued a linear rather than a
harmonic ideal.’ The very point of assigning such individual sound-colours to each line
was, in fact, primarily to aid the listener’s linear experience of the performance. He
further added that these ensembles generated such different performance styles that ‘it is
a heresy of a different sort to speak of [them] as if they shared some manifesto of style’.
Continuing further in this group of essays, Tess Knighton mused on the deeply
inauthentic nature inherent in recorded sound when considering music which predated
recording technology itself. Nevertheless, echoing similar comments made by Noah
Greenberg in the 1960s, she acknowledged the huge importance of record companies in
the financing and promotion of early music ensembles in the early days of the revival:
the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.44 Knighton tied together key influences: the roots of the
early music revival in the arts-and-crafts movement, the quest for novel sounds and the
authenticity bestowed on the resulting performances back when they had been preserved
on vinyl. These three reasons, she surmised, came together to present an enduring view
42 Tess Knighton and David Fallows, eds., Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music (California:
University of California Press, 1992).
43 Page, "The English a cappella Heresy," 23.
44 Tess Knighton, "Going Down on Record," In Companion to Medieval & Renaissance Music, ed. Tess
Knighton & David Fallows (California: University of California Press, 1992), 30. This mirrors comments
in: Noah Greenberg, "Early Music Performance Today," in Aspects of Medieval & Renaissance Music: A
Birthday Offering to Gustave Reese, ed. Jan LaRue (New York: Norton, 1966), 315.
of the Middle Ages which began to take on a life of its own. Of course, Huizinga’s The
Waning of the Middle Ages had its place in this story too; and as we shall see later on in
this thesis that particular popular history book did much to fuel an idea of the period as
one of vibrant contrasts such as courtly love and plagues. ‘Morrow and his colleagues
were ever aware of the pitfalls of aiming at the true or authentic reproduction of the
original sounds’, Knighton tells us before explaining that they could never have
predicted the power of the authenticity illusion to sell records towards the end of the
Perhaps the most pertinent observation that Knighton offered was that a byproduct
of the relative permanence of a recorded performance was that it demanded a
higher performance standard to ensure repeatable value for the listener. The
imperfections of a live performance could not go unnoticed on multiple hearings so the
four ensembles headed by Greenberg, Binkley, Morrow and Munrow were careful to
minimize them. The generation after inherited these new standards and then began to
specialize, or as Philip Pickett put it:
for more than a decade after Munrow’s death, a number of small, low-profile
ensembles (often devoting themselves to one short period in music history)
vanished into their garrets to discover what the music itself was about rather
than developing the personalities to project it.45
Philip Pickett even suggested a line of succession within the four groups when
he claimed that David Munrow was ‘building on and refining the pioneering work of
[…] New York Pro Musica, Studio der frühen Musik and Musica Reservata’.46 He also
pointed to other earlier groups as a catalyst for Munrow’s successes. And, of course, he
was in agreement with Haskell here in deducing that the early music movement had
many antecedents, but Munrow’s style had direct influences too; and it is these
influences that are identified and explored in this thesis.
45 Philip Pickett, "Hard-Sell, Scholarship and Silly Titles," In Companion to Medieval & Renaissance
Music, ed. Tess Knighton & David Fallows (California: University of California Press, 1992), 48.
46 Ibid., 49.
Whilst Pickett was a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in
London he also attended classes and lectures given by Munrow at the Royal Academy
of Music and Gill Munrow also remembered Pickett coming to their house for private
lessons. Such close contact lends weight to Pickett’s understanding of Munrow’s
practice. In his own essay for this anthology he mentioned that in the post-Munrow era
early music groups eventually rediscovered familiar works as a more commercially
viable prospect than the archaeology of unknown works. According to Pickett, these
‘academic debates and wrangles’ had actually begun in the last period of Munrow’s
activities, but it was not until after his death that it was discovered ‘scholarship and
musical competence’ were not enough to sustain public interest.47 What had so
interested the public about Munrow’s approach then? Pickett implied it was Munrow’s
personality, which he used to project the works, operating in conjunction with the
novelty of early music. Presumably Pickett felt that Munrow’s personality (rather than
his performances) was irreplaceable and that the novelty of early music and early
instruments waned in the late 1970s so that a repeat of success on a Munrow scale was
unlikely to be possible by the same approach. Pickett also tells us that Munrow was
incredibly skilled at concert programming and this is a topic touched on many times in
broadcast interviews with EMC performers although rarely reflected in print. Pickett
explained how Munrow built ‘cohesive’ programmes from many short pieces and
summed them up with a title ‘which meant more to an audience than any number of
erudite programme notes.’48
Almost a decade after the publication of Companion to Medieval & Renaissance
Music, right at the end of the twentieth century a book was written by Timothy Day
47 Ibid.
48 Ibid.
looking back over a century of recorded music.49 The survey is valuable for both its
musicological observation and its analysis of external influences such as financial
factors, market trends and technological limitations. Yet, even in a book as broad as
this, Munrow still occupied a notable position. Like many of the writings we have
already encountered, Day attested that a large part of the acceptance won by early music
was due to the fastidious preparation and exciting presentation of performances on LP
by David Munrow. One strand of Day’s argument explores how the larger record
companies were reluctant to record unknown repertoire and wary of music pre-Bach,
factors which only serve to make Munrow’s contract with EMI all the more remarkable.
Later in his book, Day undertook a short survey of fourteenth-century chansons
where we again encounter the work of Munrow as Day considers how a performance of
Machaut was constructed. Quoting from liner-notes, Day noted that Munrow
deliberately set out to draw attention to bold contrasts in the middle ages leading Day to
point out that such an ‘encapsulation of the age’ is ‘clearly derived from the picture
powerfully represented in […] The Waning of the Middle Ages’.50 The chapter then
went on to trace the work of Gustave Reese in the Machaut performances of
Greenberg’s New York Pro Musica and compare the resulting soundworld with
Huizinga also.
A few of the works cited so far have a particular link: a head of steam
surrounding the changing practice of performance in medieval song. The remarks in
Christopher Page’s essay on a cappella performance were touched on again by Timothy
Day.51 Such a line of investigation repeatedly brings us back to Daniel Leech-
Wilkinson’s The Modern Invention of Medieval Music which collated and analysed the
49 Timothy Day, A Century of Recorded Music: Listening to Musical History (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 2000).
50 Ibid., 175.
51 Brown, "Pedantry or Liberation?." Also: Page, "The English a cappella Heresy." And: Day, A Century
of Recorded Music.
scholarly discussion surrounding the performance of medieval music from the
nineteenth century until the last decade of the twentieth.52 He showed that performers,
on the whole, followed the advice of the academic community of their time and that, in
turn, convincing performances inspired further academic research. Whereas medieval
music was thought to be dominated by vocal performance in the nineteenth century, the
research and the personalities of key musicologists exerted such substantial influence
over the musical world that by the mid-twentieth century it was almost a unanimous
conclusion that the music was largely instrumental, or as Christopher Page put it in
The modern performer of Machaut is encouraged to believe by almost all
authorities that the untexted tenor and contratenor lines of the polyphonic
chansons were rendered instrumentally. Recordings and concert performances
show that this view commands complete acceptance.53
Munrow’s short career occupied the high point of that era of acceptance yet also
ushered in the twilight.
In March 2005, whilst he was director of the BBC Proms, Nicholas Kenyon
returned to the topic of Munrow in his Leverhulme Memorial Lecture for the University
of Liverpool, the first of its kind entirely devoted to music. During that lecture, Back to
What Future?: Musical Tradition in an Age of Anxiety, Kenyon encouraged his
audience to appreciate opportunities that can blossom in a time of ‘seismic changes’ to
classical music and he highlighted in particular the area of repertory, funding and the
impact of cultural shifts on our understanding and enjoyment of music. ‘For
generations, we wrote the story of music as the history of compositions’ he said, as he
described the CHARM project (Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music)
and concluded that ‘[T]he history of music’s performance and reception is one that we
52 Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music.
53 Page, "Machaut's 'Pupil' Deschamps on the Performance of Music: Voices or Instruments in the 14th-
Century Chanson", 484.
should be aware of now.’54 His speech was the history of performance in microcosm.
Kenyon sketched out the rise and fall of the canon and laid importance on radio as the
chief factor in disseminating many different forms of music to a wide public: ‘World
music from five continents became as available as music from next door.’55 The impact
of radio and recording created an idea that music was ‘a bran tub to be plundered at
will,’ and one of the consequences of all that musical choice was the revival of early
music.56 David Munrow, according to Kenyon, ‘flashed across the musical scene with
[…] brilliance’, and Kenyon also drew a contrast between Munrow’s interpretations of
pieces we didn’t previously know and those of Hogwood and Pinnock who interpreted
pieces ‘we thought we knew’. This comment is one which further exemplifies
Munrow’s posthumous reputation as a pioneer.
A more modern study of the broad trends in early music performance of the
twentieth century by Vincenzo Borghetti looked at characteristics within each decade of
the latter half of the century, using fashion as an analogy. His description ‘Gli anni
Cinquanta: il Medioevo in doppiopetto grigio’ [The fifties: the Middle Ages in doublebreasted
gray] sought to cast the pre-Munrow era as akin to a sonic museum, preserving
music in recorded sound with minimal performer intervention.57 He argued that the
Oxford University Press History of Music in Sound and the series published by Archiv
Produktion were both authoritative and austere. Yet by the next decade medieval music
was inextricably linked to the hippy-like presentation of Musica Reservata: ‘Gli anni
Sessanta: il Medioevo in sandali di Michael Morrow’ [The Sixties: The Middle Ages in
Sandals - Michael Morrow].58 Borghetti focuses on the folk music links with the 1960s
54 Nicholas Kenyon, "Back to What Future? Musical Tradition in an Age of Anxiety," (Leverhulme
Memorial Lecture, University of Liverpool, March 15, 2005). Accessed July 8, 2008.
55 Ibid.
56 Ibid.
57 Vincenzo Borghetti, "Purezza e trasgressione: il suono del Medioevo dagli anni Cinquanta ad oggi",
Semicerchio XLIV, no. 1 (2011): 38.
58 Ibid., 42.
as an overriding feature of early music performance practice in that decade and although
he doesn’t mention Munrow in this part of his paper, his implication is clear: early
music in the 1960s was linked to the folk movement. Furthermore, Borghetti draws
parallels between the immediacy of folk singing and Roland Barthes’ concept of ‘grain’
which he also invokes as he describes the performances of Musica Reservata under
Michael Morrow.
Kailan Rubinoff, in one of the most recent papers to be published about the early
music revival, also uses this fashion-hook for her paper: ‘A Revolution in Sheep's Wool
Stockings: Early Music and '1968'.’59 Here Rubinoff focuses on the concept of a ‘social
movement’ within early music as much as a musical school of thought. She too focuses
on the cliché of Birkenstock sandals and brown rice images but observes that the 1960s
social movement in early music predates the very hippy culture that we often associate
it with. Her focus on the year 1968 with such landmarks as Harnoncourt’s recording of
the Bach B Minor Mass is also of great interest since this is the year that Munrow really
began to work with his EMC on a regular basis. Rubinoff’s twin consideration of
Munrow and Harnoncourt is an observation that began with Haskell and one which
(inadvertently and revealingly) downplays the influence of Musica Reservata.60 That
she fails to mention the work of Michael Morrow and Musica Reservata pits her paper
against the work of Borghetti and further highlights the need for investigative work in
this area.
Two new studies, inspired partly by the 40th anniversary celebrations of a
number of key early music ensembles founded in 1973, were published in 2013. First,
an essay by Elizabeth Upton which explored the contemporary nature of early music
59 Kailan Rubinoff, "A Revolution in Sheep's Wool Stockings: Early Music and '1968' " in Music and
Protest in 1968, ed. Beate Kutschke and Barley Norton, Music Since 1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univerity Press, 2013).
60 Haskell, The Early Music Revival: A History.
through the training of musicians and their links to the pop word of the 1960s.61 Here,
Upton distinguished four phases of the early music revival: ‘The postwar baroque
revival’, ‘original-instruments’, ‘older, extinct instruments’ and ‘unaccompanied, oneon-
a-part vocal music’.62 Upton also drew important parallels with the sounds of
popular music and the sounds of early music finding that these two movements were
united in moving away from operatic norms. Secondly, Nick Wilson’s book-length
survey of the early music movement was a conscious exploration of the ‘class of ‘73’ as
he dubbed them; ensembles founded in the wake of David Munrow’s success.63 Wilson
observed finer-grained divisions in the early music movement from 1960 onwards by
plotting the formation dates of each ensemble onto a table used to identify clusters of
activity.64 Wilson’s critical realist approach sought to answer the why then questions as
much as the what when questions. He, necessarily, looked for practically adequate
explanations for events whilst keeping the description as thick as possible within
By focusing on just one ‘phase’ of the revival, and within that phase just
Munrow and the EMC, I have an even narrower field than Wilson and other recent
studies so that the aim here is for this thesis to provide a thicker description than we
have had before, and one which is near-exhaustive of the sources that are currently
available in the public domain.
So, as we see from this brief survey of the early music revival literature,
observations from many sources can offer grist-to-the-mill as we build up a picture of
David Munrow and his era since they show a consistent preoccupation with
remembering David Munrow and a similar concern to immortalize his enthusiasm for
61 Elizabeth Upton, "Concepts of Authenticity in Early Music and Popular Music Communities,"
Ethnomusicology Review 17, (2012). Accessed October 10, 2013.
62 Ibid., 4.
63 Nick Wilson, The Art of Re-enchantment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
64 Wilson actually uses Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man from ‘As You Like It’ to describe the seven
divisions he finds. Ibid., 23.
medieval music, popularity and commercial success. They also highlight other
musicians, suggesting that a web of influences lies behind the work of the EMC.
Munrow and the EMC were the subject of many reviews for both their live and
recorded performances. Many such reviews are incorporated into this thesis as part of
the biography and case studies chapters. However, three articles from the British press,
which can be considered as general opinion pieces, stand out for particular attention.
The first was an early biographical piece in The Guardian by Meirion Bowen
entitled It’s a Sweet Rackett.65 Written shortly after Munrow had recorded Two
Renaissance Dance Bands, it was used frequently for publicity purposes by the agents
Harrison/Parrott Ltd and as such is found as a cutting in both the BBC and EMI
archives. Bowen began his piece by recalling their first meeting when Munrow’s cheeky
sense of humour was on display as he giggled whilst playing his bassoon at a 1962
vicarage tea party. A little later in the article, Peru and Thurston Dart were listed as key
influences as was the lecture recital series which Bowen mentioned as being released on
an LP: The Mediaeval Sound.66 He also talked about the larger canvas of Munrow’s
Renaissance Festival concerts and the constant rescoring of a suite of Susato dances
which Munrow made famous. Yet Bowen was compelled to note the less glamorous
side of scholarship as he details that Munrow supplemented his income by teaching at
Leicester University because the research and preparation time for each concert was so
huge that profits rarely outweighed investment. The article ended with an appreciation
of the help that Gill Munrow provided.
65 Meirion Bowen, "It's a Sweet Rackett," Arts Guardian (London), March 5, 1971.
66 David Munrow, Gillian Reid, and Christopher Hogwood, The Mediaeval Sound: David Munrow
Introduces Early Woodwind Instruments, Oryx / Peerless EXP46, 1970, LP.
It is an interesting and revealing piece for two reasons. Firstly as an early
biography it lends emphasis to the influence and guidance of Thurston Dart and the
success of the lecture recitals which are frequently overlooked in posthumous pieces,
and secondly because we catch a sense of the little-known territory Munrow was
exploring even in later repertoire such as renaissance dance bands. Bowen could not
help but betray his amazement that renaissance music could be so robust and so loud, a
factor that is hard to recapture today.
In May 1974 Alan Blyth interviewed Munrow for Gramophone and in just three
years the whole atmosphere of the piece was entirely different. Munrow was in the
process of releasing two albums as a soloist: Munrow & Marriner for EMI and The
Amorous Flute. He said of the latter:
We set out on the rather difficult task of recording a programme of English
music that was popular in London at the beginning of the eighteenth century,
using instruments of almost exactly that time, which were by English makers
with the exception of the theorbo, and trying to find out something more about
the music by using these instruments. The disc includes another rarity –
Handel’s familiar F major recorder sonata but with original eighteenth-century
ornamentation taken from a barrel-organ version. It’s all very elaborate, and we
may well be shot down for doing it.67
The resulting record bore the legend ‘using original instruments of the period’ and
clearly this was an important selling point for the music and the first such explicit
mention on one of Munrow’s records.68 However, we should be wary of reading too
much into the emphasis on original instruments in this interview, Munrow always
promoted his current projects to maximize publicity as we see particularly in BBC radio
interviews that now form part of the British Library Sound Archive collections. What is
unusual about this interview, however, is the number of important topics that it touched
on so briefly; it leaves the reader with a sense that Munrow was manically busy,
especially when he commented that he collected about twenty or thirty folk records each
67 Alan Blyth, "David Munrow talks to Alan Blyth," Gramophone, May 1974, 2009.
68 David Munrow, The Amorous Flute: David Munrow Plays Popular Music from Early Eighteenth
Century London, Argo (Decca) ZRG 746. 1974. LP.
time he undertook a foreign tour and he enjoyed using these rare records to build Pied
Piper programmes. From the miscellaneous observations that are used to join the main
interview topics we learn that Munrow enjoyed all aspects of records from the
performances, presentation and notes and that he was involved in all of these stages
himself when he made one of his own records, so much so in fact that he estimated the
performance to take only about 10% of the total production effort. Again we hear of the
influence of Thurston Dart who lent Munrow his first crumhorn and also of meeting
James Bowman and being instantly drawn to his voice on first hearing. He also said that
he admired the voices of Cleo Laine and Alfred Deller.
Most revealingly, though, Munrow mentioned that he felt academic textbooks
on early music ‘don’t actually bring you near to the music’ and he went on to say that as
a result of this, performers invariably disagreed about performance practice although in
his opinion they would all ‘be much better off if there were fewer axes being ground.’69
Munrow returned to this point at the end of the interview when he talked about music
Sometimes I just feel the arrows being sharpened by the specialists, so that you
get to the stage that you write programme notes almost to pluck out the barbs in
advance. I prefer those who come to try and enjoy the performances, rather than
indulging in one-upmanship.70
Munrow’s sensitivity to criticism was perhaps at its peak when he was most busy: this
interview must have taken place during 1974 when Munrow was writing his book,
Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which we know from correspondence
in the EMI archive was a difficult process and one which was much delayed. In many
respects it is apparent in this interview that Munrow was feeling pressure from the
demands of his timetable and from his critics. What is surprising here is that Munrow
69 Blyth, "David Munrow Talks to Alan Blyth," 2010.
70 Ibid.
implied he did not see himself as a specialist, which is at odds with his public image;
perhaps this was another device calculated to tame criticism?
The final example of journalism I wish to consider occurred also in May of 1974
in The Times newspaper. Bernard Levin wrote an opinion piece in which he suggested
that even despite the ‘unmeasured riches […] so lovingly exhumed, restored and played
by Mr David Munrow and his Early Music Consort’ there was an ‘incredible failure of
human achievement’ regarding musical composition before Monteverdi.71 In an
unapologetically unsubstantiated argument Levin first claimed that there were no
musicians of note from the ages of ‘Homer, Plato Aristotle, Phidias, Aeschylus, […]
Ovid, Petrarch, Dante, Boccacio, […] Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Cellini, […] Chaucer, […]
Botticelli, Dürer, Giorgione, Titian, Raphael, Veronese, Breughel, El Greco, Cervantes
and Shakespeare.’ He claimed this phenomenon was ‘so amazing, so utterly beyond
theoretical or plausible explanation’ yet did not consider that maybe simply not enough
was known about the music to stand up to his accusation.
I include this example not just because it mentioned Munrow by name, but
rather because it was an article written by a columnist who regularly covered Munrow’s
concerts in the national press. A month later for instance, writing about the Aldeburgh
Festival, Levin described the Early Music Consort as ‘an extraordinary group of young
musicians, led by a cherubic infant named David Munrow’ and that their performance
which was ‘of the very highest standard’ was played on what appeared ‘to include a
draining-board, an umbrella-handle, a stuffed snake, a flagpole, a Christmas pudding
and a wooden leg’.72 Perhaps this sort of willful ignorance was one of the things that
Munrow felt so determined to battle against. Whereas Levin assumed an air of good
humour in his article he could not help but betray the fact that he was reflecting popular
opinion as he perceived it; and this was just the sort of opinion Munrow spent much of
71 Bernard Levin, "Whatever Happened to the Sound of Music?," The Times (London), May 28, 1974, 12.
72 Bernard Levin, "A Festival of Sweetness and Light," The Times (London), June 28, 1974, 18.
his creative life overturning. That Bernard Levin was to present a television tribute
programme to David Munrow the following year only illustrates how successful both
Munrow and his Early Music Consort of London were in their quest.
Documentary and Obituary
It was only a few months later in 1976, shortly after Munrow’s death, that
Bernard Levin presented his tribute on BBC television. Although he was not a musician
himself, Levin seemed genuinely interested in early music and claimed to be grateful
for the introduction to it that Munrow’s concerts had provided. This programme had
two main interview guests, James Bowman and Christopher Hogwood, and also
contained filmed tributes from Sir Anthony Lewis, André Previn and Julian Bream.
These interviews provided important biographical material drawn on in chapter 3.
Of the many radio broadcasts preserved by the BBC Information & Archives
repository, a special tribute programme made by Christopher Hogwood just a few days
after Munrow died is of particular interest.73 Being a replacement for the usual Pied
Piper broadcast that evening, the tribute was only 19 minutes long and contained
several substantial musical excerpts. In his presentation script, Hogwood remembered
meeting Munrow at university and the foundation of the Early Music Consort of
London. The BBC also made an hour-long programme presented by Michael Oliver on
the first anniversary of Munrow’s death in 1977.74 This programme was a more in-depth
biographical study of Munrow’s life and traced previously unheard details about his
schooldays and his gap year in South America. Interviewees included Bill Oddie
(comedian, a schoolmate of Munrow), his headmaster in Birmingham and the
Headmaster at Markham College, Peru where Munrow was general factotum during his
73 Hogwood, "Christopher Hogwood Pays Tribute to the Life and Work of David Munrow. (A
replacement programme for Pied Piper)."
74 "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC radio.
gap year; also Guy Woolfenden (Royal Shakespeare Wind Band) and John Willan (EMI
In 1992, during what would have been Munrow’s fiftieth birthday year, Anthony
Burton presented a similar tribute programme which focused more closely on the
musical contribution that David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London made
and less on the biographical details.75 Guests were James Bowman, Christopher
Hogwood, David Fallows, Christopher Page and Philip Pickett. Roy Goodman was also
interviewed and several other BBC programmes were used in excerpt including an
interview on Woman’s Hour with Munrow himself and a private recording of the
EMC’s first Wigmore Hall concert.76 The focus of the conversation was initially on the
instruments used by Munrow and the extent to which the anachronistic use of
renaissance and baroque instruments in medieval music detracted from the value of the
performances. Christopher Page argued that by using instruments for untexted lines of
medieval songs Munrow was simply following the advice of his time, but James
Bowman remembered how Munrow would ‘spice up’ instrumentation to serve
He did a little bit extra because he was a showman. […] He wanted to put this
stuff across to an unsuspecting public and that was the way to do it in his
opinion and I think he jolly well succeeded.77
That the public was ‘unsuspecting’ drove a discussion of how the programming
for the ensemble was wide and varied. Christopher Page summed up the way in which
new advances in musicology and performance had outdated Munrow’s style of
I think we have genuinely advanced in our understanding of how to perform this
kind of music such that if you do combine, let’s say […] early 14th century
pieces with early 15th century ones, you begin to realize that you just can’t make
both kinds of music work in one programme; they require to be phrased
75 Burton, After Munrow.
76 "David Munrow," Sue MacGregor, Woman's Hour, aired September 3, 1975, on BBC Radio.
77 James Bowman speaking on: Burton, After Munrow.
differently, to be tuned differently, the whole approach is different. So I think as
we learn more and more about the music, it becomes increasingly important to
narrow, as it were, the band unless you’ve got extremely versatile musicians
who can traverse different styles, different methods of intonation and so on, in
one concert. 78
Pickett was highlighting his adherence to the authenticity concept; for him, once
he is aware of a musicological development it must be incorporated into his
performance to make the resulting event viable, whereas he suggested that Munrow was
not aware of such fine details. Elsewhere, Page invoked the ‘rumbustuous’ image of the
Middle Ages that was once common and found echoes of that ‘medieval-banquet, rosycheeked-
wench, sucking-pig view of the medieval past’ in some of Munrow’s
performances, especially in those by Machaut. This latter stance taken by Page is
discussed in more detail in his book: Discarding Images.79
In 2006 it was the thirtieth anniversary of Munrow’s death and Jeremy
Summerly made a programme for the BBC which was recorded in the Royal Academy
of Music.80 His guests were David Fallows, James Bowman and Jasper Parrot. The
programme took the form of a fond reminiscence with Summerly explaining what an
important influence Munrow had had on his own career. Jasper Parrot spoke about the
importance of Peru on Munrow’s musical development and how it kick-started his
curiosity for folk instruments and instrumental techniques. James Bowman agreed and
remembered a photograph of The Early Music Consort of London in ‘Egypt all dressed
up in costume parading around the pyramids on camels and [Munrow is] playing a
shawm; with all those bemused gentlemen who try and sell you things around the
78 Christopher Page speaking on: Burton, After Munrow.
79 Christopher Page, Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1994).
80 "Mr Munrow, His Study," Jeremy Summerly, The Archive Hour, aired January 7, 2006, on BBC Radio.
81 James Bowman speaking on: ibid.
Although the musical treatment is lighter in this programme than in Burton’s
1992 broadcast, Summerly did draw attention to the enormous impact of The Art of the
Netherlands on later generations of early musicians.82 Sally Dunkley was interviewed
and recalled being asked to take part in the recording sessions:
I was just setting out on trying to make a career as a professional singer and I
was absolutely amazed to pick up the phone one day and find David Munrow on
the other end of it and even more amazed then to find myself being invited to do
a recording session with the Early Music Consort. It was in the EMI Studio One
and it was for a couple of tracks on The Art of the Netherlands recording and I
was overawed actually to find myself standing alongside an extremely
distinguished company of consort singers.83
Dunkley conveyed something of the celebrity that surrounded that consort of
singers in the early music community by 1975. Her observations were a springboard for
a more biographical discussion of Munrow’s life and work including important
interviews with Shirley Collins and Ken Russell who both collaborated on projects with
These interviews indicate that Munrow’s influence on his own generation, and
indeed those of the next generation, was palpable. The tone of the radio documentary by
Jeremy Summerly in particular also suggests that his influence has waned since the mid
1990s as fewer young musicians remember Munrow or his records. Also, we see that
Munrow literature, and to a certain extent the literature of the early music revival as
well, continues to be written by a generation of musicians and musicologists either
contemporaneous with Munrow or who grew up listening to Munrow and the EMC.
Therefore, reflection has tended to draw on personal experience rather than specific
aspects of performance practice.
82 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of the Netherlands, EMI (His Master's
Voice) SLS 5049, 1975. 3 LPs.
83 Sally Dunkley interviewed on: Summerly, "Mr Munrow, His Study."
Writings by David Munrow
As a performer David Munrow was a woodwind specialist who had a particular
talent for playing older instruments. His student, and later colleague, Philip Pickett once
referred to him as the ‘little man with the red face who epitomized early music...’84
Christopher Hogwood, too, remembered that he was ‘[v]ery often rather red in the face
[from …] of course, blowing wind instruments.’ But added ‘I don’t think it was ever
quite as dangerous as it looked.’85 Yet despite his specialization with wind instruments
Munrow was interested in the history of all types of instruments and through his many
lecture-recitals and broadcasts began to become a public voice in the field of
organology. When David Munrow began his joint project with OUP and EMI to
produce a book and recordings to guide listeners through the work of old instruments he
could have had no idea that it would take more than two years to come to fruition. His
original pitch to EMI said:
this project aims to satisfy the ever-growing curiosity about the sounds of the
Middle Ages and Renaissance. It will be the first comprehensive collection of its
kind, enabling listeners to hear and compare the extraordinary richness and
variety of early instruments, some of them recorded here for the first time.86
The book was much delayed due to the deaths of first Munrow’s father-in-law
and then his father between Christmas 1974 and the beginning of 1975. The deadline
for the completion of the manuscript was finally extended to the end of May 1975, and
the book published by Oxford University Press in 1976. It was available either
separately or in a boxed set with two LPs that contained related material. Due to a
84 Pickett, "Hard-Sell, Scholarship and Silly Titles," 48.
85 Christopher Hogwood interviewed by Bernard Levin: Bernard Levin, "David Munrow," produced by
Walter Todds, aired June 27, 1976, on BBC Television.
86 David Munrow to Christopher Bishop, May 1, 1973, David Munrow Artist File, EMI Archives,
printing error, some of the books had black-and-white covers whilst others were
available in colour but whether or not one chose to buy the book alone or as part of the
set, it was LP-sized so it could fit in the box; another illustration of Munrow’s
educational zeal. Most revealing was the decision that Munrow made when authoring
his book to divide it into two sections: The Middle Ages, and The Renaissance. This
was in stark contrast to some of his earlier performing practices where he had, for
instance, used crumhorns in medieval pieces.87 Indeed, Munrow explicitly
acknowledged this in his preface when he wrote:
The division of the book into two parts (before and after c. 1400) is intended to
show which instruments properly belong to the Middle Ages and which to the
Renaissance, a fundamental point that, through the enthusiasm of early music
performers (including myself), has sometimes been overlooked.88
This introduction suggests, from the outset, something of a manifesto for the
book and, as readers, such candour encourages us to understand Munrow’s comments as
both a summation of an earlier philosophy and a portent for a future direction. By
acknowledging and chastising his past anachronisms he promised a more authentic
future. Christopher Hogwood described it as ‘a popular and well-illustrated book that
incorporated and assessed current thinking on organology, combining musicological
tenacity with player’s insight.’89 Well-illustrated the finished publication certainly was,
and in the RAM archive the many files relating to this publication attest to the lengths to
which Munrow went to source the best pictures. So obsessed was he with the level of
detail that an editor for Oxford University Press wrote ‘[David Munrow’s] introduction
87 An example of this is Munrow’s scoring of an Italian 14th-century Saltarello for soprano crumhorn and
tambourine. S1, B8: Munrow, Reid, and Hogwood, The Mediaeval Sound: David Munrow Introduces
Early Woodwind Instruments.
88 Munrow, Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 4.
89 Christopher Hogwood, "Munrow, David John (1942–1976)", Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Accessed October 10, 2012. http://0-
is twice as long as agreed. Every page is full-to-bursting so important bibliographical
details are now having to be incorporated into the text.’90
Munrow’s approach to this book was as an amalgamator of existing scholarship,
mixed with his own knowledge of folk instruments and experience as a performer. The
research in his pages did not claim to offer anything new as such, but rather Munrow
attempted to tread a path through the available information. What is interesting to
modern-day readers is Munrow’s own introduction where he acknowledged the main
sources for his research. He divided this introduction into eight sections. In ‘Original
Instruments’ he drew attention to Frederick Crane’s survey Extant Medieval
Instruments and Anthony Baines’ European and American Musical Instruments.91 In the
introductory paragraph to ‘Folk Instruments’ there were no references since much of
this knowledge came from the author’s own collection (as is evidenced by the
photograph captions throughout the book). On the subject of iconographical evidence,
Munrow mentioned a point of great interest to this study; he said of the 14th- and 15thcentury
paintings of angel consorts that they ‘bear little relation to contemporary
church-music practice, where the emphasis was on a cappella singing.’92 By 1975,
Munrow had become convinced that a cappella singing had been overlooked in his own
work and wished to reform the Consort to explore it more fully. The results of this can
be heard on his album The Art of the Netherlands.93 Munrow also used Emanuel
Winternitz’s study into the symbolism of musical instruments throughout his book.94
Munrow used several sources for performance practice, but in particular the
research by Werner Bachmann in The Origins of Bowing, from which he quoted
90 K. Aerts to David Munrow, Miscellaneous Letters Received, November 13, 1975, Papers of David
Munrow: DM1/1/5, Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
91 Frederick Crane, Extant Medieval Musical Instruments: A Provisional Catalogue by Types (Iowa City:
University of Iowa Press, 1972) and Anthony Baines, European and American Musical Instruments
(London: Batsford, 1966).
92 David Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London, Instruments of the Middle Ages and
Renaissance, 1976, EMI SLS 988. 2 LPs.
93 Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of the Netherlands.
94 Emanuel Winternitz, Musical Instruments and their Symbolism in Western Art (London: Faber, 1967).
liberally in many of the following chapters.95 And to underpin this study, three eyewitness
writers proved useful, namely, Michael Praetorius, Sebastian Virdung and
Marin Mersenne. Praetorius’ De Organographia is the second volume of his famous
treatise Syntagma Musicum and details the instruments themselves whilst performance
practice is covered in the third volume.96 Whilst Sebastian Virdung’s instrumental tutor
Musica getutscht is the oldest known such study Munrow also uses Martin Agricola’s
re-working of Virdung’s text in Musica instrumentalis Deudtsch. Mersenne’s Harmonie
Universelle accounts for 24 separate footnotes by Munrow, testifying to the usefulness
of its detailed descriptions.97
One of the first major reviews of this book was by Howard Mayer Brown in
Early Music. Brown was in the awkward position of needing to combine his review
with an obituary. He handled this task by devoting three substantial paragraphs to a
remembrance of Munrow the artist before beginning his review proper. Whilst the
review was largely positive, Brown found himself troubled by the thorny question of the
divide between folk-instruments and art-instruments alone. Munrow’s main approach
was to look to folk (often 19th-century counterparts) to provide clues for the ways in
which early (and particularly medieval) instruments were played. In several places,
Munrow took a short step from observing these playing techniques to drawing broad
conclusions about medieval musical practice and it was just this sort of reasoning that
made Brown uneasy. He agreed with Munrow that we cannot look back through an
unbroken tradition of instrumental playing, but finds that in the absence of this:
we must look to other cultures to tell us what sorts of things musicians have
devised to play on double pipes, and then make a leap of faith in supposing
95 Werner Bachmann, The Origins of Bowing and the Development of Bowed Instruments up to the
Thirteenth Century (Oxford University Press: London, 1969).
96 Michael Praetorius, The Syntagma Musicum of Michael Praetorius. Volume II: De Organographia,
First and Second Parts, trans. Harold Blumenfeld (New York: Bärenreiter, 1949).
97 Marin Mersenne, Harmonie Universelle: The Books on Instruments, trans. Roger E. Chapman. (The
Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1957).
(guessing really) that medieval musicians would have hit upon the same
techniques given similar instruments.98
What Brown advocated here was a more open acknowledgement of guesswork;
something which he implies was often occluded by Munrow’s enthusiasm.
What also struck Brown was that Munrow did not ‘differentiate significantly
between ‘folk’ and ‘art’ instruments of the Middle Ages.’99 He wondered about the
wisdom of playing 13th-century courtly music on a cowhorn or interchanging so freely
between the more simple forms of reed-pipe and the more sophisticated shawm.
Although Brown concluded that Munrow’s book threw down a gauntlet for future
researchers to prove him otherwise, he retained an uneasiness with the balance between
the fluidity of Munrow’s music making and his influence as an educator when facts
such as these were likely never provable.
Jeremy Montagu, whose own book came out at a similar time to Munrow’s
(albeit through a delay in the publisher’s scheduling rather than by intention) still holds
a more critical opinion of Munrow’s book ‘because he kept on using modern ethnic
instruments to represent medieval instruments rather than reconstructions from
manuscripts [...]’100 However, it is possible to read Montagu enthusing about just such
opportunities presented by modern folk craftsmanship elsewhere when he reviewed a
book on Turkish instrument making:
we acquired many of our instruments from the same areas as the Turks did or
from Turkey itself, and many survive in Turkey today in almost their original
forms, so that constructional and other technical details are of considerable use
and interest to us.
And at the end of that book review he concluded:
you will know vastly more about musical instruments of all sorts, and not just
about Turkish folk musical instruments, when you have read it.101
98 Howard Mayer Brown, "Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance: In Memoriam David
Munrow," Early Music 4, no. 3 (1976): 291.
99 Ibid., 293.
100 Jeremy Montagu, interview by author, Oxford, December 6, 2009.
101 "Review: [untitled]," Early Music 3, no. 4 (1975), 83.
So Montagu, at least, appeared not to object to the process of looking at older
traditions and folk instruments for craft and technical expertise but just to Munrow’s
tendency to use modern folk equivalents over iconographical evidence for performance
Brown too, was more forthcoming in his review of Montagu’s own book on
early instruments, which he undertook as a comparison exercise with Munrow’s text.
Indeed, he found that Munrow, whilst giving more detailed information about each
instrumental family, was often less precise about dates. Yet he left readers in no doubt
that whilst they are both impressive surveys, neither Munrow nor Montagu has the final
word on the matter:
In short, give your students Montagu to read first, then Munrow, and finally set
them loose on more specialized studies.102
David Munrow’s article ‘The Art of Courtly Love’ appeared in the fourth ever
issue of Early Music.103 Characteristically, he used this article as an opportunity to
introduce his forthcoming EMI album. This was made explicit in the editorial, which
This month, EMI issue an important new recording of French secular music
from Machaut to Dufay, called ‘The Art of Courtly Love’. David Munrow
outlines the background to this period of music and discusses some of the
performance problems involved.104
The text was identical to the introductory essay that was contained in the liner
notes. Yet, the fact that it was included in Early Music in this form is illustrative of how
this boxed-set was understood to be a big development for the early music revival since
it boasted hitherto unseen lavish presentation by a major record label This implied that
102 Howard Mayer Brown, “Review: The World of Medieval & Renaissance Musical Instruments by
Jeremy Montagu,” Early Music 6, no. 1 (1978), 109.
103 David Munrow, "The Art of Courtly Love," Early Music.1, no. 4 (1973).
104 Ibid., 195.
the music of Machaut or Dufay could sit with equal importance in record shops
alongside mainstream operatic repertoire, the 19th century being the usual recipient of
such extravagance and luxury.
Munrow’s article gives a clear example of the educational mechanism that
Brown highlighted in his Early Music obituary-cum-book review when he reflected
upon his concert presentation of Dufay’s Missa Se la face ay Pale by contextualizing it
using music of the same time to show how important Dufay’s achievement was.105
Brown commented on the popularity of The Art of Courtly Love by saying ‘not the least
surprising thing about those recordings is that so many people have found them worth
listening to.’106
Munrow prepared each recording with a meticulous attention to detail and this
article can be seen as part of that process by introducing his audience to the social
history of music so that they might listen to the albums with an understanding of the
ages they represent rather than simply as old music. After introducing the concept of
‘courtly love’ and reminding his readers that the roots of these songs are ‘in the passions
of real people’ he moves on to the problems of performing such medieval chansons.107 It
is of particular interest that even as early as 1974 Munrow felt he must protect his work
from critics by saying ‘only the foolish will claim to be totally authentic about
performing mediaeval music.’108
Broadcast scripts
The earliest broadcast script preserved by David Munrow was written not for
himself but for a BBC announcer at a live recital of the Early Music Consort of London
105 Howard Mayer Brown, "Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance: In Memoriam David
Munrow," Early Music 4, no. 3 (1976): 289.
106 Ibid.
107 David Munrow, "The Art of Courtly Love," Early Music 1, no. 4 (1973): 195.
108 Ibid., 196.
in 1967.109 The script introduces ‘a programme of popular music of the renaissance and
middle ages’ encompassing a huge variety of works and organized in reverse
chronological order so that it opens with a group of sixteenth century pieces from
Germany, France and England and ends with three thirteenth century Laudi Spirituali.
Like in many of the early announcers scripts, Munrow was careful to describe
the instrumentation of each piece and pointed out that the composer himself often did
not indicate it:
David Munrow and Robert Spencer play The Jews Dance by Robert Nicholson.
The problem of instrumentation for once is solved by the composer himself, who
specifies recorder and lute. He does not indicate which size of recorder is to be
employed however. The Jews Dance will now be played twice, using first tenor
and then descant recorder, giving an opportunity to audience and listeners to
make up their own minds in the matter.110
In instances such as these, we detect an eagerness to be as thorough and
scholarly as possible. That this eagerness was evident as early as 1967, the first year of
the EMC’s formation, is itself worthy of note.
The scripts also show a focus on folk music such as the programme
‘Instrumental Music from Scotland and Ireland’ which includes a fiddle-player from the
Shetlands and a recording of a tin-whistle and spoons made on the streets of London, all
drawn from BBC Sound Archive recordings. Munrow commented:
for me, and I suspect many other people, the lure of the past is stronger than that
of the future. Collecting antique furniture, historical novels and films, the revival
of interest in early music, these are symptomatic of a growing antiquarian
interest on many levels. Unlike previous ages, we just do not seem to be content
with what is contemporary: in many cases we reject the latest developments in
art, music or literature, preferring the solid worth and proven attractions of the
Munrow was himself a collector of first editions of H. G. Wells and also spoke
of his enjoyment in collecting records: this lends an air of autobiography to his
109 David Munrow, Notes for BBC Monday Concert, October 30 1967, Papers of David Munrow, Royal
Academy of Music Library Special Collections, London.
110 Ibid.
111 David Munrow: Instrumental Music from Scotland and Ireland, c1970, DM/7/6, Papers of David
Munrow, The Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
observation.112 If this is the case, Munrow may have been suggesting that he was not
content with the contemporary, or at least that he had sympathy with radio audiences
who took that point of view. Yet we know from other radio scripts that Munrow himself
enjoyed many forms of contemporary music and in particular jazz and world music as
well as the modern pieces that were written for him. Maybe by playing these folk
performances he was suggesting a sense of dissatisfaction with the prevailing
contemporary performing styles and suggesting folk recordings showed us something of
‘the solid worth and proven attractions of the past’. In particular, this might be read as
an attack on the mid-century use of vibrato which Munrow believed was not part of the
distant past, as he stated in his comment about fiddle players of the Shetlands:
I think it tells us a lot about past styles of string playing. It goes back to the days
when vibrato was used with discretion if at all, unlike the indiscriminate wobble
which classically trained violinists are taught today. And the folk players treat
rhythm with a delicacy which would be difficult to notate.113
This comment is dealt with in detail in chapter five when Munrow’s thoughts about
Vibrato are explored.
Elsewhere, radio scripts show many of the records that Munrow was listening to
and illuminate his extensive knowledge of folk music and world music. In another
programme from 1970, Munrow touches on the subject of loud and soft music in the
Middle Ages and states that he feels the distinction would have applied to voices as well
as instruments.114 This topic is explored in greater detail in chapter four. Radio scripts
also give us an insight into Munrow’s overview of an age such as ‘Medieval Florence’
in which he compiles a programme of Italian Trecento music using EMC performances
and others which show he was listening to The Jaye Consort, Musica Reservata, Judy
112 H. G. Wells is mentioned in: J. M. Thomson, "[Editorial]: David Munrow [Obituary]," Early Music 4,
no. 3 (1976), 253-254. And he talks about record collecting in: Blyth, "David Munrow talks to Alan
113 David Munrow, Instrumental Music from Scotland and Ireland [Radio Script], c1970, DM/7/6, Royal
Academy of Music Library, London.
114 Early Ensembles [Radio Script], c1970, DM/7/7, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of Music
Library, London.
Collins & The Waverley Consort, Studio der frühen Musik and New York Pro Musica
as early as 1970.115 It is in the unguarded and informal tone of these radio scripts that
many of Munrow’s musical opinions are voiced and as such I turn to them frequently
throughout this thesis.
Liner notes
The liner notes, which accompany records directed by David Munrow, are not
always authored entirely by him: on most occasions academics and specialists
contribute various sections.
The notes for the EMC’s first record, Ecco La Primavera, drew heavily on an
article in The New Oxford History of Music.116 The enthusiastic but careful tone of the
writing was a hallmark of Munrow’s formal style. After painting a picture of the larger
artistic scene in and around Florence he focused on the structural forms of the music,
the caccia, madrigal, balata and istampita. He summed up:
The music of the trecento is adventurous, exciting and secular like the society
for which it was written. No page in the history of medieval music is more
striking and colourful; no other group of composers produced music so directly
emotional in appeal. After six centuries it has lost none of its freshness and
Munrow’s enthusiasm again owed something to Huizinga in its focus on the
contrasts of colour and sound in medieval society. In a note for The Mediaeval Sound,
Munrow’s lecture recital LP recorded the same year, he delved into Huizinga-territory
more specifically:
The people of the Middle Ages and Renaissance liked gorgeous colours in their
clothes, sharp contrasts in their paintings, highly flavoured dishes at their table.
In music they liked sounds which were bright and uncompromising. All their
115 Medieval Florence [Radio Script], October 29, 1970, DM/7/12, Papers of David Munrow, Royal
Academy of Music Library, London.
116 Gilbert Reaney, Ars Nova and the Renaissance, 1300-1540, ed. Don Anselm Huges, New Oxford
History of Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960).
117 David Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London, Ecco La Primavera, Argo (Decca) ZRG 642,
1969. LP.
families of instruments possessed remarkably individual timbres which vanished
as the modern orchestra developed.118
This line of reasoning is further pursued in chapter 4. However, it is useful to reiterate
that this was not an unusual or maverick stance for a musician to take since it was
derived from the advice of the textbooks of the time.119
On several occasions, liner notes also show cases of duplication. A statement
such as:
All the percussion parts on this record have been added, using the basic rhythm
of the dance prescribed by many writers, such as Thoinot Arbeau in his
Orchésographie, 1589. It seems unlikely that renaissance percussionists would
have been content to play basic rhythms all their lives, and in [two of the dances]
the rhythms have been liberally embellished.120
occurs on Two Renaissance Dance Bands as well as Dances from
Terpsichore.121 It is an example of how Munrow recycled his material to get maximum
value from it. Liner notes, broadcast scripts and lecture recitals all drew on the same
pool of knowledge and although they tended to be rewritten for each occasion they
often contained reused material.
The next major recording of medieval music that Munrow made was Music of
the Crusades and liner notes took unknowable parameters as a starting point for the
discussion ‘A note on the performance.’122 Munrow explained how, working in
conjunction with Ian Bent, he applied the system of modal rhythm to the monophonic
songs and was keen to quote the relevant passage from Gustave Reese’s textbook.123 On
matters of instrumentation he explained that the crumhorn was used as a replacement
118 Munrow, Reid, and Hogwood, The Mediaeval Sound: David Munrow Introduces Early Woodwind
119 Again, for a full discussion of this see: Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music:
Scholarship, Ideology, Performance.
120 David Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London, Two Renaissance Dance Bands, EMI HQS
1249, 1971. LP.
121 David Munrow, The Early Music Consort of London, and Boys of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of
St Alban, Michael Praetorius: Dances from Terpsichore, Motets from Musae Sioniae, EMI CSD 3761,
1974. LP.
122 Liner notes: ‘A note on the performance’ in: David Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London,
Music of the Crusades, Argo (Decca) ZRG 673, 1971. LP.
123 Gustave Reese, Music in the Middle Ages: With an Introduction on the Music of Ancient Times (New
York: Norton, 1940), 208.
for bladderpipes and the douçaine, since both were wind-cap instruments. Finally, for
performance decisions he turned to the East and traditions in Turkey and Arabia as
inspiration for the drones and improvised instrumental parts. Munrow explained that his
decision to shorten the monophonic songs was simply based on a desire to include as
many songs as possible.
A different approach in liner notes is seen in the two boxed sets of medieval
music, The Art of Courtly Love (1973) and Music of the Gothic Era (1976). For both of
these projects Munrow worked with Michael Freeman who provided scholarly essays
from a historical perspective as well as advising on pronunciation. The Art of Courtly
Love was intended for both average listeners and serious students. The insert began with
a spread of photos of the Early Music Consort in recording sessions at Abbey Road
studios and then essays by Munrow and Freeman followed, adorned by medieval
depictions of courtly life. Munrow began his introduction by explaining the scope of the
time period covered in the recordings and the reasons for ‘the sudden flowering of the
French mediaeval chanson’ as inspired by ‘chivalric ideals’ expressed in the works of
troubadours and trouvères.124 Munrow’s detailed account consigned an explanation of
formes fixes to a footnote in order to spend more time on the notational advances of
Philippe de Vitry and the harmonic experiments of Machaut. The style of his text was
readable yet authoritative, especially when discussing the Papal Schism of 1378-1417;
musical analysis closely tied to historical events is a device common to Munrow’s
broadcast writing. In discussing the sacred origins of the motet Munrow commented
that ‘it was still based on a repeated instrumental tenor but the texts sung by the upper
two voices were generally amorous’. Here he is simply using an accepted musicological
theory that tenors were instrumental which leads him to discuss the choice of
instrumentation in some detail. This was borne out but the bibliography at the end of the
124 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of Courtly Love, EMI SLS 863, 1973. 3
booklet which included Sir John Stainer’s classic text on Dufay, the collected works of
Dufay by Guillaume de Van and Heinrich Besseler and Leo Schrade’s Polyphonic
Music of the Fourteenth Century, all of which advocated instrumental tenors.125
In Music of the Gothic Era, the last recording that Munrow undertook, the
approach was noticeably more formal. The booklet, in three languages, had many
photographs of EMC members demonstrating their instruments as well as stills of the
recording sessions. In this booklet Michael Freeman’s essay ‘The Gothic Era: Political,
social and literary background’ preceded Munrow’s own writing on the music and the
performances. Munrow drew on the editions of Frank L Harrison and Leo Schrade and
he divided his notes into three sections, each aligning with one of the three LPs:
1. The Notre Dame Period (Léonin’s Organa, Pérotin’s Quadrupla, The
Performance of Notre Dame Organa)
2. Ars Antiqua (thirteenth-century motets in the Montpellier and Bamberg
Codices, Adam de la Halle and Petrus de Cruce) and Ars Nova (The
Roman de Fauvel, Philippe de Vitry)
3. The motet of the 14th century: intellectual and musical expression (The
Ivrea codex, Guillaume de Machaut, The Chantilly Codex, The
interpretation of the motets)
Historically, this gave Munrow an opportunity to focus on the development of
the motet and to point to the Historical Anthology of Music for further examples.126 The
sections of interest to this thesis, however, are the two that concern performance
practice, chiefly ‘The performance of Notre Dame Organa’ and ‘The interpretation of
the motets’. In the former he explained his rationale for limiting the instrumentation to
organ and bells with the organ chiefly doubling the long notes of the tenor part and the
bells doubling the plainchant. However, Munrow went on to offer short explanations for
125 Leo Schrade, ed., Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century, vol. 1 (Monaco: Editions de l'Oiseau-
Lyre, 1956); J. F. R. Stainer et al., Early Bodleian Music: Dufay and his Contemporaries: Fifty
Compositions Ranging from about A.D. 1400 to 1440 (London: Novello, 1898); Guillaume Dufay,
Guillaume Dufay: Opera omnia, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 1, ed. Heinrich Besseler and Guilaume de
Van (Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1951).
126 Archibald T. Davison and Willi Apel, ed., Historical Anthology of Music, Rev. ed., 2 vols.
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1949).
his interpretation of ligatures, plica, tremolando, florata, insertion of rests and tenor
parts. The plica was performed by following the advice of pseudo-Aristotle in ‘a partial
closing of the epiglottis combined with a subtle repercussion of the throat’ which was
what John Potter remembered Munrow calling a ‘lift-bang’ in rehearsal:
If I remember correctly it was David’s solution to the ‘plica problem’ which
none of us [singers] understood (or cared much about). It was a practical
solution, a creative use of the holes in our knowledge (something that early
music enables all the time). For a while, the ‘lift-bang’ became what you did
when you got to one of those funny squiggles.127
The amusing nick-name ‘lift-bang’ made light of the thought that went into Munrow’s
rehearsal preparation, and it was this warm, approachable style that his performers so
often remembered.
In ‘The interpretation of the motets’, Munrow explained that his performances
aimed to reflect the ‘prevailing mood or situation presented by the text,’ and that the
instrumentation used was also intended to complement the text. Possibly the most
fascinating point he made was to suggest vocalization of untexted musical lines as a
perfectly viable option: unwittingly, he preempted the next major era of medieval music
The picture that emerges from this literature is one of a popular musician with
an instinct for erudite concert programmes. Large and colourful performances are
considered to have been influenced by the mid 20th century picture of the Middle Ages
(from Huizinga and others) and also fuelled by several key recordings, chiefly those of
the New York Pro Musica. After Munrow’s death, scholarship shifted its centre of
gravity away from instrumentally based performances leaving Munrow’s legacy
127 John Potter, "Past Perfect & Future Fictions," in Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis XXVI
(Amadeus, 2002), 11.
prematurely dated, yet fondly remembered. There is also a slightly opposing view
which comes to the fore, and which we saw exemplified in the obituary by Sir Anthony
Lewis, suggesting that the sound-world created by Munrow for early music set new
standards of performance which could no longer be ignored. If certain details of
Munrow’s instrumentation of early music were to become obsolete, his obsession with
accuracy in performance was not to suffer the same fate.
The material reviewed in this chapter has all been directly related to David
Munrow; it is either about him or by him. There is, however, a whole other body of
literature that must be taken into account; chiefly that which Munrow himself read and
which influenced the performance practice of both him and the Early Music Consort of
London. Such literature is explored in a contextual basis in the case studies that follow
on from the biographical part of this thesis. When surveying broad literature about the
early music revival, we can see broad trends emerge. The first is that Munrow is
situated in the middle section of a threefold sequence of events that took place after
World War II. That first was, initially, what can be seen as a dry, academic revival in
which the Archiv record series and Safford Cape’s Pro Musica Antiqua were greatly
influential as were the writings of Gustave Reese and Gilbert Reaney. This initial phase
built on the body of German academic research that preceded the war. Bridging the
middle period were the pioneering performances of Noah Greenberg and The New York
Pro Musica who did much to convince the public that early music was a communicative
repertoire with verve and personality to rival other eras. The EMC joins this middle
period along with Musica Reservata and Studio der Frühen Muisik creating a shared
cultural space where a great variety of vocal techniques, accompaniments and colours of
instrumentation are showcased in performances of medieval (and to a certain extent
renaissance) music. This period is greatly influenced by the personalities of the musical
directors in question. Finally, the third period from about 1977 until the end of the
century is characterized by a move to all vocal performances of many medieval songs,
and an increased interest in later repertoire such as renaissance choral music, baroque
music and beyond. This is the period that prides itself on authenticity and that later, via
a process which Peter Kivy calls a ‘bait and switch’ situation, became known as
historically informed performance.128
What this thesis will now do, therefore, is to find out more about how this
‘middle period’ of the post-war revival operated, and attempt to quantify the aspects of
Munrow’s performance practice that can be indentified as unique. In order to do this it
is necessary first to trace the influences that Munrow absorbed during his formative
years and then to take these, with the academic texts of the time and other performances
that were available, to discern which influences can be detected in the performance
practice of David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London and which factors, if
any, are entirely new. Once more is known about the performance practice, the ‘how’, it
should be possible to find out more about the ‘why’, that is, why the EMC were so
successful and why Munrow continues to be remembered so vividly.
128 Peter Kivy, "On the Historically Informed Performance," in Music, Language, and Cognition: and
Other Essays on the Aesthetics of Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 11.
Chapter 2 - Methodology and structure
The title of this thesis invokes the phrase ‘Performance Practice’ which has been
described by Alejandro Planchart as an ‘unhappy translation’ of the nineteenth century
German Aufführungspraxis used to describe the mechanics of a performance, lending
particular emphasis to un-notated elements of music-making and performer defined
characteristics such as dynamics, pitch, tuning, sonority and tempo.129 How this term
came to be drawn from German scholarship has been explored in the work of Daniel
Leech-Wilkinson who also argued that the early music revival was built on a bedrock of
mainly German scholarship from the early twentieth century.130 Archival research
proves that this older ‘continental’ research was known to Munrow as it can be seen
referenced in his book collection, lecture notes and writings. Yet, like those musicians
whose recordings he collected (such as Safford Cape and Noah Greenberg) Munrow
would still have been faced with the need to make imaginative leaps in order to realize
the notation in sound, leaps which scholarship did not, and in some cases still cannot,
offer concrete advice on how to negotiate. How then to determine which elements of a
performance are drawn from musicology and which are creative or practical solutions to
performance practice issues?
By tracing Munrow’s library, broadcast scripts, lectures, and other papers,
variously dispersed, it is possible to recover some of his thinking and activity as a
researcher, broadcaster, teacher and performer. Through such research, it is possible to
reveal the way Munrow’s work redeemed lost musical repertoires and contributed to a
129 Alejandro Enrique Planchart, "The Performance of Early Music in America," The Journal of
Musicology 1, no. 1 (1982): 19.
130 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology,
Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
public re-evaluation of modernism by providing such solutions in order to facilitate
performances of early music. More than others, his programming, especially of music at
the court of King Henry VIII, captured public attention and established Britain in the
forefront of the early music revival that came to be seen by many as a preferable
alternative to the avant garde.131 This thesis explores his contribution to this paradigm
shift and illuminates Munrow's trajectory as a popular pioneer who lead public taste
through education.
The methodology inherent in this thesis is closely aligned with the New Cultural
History of Music, described by Jane Fulcher as ‘a bracing new synthesis of theoretical
perspectives and methodologies drawn from the “new cultural history” and the “new
musicology” of the 1980s.’132 Fulcher has recently identified a crisis in musicology, in
part ‘provoked by charges of “perspectivism” and the focus on discursive constructions
of the social world independent of “objective” or social verification’ which she then
used to situate the New Cultural History of Music in a more balanced dialogue with
empiricist, literal and positivist sensitivities.133 And it is this sense of balance which
influences the thrust of my thesis as it attempts to explore a reception history in the
sense of The New Musicology whilst acknowledging and utilizing analysis drawn from
the field of Empirical Musicology. The twinning of such seemingly incongruous
methodologies is to offer a reflective stance on the reasons for seeking to make
empirical observations.
131 This point is supported chiefly by the writings of John Potter who sang for David Munrow: “It is not
until David Munrow formed his Early Music Consort of London in 1967 that early music singing was
perceived by the public as attractive to listen to.” John Potter, Vocal Authority: Singing Style and
Ideology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 115.
132 Jane F. Fulcher, "Introduction," in The Oxford Handbook of the New Cultural History of Music, ed.
Jane F. Fulcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 4.
133 Ibid.
Having just stated that this thesis offers a reflection on performance practice it is
important to also describe other outcomes that this current research offers besides: i.e.
what concrete advances in knowledge does a reflective stance enable this thesis to
achieve? Influences on the interpretation of early music performances are revealed and
contextualized, however this list may not be exhaustive since this thesis can only
examine the evidence that is either in the public domain or which has been made
available through private agreement. There are, doubtless, more sources remaining to be
discovered. With this situation in mind, this current investigation can been seen as a
first stage—a lining up of ducks, if you will—offering a broad survey of the influences
on early music performance available to David Munrow and opening the discussion as
to how Munrow and his colleagues appear to have reacted to such influences. I am
grateful to Jeremy Llewellyn for his discussion of dialectics at the Med-Ren conference
2013, which suggested exciting possibilities for future research as to the changing
relationship between the performers and their influences over time.134 However, this
thesis is not the place to explore such dialectical relationships, as its function is
necessarily limited to the identification of influences and the justification for their
identification. The way in which those influences may be changed through post-colonial
attitudes and perceptions of ‘other’ in medieval music (to take one example) is beyond
the scope of what can be achieved here. Having said that, the author acknowledges this
path of investigation as a future avenue for research.
Of the biographical works consulted in the course of this study, several have
provided strong models for my own writing. Their approaches are reflected in this thesis
in several key ways: the use of childhood biographical material, use of direct quotations
in narrative, reuse of interview material from the writing of others and the combination
134 Jeremy Llewellyn’s questions and comments followed the presentation: Edward Breen, "Keeping
Landini Off the Streets," (paper presented at the Medieval and Renaissance International Music
Conference, Certaldo, Italy 2013).
of many sources to create reception histories. Here, I describe those models case-bycase.
An example of an authorized biography of an early musician is offered in James
Gollin’s study of Noah Greenberg: Pied Piper, written after Greenberg’s death.135 This
study offers a richly researched account of Greenberg’s life covering musical and nonmusical
activities alike through many interviews and archival materials. Gollin covers
much biographical detail concerning family history, and in doing so makes a compelling
case for the use of childhood biography to illuminate formative musical development.
He shows how Greenberg first came to admire and perform early music and,
importantly, how and when he met the very musicologists and performers who were to
play key roles in his ensemble over the following decades. However, his focus is
biographical so discussions of performance practice are woven into chronological
narrative rather than discussed as a case study. Gollin’s work is a model for my third
chapter, ‘David Munrow and the formation of the Early Music Consort of London’,
which seeks also to provide a roadmap of Munrow’s developing interest in early music
and how, eventually, the various musicians of his ensemble came to meet.
A second influence on my own approach has been Bernard Sherman’s collection
of interviews with early musicians: Inside Early Music: Conversations with
Performers.136 However, the influence here has not been the interview structure itself,
largely because Sherman is using interview to reveal a larger narrative than I, but the
sheer length of the quoted text that he has presented in his book. By minimizing his own
questions and transcribing large tracts of his interviewees’ speech, Sherman offers the
reader some context to each of his speakers’ comments. To be sure this approach is not
unique to Sherman, but rather reflects the larger practice of oral history. Sherman’s
135 James Gollin, Pied Piper: The Many Lives of Noah Greenberg, Lives in Music Series (New York:
Pendragon Press, 2001).
136 Bernard D. Sherman, Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1997).
blend of interview and oral history techniques results in a semi-structured interview
leaving space to include contextual information. Such use of long quotations is also a
feature of Tom Perchard’s biography of the Jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, a work which
also makes a compelling case for the detailed use of early years biography when
looking at the life of a performing musician. This latter point is made explicit in the
title: Lee Morgan: His Life, Music and Culture.137 Perchard’s study of Morgan also
takes a similar stance to Gollin’s study of Greenberg in that both writers are careful to
explain socio-cultural settings for the lives of their subjects
Considering the influential nature of the books by Sherman and Perchard, the
use of long quotations enhances the usefulness of bespoke interviews for future
researchers who may wish to access the transcribed text for different purposes. Limiting
quotation from bespoke interviews to short and targeted references is something that I
have, therefore, avoided where possible. My preference has been to allow for full
paragraph quotations which can be discussed in my analysis, rather than using small
illustrative selections during the course of an analysis. This is, hopefully, particularly
notable in chapter 3 where I have attempted to allow for the thrust of Munrow’s
biography to be told via the words of those who witnessed it first-hand often from
bespoke sources, or old BBC interviews which may not be readily available to the
general public.
To this end, the influence of William Owen’s work with Sir David Willcocks
must also be acknowledged.138 I have adopted Owen’s unfolding chonological style of
questions in interviews, yet my work differs in a key way: I am unable to provide audio
samples from the all of the interviews I conducted as some of the interviewees did not
give permission for the audio recording to be made public. Also, copyrighted interviews
137 Tom Perchard, Lee Morgan: His Life, Music and Culture, Popular Music History (London: Equinox,
138 William Owen, A Life in Music: Conversations with Sir David Willcocks and Friends (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2008).
that I reference, drawn from BBC broadcasts not held by the British Library Sound
Archive, are not available for copyright reasons either. So I have not taken Owen’s
route of providing a companion audio recording. However, I hope that my references
will allow future researchers to retrace my steps through all archival material with ease.
Many studies take an overview approach which does not sensibly allow for a
long quotation approach. One example of this is Nick Wilson’s The Art of Reenchantment.
139 Wilson’s study follows many performing ensembles through fifty years
of the early music revival, so the possibilities for future research are limited by allowing
bespoke interviews to guide the narrative in ways which are not necessarily obvious to
the reader. Quotations are often so short that we have to trust Wilson’s use of those
quotes for both context and poignancy. This is a criticism that I have already made in
print elsewhere and I hope to have avoided in my own approach since my study lends
itself more readily to detailed observations.140 To further this point, I note that Bernard
Sherman was declined an interview by Christopher Hogwood on the basis that he had
already given several which were not then used.141 In summary, the use of longer
quotation is designed to do justice to the interviewees’ context for each particular
comment, and allow readers to judge perspective (from both interviewee and myself as
author) for themselves.
The idea of mixing bespoke interview with pre-existing interviews from
broadcast and print sources is a standard biographical path. We see this approach
presented clearly by Perchard who provides a list of his own bespoke interviews at the
end of his study. Wilson takes a similar approach and I have adopted this practice also.
139 Nick Wilson, The Art of Re-enchantment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
140 Ed Breen, review of The Art of Re-enchantment, by Nick Wilson. Early Music 42, no. 2 (2014): 301-3.
141 ‘The exceedingly busy Christopher Hogwood had just invested a great deal of time in interviews that
were never published, and I didn’t yet have a publisher at the time I approached him.’ Sherman, Inside
Early Music: Conversations with Performers, ix.
Writers who describe Western music with reference to the techniques of
ethnomusicology have also influenced me. A key catalyst for my study was Stephen
Cottrell’s paper: Music as Capital: Deputizing among London's Freelance Musicians.142
I use the term catalytic because it was this paper that first made me consider the story of
David Munrow as it was being told to me by Early Music Consort of London
performers whom I met when I was a young freelance singer ‘deputizing’ on the
London choral scene. In turn, Cottrell’s work led me to read Bruno Nettl’s study:
Heartland Excursions: Ethnomusicological Reflections on Schools of Music.143 In this
book Nettl reflects on Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture (1934) when he says ‘I
learned that one significant way to comprehend a culture is to find dominant themes that
exhibit themselves in a variety of cultural domains and behavior patterns’.144 And it is
through reflection on these methodologies that I have quoted myself as an interviewer in
many of the transcribed passages from bespoke interviews in order to make my own
contribution and point of view apparent to the reader.145
Sociological methodologies are also of particular importance in this study since
it seeks to explore the abstract theory of paradigm change in musical performance
practice (in this case, the early music revival of the twentieth century) through a
grounded theory enquiry into the performance of early music by an individual
practitioner. As Tia DeNora writes: ‘We need, in short, to follow actors in and across
situations as they draw music into (and draw music as) social practice.’146 And by
focusing on music-making at the level of social operation I attempt to show how links
142 Stephen Cottrell, "Music as Capital: Deputizing among London's Freelance Musicians," British
Journal of Ethnomusicology 11, no. 2 (2002): 61-80.
143 Bruno Nettl, Heartland Excursions: Ethnomusicological Reflections on Schools of Music, Music in
American Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995).
144 Ibid., 6. Here, Nettl is reflecting on: Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (London: Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt, 1934).
145 On this matter readers are referred to the interviews with David Corkhill (Chapter 6) and Christina
Clarke (Chapter 5) where the author’s voice is also transcribed.
146 Tia DeNora, "Musical Practice and Social Structure: A Toolkit," in Empirical Musicology: Aims,
Methods, Prospects, ed. Eric F. Clarke and Nicholas Cook (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 38.
have been made between musical and social structures, in order to avoid drawing
unrealistic divisions between music and society. It has therefore been essential to
include a biographical account of Munrow’s musical development so that the
relationship between his musical ambitions and outside forces that operated on his
performances can be appreciated in full rather than as a fragmented sequence of
Finally, the sociological perspective illuminates notions of social status and
cultural value. Munrow worked against a prevailing background of ‘serious’ classical
music and was seen as a pioneer in breaking many taboos of concert performance: for
instance he was one of the first early musicians to minimize on-stage tuning during a
concert performance. In his performances this pioneering spirit was evident in the way
that he strived for the high standards of classical music concerts but eschewed a
traditional reverence for the printed work and the definitive performance in favour of
embracing improvisatory qualities. In the light of this it would not be possible to look at
what Munrow played and how he played it without seeking a picture of the other
influences behind these; an example of this improvisatory spirit in Munrow’s work can
be found in Munrow writing to Hugh Keyte at the BBC with plans for a forthcoming
concert: ‘I'm going to try to avoid most of the repertoire we've recorded, and where we
do repeat ourselves to find a new interpretation!’147 This attitude is strikingly different to
the way in which mainstream classical music is normally performed.
The premise of this thesis is therefore to study recorded sound and to relate it to
words written or spoken about that sound. By taking the measurement of recorded
147 David Munrow to Hugh Keyte, March 17, 1976, DM/1/2/2, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy
of Music Library, London.
sound with signal processing software as a reference point, performances are described
and measured in detail. This information is then considered in the light of biographical
and musicological evidence. Performance features are submitted to basic questions such
as: is there a reason for this performance decision, and to what extent is the performer
aware of this feature?
In reviewing literature surrounding a performance, consideration has been given
to the function of each document. In particular, when descriptions of performances
come from administration and business correspondence, or from the social
correspondence of artists these words have been read within an appropriate social
framework, not as if they were themselves musicological texts.
The sources used in this thesis range from the recorded legacy of David Munrow
and the Early Music Consort of London, existing scholarship, Munrow’s own papers
and frequently, the papers of his colleagues and peers, as well as Munrow’s scores,
concert programs and record reviews. This study also considers bespoke interviews with
artists and music professionals who worked with Munrow and who claim influence in
either direction. Interviews usually take the form of new events carried out specifically
for this study but also include older interviews taken from public broadcasts on
television and radio.
As this range of sources suggests, there are few studies and published articles
about David Munrow in existence so a considerable amount of data-gathering was
necessarily undertaken before any comment or analysis could take place. The approach
to such investigative work can be described as having had three main strands:
1. Archival research and literature reviews.
2. Interviews and oral histories from performers and academics of the initial
revival period and also from others who may have been influenced by
3. Analysis of recordings both public and private.
Using three methods offered the possibility of cross-referencing information by
a process of triangulation. It has often been the case that facts were misremembered,
poorly recorded or that audio sources needed identification. All opportunities to
compare information between complementary sources were taken throughout this
Such a method of triangulation, where possible, has also been used to highlight
changing attitudes to Munrow’s work over the decades since his death. The reception
history covered in chapter 1 was organized chronologically to highlight changing
attitudes which, in turn reflect changing social contexts. To this end, the work of
Jonathan Stock in documenting the life, and many life-stories of the Chinese musician
Abing offers an extremely valuable model.148 By considering each different version of
Abing’s biography against the narrative of musical evidence, Stock is able to reflect
as the particular “social context” within which Abing is invoked continues to
change, we can expect new narratives to arise from his life and music and from
the modes of ideology needed to perceive and explain them.149
Comparison of narratives from Munrow’s lifetime with more recent evidence
seeks to highlight such changing social contexts.
These three main categories of my investigative work are now explored in more
148 Jonathan Stock, “Musical Narrative, Ideology, and the Life of Abing,” Ethnomusicology 40, no.1
(Winter 1996): 49-73.
149 Ibid., 69.
Archival Research and Literature Review
The main archival sources for David Munrow and the EMC are highly
individual collections and, as such, will always need a careful consideration on their
own terms before the documents they hold can be interpreted.
When approaching any archive it is important to ask fundamental questions
about the collection itself as well as the nature of the papers that lie within. As Filippo
de Vivo explains, a primary consideration should be why the record or text survives at
all.150 Why should this matter? An example from the BBC written archives neatly shows
how a scribbled telephone message was never intended to be considered as historical
evidence. A key sentence in the notes made by a secretary who called Munrow reads:
“He feels it’s his duty to make the concert a typical fun-Munrow type for Greenwich
Theatre, not a BBC ‘do.’”151 Now whilst it’s tempting to take this statement at face
value and assume the secretary is more or less quoting accurately, however, considering
the document as a whole reveals several key aspects that throw reliability into doubt.
The memo is written in pencil on seven torn sheets of paper and opens with: ‘Dear
Diana, I rang DM (I suppose about 10000000 times) & finally got through after 6pm!’
suggesting some frustration with the hour (possibly working late) as well as an irritation
at having to take the message at all. Considering the startling informality it is quite
possible that Munrow’s comments as reported here have been tainted by the mood of
the messenger and such tainting would have been implicit to the note’s intended
recipient. Perhaps the tone of frustration mirrors an earlier conversation these two BBC
150 Quoted in Elizabeth Williamson, “A Letter of Travel Advice, Probably,” (Conference paper presented
at Footprints in the Butter: Looking for the Elephant in the Archives, Centre for Editing Lives and
Letters, Queen Mary, University of London, September 18, 2009); Filippo de Vivo, Information and
Communication in Venice: Rethinking Early Modern Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007),
151 Notes from a telephone conversation: January 25, 1971, BBC Written Archives Centre (BBC WAC)
R83/19 – David Munrow.
employees had about Munrow, or it might even reflect a general feeling of frustration
cultivated over several encounters with Munrow. Whatever the situation, it raises a
possibility that there is something unsaid and once that possibility is detected, the
sentence must be used with caution and caveat.
With these considerations in mind it is important to strike a balance between
accepting what little archival material we can at face value (literal readings of facts such
as dates and time of performances) and the acknowledgement of the wider context
within which they must take their place. This wider context is frequently discernible in
smaller-grained narratives that run through official correspondence such as these BBC
letters and memos: the personal relationships of the people involved inevitably reveal
themselves from time to time. Such social connections reveal a powerful mechanism at
work within the early music revival, but at the same time it is likely that any archive,
however detailed, can only preserve an incomplete picture of this personal
communication. The possibility of uncovering uncomfortable truths in this way was fed
back into the methodology of this research so that both the evidence selected for use and
the methodology used to interpret that evidence worked directly towards the research
question chosen and not towards reporting biographical discoveries that did not
contribute to a musicological debate. As Anthony Pryer writes, this process of selection
is of considerable importance because ‘even if historians do not make up the facts, they
do make up the story.’152
Yet even before the individual nature of these documents can be assessed, the
nature of the archive itself must be considered. Daniel Starza Smith suggests that one
way of revealing an archive’s potential for research is to reappraise its ontological status
‘what the archive is—by attempting to recreate the original social conditions that
152 Anthony Pryer, "Re-Thinking History: What is Music 'History' and How is it Written? Anthony Pryer
Reflects on the Problems of Music Historians and on Some Recent Histories of Early Music," The
Musical Times 135, no. 1821 (1994), 682-690.
created it.’153 He goes on to explain that in his own case of dealing with the Conway
papers, reconstructing the original social conditions involved removing layers of
orderliness imposed by later archivists. This orderliness was particularly important
when dealing with Munrow’s papers, since an archivist too has catalogued them. At the
most basic level, suggested dates for individual documents may not necessarily be
correct and must be verified rather than blindly accepted; and it should be noted that the
archivist was not an early music historian so that pages which contain notes that suggest
a different original sequence have been left as such in the name of archival preservation,
and duplicates of documents (or earlier drafts of the same document) have not been
grouped. An example of this can be seen in the file DM9 in the Papers of David
Munrow. Here, the first page of Munrow’s lecture notes is placed towards the end of the
file. And it is unclear if this is the order in which it was left by Munrow, or simply an
error through use.154
The history of Munrow’s papers, which Jeremy Summerly has described as ‘a
fantastic testament to a jobbing musician’, revealed further methodological
conundrums; for instance, it was initially unclear whether or not this collection survived
intact and if Munrow himself intended it as a comprehensive collection.155 Throughout
the timespan of this investigation it became apparent that this could not have been the
case when a number of Munrow’s papers held in other private collections were
mentioned to me and were discovered to have musical content. In particular, Gill
Munrow kindly explained to me that she also had several notebooks of musical research
by David Munrow in her private collection, and with this in mind importance can no
longer be attached to the fact that some documents are conspicuous by their absence in
153 Daniel Starza Smith, “How Do You Know if John Donne has Been in Your Archive?” (Conference
paper presented at Footprints in the Butter: Looking for the Elephant in the Archives Centre for Editing
Lives and Letters, Queen Mary, University of London, September 18, 2009).
154 David Munrow, [Academic Notes], c1966, DM/9/8, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of
Music Library, London.
155 "Mr Munrow, His Study," Jeremy Summerly, The Archive Hour, aired January 7, 2006, on BBC
the RAM collection of Munrow’s papers. The absence of a document can now no longer
be considered to signify that it was deemed unimportant by David Munrow since it may
simply have become separated from these papers. In the same vein, some seemingly
minor documents, although clearly thought important enough to keep, should not be
overestimated simply because they are in the RAM archive. However, despite such
discoveries of private collections, the exact contents of Munrow’s archive when it was
his working collection still remains unclear, and as such any sort of value judgments
cannot be made with authority. At all times, the papers have not been judged as a more
coherent collection than they actually were in his lifetime; Munrow may never have
attached importance to the way he selected items to keep and may not have even
realized that some of those items had been kept. An imagined re-fragmentation of the
collection into messy piles strewn across the floor of Munrow’s music room in
Chesham Bois has been the only way to understand their true function and the history
behind the collection.
Interview and Oral History
When asking people to give of their time to talk about early music I avoided
asking questions that they had already answered elsewhere in the public domain;
exploiting the opportunity to discuss new territory was the most direct way of filling the
gaps in existing knowledge, therefore the lacunae identified in the previous chapter
informed the most urgent lines of questioning.
When discussing the work of the traditional historian, Barry S. Brook makes an
illuminating observation:
The oral historian functions differently. He is not writing history; he is
employing a method of gathering contemporary historical data. His method
provides the traditional historian and the historical disciplines with an added
dimension, for he sets out deliberately to create a body of historically significant
The methods used in this thesis have sought to bear Brook’s observation in
mind, and to structure each interview so as to record as much data as possible.
Interview sessions were chosen in preference to questionnaires so as to avoid, as
far as possible, denying this project the enrichment of face-to-face meetings and the
opportunity to hear vocal inflections in the recollections of EMC members and
colleagues. Oral histories are the spoken word, and as the historian William Owen
explains, those whose memories we seek ‘are living individuals who either made history
or witnessed it, and it is important to have their recollections recorded.’157 This was
especially pertinent in situations where musicians were of retirement age and had a new
set of priorities outside of their professional musical careers. Sadly, a few key people
have died in recent years: Michael Morrow of Musica Reservata; the musicologist and
friend of Munrow, Jerome Roche; lutenist James Tyler and the baritone Maurice
Beavan. My field of research was poorer without their input, but this situation is a
powerful reminder that when undertaking an oral history project which stretches back
this many years, time is always of the essence.
There has also been considerable overlap between a semi-structured interview
and a freely developing oral history interview, and as such I frequently chose to exploit
techniques gleaned from both methods. Occasionally, informal conversations held away
from the microphone have been referred to as ‘conversations’ rather than ‘interviews’, a
distinction maintained throughout the thesis. Each individual person was as unique as
their perception of the events under discussion and so in order to get the most from an
interview session the meetings were structured according to their needs and the
156 Barry S. Brook, “Oral History and Culture in the Music of Our Time,” College Music Symposium 19,
no. 1 (Spring 1979): 233.
157 William Owen, A Life in Music: Conversations with Sir David Willcocks and Friends (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2008), ix.
environment in which they are able to talk. For instance, Martyn Hill kindly agreed to
an interview one afternoon in March 2009 at Trinity College, London, where he
teaches. When we met it was apparent that the only place we could talk was in the noisy
coffee bar full of students and as such it was also clear that not only did Martyn Hill feel
uncomfortable with being recorded in this situation but that any attempt at recording
would be almost completely obliterated by background noise. Martyn is a demonstrative
conversationalist and kept moving away from the microphone when talking and
jumping up from the table to greet pupils as they passed through. In order to
accommodate these issues I relied on simple note taking and then filled out the text
immediately after the meeting. Since there is no accurate transcription of our
conversation, Hill is not quoted directly in this study and the interview is referred to as a
‘conversation’ to highlight this distinction.
Whatever the individual circumstances, all meetings began with a similar
sequence of introductory questions asking interviewees how they met David Munrow
and when they first heard his music. I also asked artists about their own musical
background and education as well as how they became involved with early music. This
is where the two main interview methods tended to branch; once these introductory
questions had been answered and links to Munrow and early music established, the
participant then either required prompting through a whole series of questions or broke
into conversation readily. Most interviews become free-flowing conversation after a
certain amount of trust had been built but the point at which that occurred was always
When I asked to interview Jasper Parrott—Munrow's agent and university
friend—he asked for a series of questions to be sent before he agreed to meet. However,
during the course of the interview Parrott repeatedly broke away from the sequence of
questions and into his own recollections, which often crossed over from the musical
threads of conversation and into the social and personal interactions of the EMC. At one
point I turned off my recording equipment at Parrott's request while he recalled his grief
on hearing of Munrow’s suicide, and then switched it on again when we returned to the
question sheet. The question sheet therefore functioned as a useful reference tool that
we were free to diverge from but which could also be used to prompt a renewed flow of
conversation when a particular avenue was exhausted.
In Parrott's interview in particular there was a keen sense of him telling me set
pieces; anecdotes which had been told and retold in the past and which may be tailored
to particular social situations. A good example of this concerns Munrow's 1971 concert
with John Eliot Gardiner which Parrott himself introduced by saying: ‘And there’s a
sort of anecdote which is sort of nice about it [...]’158 which shows that this segment is a
predetermined format. Other clues to this segment being an anecdote which came from
the changing rhythms of Jasper Parrott’s voice and the speed of his speech that slowed
down as he enjoyed the retelling of a fondly remembered scenario. In such instances
there was a clear sense of the interviewee enjoying the retelling of a favourite story and
the interview became an oral history.
However, it was at this point that as interviewer I had to be aware that my
interviewee may have ceased to think critically about his or her responses and be talking
in a less guarded manner than before. It also brought issues of transcription to the fore
as this was the sort of scenario that could not be adequately shown by literal
transcription alone. To cover these eventualities all recordings have been kept by the
author who will negotiate their preservation in an appropriate archive in the future.
158 Jasper Parrott, interview by author, London, June 12, 2009.
The Analysis of Recordings
Recordings are still something of a new concept for musicology even though
they have, for some years now, been commonplace in many types of musical research.
King’s College London was part of the CHARM project—The AHRC Research Centre
for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music—and as such I have had the
opportunity of meeting researchers in this field and discussing techniques of
transcription as well as analysis.159
The methodology used in sections of this thesis which focus on recorded sound
is based on techniques of signal processing, drawn from three specific sources: First is a
guide to a particular software: A musicologist's guide to Sonic Visualiser by Nicholas
Cook and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson.160 This offers essential information on the basic
operations of signal processing and the manipulation of data that such software
programmes can harvest. Taking this further, Leech Wilkinson’s book-length study The
Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical Performance,
offers a detailed look at how such data can be interpreted in the light of older
performance practices and traditions of performance over long periods of time.161 In
particular, this latter study formed the backbone of my methodology in measuring
vibrato (see chapter 5). Finally, I learned much about the use of spectrograms to
understand harmonic information from Peter Johnson's essay: Performance and the
Listening Experience: Bach's 'Erbarme dich'.162
159 Accessed August 17, 2009.
160 "A Musicologist's Guide to Sonic Visualiser," King's College London, accessed 10/12/12,
161 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical
Performance, (London: CHARM, 2009),
162 Peter Johnson, "Performance and the Listening Experience: Bach's 'Erbarme dich'". In Theory into
Practice: Composition, Performance and the Listening Experience, Collected writings of the Orpheus
Institute (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1999), 55-101.
Digitization played an important role in this project since many of the recordings
that I refer to are no longer commercially available. In many cases, these recordings are
preserved on analogue carriers and required digitization in order to be analyzed with
signal processing software. Such analysis has allowed for an exploration of what
actually happened in performance, particularly in live performance. For instance, if a
performer claimed to be performing in mean tone temperament, analysis of a recording
showed to what extent they achieved this. Subsequently, a comparison was drawn
between what performers said they were doing or intending to do, and what they
actually did. In some cases the level of measurement has been finer than distinctions
that can be made by the human ear, and in these instances it has been important to
acknowledge the limits of human perception and tolerance in the conclusions that are
drawn. This is the case in chapter 5 when vibrato was measured across a range of
different recordings yet the differences measured do not necessarily reflect the
differences that can be heard.
Historiographical Considerations
The prevailing methodology of this project has been rooted in a broad historical
investigation of performance styles and it is important to acknowledge that a by-product
of this or, more accurately, a necessary co-product, has been a certain historicizing of
early music. Before we continue further it is essential to consider a broader
methodology, a slight posturing if you will, within the miasma of theories that surround
historiographical debate. How then to do the history of the early music revival?
A useful starting point is with the nature of historiography itself.
Historiography—the discipline of writing history—is both critical and metacritical; it
demands that we question how we select relics (facts and artifacts) and how we assign
importance to them in order to construct a history. It is also about how we read and
interpret ourselves and human artifacts through language, and as such forms part of the
tradition of human anthropology.
‘Memory made scientific’ is how Dahlhaus explained history when he
bemoaned its demise as our main reference point for the world around us, yet most
history shows only one possible way of organizing the world.163 In other words,
historians create narratives to tell a story and therefore inflect that story with something
of themselves and their understanding of the facts. Those relics that are passed over by a
historian can be just as revealing as those that are included, with the obvious caveat that
it would never be possible to encompass everything that happened in the past. This
leaves us with an unavoidable difference between history as it was lived, and history as
it is recorded and challenges the historian with minimizing the difference between the
There are two main ways of writing a history, Diachronic and Synchronic.
Diachronic history is a chronological approach with events explained in the order they
occurred, and their consequences given a narrative flow. Histories frequently use this
method to present a trajectory of thought and development from the past towards the
present to imply progress; things are getting better they seem to say. When applied to
early music, as indeed it was by Harry Haskell in 1998, the risk is run of suggesting that
each early music performance was part of a group endeavour towards the present and
this, in turn, implied progress.164 This argument of progress, if reduced to its logical
conclusion would lead to a confusing notion exemplified by the fantastical suggestion
that David Munrow wished his Renaissance choral performances could have sounded
like The Tallis Scholars’ sound today. By that route, does John Eliot Gardiner wish that
his Monteverdi Choir would sound like an as yet unknown choir of the future? Such an
163 Carl Dahlhaus, Foundations of Music History, trans. J. B. Robinson (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1983), 3.
164 Harry Haskell, The Early Music Revival: A History (New York: Dover Publications, 1996).
implication fails to address the unique circumstances that surround all performances and
whilst useful as an overview, lacks the detailed critical structure necessary for this
particular project.
Synchronic history offers a more pluralistic approach by exploring
interdisciplinary connections and influences more familiar to the ethnomusicologist.
Synchronic views are those that take a ‘snapshot’ of a society freed from the pull of
narrative; taking the time to reflect character, atmosphere and smaller contributory
factors. A synchronic history of art would differ from a diachronic history not only in
the way it collates information in order to tell a story but also in the way it views the
artworks under discussion; in a diachronic history the artwork could be autonomous, but
in a synchronic history the artwork can never ever be seen as autonomous, since it will
always be considered, as a response to, or a dialogue with, some external environment.
I am, of course representing the extremes of these arguments but in doing so I
attempt to demarcate the lines on which current historiographical arguments run.
Already we can see that to subscribe to a concept of autonomy in music would be to
reject the possibility of a synchronic history since Munrow sui generis would need no
contextualization within the early music ‘movement’; yet at the same time is it not
possible that some of his ideas were truly individual inventions and disconnected from
preceding events? There is clearly a need for compromise between these approaches,
the extent of which will change as further relics are recovered in the future. Music
history, and my research into a small part of ‘early music history’, is therefore a mixture
of trajectories (diachronic) and paradigms (synchronic) where these paradigms are
simply the grids that we throw across the past in order to make sense of it; grids such as
‘early music’ or ‘Renaissance’ that possibly bring their own cultural baggage with
165 Here I am paraphrasing from: Pryer, "Re-Thinking History." 686.
In this project, where biographical writing has been a necessity, it must be clear
that a certain amount of narrative could not be escaped, since it is the only way that
temporal expression is understood, and temporal succession of the early music revival is
an important contributory factor to an understanding of a David Munrow phenomenon.
However, a purely narrative approach, as we have just seen, would simply reduce
Munrow to a sign for something else and since a purely synchronic approach brings
with it both paradigmatic baggage and a denial of autonomy we are pushed towards
finding a third way.
In recent years there have appeared a number of notable histories that embarked
on third ways using Clifford Geertz’s concept of a thick description - i.e. one that
considers context as well as behaviour.166 The most obvious way of doing this is to
frame the narrative within an ‘imagined community’ (not an imaginary community)
which is essentially a paradigm like ‘Renaissance’ but more often than not a
geographical location, such as Paris or even Europe. Reinhard Strohm has attempted
this with great success and tells us of the need for:
accommodating both the climax of a long tradition and the particular conditions
of a geographic area of Europe […]. The essence of art and what people do with
it, are separate questions: but we shall attempt to understand them by holding
them against each other.167
Similarly, Christopher Page has written what he considers to be ‘a social history
illuminated by its interest in music.’168 And Gary Tomlinson’s widely read Music in
Renaissance Magic: Toward a Historiography of Others uses the seemingly marginal
166 Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (London: Hutchinson, 1975).
167 Reinhard Strohm, The Rise of European Music, 1380-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1993), 542.
168 Christopher Page, Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1997), vii.
belief in magic (especially the magical writings of the hermit Marsilio Ficino) as a tool
with which to explore Renaissance music.169
How then to integrate such ideas into my investigation of David Munrow, the
EMC and their performance practices? Clearly I could not simply adopt a single
existing model since this investigation is proposing to examine the performance practice
of a particular group of artists and not the artworks themselves; who would be held up
against whom?
Neither the case studies nor the social history imply an attempt to suggest how
one should listen to Munrow or, indeed, how one should position him within a personal
pantheon of musical personalities. I am keen to avoid assigning a value to Munrow’s
work by positioning him along a trajectory of ‘progress’ since Munrow’s work is
important as an artwork of its age and as a function within an imagined community and
not just because of its role in historical narrative (however much that narrative is in the
eye of the beholder). Therefore my thesis is offered as a possible reading where the
author fully acknowledges Leo Treitler’s observation that scholar and object are in a
constant state of flux ‘whereby each can change in response to engagement with the
Ethical Considerations
Sadly, David Munrow committed suicide in 1976 and although this is a study
about his performance practice, I have just made the case for understanding his life and
social context as part of this study. Due to the special sensitivity of this subject, several
interviewees asked me not to record their comments on audio equipment and to see my
169 Gary Tomlinson, Music in Renaissance Magic: Toward a Historiography of Others (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1993).
170 Leo Treitler, "The Historiography of Music: Issues of Past and Present," in Rethinking Music, eds.
Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 357.
draft chapters before publication. I was also asked not to write about Munrow’s suicide.
I have not felt at all compromised by complying with these wishes, and found all
interviewees most generous with their recollections and their time. Rather than discuss
David Munrow’s suicide directly I point readers to the obituaries cited during my
narrative (particularly those from The Times newspaper) which offer a frank account of
Munrow’s death. It is both out of a mark of respect that it is not discussed here, but also
because the author feels that such details will not enhance this narrative in its present
The work presented here offers a reading which combines elements of oral
history, archival research and thick description. At times it is likely that there is further
information which may come to light and so the reading that is offered must be read
within the current field of relics, rather than held against any new discoveries.
It is hoped that the legacy of this project will be both a source of information
and interviews about Munrow’s role in the early music revival and also a template and
catalyst for further study of this late twentieth century paradigm change.
Chapter 3 - David Munrow & The Formation of the
Early Music Consort of London
This chapter traces the broad biographical details of Munrow’s life. Key
influences and connections in his personal development as a musician are named before
being extrapolated and studied in greater depth over the following chapters. By
compiling a biography of Munrow’s formative years it seeks to re-imagine the social
context and musicological climate for the foundation of the EMC.
David John Munrow was born in Birmingham on August 12, 1942, the only
child of Albert Davis Munrow and his wife, Hilda Ivy Norman. Albert Munrow (known
always as Dave) was invited to become the first director of Physical Education at
Birmingham University and his son, David Munrow, attended the neighbouring school:
King Edward VI.171 Hilda Norman was also a teacher at the University, she lectured on
the history of dance.
David Munrow’s childhood experiences of music were a traditional mix of
piano lessons and singing as a boy-chorister at Birmingham Cathedral where he was
introduced to a working repertoire of early choral music. During his schooldays he also
began a lifelong interest in the recorder after he was taught the basic fingering by an
older German student who was lodging in the family home and who was an amateur
recorder player.172 He was also inspired during the 1950s by BBC broadcasts of
recorder and harpsichord music by John Sothcott and John Beckett both of whom he
would work with in the late 1960s in the early music ensemble Musica Reservata.173
171 Birmingham University has a building named after Albert Munrow: for details of The Munrow Sports
Centre see The University of Birmingham website. Accessed May 5, 2012.
172 Gillian Munrow, conversation with author, London, August 14, 2008.
173 John Sothcott, Derek Harrison, and Terry Sothcott, interview by author, Harlow, March 21, 2013.
Willis Grant, the music master at King Edward VI School, remembers recommending to
Munrow when he was aged eleven that he learn the bassoon:
He played the recorder very well indeed and he came to me one day and asked
could he join the school orchestra. So I had to point out that we didn’t use
recorders in the orchestra and […] I recommended the bassoon but had to point
out that these instruments were very costly. […] Well. In a matter of a few
weeks I was surprised when he came to me and said ‘I now have a bassoon, I’ve
paid for it’. But what astounded me was that he said ‘and I can play it now’ I
heard him and he certainly could play it!174
A fellow school-mate, the comedian Bill Oddie, also remembers that during his time in
the school orchestra not only did Munrow enjoy joking around by making low ‘farty’
noises on his bassoon but he also gained a reputation for being a ‘cut above everyone
else’ in musical ability too.175
It would appear that Munrow was a precocious schoolboy, keen to perform
before an audience in more than just a musical capacity. As Richard Wood discovered,
Munrow’s ‘impish’ humour was evident at an early age: ‘Friends remember that at
school, David the conjuror, complete with black cloak and top hat, had to clean up after
a trick with flour had gone disastrously wrong’.176 Neither was Munrow’s humour
confined to informal situations, he regularly appeared in school productions and has a
particular mention in a review of King Henry IV – Part II:
The two women were also good. Munrow (Mistress Quickly) made a very good
sketch of the part although a lot of details had gone astray. In particular his
costume needed padding at the hips; below the chest he was perfectly
Among his other childhood activities were outdoor pursuits and in particular
sailing, which he was later to teach during his university summer breaks. Munrow was
174 Willis Grant interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC radio.
Gillian Munrow remembers this chronology differently: “David began bassoon lessons before taking up
the recorder. His main aim in taking up the recorder (after hearing the German student playing it) was
that he wanted to win a music competition at school and knew he would not win it on the bassoon!!”
Gillian Munrow, email message to author, September 7, 2013.
175 Bill Oddie interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC radio.
176 Richard Wood, "David Munrow (1942-1976)," The Recorder Magazine, no. 26:3 (2006): 85.
177 J.A.B, "Review: King Henry IV - Part II," King Edward's School Chronicle 1959, 37.
also regularly selected for the athletics team and PT competitions, in 1960 he obtained
first class honours from the Outward Bound school in Ullswater.178
Figure 1: David Munrow as a prefect in 1960 (front row, far right)179
Munrow was a school prefect during his final year at school in 1960 and this
sixth form has been described by Humphrey Clucas as ‘remarkable’ since schoolmates
aside from Bill Oddie included John Deathridge, organist and later King Edward
Professor of Music at King’s College London; and the musicologist Ian Bent, now
Honorary Professor in the History of Music Theory at the University of Cambridge.180
Munrow also ran a school music society which gained the attention and respect
of many of his peers. In 1957, he was awarded a prize by the chief master, Canon R G
Lunt, in his school music competition: Anthony Baines’ book Woodwind Instruments
and their History.181 This book was to a be a powerful influence on Munrow’s life and
one which he later credits in the introduction to his own book: Instruments of the
178 King Edward's School Chronicle, "Congratulations," March 1960, 55.
179 King Edward's School Chronicle, "The Prefects, 1959-60," March 1960.
180 Humphrey Clucas, Taking Stock: The First Sixty Years (Surrey: The Lewin Press, 2005), 39.
181 David Munrow Book Collection: Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
Middle Ages and Renaissance.182 Alongside this introduction to organology, early
music was heard within the school grounds. In his final year he reported as house
captain that ‘The Orchestra made its contribution to the Purcell Tercentenary by
performing part of a specially collected Suite from the Dramatick Musick’, but added
that ‘Sixteenth century counterpoint triumphed over seventeenth century harmonies,
however, and we came second in the competition.’ And elsewhere he noted that his
house choir sang a sixteenth century madrigal O Lusty May.183
South America
After sixth-form studies Munrow obtained a place to read English at Cambridge
University but first took a gap year position through the British Council.184 He was sent
to Markham College in Lima, Peru where he worked as a general factotum, mostly in
the school library. The Principal, Alan Elliot-Smith, remembers that the young Munrow
made an impressive contribution to the musical life of the school:
During his very first term there he founded a film society and music society.
Well quite frankly this may sound rather cynical but although you get brilliant
performances in most school concerts the orchestra is rarely more than tolerable
though this one was pleasant to listen to! Although no music was taught in the
school and there were no sort of regular orchestral practices that the boys had to
attend, he worked it out entirely on his own and he had got them, and they’re not
a particularly disciplined race, he had got them disciplined.185
Munrow was also involved with musical activities outside of Markham College. In a
1966 letter of application to the BBC he writes that he gave a solo recital on Peruvian
Television and a school magazine article of 1961 congratulates ‘D. J. Munrow on two
television appearances in Peru with propaganda on behalf of the recorder’.186
182 David Munrow, Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1976), 4.
183 "Evans," King Edward's School Chronicle, March 1960, 26.
184 The British Council did not keep records of the reports filed by voluntary teachers for more than five
years unless they were seen at the time to be of significant historical interest. Munrow’s report has not
been kept.
185 Alan Elliot-Smith interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC
186 D. A. T. Powis., "Music," King Edward's School Chronicle, March 1961, 61.
Having already been introduced to the history of wind instruments through the
writings of Anthony Baines, Munrow was both interested and knowledgeable enough to
start his collection of folk instruments as he encountered them on his travels in South
America. It is not certain whether he realized their similarity to antique western forms
whilst on his gap year, but he certainly made this connection when he encountered early
European instruments a year later at university. Collecting folk instruments in South
America could well have simply been a happy coincidence because, despite displaying
such obvious musical promise, Munrow confessed to having had no formal musical
training when interviewed by Sue McGregor for Woman’s hour shortly before his
I’ve always been put off studying music somehow or other—I did have some
piano lessons when I was small—but apart from that I’ve always avoided
studying music, I don’t know why, but I read English at Cambridge anyhow but
really I spent much more time there doing music rather than anything else and in
a practical sense. And I suppose that the interest in old instruments started in the
year I spent in South America although an interest in early music had already
begun really from when I started to sing in a cathedral choir when I was
These self-taught recorder and bassoon techniques were the skills that made all of
Munrow’s other instrumental playing possible, and it was probably these same skills
that enabled him to play the folk instruments he told Sue MacGregor he discovered in
South America:
[SM] - How did the interest in instruments start in South America, did you see
Indians playing nose flutes or whatever they play there?
[DM] - Well actually they don’t play nose flutes but they play a lot of other very
interesting kinds of flutes and I made a marvellous journey down the Andes
from Peru going down almost to the Tierra del Fuego in Chile and back again all
by land and I came across instruments like the flute and the recorder and the
harp, which had been brought over by the conquistadores and adopted by the
Indians and they’d kept them, you know, in exactly the same way. You know
they’d gone on making them in the same way that flutes and recorders and harps
were made in the renaissance and that was really when I started collecting
187 David Munrow interviewed on: "Woman's Hour," presented by Sue MacGregor, aired September 3,
1975, on BBC Radio.
[SM] - So here you’ve found a collection of instruments that hadn’t moved on
since the 16th century and were still being played.
[DM] - Exactly. Yes.
[SM] - How hard was it for you to revive the interest here though, when you
brought it over with you?
[DM] - Well I think it’s revived itself. I mean I think that in England we’ve been
a bit behind the times compared to other countries like Germany where they
started making reconstructions and reviving old music even before the last war
or in America where certainly ten years ago there was a great deal more going
on than there was here. But I think it’s a natural process; it’s all part of our
interest in the past, collecting antiques, historical movies and all the rest of it.188
Even before his broader experience of early Western instruments at Cambridge
University, travelling through South America in the early 1960s may have helped the
past seem less remote to a young student. As Jasper Parrott remembers, the trip gave
Munrow a sense that ‘music was all joined up’ and that ‘it didn’t matter where it comes
I remember he told me a wonderful story about travelling from São Paulo to
Bolivia on the slow train—which unfortunately has been now withdrawn—but
you could get on and off at any time you liked and any sort of person jumped on
and jumped off and that was one of the highlights of his arrival in Bolivia and
then in Peru.189
Another friend and colleague recalled that ‘David himself later told me about
Bolivia and getting caught up in a war there’.190 The trip that Munrow talked about on
Woman’s Hour was presumably the same one that took him through Bolivia and,
indeed, may have been what Elliot-Smith referred to when he explained how Munrow
had spent the long summer holiday which in Peru coincides with the Christmas break:
and when he came back at the end of two months he looked absolutely ghastly.
He was unshaven, dirty, clothes torn, not surprising really considering what he’d
had to put up with but he certainly had seen Peru and he came back with a series
of weird and wonderful instruments which I’d never seen or knew what they
188 Ibid.
189 "Mr Munrow, His Study," presented by Jeremy Summerly, aired January 7, 2006, on BBC Radio 4.
190 Guy Woolfenden, email message to author, November 27, 2012. Gillian Munrow suggests: ‘I think the
"war" mentioned by Guy was being chased by bandits who were trying to steal his father's camera. He
hid up a tree for some hours before deciding it was OK to come down again!’ Munrow, September 7,
were about at all. And as he was living with us at the time I used to hear strange
noises from him occasionally coming from upstairs.191
Despite what would appear to have been a brush with warfare, Munrow
continued to explore as much of South America as possible during his year overseas: in
particular there were some problems with a trip that he took to Ecuador towards the end
of his stay in 1961. A confusion over travel arrangements resulted in an unexpected
journey overland from Guayquil to Quito. This is mentioned in letters from Colin and
Beatrice; Colin was another teacher who accompanied David on his long trip around
South America.
Beatrice was terribly distressed when she learned what had happened […] I
didn’t mention the Quito-Guayaquil confusion […] I hope things worked out
satisfactorily in Ecuador, and that the long trek from Guayquil to Quito had its
compensations […]192
They offered to explain the situation to his parents for him. Clearly the energetic
young man had endeared himself to his hosts because Colin also recalls fondly
Munrow’s frequent swearing:
I find it very difficult to believe, really, that you've gone from this horizon, and
frequently expect to hear the door open energetically and an explosive “SHIT!”
as you fall over whatever may be in the way. Do you think the walls have
absorbed your expletives, and will remember them some time when it’s
particularly quiet?193
John Turner, a fellow undergraduate and recorder player who was Munrow’s
frequent musical collaborator and later his family lawyer, remembers meeting Munrow
shortly after university enrolment. He recalls that Munrow’s interest in the connection
between the South American instruments and earlier Western forms was particularly
encouraged at university when he was introduced to the medieval and renaissance
copies of instruments made by Steinkopf, Körber and Rainer Weber. Turner has
reflected that the South American year:
191 Alan Elliot-Smith interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC
192 Colin to David Munrow, c1961, DM1/1/1, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of Music
Library, London.
193 Ibid.
opened his eyes to the wonders of folk music and the fantastic variety of shapes
and sizes (both practical and symbolic!) of folk wind instruments. Most of these
were of the flute family, and thus it was fairly easy for him to master the notes.
[…] He retained a particular affection for South American folk music with its
breathy flutes and lazy percussion. The Peruvian experience left him with an
endless fascination which extended to folk instruments of all kinds of which he
amassed a very substantial collection, still (I think) intact in a restaurant in
Munrow was still enthusing about his Peruvian adventures to John Willan a
decade later when working at EMI and Willan recently reflected that the whole
adventure ‘sort of blew his mind.’195
Considering the intense musical content of his South American voyage it seems
even more surprising that Munrow did not study music at Cambridge, even if by his
own admission he did spend much of his time making music during his university years.
Munrow was at Pembroke college and lived in ‘a tiny cramped garret in Botolph
Lane and was known for ‘furious cycling’ around the city.196 Like all freshers, he
arrived a few days before the beginning of Michaelmas term to register at the
University. During these few days, before academic teaching began, new
undergraduates with an interest in music were invited to meet the Dean of their college,
Meredith Dewey:
I used to run a, what they called a, Dean’s evening […] I made it a kind of
opportunity to collect musicians because I was a kind of patron of the musical
society in the college and about between 20 and 30 used to come and tea and
sixpenny buns in the middle. But I used to say ‘do something! Play!’ and they all
sort of gaped at you. And after a few attempts this little sort of shaggy-haired,
tousle-haired boy got up. He’d come with a bag and I was rather curious to know
what was inside the bag, but gracious me, there were 40 pipes and he’d been to
South America and come back with them. And he very diffidently said ‘I don’t
know whether you’d be interested in pipes of South America but here’s some’
and he thereupon gave a recital practically non stop and entranced us all! I must
194 John Turner, "Pills to Purge Melancholy: A Personal Memoir of David Munrow," The Recorder
Magazine 16, no. 2 (1996): 53.
195 John Willan, interview by author, London, September 19, 2012.
196 Turner, "Pills to Purge Melancholy: A Personal Memoir of David Munrow," 52.
say at the back of my mind was “My hat, if this boy’s like this now on the first
Sunday of term, what’ll he be like in three years? Absolutely intolerable!”197
One of the first recorder players Munrow met at Cambridge was John Turner
and the pair spent many hours together surveying recorder repertoire. Turner remembers
that Munrow would spend long periods of time practising chromatic scales honing the
quick-fire technique that characterized later recordings.198 In order to survey a repertoire
which demanded larger forces, Munrow organized concerts under the names of
Cambridge Pro Musica Antiqua, Cambridge Pro Musica Preclassica and Cambridge Pro
Musica. Munrow also sang countertenor in Jesus College Choir throughout his
undergraduate years and took over conducting a choir in his college, The Pembroke
He quickly established his reputation as a recorder player by performing in the
Freshmen’s Concert at the University Music Club in November 1961. That particular
programme included the Quantz E minor Trio Sonata and, as Turner puts it, ‘after that
he was usually the leading light in any concert he took part in’.199 This is further
exemplified by one particular concert in which Munrow played in every single item on
the programme from bassoon in Vivaldi Chamber Concertos to obbligato parts for
Handel arias sung by Sarah Walker.200
Christopher Hogwood was also to become a great friend and musical
collaborator. A year ahead in his studies, he first met David Munrow during the
organization of a concert at Pembroke College after news of the freshers’ performance
at the Dean’s soiree had spread fast:
It was at the beginning of a new Cambridge year and a college concert had just
run short of items. […] Someone suddenly suggested that there was a new
undergraduate who could play the bassoon and recorder quite well and had just
197 Meredith Dewey interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC
198 Turner, "Pills to Purge Melancholy: A Personal Memoir of David Munrow," 52.
199 Ibid.
200 Ibid.
come back from spending a year in South America. […] David was pushed
forward clutching handfuls of Peruvian pipes and Bolivian flutes and proceeded
to entertain and amuse the whole company absolutely impromptu for the next
half hour. And only after you’d finished laughing […] did you realize that you
were now a great deal wiser about South American Music, flute playing, flute
making and folk improvisation.201
At a similar event (possibly the same one) Richard Wood uncovered the
following report:
A gap in the programme of the first musical evening of the Michaelmas Term
was apparently to be filled by a freshman playing some Brazilian flute music.
The freshman, who proved short in stature but ebullient in manner, arrived in
M17 with a satchel of twenty or more pipes bought in Brazilian bazaars in the
course of the last summer. A lengthy and detailed lecture on Brazilian pipe
music followed with illustrations expertly played.202
Munrow, it would appear, was quick to take any opportunity to share his
enthusiasm and knowledge of wind instruments and was also keen to establish himself
in the forefront of university concert life.
Figure 2: David Munrow, John Turner (standing) and Christopher Hogwood giving a
recital in Millers music shop, Cambridge c.1962203
Cambridge University also provided an opportunity for many catalytic
conversations with leading professional musicians. Thurston Dart, one of the great early
201 "Christopher Hogwood Pays Tribute to the Life and Work of David Munrow. (A replacement
programme for Pied Piper)," presented by Christopher Hogwood, aired May 17, 1976, on BBC.
202 This passage was written by ‘SK’ presumably for a student magazine. It is quoted in: Wood, "David
Munrow (1942-1976)," 85.
203 Ibid. Photograph by kind permission of John Turner.
music pioneers of the mid twentieth century, was a particular source of support and
nurture and Munrow remembered their first encounter in an interview many years later:
At Cambridge I met Thurston Dart. In his study at Jesus, he had a crumhorn
hanging on the wall. One day I asked him to lend it to me, and that wakened my
interest in the field of old instruments.204
One of the earliest public occasions on which that very crumhorn was played by
Munrow was for a ‘Smoking Concert’ at the University Musical Club when ‘Sixteenth
century canons for recorder and crumhorn’ appeared on the programme. John Turner
remembers that the programme said ‘The audience was invited to “smoke particularly
hard during this item”’ - an early indication of Munrow’s humorous approach to
presenting unfamiliar sounds to an unsuspecting public.205
Dart also held regular musical evenings combining performances on early
instruments with stimulating conversation at which Munrow was a frequent attendee
and contributor. Furthermore, Charles Brett remembers one of Dart’s departmental
lectures in which Munrow was involved:
There was a lecture series on the history of instruments, at Cambridge by
Thurston Dart, ‘Thrustron Drat’ we called him! And when David came back
with all these instruments Dart handed over the lecture to David. ‘Mr Munrow
has come here with all these instruments…’ and David gave the lecture. And
that was the sort of start, I suppose, of the way he could interpret things to the
general public.206
Munrow remained in contact with Dart throughout the rest of his life and attended his
memorial service in 1971.207 Dart had also come to music through a non-standard route;
a choirboy in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, he had studied as a teenager
at the Royal College of Music before taking a BSc in Mathematics at University
College, Exeter. After a spell in the Royal Air Force he studied for a year in Brussels
204 Alan Blyth, "David Munrow Talks to Alan Blyth," Gramophone, May 1974.
205 Turner, "Pills to Purge Melancholy: A Personal Memoir of David Munrow," 52.
206 Charles Brett, interview by author, London, February 18, 2013.
207 A small printed card, from University of London King's College Faculty of Music, concerning Robert
Thurston Dart (1921-1971), informing that "a memorial concert will take place at St John's Smith Square,
London SW1, on Saturday 3 April 2.15 pm - 3 pm.": [Card for Thurston Dart Memorial Service]. Papers
of David Munrow: DM9/21, Royal Academy of Music Library Special collections, London. 1971.
with the famous musicologist Charles Van den Borren before teaching at Cambridge
University and establishing his career as a harpsichordist. Dart’s activities linked him to
many of the key early music organizations of the mid twentieth century including the
Galpin Society Journal, The Purcell Society, The English Folk Dance and Song Society,
Musica Britannica (of which he was secretary), The Boyd Neel Orchestra (which later
became his own Philomusica of London) and the pioneering publisher and record label
L’Oiseau-Lyre in Monaco (financed by Louise Dyer who was also Dart’s patron).
Through Dart, Munrow accessed this world of scholarship and performance and would
have heard about the teaching of Van den Borren and German musicologists of the early
twentieth century. The influence of Dart’s activities can be seen clearly in Munrow’s
teaching at Leicester University.208
Another source of support and influence was the harpsichordist Mary Potts who
taught Chritopher Hogwood, Colin Tilney and Peter Williams. According to the
composer Peter Dickinson, Potts’ ‘influence could perhaps be seen as complementary to
that of Thurston Dart in the official Cambridge University Music Faculty’.209
Munrow did not limit himself to early music activities, he was also active
outside of his own college and across the University music department as a whole. A
good example of this can be seen from 1962 when he played bassoon for Girton College
Musical Society’s Lent Term Concert which was conducted by Margaret Bassington
(now Bent), a pupil of Thurston Dart. The concert consisted of Cantata (1952) by
Stravinsky and Mass in B flat (1802) by Haydn. Interestingly, the soprano soloist was
Christina Clark who later recorded with Munrow and the orchestra contained both
Duncan Druce and Simon Standage - also future Munrow collaborators. Philip Brett, the
Byrd scholar, was in the basses of the chorus and the scholar (and former King
208 As discussed in Appendix one of this thesis: David Munrow, [Academic Notes], Papers of David
Munrow: DM9/8, Royal Academy of Music Library, London. c.1966.
209 Peter Dickinson, "Remembering David Munrow: for forthcoming book project to be edited by John
Turner," (2010).
Edward’s Schoolboy) Ian Bent, who was to write many reviews of the Early Music
Consort’s work, sang tenor.210 Munrow also played bassoon in a performance of
Purcell’s Ode to St Cecilia together with Martyn Hill (tenor) and David Thomas (bass)
conducted by Edgar Alder. Christopher Seaman was playing the piano (he was then a
timpanist) and kept inserting English cadences into the piano part. Apparently Munrow
sniggered all the way through the performance at this but never played a wrong note
even though he was laughing whilst playing his bassoon. Hill remembers this as an
example that Munrow was a consummate professional who could have lots of fun but
never at the expense of the performance.211 Munrow also played in early concerts with
The Monteverdi Choir which was founded in Cambridge in 1964. Other notable
musicians at Cambridge during the early sixties who would have overlapped with
Munrow for a year include David Atherton (with whom Munrow would collaborate for
a Southbank concert in the 1970s) and Andrew Davis.
Cambridge was clearly a melting pot of young musicians who would go on to
major careers in the [early] musical world.
Munrow was elected president of the Cambridge University Music Club during
his final year, and organized a production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen in Pembroke
College with The Pembroke Singers which was so keenly anticipated that even before
tickets went on sale it ‘had vast blocks of seats reserved for the music faculty […]’.212
Neither was Munrow’s growing reputation confined to Cambridge, James Bowman
remembers that his name was also known at Oxford University:
I knew him by reputation. I was at Oxford but his legend, as it were, had already
started then and I’d certainly heard of him as an early music person and I was by
no means ignorant of his concerts. I mean the concerts […] that he put on in
Cambridge, it was well known in Oxford. I remember him coming to the music
210 A copy of this programme is held in the private collection of Margaret Bent.
211 Martyn Hill, conversation with author, London, March 25, 2009.
212 Wood, "David Munrow (1942-1976)."
society in Oxford to play with the Cambridge University Music Society and
everybody was very impressed by him.213
During one of the summer vacations Christopher Hogwood recalls that Munrow
was asked to attend Dartington Summer School by George Malcolm who needed a
bassoon player. Malcolm was a key influence alongside Thurston Dart in encouraging
Munrow to be a professional musician:
I think the other influence in that direction was probably George Malcolm. I
know David went to Dartington as a student for the summer school one year and
George was short of a bassoonist and David was pushed in to fill that gap too
and after he’d been auditioned by George and played very successfully, George
went to him the next day and said that he really thought he was so good he really
ought to think of taking up music professionally. I think this is what really stuck
in David’s mind.214
Yet despite having established a solid reputation and firm friendships and
contacts in the musical world, he did not go on to study for a music qualification at
masters level, neither did he follow Thurston Dart in 1964 to King’s College London
for his postgraduate qualifications despite this being a route taken by his colleague John
Eliot Gardiner. Instead he returned to the Midlands to study with the English
department at Birmingham University, where he wrote a thesis on a collection of
‘seventeenth-century bawdy songs’; Thomas d'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy.215
A Professional Musician
One possible factor in Munrow’s decision to keep his postgraduate studies
within the orbit of a university English department could have been parental pressure.
Since his undergraduate years David had had a serious girlfriend, Gillian Reid. She and
213 James Bowman interviewed on: "David Munrow," Presented by Bernard Levin, aired June 27, 1976,
on BBC Television.
214 Chritsopher Hogwood interviewed on: ibid.
215 Blyth, "David Munrow talks to Alan Blyth." David, however, never completed this thesis or took a
Masters degree at Birmingham: ‘but went to teach at George Dixon's Grammar School which gave him
time to play with the RSC wind band at Stratford in the evenings. He eventually gave up teaching - after
about a year - and went full time to the RSC wind band. It was at this point, when his parents thought he
was mad to give up a good teaching job, that they asked me to intervene!’. Gillian Munrow, e-mail
message to author, September 7, 2013.
David met through a choir that Gill had been encouraged to join by a work colleague
while she was working as a teacher in Cambridge. John Turner remembers:
[Munrow] inherited his small stature from his father, and this, combined with his
natural dynamism, produced a charisma which was perhaps somewhat enhanced,
even in the permissive 60s, by the fact that he dared to pursue and ultimately win
a seemingly unobtainable young soprano.216
David met Gill at a rehearsal when he was a deputizing for the conductor one
evening. They dated whilst David was at Cambridge and later on, when Munrow was
offered a job as a bassoonist for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Gill remembers that
his parents asked her to persuade him not to become a full-time musician despite his
already busy professional schedule.
Before Hogwood had left Cambridge he and Munrow had teamed up with
Gillian Reid (who was as this point Gillian Kernohan) to tour music clubs and societies
across the country giving lecture recitals. The first lecture recitals they did were
organized as this trio - Hogwood, Munrow and Kernohan. They started with three
lectures booked in a row and toured in a Morris van driven by Hogwood. Gill
remembers that initially the lectures only called for a few instruments so programmes
were based around the recorder, yet the van was still needed to transport the
harpsichord. Gill also remembers that they all felt rather sheepish at taking the work
because none of them were yet experts. The lectures started off as being recorder-based
and aimed at schools, but as Munrow’s collection grew so did the number of
instruments they included in their talks.217 Munrow’s notebooks record the outline of
his talks:
Introduction: how many recorder players? Non recorder players and recorder
players alike find it hard to see it in its historical perspective. Recorder players
sometimes give the impression that the recorder is the beginning and end of
216 Turner, "Pills to Purge Melancholy: A Personal Memoir of David Munrow," 52.
217 Munrow, "conversation with author."
baroque music – non recorder players sometimes give the impression that the
recorder is just the end of baroque music.218
Munrow’s notebooks also show that a sequence of ‘Shakespearean Pop Tunes’
were frequently programmed for these talks. Gill often accompanied on percussion and
bells and, at times, Christopher Hogwood joined with Harpsichord and Regal as he does
on the Oryx recording ‘The Medieval Sound’ which captures something of this lecturerecital
Gill and David continued to work as a duo after Christopher went to Prague in
1964 for a gap year. Hogwood was a year or so ahead at college and it was when
Munrow went to Prague to visit Christopher that he met Jasper Parrott, who was later to
become his agent and friend. Jasper Parrott remembers Hogwood’s year in Prague as a
British Council organised event:
my father was then the British Ambassador and so because I was very
enthusiastic about early music and played the oboe quite badly and the recorder
probably worse [...] I sort of got to know Christopher and we provided him with
quite a lot of hospitality—food—and also some connections because my father
had good connections in the music business. He was a very keen amateur
musician, a pianist. And then David came out to visit Christopher for two or
three weeks I think and so we sort of got together quite a lot and in fact rather
bizarrely we even once […] provided the music at the American embassy for
something like an Easter service for which Chris played the harpsichord and
David and I player the recorders which as you can imagine his level of recorder
player was, you know, sort of stratospherically better than mine. So it was a
great, great thing and David was exceptionally sort of nice and encouraging
As a postgraduate student David worked on summer camps for his father,
teaching sailing on Lake Coniston and rock climbing in the Lake District. A fellow
postgraduate student Jack Salway remembered:
I really got to know David when we were the only two postgrads at the
summer camps which were organised for the first year students studying
Physical Education. We are a similar age (about 24/25 at the time) and did not
218 David Munrow, The Recorder, 1966, DM/9/6, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of Music
Library, London.
219 David Munrow, Gillian Reid, and Christopher Hogwood, The Mediaeval Sound: David Munrow
Introduces Early Woodwind Instruments, Oryx / Peerless EXP46. 1970. LP.
220 Jasper Parrott, interview by author, London, June 12, 2009.
relate to the teenage students and we were too young really to relate to the staff
so we stuck together during our free time. His main role was to teach sailing.
We were based on the edge of Lake Coniston in the Lake District. We spent the
evenings together chatting about the day's events etc and often singing Gilbert
and Sullivan together. He told me of his old instruments and his time in Peru but
I didn't take much notice.221
Munrow has been described as spending the years 1965–1968 as ‘consolidating
his ideas and technique’.222 This is certainly an accurate observation but these years had
none of the hermit-like qualities one would expect from such a description, they were
also years spent organizing many concerts and giving lecture recitals whilst undertaking
various teaching jobs. Munrow began life post-Cambridge by teaching at a school
which, according to Salway, he did not enjoy:
the last time I saw him in about 1966 when he was thoroughly fed up with his
teaching job at George Dixon's Grammar School in Birmingham. We bumped
into each other on the campus at Birmingham. This is a very vivid memory
which I recall as if it was a year ago. I remember the exact spot and how I
walked away feeling very sad to see him looking so despondent. Within a short
time of this meeting he was famous!223
Whilst the formation of the Early Music Consort of London lay in the future,
Hogwood remembers that Munrow’s musical interests started to focus to a greater
extent on pre-baroque music:
I think the change occurred really in the period when I had left Cambridge and
David was just leaving and doing a little research in Birmingham at which time
he gave a big concert of Susato dances from Danserye which are basically four
part unspecified instrumentation and he arranged—provoked partly by a record
which I think is now almost forgotten but was very formative then, the
Terpsichore Suite done on Archiv—and it was from that sort of very coloured
instrumentation that David had the idea to work on another set of dances and
give them the same treatment and gave a very impressive concert that opened
people’s eyes to the fact that there was a large repertoire of music there. And in
the time that I was away—I was in Prague—David came out to Prague and again
we played lots of Baroque music then but there was a mutual feeling that were
getting a bit sick of Telemann and looking elsewhere. And found by talking that
the mood had very much moved towards early renaissance or medieval music
221 Jack Salway: Internet post by ‘piedpiper’ on accessed September 18, 2009. Post
entitled ‘Contemporaries of David Munrow Remember’.
222 Notes for Renaissance suite: Music composed & arranged for the Soundtrack of the Joel Santoni film
“La Course en Tete”. EMI Records HQS 1415 1974. Notes by James Durant.
223 Jack Salway: Internet post by ‘piedpiper’ on 2009.
and he said that he was thinking of going in for organizing a group that would
specialize in that repertoire.224
With the aim of exploring earlier repertoire, Munrow was beginning to gather around
him the musicians that he would work with for the rest of his life. The countertenor
James Bowman recalls meeting Munrow and being asked to take part in his concerts:
I met him quite by accident in somebody’s house in Ladbroke Grove and once
again there was this small figure on the telephone all afternoon obviously fixing
jobs for other people. And I thought he was the secretary of the lady whose
house it was and I didn’t pay much attention to him and after we’d finished
rehearsing he came up to me and said “Oh I rather like your voice, would you
like to do some concerts with me?” So I, being broke at the time, said “Fine, as
long as there’s some money involved in it,” and he said, “Yes I can arrange
some things for you in Birmingham,” and that’s really how it all started.225
Bowman has also recounted this story in more humorous terms when interviewed in
1992 by Brian Kay:
Well I’d always heard of David Munrow, I knew of his existence at Cambridge.
He was a sort of legend … and I was doing some concerts with a lady called
Mary Remnant. She’d asked me to do some performances with her and I went to
rehearse in the house of a musicologist in Notting Hill Gate. And in the corner of
the room there was a portly young gentleman who spent the whole time rushing
around in a mackintosh making telephone calls. I thought he was a sort of
cleaner who would empty the dustbins or something. I didn’t know what on
earth he was doing. And eventually he came up to me and said “My name’s
David Munrow” and of course I was totally flabbergasted, this was the
legendary character...and to cut a long story short he invited me to join his group
there and then. 226
In his retelling of the story, Munrow himself also highlighted his instant
attraction to Bowman’s voice:
and then I heard James Bowman and thought that here was the most fabulous
‘noise’ I’d ever heard, so he joined us too.227
224 Christopher Hogwood interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on
BBC radio. The Archiv recording to which he refers is: Terpsichore: Renaissance and Early Baroque
Dance Music, Ullsamer Collegium, Konrad Ragossnig, Archiv LP. Accessed October 12, 2011. The Early Music Consort of London was initially
known as ‘The Early Music Consort’ and they only added the London reference when American tours
started to be arranged.
225 James Bowman interviewed on: "David Munrow," presented by Levin, 1976.
226 “James Bowman: a 20th-century voice (1)”, directed by Brian Kay, aired April 25, 1992, on BBC
Radio. H243/01 VHS sound recording, British Library Sound Archive, London.
227 Blyth, "David Munrow talks to Alan Blyth."
Mary Remnant, herself an early collaborator in Munrow concerts, remembers
the venue for this meeting as being the house of the harpist, Marilyn Wailes.228 A name
had to be selected for the ensemble that was to perform in these concerts and Bowman
remembers that Munrow asked him:
‘Do you mind if I call it The Early Music Consort?’ not even ‘of London’ just
The Early Music Consort and I said ‘That’s fine by me’. And he was doing a
series of concerts at, I think it was, Birmingham University and also one in
Coventry and it was just a series of about four and that was really the initial plan
and there was no idea of carrying on on a permanent basis.229
Munrow’s incessant fixing and organizing still had connections to Cambridge
life. Jasper Parrott remembers one such concert that took place in Jesus Chapel:
I actually participated in one of David’s really quite epochal concerts which was
in the chapel of Jesus when he did one of his first ever big assemblies of
wind…a sort of Medieval Renaissance […] including Tielman Susato and all
sorts of things. […] But the thing was I had, and I think I was probably the only
person in Cambridge who had, a bass recorder… and he knew this and I bought
this in Prague and when he came to me, he approached me, and said “Well look
I’d really like to ... is there any chance I can borrow your bass recorder?” And I
said, “You can borrow me and the bass recorder but you can't borrow the bass
The concert took place on 25 April 1965. A private LP was made and tape
copies sent out with letters of introduction, including one to the University of
Birmingham. 231 The concerts in the Birmingham area for which Munrow had recruited
James Bowman were to include one very special concert at the Barber Institute of Fine
Arts which took place on 28 May 1965. At this concert Sir Anthony Lewis, then
president of the Institute, remembers that Munrow ‘did not just emerge into the field of
medieval and renaissance music – he exploded into it’.232 He also remembered planning
the concert:
228 Mary Remnant, interview by author, London, October 3, 2012.
229 James Bowman interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC radio.
Later in this interview Bowman mentions that the ensemble added ‘of London’ to their name for
marketing purposes when they undertook USA tours.
230 Parrott, "interview by author."
231 This tape is mentioned in: David Munrow, Jesus College Music Society Cambridge, May 1, 1966, DM
2/1/3, Papers of David Munrow: Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
232 Anthony Lewis et al., "Tributes to David Munrow," Early Music 4, no. 3 (1976): 376.
…and I asked him what kind of concert he wanted to give and he said ‘a concert
of dance music’. Well, this was not quite the kind of thing that we were
accustomed to but I said, ‘very well, let’s hear it,’ and we were not disappointed.
We went into the hall, I saw an array of the instruments that we associate with
him and from the very first chord they played I could see he had imbued them,
his players, with the vitality that always oozed out of him. He communicated
this to his players in the same way as later on he was to communicate it to
students at the [Royal] Academy [of Music].233
James Bowman took part in the concert and remembers the catalytic effect it had
in hardening Munrow’s resolve to become a professional musician:
Yes, I sang at it. I think Christopher was away in Czechoslovakia…I remember
it, it was a lunchtime concert actually […] we went to the canteen afterwards
and lunch was off and David was furious. But the concert itself was a riotous
success and the Barber institute was almost full of students and I remember he
was very, very happy at the reception we got. And I think he really decided after
that that things were obviously going to be ok and people were receptive to what
he was trying to do. I think this, as you say, was a great breakthrough for him.234
Lewis also recalled the occasion when he contributed a piece for Munrow’s
obituary in 1976:
When the day came and we went into the hall, there indeed was a big band on
the platform, but not quite the type one might have expected. What followed I
described in my report to the Barber Trustees, where I spoke of the concert
having been presented 'with sensational impact' (an understatement). 'A large
team of enthusiastic and highly skilled performers on cornetts, shawms,
crumhorns, various sizes of recorders and several recondite varieties of
percussion was assembled as well as the more familiar trombones, oboes and
cors anglais. These forces were disposed for part of the concert at various points
in the foyer of the Institute. This enabled effects of antiphony to be exploited,
and the impression received was brilliant and invigorating. The programme,
which started in the foyer with Italian 17th-century canzoni, ended with
renaissance dance music played on the stage with indestructible rhythm.
Altogether an exhilarating occasion.’ It was indeed, and nothing like it had been
heard in the Barber Institute before. Its decorous and civilized walls rang with
the sound and elderly professors were practically dancing in their seats. A new
epoch had opened.
Lewis went on to summarize the main factors of this epoch:
The hallmarks of that epoch were already evident - the precise intonation, the
professional control of period instruments, the discriminating choice of
repertoire and the immense artistic gusto that carried all before it. David led us
into a new and fascinating world of musical experience by his insistence on the
same (or higher) standards of performance in the execution of medieval and
233 Anthony Lewis interviewed on: "David Munrow," presented by Levin, 1976.
234 Ibid.
renaissance music as was expected in the repertoire of later periods. Gone was
the unease that beset so many previous performances of earlier music—the
starved tone, the flaccid rhythm, the listless phrasing—this was replaced by
confidence and mastery that enabled the music to break through the veil of
insecurity that had previously surrounded it.235
1965 also saw the first of many recitals at Hinckley Music club with which
David and Gill were to have a long association. The club’s website recalls that:
David Munrow and Christopher Hogwood approached Marjorie King in 1965 to
ask if they might be engaged for a performance of their repertoire of ‘old’ music.
A fee of ten guineas was agreed, and an ‘Elizabethan Evening’ of Tudor music
was presented in the Old Cottages, Lower Bond Street (now the Hinckley
Museum). This was the start of the memorable association between these artists
and the Club. The occasion led to several return visits by David Munrow with
his Early Music Consort, and in 1969 David became the Club’s first President.236
That concert took place at Hinckley Music Club, on Thursday 11 November,
1965. The programme comprised sixteenth-century music played by the duo.237
In April 1966 Munrow was offered a position as bassoonist for The Royal
Shakespeare Wind Band. Munrow’s parents thought he ought to aim for something
more reliable and lucrative but Gill remembers using the argument that David was
young enough to see where this road would lead him without jeopardizing his chances
of taking a serious job later if he needed to, so she never tried to persuade him as they
wished and instead acted as a mediator. She also added that both she and David had
offered similar advice to The King's Singers, with whom they were friendly when just
starting out.238
Woolfenden remembers that Munrow, initially, played very few early
235 Lewis et al., "Tributes to David Munrow," 376.
236 Eric Bamberger, “Hinckley Music Club History” Hinckley Music Club. Accessed May 1, 2012.
237 A programme of 16th century music played by David Munrow and Christopher Hogwood: David
Munrow, Hinckley Music Club Recital, November 11, 1965, DM 2/1/1, Papers of David Munrow, Royal
Academy of Music Library, London.
238 Gillian Munrow, "conversation with author."
David came in as a bassoon player, not because I wanted to deny him the right to
play all these weird things but he actually didn’t even possess them; he was just
getting in to crumhorns although he played the recorder beautifully.239
But gradually Munrow’s collection grew and Woolfenden did much to
encourage Munrow’s interest and remembers that his new recruit ‘was happy to play
bassoon but spent every waking moment encouraging me to write for a wide range of
early wind instruments.’240 Woolfenden also remembers that Munrow used to prepare
notes in the hope that he would compose for the needs of his growing instrument
I still have a sort of orchestration book that David wrote for me on two tatty
sheets of manuscript paper in which he described the quality, nature, range, pitch
of all these instruments and there are little remarks such as ‘don’t throw this one
at me without time to warm up because I’ve only had it for a day’.241
A different extract from one of these sets of notes informs Woolfenden that
‘these instruments operate most happily in home keys or one removed. Other keys are
much more difficult but still possible’. And more directly, ‘ The rauschpfeife has only
two dynamics – raucous and silent.’242 This enthusiasm, once it had taken hold, grew
quickly and Munrow began to acquire instruments in large quantities:
And every day over one period in, in must have been ‘66, ‘67, he turned up with
an even larger golf bag of strange instruments and one could hear him practising
in the band room and of course I was fascinated—drawn as by a siren sound to
the extraordinary noises to the point that it seems like a wonderful idea that I
actually write a score which featured him and the right moment turned up for
Trevor Nunn’s production of The Taming of the Shrew which only had four
instrumentalists in it because that’s the way we did it—we did it small and small
is beautiful I hope! And David played something like nine or ten instruments in
the course of one evening’s performance.243
Munrow himself fondly recalled the productions in a radio interview:
239 Guy Woolfenden interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC
240 Woolfenden, November 27, 2012.
241 Guy Woolfenden interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC
242 Quoted in: Wood, "David Munrow (1942-1976)," 85.
243 Guy Woolfenden interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC
radio. Gillian Munrow remembers this bag as being an electric guitar case, rather than a golf-club bag.
She also added: ‘in the Shrew he (and the other members of the band) were on stage in costume
throughout the performance. As the season wore on the musicians and the actors had (very discreet!)
water pistol fights.’ Gillian Munrow, e-mail message to author, September 7, 2013.
[The audience] would have seen a lot of me if they went to The Taming of the
Shrew because we had to sit on the stage on a rather hard bench for the duration
of the performance. […] They would have seen a great deal more of me in
another way if they’d been to see Troilus and Cressida because I had to sit
cross-legged in the middle of the stage, naked but for a loincloth, which was
rather curious because I was playing a heckel bassoon which seemed rather
Woolfenden then was also a key figure, who not only gave Munrow a public platform
on which to perform, but also encouraged him to explore further his early windinstrument
technique and gave him the opportunity to do so with the band. Even when
writing new music, Woolfenden was interested in evoking a sense of historical accuracy
and mentioned in that interview his frustration with the Spartacus epic films that
showed Roman soldiers with straight trumpets yet playing notes that such instruments
could not have produced. Visual authenticity was clearly an important part of his
philosophy and one which also may have influenced Munrow.
Munrow was also a keen stage-performer at the RSC, happy in costume but
frequently chastised by the company for his mischievous habit of giggling and causing
others to ‘corpse’ on stage too. James Bowman remembers a typically humorous
There are several amusing incidents obviously which he recounted with great
gusto. I remember apparently there’s an occasion during Hamlet when the
recorder was thrown to him to play which most nights he caught it although
apparently he wasn’t very good at catching. I don’t know if he was a tennis
player or not. But apparently one night he missed the recorder which was thrown
to him to play and it broke in 3 pieces and fell in the lap of a lady in the stalls
apparently. And he was very prone to getting the giggles in performances of
In 1966 David Munrow married Gillian Reid. Munrow was continually
encouraged by Gill; she had given him a copy of Alec Harman’s Man and his Music for
Christmas 1965 and several similar inscriptions show how her gifts helped him to build
244 This extract is used in: “David Munrow,” Michael Oliver. The author suggests its original source is:
"Woman's Hour," presented by MacGregor, 1975.
245 James Bowman speaking: "David Munrow," presented by Levin, 1976.
up his own library over the following years.246 Many years later she was referred to as
his ‘super secretary’.247 In 1968 Munrow performed in the RSC production of The
Taming of the Shrew that toured to the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, USA from the
second of January until the tenth of February. Gill travelled with him and together they
found opportunities to present their lecture recitals to American audiences.248 Gill
remembers that she and David had just bought a cine camera and enthusiastically filmed
everything. In particular she remembers Munrow devising and directing a sequence on a
beach which had concrete benches along its length—the sort that has advertising on the
backrest—and one was displaying an ad for a funeral home. David was behind the
camera and Gill was sat on the bench obscuring the ad and flanked by the two other
men. The men got up, Gill fell into lying position as if she had been dead the whole
time, and in doing so revealed the funeral poster behind. This story is typical of
Munrow’s humour and skill for succinct presentation.
Munrow’s collection of instruments grew and grew and he continued to be
encouraged by Woolfenden and buoyed by the success of his lecture-recitals. However,
the more indispensible Munrow made himself the more difficult it became for the wind
band when he needed time off. As Woolfenden remembers:
there was literally nobody in the whole kingdom who could deputise for him.
And, on one occasion in The Taming of the Shrew, far from double booking
himself, he was ill! He could give me only 24 hours notice, and I had to rewrite
the whole score in about 12 hours flat for a bassoon player and a cor anglais.
There was just nobody else who could do it.249
After a few years Munrow left the company amicably to pursue his freelance career. Yet
even without the glamour of RSC productions life was rarely dull. Early on in their
246 This book can be seen in: David Munrow Book Collection, Royal Academy of Music Library,
London: Alec Harman: Man and his music: Marked “To David with much love from Gill. Christmas
247 Blyth, "David Munrow talks to Alan Blyth."
248 David Munrow and Gillian Reid, Happy Valley School Ojai California, January 21, 1968. DM/2/1/78,
Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
249 Quoted in: Michael Oliver, "David Munrow: Changing the Musical Landscape," The Listener (1977),
marriage, Gill recalls that a friend of hers drove them in his old van over to Moeck in
Germany for Munrow to order recorders. They took a late ferry and were so cold that
they decided to drive through the night. At one point in Germany when they were
dangerously low on fuel they passed a closed petrol station and David insisted they stop
and see if they could wake someone to sell them some petrol. Probably because he was
feeling guilty that he couldn’t drive, David offered to take charge of the conversation
and knocked on the door of the flat over the garage repeatedly until he eventually woke
up the owner. After brief explanation in German they got their petrol and David paid.
They drove off slightly bewildered at how angry the petrol station owner had been with
them until the friend who was driving commented that the fuel needle had not moved at
all. It turned out that David had accidentally asked for a small amount of petrol. Since
he didn’t drive he had no idea what petrol should have cost so didn’t even notice that it
was so cheap. No wonder the owner was so angry at being woken up.250
Throughout these post-Cambridge years, Dart was still an important influence
on Munrow and even employed him to teach early music ensembles at his new
department at King’s College, London. Indeed, respect flowed both ways as David
Fallows remembers when discussing his own prospects of work with Thomas Binkley’s
Studio der Frühen Musik in Munich after graduation:
In the year of Munrow's debut I was telling Thurston Dart of my own plans to
work for an early-music ensemble in Germany, adding that it seemed to me that
the next twenty or thirty years were likely to see some exciting developments in
the understanding and performance of medieval and renaissance music. [...] But
he then went on to say that if I took myself at all seriously I should be working
with Munrow. The simple answer to that was that Munrow hadn't offered me
work whereas the other group had. But it was clear enough even at that stage
that Munrow was a man of the most enormous promise.251
250 Gillian Munrow, "conversation with author." Gillian Munrow also added that this friend was David
Powis, who also gave her driving lessons. Gillian Munrow, e-mail message to author, September 7, 2013.
251 "Mr Munrow, His Study," Jeremy Summerly, The Archive Hour, aired January 7, 2006, on BBC
Another important musical avenue opened up for Munrow in 1966; he took a
part-time job lecturing early music history at the University of Leicester. One of his
classes was a twenty week history course complete with a reading list, discography,
exam questions and a shopping list of scores for the university library to buy. His notes
survive in the academy collection and indicate the range of his listening and reading at
this time.252 The soprano Deborah Roberts was one of Munrow’s pupils at Leicester
University and recalled Munrow’s combination of humour and explosive energy. She
remembered choosing Leicester University specifically because it offered her the
chance to study with Munrow:
As well as teaching the early part of the course he would also run a kind of
workshop. […] he would explode in with piles of instruments and fling them all
on to the floor and there would be a whole load of very eager students, because
this was open to everyone, and each week he would give us something else to
do. Now [the] shawm was one of his favourite ways of winding up a particularly
cantankerous English professor whose lectures were happening at that time. The
lecturer would come in red in the face – I don’t know who was redder in the face
because of course David had just been playing the shawm. […]253
Roberts also remembered Munrow’s serious side and the high standards he
expected of his students when he marked her first essay on Trecento Music:
I’d got this wonderful bibliography at the end of all these books and I waited for
my results to come back and my essay came back and he’d just written on the
bottom: “a bibliography is a list of books you have consulted not every one you
can think of”.254
Dart’s support of Munrow might have influenced the bibliographies and
discographies that accompany the lecture notes that Munrow prepared for his teaching
at Leicester University. Many of Safford Cape’s recordings are present as are Leo
252 David Munrow, [Academic Notes], c1966, DM/9/8, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of
Music Library, London.
253 Nicholas Kenyon, Sally Dunkley, Andrew Van der Beek, and Deborah Roberts, “Celebrating
Inspiration: In Memory of David Munrow,” Pre Concert Discussion: Brighton Early Music Festival,
November 10, 2012. Gillian Munrow has also remembered that David Munrow: ‘… taught in what was
the Attenborough family home (which was part of the campus) and [he] had his rooms upstairs, he used
to wonder if it was the bedroom of either of the brothers!’. Munrow, September 7, 2013.
254 Kenyon et al., November 10, 2012.
Schrade’s 1956-8 series of Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century (vols I-IV:
Fauvel, Machaut, Landini) all of which would have been known to Thurston Dart.255
Munrow also began to actively pursue career opportunities in London. He taught
early woodwind instruments at King’s College London. This must have been organised
by Thurston Dart who was by this time the head of the new music department. Here he
may have also met Jeremy Montagu who was also teaching for Dart as well as working
at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. Incidentally, Montagu remembers the pressures
of teaching for Thurston Dart, known as Bob:
I had written about six or eight lectures, whatever it was, to cover the history of
musical instruments worldwide so I’d written them rather than do it from notes
because there’s a hell of a lot to get in and he said I had them for an hour. And
of course the first morning I turned up there he said “of course you know I mean
a University hour don’t you? We start five minutes late and finish five minutes
early!” And I said “No Bob I didn’t!”256
Towards the end of 1966 Munrow’s own experiences were summarized briefly
in a letter of application to the BBC which he addressed to Basil Lam, mentioning his
university friend Duncan Druce by way of introduction:
Dear Mr Lam,
Mr Druce suggested that I should write to you about the early woodwind
instruments that I play. I enclose a tape with accompanying sheet of notes and a
separate envelope containing some recent programmes.
May I give you some details about myself? I play renaissance and baroque
recorders, crumhorns, dulcian, kortholt, rauschpfeife and racket. This season I
have been using these instruments in productions of the Royal Shakespeare
Theatre. I recently played the recorder obbligato in the BBC Midland recording
of Handel’s ‘Orlando’ and the crumhorn and rauschpfeife in the recording of the
music for ‘A man for all seasons’ with members of the English Chamber
Orchestra. I have given broadcast solo recitals abroad on Czech radio and
Peruvian television. I lecture part-time in the history of early music at Leicester
University and teach early woodwind instruments at King’s College London.
I am particularly interested in organizing programmes of early music such as the
enclosed programme ‘Kings and Queens’ – a history of royal patronage in music
1400-1700. I should be most interested to be considered by the BBC as a) a solo
player b) a recorder and harpsichord duo with Christopher Hogwood.
255 Charles Van den Borren, with whom Dart himself studied, was the father-in-law of Safford Cape and
Leo Schrade’s work is published by L’Oiseau-Lyre in Monaco.
256 Jeremy Montagu, interview by author, Oxford, December 6, 2009.
We would both be willing to come for an audition. If you were interested in the
consort would an audition for it also be required? 257
His career as a professional musician was now a reality.
The Early Music Consort (of London)
During 1967 Munrow founded The Early Music Consort with Christopher
Hogwood. It had a core of five players, not all of whom lived in London: James
Bowman (countertenor), Oliver Brookes (viol), Christopher Hogwood (keyboard and
percussion) and Robert Spencer (lute). The consort was often joined by Mary Remnant
(fiddle). Their repertoire was to span from Leonin to Handel, as well as modern
commissions with Munrow himself playing an ever-expanding number of different
instruments. The original idea was to keep it close to Leicester and the Midlands
because Munrow was based at Stratford full time but eventually it was inevitable that
Munrow should run his consort and leave the Stratford band.
One of the other important things the consort did early on was to audition for
Mrs Tillett of the agency Ibbs & Tillett following an introduction and recommendation
from Jasper Parrott. The final audition took place in the Wigmore Hall on June 19,
1967. James Bowman remembers that although members of the consort were nervous,
the audition was a surprise success. The Early Music Consort was the first early music
group to be taken on by Ibbs and Tillett.258 Yet the consort was, at first, a modest
enterprise. James Bowman remembers there being fewer instruments in the early
It was basically him [Munrow] on a recorder with, I think, he had a couple of
crumhorns. He had none of these rackets and shawms and things that he was
playing then. He was a bit shy about bringing them out! We had a bass viol, we
had a lady who played the fiddle—Mary Remnant, an early member of the
consort—and I just sang and I didn’t even play percussion or attempt the viol as
257 David Munrow to Basil Lam November 18 1966, BBC WAC RCONT12 - David Munrow - Artists
File I 1966-67.
258 David Munrow, Final Audition, June 19, 1967, DM 2/1/17, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy
of Music Library, London.
I was made to do latterly! So I mean it was a fairly limited thing but it was
always exciting every time we got something new to enlarge the group.259
By the end of the year the consort had had three important concerts. The first
was a ‘Programme of Popular Music of the Renaissance and Middle Ages’ and took
place on February 30, in St Mary’s Hall, Coventry and broadcast live on BBC Radio
radio (Midland) with notes written for the announcer by Munrow himself. Robert
Spencer also performed as both a lutenist and baritone.260 At Leicester University on 9
November the Consort was joined by Robert Tear for a programme entitled ‘Kings and
Queens’.261 And, finally, The Kings and Queens programme was repeated at the
University of Louvain on December 12, and broadcast on Belgian Radio. An abridged
version of two programmes: ‘Popular Music in Europe 1600-1300’ and ‘Music of
English Kings and Queens 1400-1600’ became the Consort’s first concert in The
Wigmore Hall in the Spring of 1968.262
A private recording of an early Wigmore concert preserves Munrow’s charming
concert banter:
Now wind instruments - the very big instrument is a shawm, very much a town
band outdoor instrument first heard in Europe by the ears of the first crusaders
who went into battle and had their ears assaulted by the most terrifying sound
which they quickly recognised as that of a twenty-one piece shawm band
[audience laughter] they captured one or two and took them home and
tamed them [laughter] and…um…The crumhorn, which takes its name from
two German words krumm meaning bent and Horn meaning horn [laughter]
which works with a double reed inside a wind cap, rather like a bagpipe. Um,
similarly working are the sordouns, this also has a reed inside a wind cap but it’s
double-barreled, there are two tubes inside the block of wood rather like a
bassoon so the sounds up here in the wind cap, travels down one side, turns
around a corner at the bottom, comes back and emerges out of that rather
insignificant looking hole [laughter]. And finally the rackett [laughter]. The
rackett comes from another German word meaning crooked and it is indeed the
most crooked musical instrument that anybody yet devised because inside the
tube turns round ten times - so if you could stretch it out on end it would come to
259 James Bowman interviewed on: "David Munrow," presented by Levin, 1976.
260 Programme DM 2/1/20 and Script DM 7/1, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of Music
Library, London.
261 Queen's Hall, Leicester University, November 9, 1967, DM 2/1/21, Papers of David Munrow, Royal
Academy of Music Library, London.
262 The printed programme: Wigmore Hall London, March 17, 1968, DM 2/1/33, Papers of David
Munrow, Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
about eight feet. The Germans have another word for it actually - they also call it
Wurst Fagott [laughter]. And this, of course, is a countertenor... [Laughter &
Munrow and The Early Music Consort were now firmly on the musical map.
Broadcasting with the BBC
The role that the BBC was to play in the encouragement and promotion of both
Munrow as a broadcaster and solo performer and of The Early Music Consort of
London could not have been predicted from their humble beginnings on the books of
the Midlands region. When Basil Lam wrote back to Munrow following his initial letter
of application, he assumed that the young musician was already an artist with the
regional BBC offices. However, BBC internal correspondence shows that the Midland
region had not yet heard David Munrow play. Patrick Piggott replied to Lam:
I shall be glad to have copies of your reports on the tape submitted to you by Mr.
David Munrow. Mr Munrow’s ensemble is not, as you had supposed, on
Midland Region’s books, but it is to be auditioned in the near future.264
The date of this audition is not recorded. Munrow, however, was already working as an
individual instrumentalist and during April of 1967 he took part in ‘The True Tale of
Guillaume de Machaut’, (recorded on 15 and 16 March), a programme organized by
Gilbert Reaney.265 The BBC correspondence also records that Munrow played two
different instruments which meant he had to contact the Midland Region office to
remind them he was due an extra fee for ‘doubling’. An internal memo seeking
confirmation of this fact was sent to Douglas Cleverdon who annotated it in red biro
saying ‘This is correct. He did play two very strange instruments’.266 However, in 1968
after recording a programme of ‘Music in medieval Britain’ with Gilbert Reaney,
263 An extract from this private recording was broadcast on: “After Munrow,” Anthony Burton, Early
Memories, aired 1992, BBC Radio 3. British Library Sound Archive reference: H777/01.
264 Head of Midland regional music to Basil Lam, December 20, 1966, BBC RCONT12 - David Munrow
- Artist File I 1966-67.
265 The True Tale of Guillaume de Machaut, April 19, 1967, C09/IP/JH, BBC WAC, M31/1491 – Misc
MUC-MZ David Munrow.
266 Tuesday Invitation Concert BE711D, April 10 1967, 09/JH/TH, BBC WAC, M31/1491 – Misc MUCMZ
David Munrow.
Munrow received a letter from Jean Holden at the BBC which said that at his request
she had ‘taken up with London the question of additional payment for artists playing an
unusual instrument’ but that it had been decided no extra fee was payable.267
Munrow worked with Gilbert Reaney’s London Medieval Group several times
during 1968. On one of these occasions Martyn Hill remembers that David Munrow had
complimented him on his ability to sight-read at the transpositions Reaney required and
asked him if he would be interested in working with the Early Music Consort and thus
booked him on the spot.268 Munrow and Hill had already met in Cambridge but since
Hill was only there for a year before transferring to the Royal College of Music in
London, the two men had not had the opportunity to get to know each other properly.
By May of 1968 Munrow and the Early Music Consort were planning their first
BBC invitation concert for which, once again, Munrow wrote the script. The first
official film of Munrow by the BBC was also produced that summer, ‘Devised and
directed’ by Munrow himself it was called ‘Festival Music 1550-1700’ and comprised
the Early Music Consort (Bowman, Hogwood, Reid & Munrow (Recorder, Crumhorn,
Shawm, Curtal)), the Renaissance Consort of Trombones, the Lonsdale Consort of
Viols, (Catherine Mackintosh, Roderick, Kenneth and Adam Skeaping) and Il Flauto
Dolce. The event took place on Saturday July 3, 1968. It was this year also that another
important public broadcast opportunity came for Munrow with music for The Hobbit
which brought him into contact with the composer David Cain and the work of the BBC
Radiophonic workshop.269 The Hobbit was to be a very popular success and, as 1968
ended, both David Munrow and the Early Music consort were busier than ever before
with concerts, lecture-recitals and BBC contracts.
267 Jean Holden to David Munrow, “Music in Mediaeval Britain,” April 1, 1968, 09/JH/FEW, BBC
WAC, M31/1491 – Misc MUC-MZ David Munrow.
268 Hill, "conversation with author."
269 The Hobbit, August 15, 1968, 09/JH/JB Radio 4 (DA355H), BBC WAC, M31/1491 – Misc MUC-MZ
David Munrow.
In January 1969, David and Gillian Munrow moved to St Albans in
Hertfordshire. This year saw several key developments. Firstly David Munrow
temporarily joined forces with John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir at the Queen
Elizabeth Hall on the 30th March for a concert entitled ‘Renaissance Court Music’. The
concert was promoted by Ibbs and Tillett but Jasper Parrott remembers that it was not
the success that they had hoped for, largely due to the under-rehearsed nature of the
Monteverdi Choir who were still an amateur choir at that point.270
On June 3rd, Munrow had his own Queen Elizabeth Hall concert organized and
he was keen to invite the BBC. Seizing the opportunity to promote further his consort,
he wrote to Lionel Salter:
I am writing to ask if you would like to come to ‘A Renaissance Festival’ in the
Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday June 3rd. I enclose two tickets together with a
leaflet about the concert which is being relayed by the Third Programme. The
programme includes a substantial amount of music which has probably not been
heard in London before: unpublished duets by Donati and Grandi, a canzona by
Taeggio, the Scottish ‘Pleugh song’ and the Susato dances.
Most of the items are large scale and employ relatively large forces. Could part
of this programme, or something similar, be considered for a Promenade
Concert next season? I feel that the Susato dances in particular would go down
well with a Prom audience.271
The concert brought together the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, Colin Tilney and
Neville Mariner and the programme included notes on the music by Jerome Roche and
Munrow himself. Salter wrote back and promised to attend and report his ‘impressions’
to William Glock.
Perhaps the highest-profile opportunity of all was offered to David Munrow in
the summer of 1969 when the BBC archives show correspondence between Jasper
Parrott and Naomi Capon’s secretary regarding Munrow’s fees for The Six Wives of
Henry VIII that Capon was producing for BBC Television. Despite their specialist
270 Parrott, "interview by author."
271 David Munrow to Lionel Salter, May 17, 1969, BBC RCONT12 – David Munrow - Artists File 2
knowledge, the Early Music Consort were only paid Musician’s Union rates rather than
the BBC’s chamber ensemble rates causing some consternation on both sides. The
music was to become iconic. And through happy coincidence, the percussionist David
Corkhill remembers that this was this was the project that first introduced him to David
Munrow and The Early Music Consort. Corkhill had been studying with James Blades
at the Royal Academy of Music and remembers being booked to deputize:
at some point Jimmy said to David that “I can’t do this, but this other chap, this
student is very good” but I mean I wasn’t a student any more at this point. And
the first thing I think I did I seem to remember was something at Television
Despite the success of the Early Music Consort of London, Munrow still had a
considerable amount of work to do convincing the BBC to pay him and his ensemble in
the same way modern instrumentalists were paid. 1969 saw one particularly awkward
situation when Munrow was not paid royalties for some music he provided because the
BBC thought that he was ‘simply a friend of Jim’s [Duckett] who was pitching in to
oblige’ and not a leader in his field.273 In early 1971 a similar situation occurred when a
concert in Greenwich Theatre by the Early Music Consort was arranged to be broadcast
without first obtaining Munrow’s consent. Although Munrow quickly acquiesced, a
secretary’s notes show record that ‘He feels it’s his duty to make concert a typical fun-
Munrow type for Greenwich Theatre, not a BBC do.’274
Two months later there was more serious trouble when Peter Marchbank wrote
to Munrow objecting to paying two doubling fees and a solo fee for Bowman when
appearing with the Consort. Munrow replied the very next day and complained how the
same problems kept occurring with the Early Music Consort’s contract:
1) Doubling: this has always been paid at the rate of three guineas per instrument
with a maximum of two doublings. […] Since decimalisation I notice that the
272 David Corkhill, interview by author, London, October 19, 2012.
273 Anthony Cornish to David Munrow, July 4, 1969, DM1/1/3, Papers of David Munrow, Royal
Academy of Music Library.
274 BBC Internal memo January 25, 1971, BBC WAC, R83/19 – David Munrow.
doubling rate has dropped to £3. […] / 2) James Bowman: I clearly established
two principles about James Bowman […]: (a) that he is a member of the EMC,
since he is a founder member and took part in all our BBC auditions and test
dates. (b) that he should always be paid his solo fee for broadcasts with the Early
Music Consort. […] (b) has held good till now whereas (a) has not. In spite of
numerous conversations with various producers and people in Bookings, the
majority of James Bowman’s contracts for broadcasts with the EMC have been
issued separately and sent to Helen Jennings, his agent. […] It is the wish of JB,
Helen Jennings and myself that for all the broadcasts with the EMC JB should
be booked on the same contract as the rest of us. At the same time I must ask
that he be paid his full solo fee for such broadcasts. It is not, as you put it, “a
rather awkward precedent” but exactly what Mr. [Glyn] Martin previously
agreed. In any case the situation which has now been reached is quite absurd:
James Bowman’s fee for an EMC broadcast now depends entirely on the whim
of Artists Bookings. […]275
But the BBC did far more than simply offer David a wider audience for concerts
with his new Consort; the corporation introduced him to many eminent musicians and
also offered him the opportunity to broadcast regularly. An example of the way
Munrow seized such opportunities can be seen in early 1970 when his Munrow
Recorder Quartet was booked for a programme of madrigals to be produced by Basil
Lam. The singers were London-based and conducted by Christopher Bishop. Bishop
remembers a conversation in the car as he drove Munrow to the station after the concert:
in that very short period he managed to convince me that it would be a very
good idea if EMI, which I was then a producer of, made a record of his group.
And I said well I think it’s a wonderful idea and he had another record he’d
already made; I’m not sure whether it was commercial or an amateur record, I
can’t remember now. And I took that around the company and persuaded people
that it would be a good idea to use him. And a year later we did actually make
the first record. And he was the most tremendous fun to work with and,
surprisingly, the record became extremely popular.276
That record was called Two Renaissance Dance Bands and included some of the
same repertoire with which Munrow had ‘exploded’ onto the early music scene at the
Barber Institute five years earlier. Munrow and Bishop were to enjoy a fruitful working
relationship at EMI.
275 David Munrow to Peter Marchbank, March 27, 1971, BBC WAC, RCONT12 – David Munrow –
Artists File 2 - 1968-72.
276 Christopher Bishop, "Podcast: David Munrow on the record." On An Overgrown Path (blog), 2007,
Possibly the most famous BBC venture that Munrow undertook was the Pied
Piper series for Radio 3. Based on a suggestion by Peter Dodd, the new Chief Assistant
of Radio 3, the short programmes were intended to be suitable for children aged
between 6 and 12. In 1971, Munrow compiled four pilot programmes, wrote a script
and arranged an interview to compile a selection that would be representative of a
typical week’s programming.277 Each week would be based around a theme with one
show being an interview. The programmes were just twenty minutes long, each episode
began with a theme tune played by Munrow himself on the sopranino recorder, and the
relaxed style of presentation and wide range of musical tastes caught the attention of
many people. With no official BBC researcher assigned to the show, Gill Munrow
undertook some of the research and began typing so many of the scripts that, as such,
she was added to the BBC contract in August 1972. Arthur Johnson remembers working
with Munrow:
In the early stages he wasn’t a natural broadcaster. He has a strained delivery
which is common in people who are green to broadcasting. But he learned—my
goodness he learned quickly—in the space of a very short time, I would compare
tapes with what had gone on a few months before, and he was a different
broadcaster. He adapted himself to everything he did. Later he relaxed and was
prepared to take chances and it gave a sort of spontaneity to the program which,
if he had been more careful, the program would have had less life.278
He also remembered how Pied Piper was recorded in batches to accommodate
Munrow’s many other commitments:
We did four programmes—each week had four programs—in one studio session
lasting four and a half hours. Which […] is pretty tight. But he worked so
quickly, he could write a whole page of script in just a few minutes if it had to
be done.279
The programme was to number 655 editions in total, many of which have not
survived. Johnson also remembers how Munrow was always interested in the working
277 Gillian Munrow remembers that it was actually Peter Dodd’s wife who first suggested this
programme. Gillian Munrow, e-mail message to author, September 7, 2013.
278 "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC radio.
279 Ibid.
of the radio studios and would want to know how the mixing desk and the gramophone
decks worked. On one occasion, Johnson remembers looking through the glass into the
recording booth to see that Munrow was dancing on the table whilst a record was
playing.280 Indeed the programme became an important part of Radio 3’s schedule and,
as such, has a two-page description in Humphrey Carpenter’s history of Radio 3
including an interview with Arthur Johnson in which he recalls how the pressure,
professional and domestic, built up on Munrow in 1976.281
The composer, Peter Dickinson, found inspiration for a new work in Munrow’s
Pied Piper persona:
Since he went around recording interviews with people I thought it would be
perfectly natural for him to come onto the stage, switch on his portable taperecorder
and proceed to perform alongside it. So that was the basis of Recorder
Music […] David liked the idea so I went ahead.282
This combination of work through Pied Piper, broadcasts with the Early Music Consort
of London and solo performances, interviews and presentation slots on the BBC was an
important part of the rising profile of both David Munrow and the Early Music Consort
of London.
Other Performing Ensembles
The foundation of The Early Music Consort did not spell the end of Munrow’s
freelance performing career since at least until the early 1970s Munrow was to appear in
many studio recordings. One of the earliest albums on his discography would be as a
performer with The Young Tradition, a British folk music band who also worked with
folk musicians such as David Swarbrick and the sisters Shirley and Dolly Collins.
Munrow also appeared on a number of folk albums with these artists and also on a folk-
280 Arthur Johnson interviewed on: "David Munrow," Michael Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC radio.
281 Humphrey Carpenter and Jennifer R. Doctor, The Envy of the World: Fifty Years of the BBC Third
Programme and Radio 3, 1946-1996 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1996), 267.
282 Dickinson, "Remembering David Munrow: for forthcoming book project to be edited by John Turner."
jazz crossover album with The Roundtable in 1969.283 Interestingly, Gill Munrow also
remembers that David was hired as an instrumental soloist on the soundtrack for Lionel
Bart’s ‘Oliver’ in a 1968 film and also worked with the electric-folk group Pentangle.284
Alongside this freelance session career Munrow was also a regular member of Musica
Reservata, a leading early music performing group which will be discussed in detail in
the next chapter. Jeremy Montagu remembers that Munrow was asked to leave Musica
Reservata following on from a disagreement over the use of Michael Morrow’s editions
in EMC performances.285 Munrow was also a frequent performer with the Deller
Consort and The Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra as well as a recorder soloist with The
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
It is tempting to see Munrow as sui generis since his biography indicates a
unique trajectory which is both eccentric and unusual. However, many early musicians
in the 1950s and 1960s were from non-standard backgrounds since there was little in the
way of an ‘establishment’ for early music to grow out of; Noah Greenberg (New York
Pro Musica) worked in the merchant navy for many years, and Michael Morrow
(Musica Reservata) spent much of his childhood in hospital. Thurston Dart, too, was an
It is easy to let Munrow’s Peruvian adventures and lack of music degree eclipse
the fact that he was the product a well-respected public school that also nurtured other
prominent musicians. He was encouraged in music as a child and given a generous
platform to develop his skills as a performer and scholar which appears to have suited
283 For a discography of Munrow’s work, readers are referred to: "David Munrow (August 12th 1942 -
May 15th 1976) - A discography," Last updated November 30, 2012, Accessed December 12, 2012.
284 Lionel Bart et al., Oliver! An Original Soundtrack Recording, Colgems: Distributed by RCA, 1968.
LP. Gill Munrow also remembers that David Munrow and Harry Secombe laughed a lot during their
recording sessions. Gillian Munrow, conversation with author, Middlesex, April 23, 2009.
285 Jeremy Montagu, email message to author, September 4, 2013.
the extrovert side of his personality. Combined with his experiences in the Birmingham
Cathedral Choir he was introduced to a wide selection of classical music and gained
valuable choral and orchestral experience from a young age. This re-examination of his
early biography also reveals the impact of the British Council scheme in Peru that was
to come to fruition only in Cambridge University, when Munrow met such musicians as
Thurston Dart who could help him fully realize the importance of the connections
between the folk instruments he had imported and early Western instruments. Fellow
students who would later be specialists and colleagues in many performances also
encouraged Munrow during his university years.
The late sixties were an experimental period for Munrow, he worked hard to
establish himself as a professional musician and as his interests stretched back to earlier
periods of music he founded his consort. Despite the erratic nature of his freelance work
he also maintained performing commitments with leading early music consorts such as
Musica Reservata and The London Medieval Group. Munrow also worked as a recorder
player for The Deller Consort and many chamber orchestras.
By the end of 1970 Munrow no longer needed to work as a bassoonist, he had
recorded his first commercial album with The Early Music Consort of London, Ecco la
Primavera, become established as a performer and broadcaster with the BBC and begun
a fruitful relationship with EMI. The remaining six years of his life would be absolutely
full of music making.
Sadly, David Munrow suffered from a depressive illness, and for reasons of
privacy, that is not addressed in this biography. His mental state was discussed in many
of his obituaries and small news reports which were posted immediately after his
death.286 As John Turner said:
286 Many of these obituaries are cited in chapter 1.
In the last years the speed of the engine went faster and faster, as if he needed
always higher doses of activity to keep at bay the despair that finally made him
take his own life at the tragically early age of 34.287
287 Turner, "Pills to Purge Melancholy: A Personal Memoir of David Munrow," 52.
Chapter 4 - Between Morrow and Modernity
In chapter three a network of influences operating during David Munrow’s
student life and early career was explored. It would appear that just before founding the
EMC, David Munrow gained valuable experience working with both Thurston Dart and
a major performing ensemble for medieval music in London in the 1960s: Michael
Morrow’s Musica Reservata. In later years, however, Munrow objected strongly to any
implication that he had been influenced by Morrow’s theories and appeared to distance
himself from that ensemble.
This chapter explores the performance practice of Musica Reservata to compare
and contrast with both the EMC and the ideas of Thurston Dart. It explores how the
many recordings of folk music available after World War II inspired performance
practice and it also identifies a point of departure for Munrow’s own work from his
performances with Musica Reservata.
Introduction: Huizinga’s Haut and Bas
During the twentieth century, as the broad contours of the periodisation of
history, begun in the century before, were subjected to ever closer scrutiny, one study,
as Christopher Page has pointed out, was to exert a strong and lasting influence on the
perception of the Middle Ages.288 Consider the opening paragraph of Johan Huizinga’s
The Waning of the Middle Ages:
To the world when it was half a thousand years younger, the outline of all things
seemed more clearly marked than to us. The contrast between suffering and joy,
between adversity and happiness, appeared more striking. All experience had yet
to the minds of men the directness and absoluteness of the pleasure and pain of
288 For Page’s discussion of Huizinga’s book and its influence see: Christopher Page, Discarding Images:
Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
289 Johan Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages, trans. F. Hopman (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955),
Histories such as Huizinga’s have had a profound influence on the collective
view of the Middle Ages and have extended beyond history books merging into a
subtle, but persuasive, background hum which fed a public taste for what Page once
called a ‘rumbustuous’ Middle Ages.290
Huizinga can help us to understand the changing view of ‘medieval’ through the
twentieth century because, as Page points out, he influenced what the many pioneers of
the early music revival did when they approached the question of how to perform the
surviving music of the Middle Ages; they, like Huizinga, focussed on the contrasts.
Page feels that the audiences for this music have had a considerable amount in common
with the audiences for Huizinga’s style of book:
Maybe it’s just the way that our educational system works in Britain, but I think
that many people expect that any sound picture of the Middle Ages is going to
be rumbustuous and good fun. It’s that sort of medieval banquet, rosy-cheeked
wench, sucking-pig view of the medieval past and well, that’s something I think
that people like to have confirmed in performances.291
However, much of the subtlety of Huizinga’s exact language was lost in the first
English translation (of 1924), which resulted in a variant text nearly one third shorter
than the Dutch original. A second (1996) translation attempted to address this shortfall,
and in doing so used noticeably less sensational language.292 Consider, even, the title of
the first chapter once known by the English-speaking world as ‘The Violent Tenor of
Life’ now translated as ‘The Passionate Intensity of Life’. One of the new translators,
Rodney Payton, voiced his concerns over this apparent disparity between the Dutch
original and that influential first English translation by Hopman:
Given Huizinga’s importance to historiography, the fact that the English
translation is a variant text has not been given enough attention. […] Is it
possible that English-speaking historians have been discussing this book with
290 Christopher Page speaking on: “After Munrow,” Anthony Burton, Early Memories, aired 1992, BBC
Radio 3. British Library Sound Archive reference: H777/01.
291 Ibid.
292 Johan Huizinga, The Autumn of the Middle Ages, trans. Rodney J Payton and Ulrich Mammitzsch
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
their foreign colleagues without realizing that they were reading a significantly
different text?293
Payton suggested that the original English translation, by F. Hopman, may have
exerted a quite different influence on the English-speaking world than French or
German translations or the original Dutch. Although Hopman’s translation was
overseen and approved by Huizinga himself this did not make it less of a variant text.
Shortly after this new English translation of Huizinga, Page explored the
reception history of the Middle Ages in print. He began with a close reading of how this
epoch was constructed as a useful bridging period and quoted Brian Stock’s argument
that the Middle Ages simply served, and continue to serve, subsequent periods of
history rather than themselves.294 Page went on to confront the larger narrative of
Huizinga’s work, chiefly the concept of ‘waning’, or the autumnal metaphor that the
new translation restored to the title, as being continually difficult to prove through
music despite many musicological studies, citing the book as important. Huizinga’s
argument that the harsh realities of medieval life contributed to a retreat into a dreamlike
state which was to continue in an increasingly over-wrought fashion until the
Renaissance was, so Page felt, distilled into the very concept of vivid contrasts and
harsh lives that had percolated into musicology. Page summed the situation up:
No doubt these contrasts are essential in some form, if we are to make any sense
of what we find; I do not suggest that they be abandoned. My proposal […] is
that they sometimes lead to simplistic and stereotyped reasoning.295
Timothy Day, writing in 2000, saw the influence of Huizinga in the writings on
performance practice by musicologist Rudolf von Ficker in the late 1920s but concluded
that the influence of such writings on musical performance was impeded by the lack of
293 Rodney J Payton, Translator’s Introduction in: Johan Huizinga, The Autumn of the Middle Ages, trans.
Rodney J Payton and Ulrich Mammitzsch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), xiii.
294 Page, Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France, xvi.
295 Ibid., xvii.
commercial manufacture of old instruments.296 Just two years later, Daniel Leech-
Wilkinson returned to the same subject when he argued that:
Certainly Netherlands art played a part in the process of translating an image of
the colourful Middle Ages into colourful sound […]297
Leech-Wilkinson suggested that since medieval life is frequently depicted in
bright manuscript miniatures which have been protected from light-damage rather than
the faded paintings of the Renaissance period, medieval history has been subliminally
infused with a view of high contrast.
From these examples we can see that there has been a significant groundswell of
research into this notion of Huizingian contrast. However, focusing on contrasts in this
way was not a stance held in isolation by Huizinga; other pre- and immediately postwar
academics also fuelled this style of narrative. Take for instance a passage
introducing instruments of the late Middle Ages from Karl Geiringer’s Musical
Instruments, published in 1943.
The instruments of the late Middle Ages were far too delicate and weak to stand
alone. In the paintings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, […] instruments
of like tone were seldom combined; indeed, the groupings were plainly arranged
as to provide the greatest wealth of contrast and variety. This becomes
intelligible if we turn from the painting to the actual scores that have come down
to us. The essentially different, shrill, and apparently discordant instruments
were able to differentiate the separate parts, to which the period of Landino,
Dunstable and Dufay aimed to give individual characters. Effects of harmony
were not sought after in that heyday of contrapuntal virtuosity, and the
contrasting tones of the instruments gave full emphasis to the polyphonic life of
the composition. The orchestra of the Middle Ages was instinct with light,
radiant, imponderable colours, like the paintings of the primitives.298
Geiringer shows us how a search for contrast can effect the way we expect
music to sound. For Geiringer, medieval music was formed from layers of musical lines
which were to be differentiated as much as possible in performance, a viewpoint not
296 Timothy Day, A Century of Recorded Music: Listening to Musical History (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 2000), 176.
297 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology,
Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 59.
298 Karl Geiringer, Musical Instruments: Their History in Western Culture from the Stone Age to the
Present Day, trans. Bernard Miall, 2nd ed. (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1943), 89. Quoted in:
Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology, Performance, 70.
now widely held. Although Geiringer was published in 1946 he began his book much
earlier and was disturbed by the second world war, thus his observation that instruments
of like tone are seldom combined is considerably earlier than the writing of Thurston
Dart (published 1954) who points us to the similarities of these instrumental groupings
when he says that ‘Broadly speaking it is true to say that the Middle Ages liked their
music and musical instruments to be either very loud or very soft.’299
We could usefully consider this loud and soft distinction as a ‘Huizingian
transposition’: a school of thought which began to gather pace in the aftermath of The
Waning of the Middle Ages. A key foundation for thinking about medieval music in this
way was firmly laid in 1954 with the publication of Edmund Bowles’ widely read paper
Haut and Bas: The Grouping of Musical Instruments in the Middle Ages. In it, Bowles
traces literary sources for the division of instruments into broad groupings of loud and
soft, or haut and bas. He based this investigation on three fundamentals: medieval
instruments represent an abandonment of Greco-Roman instruments, the development
of polyphony created more roles for instruments, and (most interestingly) instruments
became substitutes for—or aids to—the singers in the Gothic Era.300 The objective of
Bowles’ paper was to break down any assumption that instruments have always
belonged in the families that we think of in a modern orchestral setting—woodwind,
strings, brass—and to trace documentary evidence that they were once thought of in
simple haut and bas categories instead. ‘In general, the more noise, the more the
instrumental combination was generally admired and enjoyed in festive gatherings.’301
This paper was to add further credence to a growing picture of an age of extreme
299 Thurston Dart, The Interpretation of Music (New York: Harper Colophon, 1954; repr.,1963), 154.
300 Edmund A. Bowles, "Haut and Bas: The Grouping of Musical Instruments in the Middle Ages,"
Musica Disciplina vol. 8 (1954): 115-140.
301 Ibid., 118.
The evidence that Bowles produced was entirely based on surviving documents:
household expenses, descriptions of pageants, memoirs, and the poetry of Guillaume de
Machaut and of Christine de Pisan to name but a few of his sources. Having cited three
document sources introducing the reader to the division haut and bas through the dayto-
day business of household records, he then took a ‘cursory glance’ at seven sources
in medieval literature to illustrate his point further. On the question of sonority, not just
volume, being divided across these two categories Bowles cites twenty-four sources but
goes on to explain that the ‘medieval orchestra’ often contained combinations of loud
and soft instruments together when the music played on the distinctions between such
forces. A further thirty-seven sources lead the reader through brief but relevant
descriptions of the haut dance, music for tournaments, religious and mystery plays, soft
instruments in religious music, pastoral scenes and low instruments in chansons. The
paper is a tour-de-force of argument-building through cumulative quotations and ends
with Bowles summarising confidently:
In this brief survey of the grouping of musical instruments in the later Middle
Ages, we have followed the important role of sonority in determining their use,
as well as the undeviating principle of selection which runs through all the
musical events of this era. In every performance, sacred or secular, the esthetical
question of dynamics and tone color was paramount: loud or soft; haut or bas.302
The evidence from the documents, at any rate, is overwhelmingly in favour of
the division of haut and bas and also, incidentally, the idea that instruments could be
used as a substitute for (or an aid to) voices.
So by the time medieval music came to be recorded in significant quantities
during the 1960s and 1970s the knowledge of haut and bas was commonplace, as was
the side effect of occasionally stressing extreme-haut and extreme-bas, the former
particularly noticeable in dance music. The stark and unavoidable contrast between
these two groups of sonorities mirrors the contrast in medieval life that Huizinga
302 Ibid., 140.
described. This representation, although it may well be quite accurate, certainly found a
place in popular culture as well as with early music audiences. In his earliest BBC
broadcast, Munrow invoked a further Huizingian picture when he cited Ingmar
Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal as a way of understanding medieval attitudes towards
the Day of Judgment:
About 1260 the widespread political and religious disturbances in Italy and
serious outbreaks of the plague led to the belief that the day of judgement was at
hand. Bands of penitents marched in processions, singing laudi spirituali and
indulging in extreme forms of self-flagellation. In his film 'The Seventh Seal'
Ingmar Bergmann gives a terrifying realisation of such a spectacle in 14thcentury
Munrow later worked with director Ken Russell on his film The Devils which
was heavily censored for its nudity, sexual content and blasphemous language; another
famously vibrant medievalism.304
A Vocal Attempt to Imitate Haut and Bas Instruments
On BBC Radio in 1970, the singer Ian Partridge wondered to what extent early
singing might have been influenced by the instruments of medieval times, and
suggested that a few hundred years ago vocal techniques could have been significantly
different from a clip of Janet Baker singing Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder that he had just
Have singers always striven for such beauty of tone and line? I think not. In
medieval times and even before, it's thought that singers often tried to imitate the
sounds of instruments with which they were performing. Certainly if some of the
pictures of the time were a true guide, then singers would probably have treated
their voices pretty roughly. They often seem to be wearing a very strained
expression on their faces. Moreover, many of the early instruments
accompanying them had a very penetrating tone and much of the singing would
have taken place out of doors. In these conditions today’s extremely cultured
303 David Munrow, Notes for BBC Monday Concert DM 7/1, October 30, 1967, Papers of David
Munrow, Royal Academy of Music Library Special Collections, London.
304 The Seventh Seal, directed by Ingmar Bergman (1957). [Det sjunde inseglet] (original title) and The
Devils, directed by Ken Russell (1971). Munrow wrote and arranged the music for The Devils.
style of singing would certainly have sounded out of place and would have been
quite ineffective too.305
To illustrate the point, Partridge then selected a recording of Jantina Noorman
singing Kalenda Maya (accompanied by the recorder, tenor rebec and percussion of
Musica Reservata) which he described as a ‘lively rendering’ and which he suggested
listeners would find ‘fascinating and exciting’.
The whole performance of Kalenda Maya is indeed lively but Noorman’s
singing also stands out for being raucous, shouted and, in many ways, a relative of the
belting technique used in modern-day musical theatre. Subjective descriptions aside,
Noorman’s singing was certainly outside the norm of Western art music. Partridge
called it ‘exciting’ because in 1970, nothing like this had really been heard in the sphere
of classical music before. Here, Partridge suggested, was a voice trying to create the
same penetrating tone as an instrument. If this was the case then it seems a short and
logical step to suggest Noorman was, in this specific instance, imitating an haut
Partridge’s assertion that voices imitated instruments in medieval times did not
go unchallenged, in fact it was openly contradicted almost immediately after it was said.
The programme that Partridge had presented was the fifth in a series of eight on the
BBC and David Munrow was approached to be the presenter of the final programme in
the series. His broadcast was called ‘Early Ensembles’.306 In order to avoid an overlap
between the programmes, Munrow had seen the other seven scripts in advance and they
survive among his extant papers in the Royal Academy of Music archive. Munrow
began his talk by explaining how music notation had become increasingly prescriptive
305 David Munrow, Study on Three: The Sounds of Music, 1970, DM7/11, Papers of David Munrow,
Royal Academy of Music Library Special Collections, London. The record mentioned is Kalenda Maya
(band 1) on: Musica Reservata, Michael Morrow and John Beckett, French Court Music of the Thirteenth
Century. Delysé ECB 3201, 196, LP.
306 David Munrow, Early Ensembles [Radio Script], c1970, DM/7/7, Papers of David Munrow, Royal
Academy of Music Library, London. This collection has copies of BBC correspondence and the scripts
for all seven programmes in this series.
since the Middle Ages and he attributed the lack of detail in early sources to a lack of
need that ensembles would have felt for such stylistic guidance. ‘[M]usic embraced only
one kind of style, and that the latest and most up to date’, Munrow argued, adding that
since musicians were only ever concerned with the music of their own time they would,
necessarily, all have known how to play it; and more specifically, what to play it on. He
likened this concept of ‘stylistic unity’ to a modern jazz ensemble or dance band.
To illustrate the paucity of specific stylistic knowledge that survives, Munrow
played the Spanish song Passe el agoa sung firstly by Victoria de los Angeles in her
classically trained style, and secondly by Jantina Noorman using a similar brash and
penetrating tone to the one in Kalenda Maya.307 Munrow couldn’t resist a note of
mischievous delight as he said ‘Compare these two versions of a Spanish song written
about 1500. Both versions use exact copies of old instruments and both believe
fervently in their authenticity.’308 He explained that although they were widely different,
they were both permissible within the loose confines of current knowledge. He also
added that other possibilities exist as the piece could be performed instrumentally or a
cappella. What he then said is of considerable interest:
Those two performances also illustrate one of the most important distinctions in
musical sound before about 1600—soft and loud—a distinction which I believe
applied to singing as well as a playing.
Munrow was explicit; he strongly suspected there was an haut and bas
distinction in voices so therefore he presumably concluded what Noorman was doing
was an illustration of that. There is a good reason to believe that his line of thought
stemmed directly from Morrow since Munrow was working with Musica Reservata
around the time he wrote this script. Furthermore, James Bowman once referred to
Munrow as having ‘cut his teeth’ during his time with Musica Reservata and when
307 Presumably a variant of what Howard Mayer Brown calls the ‘Holler’ but sounding almost identical to
the loud tone than Noorman used in recordings of different medieval repertoire.
308 Munrow, "Early Ensembles [Radio Script]."
talking about the differing practices of early music ensembles in the late 1960s Jeremy
Montagu remembered Munrow as being in close agreement with Morrow on many
We were also well aware that there was no way to know what rhythmic mode
was being used. Therefore some pieces we would play in 2/4 and others we
would play in 6/8 and vice versa. And, so that there was no argument about ‘oh,
they got the rhythmic mode wrong’, they got the rhythmic mode different. But
the style in which they play, that was ‘nah, that’s not how we do it.’ So that was
a reply to people like [Gilbert] Reaney and so on. It wouldn’t apply to David
Munrow who did do it in much the same way that we did it.309
So, in terms of style, his colleagues and contemporaries remember Munrow as
having been party to the contours of Morrow’s arguments and as generally allowing his
own performances and philosophy to be influenced by what he had learned in Musica
Reservata. With that in mind, what follows is extremely interesting; Munrow’s script
blatantly contradicts Partridge’s earlier programme:
The history of early music is really the history of vocal music: composers wrote
for voices and adapted vocal forms for instruments; instrumentalists were often
singers themselves and instruments accompanied or imitated voices: makers
designed instruments to sound like voices. Pick up any sixteenth-century
instrumental tutor and you'll find it begins, like the first recorder tutor written by
Ganassi in 1535: ‘Be it known that all musical instruments in comparison to the
human voice are inferior to it. For this reason we should endeavour to learn from
it and imitate it [...]’ 310
Munrow believed that instruments were designed to complement the sound of
voices, and if this is the case then voices could not be imitating instruments. He went on
to berate those who thought otherwise:
Some people today think that this relationship between the instruments and
voices was all the other way round – that voices tried to sound like instruments.
This, I believe, to be a vast delusion since it seems to go in the face of all the
evidence. It is clear from the music which composers wrote that they thought of
the human voice as infinitely fuller, richer and more varied than any single
instrument. Of course there were different styles of singing in use just as there
309 James Bowman, conversation with author, London, March 7, 2008. And Jeremy Montagu, interview
by author, Oxford, December 6, 2009.
310 Munrow, "Early Ensembles [Radio Script]."
are today, not only in different countries, but in different acoustical conditions
like the outdoors and indoors division I suggested earlier. 311
In this script, Munrow made no direct reference to Musica Reservata besides the
suggestion that they believed fervently in their own authenticity. Yet, in a performance
field as small as this the ‘some people’ probably included Michael Morrow. If this was
the case, Munrow might have been politely distancing himself from Morrow’s ensemble
which would explain why he pinned his line of argument to source studies; it was
impersonal. What follows did appear to address Jantina Noorman’s singing directly and
can be seen as a justification for Munrow’s own differing approach to vocal styles:
But a singer would only have used one style – whilst an instrumentalist could
play several instruments imitating different aspects of different styles of voice
production. Any singer who tries to sound like a shawm one minute and a
recorder the next will ruin his voice in no time.312
Here, Munrow appears to argue that although Noorman’s voice was a perfectly
viable option, it is not the only option and therefore other performers are free to choose
their own different voices. It is also possible to read a veiled criticism since Noorman
could, and often did try to sound like both a recorder and a shawm on different
occasions. Maybe Munrow felt she was going to ruin her voice by singing both haut and
bas and that Morrow’s philosophy was too restricting? And furthermore, was Munrow
implying that Morrow had arrived at this striking vocal sound through a misguided
attempt to make voices sound like instruments? To answer these questions we need to
know more about Michael Morrow and Musica Reservata.
Michael Morrow & Musica Reservata:
Musica Reservata were based in London and directed by Michael Morrow,
originally from Dublin. They gave their first performance in 1960 when asked to
311 Ibid.
312 Ibid.
provide music for The Society of The White Boar which Morrow later described as
having ‘something to do with Richard III’.313
The performances themselves were highly innovative because of the style and
the techniques used in the playing and the singing. In the words of John Sothcott who
played recorder with the ensemble:
[Michael Morrow’s] enthusiasm for early music seemed […] to be sustained by
an instinctive feeling that the few pieces he knew would sound wonderful if
played convincingly in an appropriate style. […] The spirit and the style of the
performance were everything. [...] Michael's reason for attempting performances
[…] was to bring the music to life for its own sake and, as he often said, so that
he could hear it. […] 314
As Sothcott tells us, Morrow felt that without style he would not be able to
understand the music properly. Music could somehow be obscured or misrepresented if
the style was wrong. Morrow was quite explicit about this point in an article for Early
Music magazine much later in 1978. He suggested that there were two broad categories
of Western music: that which could remain recognizable when performed in a different
style (Bach and Mozart in particular), and that for which it was essential to use the
appropriate style. For him medieval music (specifically monophonic music) was a
cornerstone of the latter category:
The unaccompanied singer or instrumentalist has the sole responsibility of
focusing an audience’s attention, and in order to achieve this, he must be able
both to make use of every rhythmic and melodic nuance in his technical
vocabulary, and to exploit his talent for improvisation and ability to
Morrow explained that for reasons of style he found working with most singers
to be a largely disappointing experience because they were often the least willing to
experiment with style. In this regard, Musica Reservata’s mezzo-soprano Jantina
313 Michael Morrow and J. M. Thomson, "Early Music Ensembles 1: Musica Reservata," Early Music 4,
no. 4 (1976). This society was founded in 1924 and is still in operation under the new name (adopted in
1959) of The 'Richard III Society'. Details of the society are available from their website. Accessed April
8, 2014.
314 J. M. Thomson et al., "Obituaries: Michael Morrow, 1929-94," Early Music 22, no. 3 (1994).
315Michael Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity," Early Music 3, no. 2 (1978).
Noorman is clearly an exception: a singer who could, and more importantly would,
experiment with style.
To be sure, Musica Reservata performances were experimental, but Munrow
was wrong to suggest that Morrow believed ‘fervently’ in his own authenticity. In both
radio scripts and public talks we find that Morrow repeatedly slipped in a caveat to
It is impossible—lacking a time machine—ever to know with any real degree of
certainty how medieval music originally sounded. We know a little more about
some periods, some countries, than others, but we’ve never actually heard it
performed by the players for whom it was composed.316
For Morrow, the adventure was by happenstance, the possibility of arriving at an
authentic performance outcome through stylistic experimentation, even if there would
be no way of ever knowing it had been attained:
For myself, it is only the occasional glimmering of the real thing that is allimportant
and this can be attained solely by performance backed by research:
research, not only in the sifting of statistics – although this is a vital aspect, but
also by creative research, that is, becoming aware of the relationship of two or
more apparently unconnected factors. And when, very occasionally, these unite
to form a hitherto unknown reality, life itself becomes a little more real.317
Yet Morrow was adamant that if we couldn’t know what did happen, it was still
possible to infer things that didn’t happen, and one of those would have been a
performance style that embraced 20th century aesthetic taste:
And this question of taste is also relevant to the admittedly difficult problems of
instrumental and, indeed, vocal colour. Here, again, if one’s only musical
experience has been that of Western art music it is very easy to believe that these
standards might be absolute ones. But I think one could say that every musical
sound that seems ugly to one musical tradition may seem beautiful to another.318
This explains why Morrow was not afraid to ask for sounds that were shocking
to 20th century Western listeners, and as the performers of Musica Reservata settled into
316 “Chelsea,” June 26, 1971, Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata, King's College London
Archives.These notes appear to be aimed at art students so it was presumably a concert at Chelsea Art
College for which Morrow begins ‘I have been asked to say what’s called a few introductory words about
this concert’.
317 Ibid.
318 “The Performance of Medieval and Renaissance Music,” c.1970, Michael Morrow (1929-1994) &
Musica Reservata, King's College London Archives.
a loyal troupe with Noorman’s sound leading the way, they certainly were not afraid to
provide them. Yet Noorman had not always sung in this brash, penetrating way; the
high use of chest voice was, for her, a constructed style. If we consider her first
commercial recording, Dutch Folk Songs, Noorman’s singing is quite the opposite:
entirely in head voice, soft, gentle and close to the technique favoured by choral
foundations in Oxford and Cambridge.319 She only pursued this haut style when she
began working with Musica Reservata and it was this style that annoyed the tenor Nigel
Rogers, an early collaborator of Morrow’s who recalled the situation in an interview in
Musica Reservata, with whom he worked later, was marred for Nigel by Michael
Morrow’s love of extremes – ‘making Jantina Noorman sound like a Bulgarian
peasant when she could really sing beautifully.’ Nigel refused to change his
vocal production to suit Morrow’s ‘nasty noise theory’, and so got into his bad
Rogers is suggesting that Bulgarian peasants were an influence and that Morrow
actually courted a ‘nasty noise’ from his singers. If Rogers came across as irritable then
it is possible that he objected to the way Morrow influenced Noorman’s career: John
Sothcott also recalled this tension and furthermore referred to Morrow’s relationship
with Noorman as that of a svengali.321 So what was the reason behind all of this? The
backbone of Morrow’s belief is not often referred to directly, but does appear in one
script when talking about the playing styles that are innate to certain instruments:
We’ve seen how many 13th century instruments could have produced only a
certain type of sound. The human voice, however, is capable of producing
319 Jantina Noorman, Dutch Folk Songs, Folkways FW6838, 1955, LP.
320 Poppy Holden, "A Shropshire Lad: An Interview with Nigel Rogers," Leading Notes: Journal of the
National Early Music Association Autumn, no. 8 (1994): 3.
321 ‘Well, John Beckett and I discovered her [Noorman]. We went to give a recital I think it was in Bath
where she lived with her husband. And we’d been given an introduction to this girl, I think she was
American, […]And who could sing this sort of way and John had tentatively – whether he’d played with
her or went down to hear her I don’t know – his idea was to get her to sing Purcell songs in the first place.
Told Michael and Michael really said damn these songs, blast her, blast everybody I’m going to get her to
make the one sound which is like the Reservata …he gets hold of her – broke her heart in the end! He
really was quite rude to her, but he got her and was like a svengali, making her sing exactly … and there’s
that famous thing of Triste Espana – fishwives voice – quite unlike her normal singing which was very
different.’ John Sothcott, Derek Harrison, and Terry Sothcott, interview by author, Harlow, March 21,
virtually any sort of sound that is required of it. And I think it’s true to say that
fashions in singing tend to follow fashions in instrumental playing.322
Although Morrow does not claim that voices are directly imitating instruments,
this is, indeed, a strong suggestion that Partridge’s radio script was informed by
Morrow. Morrow thought that voices would have aligned themselves with the sounds of
instruments (out of necessity for good tuning and ensemble if nothing else), and
Munrow is deliberately and publically separating himself from such a position.
Assuming that this comment by Morrow is the nub of his idea, the very catalyst
for the performance practice of Musica Reservata, how did Morrow develop these ideas
from such a starting point? This story can be traced from the beginning because Morrow
himself attributed the development of his interest in early music to the BBC, and traced
the gradual familiarization of early music from Dolmetsch through German scholarship
to the founding of the BBC’s Third Programme. Morrow felt that a small, but
important, dawn in the arousal of interest in early music began with the Dolmetsch
family concerts and was quickly fuelled by German scholarship and by editors (such as
E. H. Fellowes) who helped bring certain works into the concert repertoire. Then, came
a breakthrough:
Shortly after World War II the BBC Third Programme was established with the
aim of bringing to the general public music, poetry and drama that was either too
old, too new or too exotic to form a part of the accepted repertory. Previously,
the only regular opportunity for the average listener to hear preclassical music
was in the form of gramophone records. These, however, were limited in scope,
owing to the lack of public interest, and to the severe restrictions imposed by the
limited playing time of the 78 records. The only early music recorded was,
virtually, the incomparable Nadia Boulanger Monteverdi records, made in 1937,
and odd snippets of this and, occasionally, of that, in the French collection
Anthologie Sonore and the English Columbia History of Music – both series
musicologically out of date practically before they were conceived.
This, then, was the state of affairs before the BBC Third Programme began its
marathon series of series, that included a year-long history of music, a
geographical and historical survey of plainsong, a history of English lute music
(performed by the foremost lutenists in England and Europe), numerous
programmes of non-European music, and of folk music from most countries.
322 Morrow, "The Performance of Medieval and Renaissance Music."
Without this musical background neither Musica Reservata nor, indeed, any
other English professional early music ensemble could have come into being.323
Embedded in this long passage is an idea that BBC folk music broadcasts
influenced Morrow’s approach to early music. David Fallows, who worked with
Morrow in the late 1960s, thinks this unique and single-minded approach to
performance started with Morrow’s isolated childhood in Dublin during the 1930s. The
son of a painter, Morrow was hospitalised during much of his childhood and largely
self-educated during his formative years.324 Perhaps it was this very isolation that
incubated such original thinking and allowed Morrow to throw down a gauntlet
demanding that musicians question existing performance practices. As Fallows put it,
Morrow’s performance ideas:
had the additional benefits of giving [performers] a challenge and making them
think about the music in fresh ways. Here as in all performance art the main
enemy of the good is the self-satisfied, the automatic pilot. Unless forced out of
that complacency, even the very finest musician (or actor, for example) can
produce thoroughly routine performances that have almost no artistic content.325
Certainly these two ideas line up: Morrow’s childhood education must surely
have involved listening to many BBC broadcasts and forming ideas influenced by their
content.326 Morrow was not, however, entirely original in this approach; his lines of
thought were ones also pursued elsewhere. As early as 1943 Eric Halfpenny, a foundermember
of the Galpin Society, published a paper entitled The Influence of Timbre and
Technique on Musical Aesthetic. It is unclear when exactly Morrow encountered this
paper but he certainly knew of its existence since a reference can be found amongst his
323 Michael Morrow, “Musica Reservata,” February, 1971, Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica
Reservata, King's College London Archives.
324 David Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s: Michael Morrow and Thomas
Binkley," in Essays in Honor of Laszlo Somfai on His 70th Birthday: Studies in the Sources and the
Interpretation of Music, ed. Laszlo Vikarius and Vera Lampert (Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2005).
325 Ibid., 53.
326 Morrow recalls having the Radio Times sent to him as a student in Italy so he could follow the BBC’s
music programming choices: Michael Morrow, “Musica Reservata,” February, 1971, Michael Morrow
(1929-1994) & Musica Reservata, King's College London Archives.
Halfpenny’s article served to highlight the research that the development of
instruments brought to an understanding of historical aesthetics, a link which, in his
opinion, was under-explored. He bemoaned the current vogues for performing all styles
of music on the modern instruments and said:
But because, regardless of its period, we still possess in name at least, the
instruments specified in its scores, we are well content to let these sleek and
efficient prototypes stand token for the whole of their several ancestries.327
One detects in his tone a feeling that Halfpenny was, or at least felt that he was,
a lone voice in the world of British organology such as it was in the 1940s. What is
more astonishing, however, is that he went on to describe art as a sociological
phenomenon in which performance is music:
The fact remains that the history of musical texture is the history of instrumental
resource, and that the two have interacted throughout the period under review.
Art is a sociological phenomenon. It belongs to its time and place as much as to
religion and politics. The fortuitous survival of some portion of this art, and its
selective revaluation by subsequent generations is, in the case of music,
complicated by the intermediate stage represented by the players and the
instruments though which it is revivified at each successive performance. The
act of performing it is obviously the most important thing about music.
Performance is music. It is at once the outward revelation of the composer’s
thought and ideology, and an art in its own right.328
The idea that music survived only in ‘some portion’ went against the grain of
textual studies which dominated musicology in the first half of the twentieth century.
Halfpenny was clear: the music is not the score, it is the performance. Such ideas, as we
shall soon see, are closely aligned to the writings and practice of Michael Morrow.
Also, the emphasis on organology as having potential to restore lost sounds is mirrored
in the slightly later work of Thurston Dart in the early 1950s:
First of all a very careful attempt must be made to discover the acoustical
surroundings in which the music was first performed. […] Next, the appropriate
instrumental sonorities must be restored.329
327 Eric Halfpenny, "The Influence of Timbre and Technique on Musical Aesthetics," The Music Review
iv (1943), 250.
328 Ibid.
329 Dart, The Interpretation of Music, 153.
These two writers make the idea that the sound of the instruments was
paramount to the performance very persuasive indeed, but what about the sounds of the
voices for which no physical artifacts remain? It is a long jump from these opinions to
the loud sounds of Kalenda Maya and certainly none of the classical singing that
Morrow would have heard as a child had anything like this tone-quality. Other
influences are clearly at play also. At a live performance in the Queen Elizabeth Hall by
Musica Reservata, broadcast on the BBC, Kalenda Maya was introduced by the BBC
announcer from notes prepared by Michael Morrow:
The second half of this concert is devoted to French and Spanish Music. It
begins with a performance, in outdoors style, of Kalenda Maya […] It’s a
monophonic song, based, according to a contemporary account, on an
instrumental dance tune.330
This live performance is similar to the one cited above, but uses a countertenor
to double Noorman’s vocal line. Considering the use of the phrase ‘outdoors style’,
could it be that Morrow was indeed asking Noorman to imitate a shawm or some other
such haut instrument and could such an idea be traced back to the popular haut/bas
binary originally influenced by iconographical evidence? Is it possible—through such
an example—to infer that the emphasis was firmly on a binary solution (loud, or soft)
rather than on a compromise at this time in the early music revival? To continue
assembling evidence towards answering these questions we must read further into
Morrow’s writings and broadcasts. Clearly, some level of deconstruction of Noorman’s
performance is needed if we are going to understand how it came about.
Firstly, Morrow and Noorman’s reading (on commercial LP release) of Kalenda
Maya used a recorder, a tenor rebec and percussion; not all haut instruments as defined
by Bowles. There is no reason on the basis of balance alone for Noorman’s singing
330 Home recording of BBC broadcast: “A Concert of Renaissance and Medieval Music,” in the private
collection of Geoffrey Shaw. Undated. The repertoire matches the concert: Musica Reservata, Queen
Elizabeth Hall (London), July 2, 1967. Concert programme in Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica
Reservata, King's College London Archives.
style; although elsewhere on the same album her ‘nasty noise’ is essential when she is
paired with bagpipes for the opening of Adam de la Halle’s Le jeu de Robin et
Marion.331 Incidentally, the Robin m’aime recording can also be contrasted with Safford
Cape’s Pro Musica Antiqua recording of the same piece in 1953, for a useful
consideration of contrasting vocal techniques in early music.332 Noorman’s avoidance of
the usual Western art music technique, then, is not a one-off, but a frequent occurrence.
In reviewing this record ‘…the quintessence of fishwifery…’ is how Howard
Mayer Brown described her singing. He thought it ignored ‘everything that is courtly
and refined’ in the music but despite this, succeeded because it embodied ‘such a
strong, personal and coherent conception of the music…’.333 Strength, as a description
for the Musica Reservata sound was also invoked in Morrow’s obituary by David
Fallows. Fallows tells us that Morrow stood for ‘clarity of line, absolute firmness of
pitch, rock-hard intonation and absolute confidence in performance.’ He went on to say
that ‘The bright, aggressive sounds of those no-compromise performances was a major
shot in the arm for everybody present.’334 Elsewhere he wrote that Morrow’s
performances were ‘calculated to eliminate the Good Queen Bessery’ and the Merrie
England invoked by madrigal singing and recorder groups.335
Part of this ‘shot in the arm’ approach was, as Montagu remembers, based on a
hearty and constant approach to dance rhythms:
And you look at Arbeau's Orchesography — the basic dance manual of 1588 —
the only two dances that he gives in full with the percussion part there’s no
variation whatsoever. It’s absolutely constant; which is what we did. That and
the fact that we went, as you might say, slap-bang into things is what broke the
ground with the audiences who had never heard medieval music played like
331 Musica Reservata, Michael Morrow and John Beckett, French Court Music of the Thirteenth Century.
Delysé ECB 3201, 196, LP.
332 Pro Musica Antiqua and Safford Cape, Series A: Troubadours, Trouvères and Minnesänger « Adam
de la Halle: Le jeu de Robin et Marion », Archiv Produktion APM 14 018, 1953, LP.
333 Howard Mayer Brown, "Review: [Untitled]," The
Times 114, no. 1563 (1973), 498.
334 Ibid.
335 Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s: Michael Morrow and Thomas Binkley", 52.
that—they’d been brought up with Dolmetsch—and we were fundamentally
Dolmetsch presumably represented the quintessence of ‘Good Queen Bessery’
for Morrow. Montagu also remembers Morrow asking for a straight tone from a player
who also performed with Dolmetsch:
Although Desmond Dupre who was a Dolmetscher used to play with us
occasionally when we needed an extra viol […] And Michael would say:
“Desmond, you won’t use any vibrato tonight will you?” 337
John Sothcott suggests the origin for these anti-Dolmetsch sounds in his
obituary piece:
The conscious and deliberately used influence of various traditional or exotic
forms of music in his versions of medieval music are very evident on recordings
made at the time. This kind of empirical research was previously unheard of and
has often been made use of by others, usually without acknowledgement.338
Perhaps this ‘empirical research’ stemmed from Morrow’s interest in what
Fallows called ‘records of folk-singers on the borders of Europe’ in the same obituary
piece?339 Recordings of what Sothcott remembered as traditional (read: European folk)
music, and exotic music (read: anything non-European, folk or otherwise) became
readily available from the mid 1950s onwards and Morrow was kept abreast of this
fieldwork through friendship with a key folk music scholar A. L. Lloyd (known as Bert)
who helped him realize that there were indeed close connections between medieval
music and longstanding traditions in folk music communities. To pursue this line of
reasoning for a moment, here is a picture that accompanied Morrow’s 1978 article on
performance practice for the magazine Early Music. It shows bagpipe dancing to
gudulka accompaniment (a Bulgarian folk instrument closely related to the medieval
rebec) and the photograph was taken by Lloyd himself.340
336 Montagu, interview by author.
337 Ibid.
338 Sothcott in: Thomson et al., "Obituaries: Michael Morrow, 1929-94", 538.
339 Fallows in: ibid.
340 Michael Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity," Early Music 6, no. 2 (1978), 233.
Figure 3: Bagpipe dancing to gululka (rebec) accompaniment in 1950s Bulgaria (photo by
A.L. Lloyd)341
A photograph from the same event is also used on Lloyd’s collection of
Bulgarian Music for Columbia records:
Figure 4: Photograph by A.L Lloyd used by Columbia Records342
‘The borders of Europe’ and in particular, The Balkans, are a recurring theme in
Morrow’s research into medieval performance practice. Interviewed in 1976 he said:
341 This photo appeared in: ibid.
342 A. L. Lloyd, The Folk Music of Bulgaria, Columbia Records KL 5378, 1954, LP.
I remember once listening to a singing Balkan […] and being struck by the male
singer’s perfect intonation and thinking that a 13th-century motet must have
sounded something like this—perfect fourths and fifths, very wide major
seconds and wide major thirds that really are dissonant—otherwise it would
sound like nothing at all.343
‘Like nothing at all’ is a good example of how strongly Morrow felt style was
the key to understanding the music. And this accords neatly with Fallows’ recollection:
Sounds were harsh; chords were to be dead in tune (we spent hours tuning thirds
and particularly seconds); ensemble was rigid; and rhythms were to be
unyielding. One of the fiercest rows I heard in a Musica Reservata rehearsal was
when one musician implied (only implied) that another had slowed down to a
cadence. It was terrifying.344
The attraction of Balkan voices for Morrow seems, then, to have been this
ability to sing unyieldingly in tune with intervals that Morrow felt should be quite
precise. When interviewed by Tony Palmer around the same time on LBC radio,
Morrow touched on Balkan voices again and selected a folk recording as an example of
[TP] That sounded very suspiciously to me like some bagpipes! Michael
Morrow, Musica Reservata: tell me more! What was that?
[MM] It’s a Jugoslav folk song which the woman is singing in a very moving
style. The text sounds as if it’s very sad indeed. In fact it’s all about old
husbands marrying young wives and it’s deeply satirical. And I think it’s a good
example of if one doesn’t know the style of the area, or period, one can mistake
the mood of the piece.345
Morrow was so struck by Jugoslavian performance that he also discussed it in
print on a separate occasion in Early Music magazine.346 In a script for an unknown
occasion Morrow went into further detail as he bemoaned the early music performances
of the 1940s which he felt were ‘somewhat watered down to suit the musical taste of the
343 Morrow and Thomson, "Early Music Ensembles 1: Musica Reservata," 515.
344 Fallows, “Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s,” 52.
345 Tony Palmer, LBC Radio Interview with Michael Morrow: 1CDR0005846, c1974, Musica Reservata
collection British Library Sound Archive.This recording can be identified as between 74-76 because
earlier in the broadcast James Callaghan was mentioned as foreign secretary.
346 Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity," 234.
the lack of conviction and vitality in most modern performance of this music
became startlingly apparent when, in the early 1950s, I heard a broadcast of part
of a Jugoslav festival of folk music, which included a group of villagers singing
in simple but throat-cuttingly precise harmony. I realised for the first time that if
a harmonic language is limited, its effect upon the listener will—of necessity—
depend upon the existence of a tradition of exact intonation: the details of
intonation may vary considerably from district to district, but the tradition of
intonation of each area will constitute an essential and immutable part of its
He went on to say that the innovations of nineteenth century orchestral writing
have not continued a demand for such precise intonation, and he traced a line to 12-tone
music as the ultimate acceptance of equal temperament. For Morrow, it seemed obvious
that when dealing with less dense harmonic textures, such as those demanded by a
drone accompaniment, precision of intonation would be paramount. At which point,
when talking about slightly later repertoire, he launched into a critique of modern
performance and modern vibrato:
The variety of tuning systems employed in the instruments of the modern
orchestra would have been intolerable during the renaissance, and the result is
only acceptable to the modern listener because an excessive use of vibrato blurs
to some extent the intonational anomalies and, of course, modern ears—or fairly
modern ears—have become conditioned to what would have seemed to a 16thcentury
listener to be sheer cacophony.
Morrow even compares the tuning of a recording by Nellie Melba (1861–1931)
with a modern Wagnerian ‘whose aim appears all too often to be one of accuracy to the
nearest semitone’ to prove his point. He sums up by quoting Percy Scholes as saying
‘the modern singer has come to rely on interpretation at the expense of technique’ and
then using this reasoning to justify the hard line stance of Musica Reservata:
John Beckett, John Sothcott and I all feel deeply and unanimously on the subject
of the need for total stylistic conviction and accuracy in the performance of the
music of any period. Without this, the music at worst, does not exist at all; at
best, it is deformed, dishonoured, and sent out to walk the streets.
347 Morrow, "Musica Reservata." This festival was, possibly, the 1951 Opatija festival recorded by Peter
Kennedy which became the Columbia World Library volume Yugoslavia.
On this basis, Morrow would often ask singers to perform a song before they
saw a modern translation in order to prevent them putting ‘any false feeling into their
This all amounts to something of a manifesto, and from this manifesto we can
infer Morrow’s strength of feeling. Interestingly, he was not the first person to find the
softness of the prevailing performance style unsuitable for early music. When
responding to an invitation to Musica Reservata’s 1960 debut concert Thurston Dart
wrote to Morrow:
Good luck to you all (most of whom I seem to have the pleasure of knowing
already), & let me know of your next concert. Make the music sound robust now
& then – so often one hears it as though everyone were wearing kidgloves….349
Dart’s own recordings of medieval music were indeed robust but the singing he
directs does not break out of the stylistic norm of the mid-twentieth century.350 Morrow
may have been influenced by this notion of robustness, but it still didn’t address his
underlying concerns about style. In fact, in another Early Music interview when asked
directly about how Noorman’s style evolved Morrow said: ‘My principal aim was not to
have people singing like the BBC Singers’ and he went on to reiterate that what he was
after was ‘precision of articulation and precision of intonation’.351 He also mentioned in
print that:
With several very happy exceptions I have always found it very difficult to work
with singers. This is partly due to my ignorance of 20th-century vocal-technique:
articulation from the diaphragm rather than the throat, expression by means of
the eyebrows instead of the voice.352
His attraction to Balkan voices, therefore, can now be summarized by the
following broad points: There is a Balkan tradition of monophonic music which has a
style that is understood by both its indigenous performers and audiences. Such a style is
348 Ibid.
349 Thurston Dart to Michael Morrow, May 6 1960, Box 1, Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica
Reservata K/PP93, King’s College London Archives.
350 For a consideration of Dart’s performances of Notre Dame repertory, see chapter six.
351 Morrow and Thomson, "Early Music Ensembles 1: Musica Reservata," 516.
352 Michael Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity," 237.
also particular to their repertoire and region. Morrow observed that Balkan singing has a
consistency of intonation appropriate to harmonically sparse music, because such vocal
techniques allow for a clear and direct portrayal of that intonation thus allowing drones
to assume harmonic importance. Morrow also focused on Balkan techniques because
such folk music is often performed out-of-doors. Finally, many Balkan vocal techniques
avoid diaphragmatic articulation, assumed to be an invention of the late nineteenth and
early twentieth century operatic technique.
But the influences also came from elsewhere: both David Fallows and Jeremy
Montagu remember that Morrow was fascinated by the singing of Genoese
fishermen.353 Howard Mayer Brown dubbed Morrow’s defiance of Western art singing
‘The Reservata Holler’.354 But Morrow did not think of Musica Reservata as having just
the one identifiable style but rather a ‘series of sounds, the articulation, intonation, vocal
and instrumental colour that’s characteristic of each particular period and country.’355
So whilst it’s tempting to highlight the ‘hollering’ qualities as indicative of Morrow’s
philosophy we must listen more closely because he is claiming that there are many
different ways in which his singers holler: therefore, to focus simply on the volume is to
ignore the bigger picture.
The resulting styles employed by Musica Reservata aimed at precision. Precise
it may have been, but many listeners just thought it was ugly. Morrow knew this when
he remarked:
…there are two things most audiences and all music critics abhor: nonconventional
singing and non-conventional violin-playing. With crumhorns, of
course anything goes.356
353 Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s: Michael Morrow and Thomas Binkley."
And: Montagu, interview by author. Presumably this would be the famous recordings of Genoese
Trallaleri and specifically the deconstructed ‘La Partenza’ from field recordings by Alan Lomax. Notes
about this piece can also be found amongst the uncatalogued papers of A. L. Lloyd at Goldsmiths College
Library, London.
354 Howard Mayer Brown, "Choral Music in the Renaissance," Early Music 6, no. 2 (1978), 166.
355 Michael Morrow and J. M. Thomson, "Early Music Ensembles 1: Musica Reservata," 515.
356 Michael Morrow, "Musical Performance and Authenticity," 236.
Jeremy Montagu, the percussionist for Musica Reservata explained the approach
to articulation as ‘bite and attack’ when he prepared a biography commissioned by the
British Council for Germany under their auspices in 1972.
Some of the evidence for the authenticity of this bite and attack comes from the
instruments themselves. For example, the wide-bored renaissance recorder plays
more strongly and with more attack than the conical baroque recorder; if one
plays the renaissance instrument in the gentle way which is current with the
baroque instrument, it sounds wrong and the player can feel that this style
doesn’t suit the instrument. The crumhorn gives even better evidence: unless one
blows strongly, attacks firmly and maintains full air pressure, the instrument
immediately goes out of tune. Confirmatory evidence comes from the few old
organs […], in particular the Compenius organ of Frederiksborg Castle near
Copenhagen, […]. The attack of this organ is a complete revelation to those who
thought that early music was gentle; it is strong and virile and immensely
exciting. 357
In particular of singers Montagu also explained:
And so Michael Morrow had to find singers whom he could persuade to forget
all that they had learned; to listen to folk music; to sing absolutely in tune
without any vibrato; to develop the same form of attack as the instrumentalists,
and all this he triumphantly achieved.
In the light of this evidence we can, therefore, suggest a preliminary conclusion
that Morrow pinned the reasoning for this style on both the precision or intonation in
European folk singers because he found it to be ‘congruent’ with the ‘bite and attack’ of
medieval instruments.
If we now return to the original comments made by Ian Partridge we can accept
that Morrow appears to believe that voices aligned themselves with the style of
instruments, but in (re)creating his medieval and renaissance sound world, was he
influenced by the paintings and drawings of medieval singers that Partridge mentions?
In an attempt to answer this question we turn first to Jeremy Montagu.
In his 1976 publication, The World of Medieval and Renaissance Musical
Instruments, Montagu attests several times to the importance of understanding the
nature of paintings:
357 Jeremy Montagu, “Musica Reservata,” c.1972, Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata,
King's College London Archives.
One very often sees pictures of instruments held incorrectly or not properly
tensioned, because neither the artist nor the model is a musician who knows how
the instrument should be played; for this reason one has to be careful when
reconstructing instruments or when trying to deduce playing styles from old
So a healthy skepticism of sources was afoot amongst one member of Musica
Reservata at least and it seems unlikely that this would not have been discussed with
Michael Morrow.359 Montagu also commented:
we [in Musica Reservata] were well aware that there was no basic knowledge of
what instruments had played anything. We know what instruments were around
from […] the iconography. [...] But we also knew that your average picture of a
group of divergent musicians all together is simply an illustration of psalm 150
or whatever it might be and therefore not an illustration of a playing ensemble as
Here Montagu speaks for the whole ensemble, implying that both the musicians
of Musica Reservata and Michael Morrow displayed a keen awareness of the pitfalls of
reading iconographical sources literally and as such using them cautiously and wisely.
Strained expressions appear to be something of a red herring to understanding
Noorman’s technique because it is notable that no one has recalled being asked to look
strained while they sang in any of the interviews that have been conducted. Also,
Morrow’s surviving papers never refer to iconographical sources for voices; only folk
traditions and instrumental sounds. Particularly pertinent to this argument would be
Morrow’s 1971 concert talk for art students in Chelsea; surely here, of all places, he
would have discussed iconographical sources relevant to singing technique? Yet, still,
there is no mention of such a connection.361 So whilst such a connection cannot be
disproved, it is certainly conspicuous by its absence.
This brings us back to the chicken-and-egg situation of voices and instruments;
who is imitating whom? Munrow believes that voices were the exemplar which
358 The world of Medieval & Renaissance Musical Instruments (Newton Abbot: David and Charles,
1976), 69.
359 Montagu remembers many long conversations with Michael Morrow, interview by author.
360 Ibid.
361 “Chelsea,” June 26, 1971, Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata, King's College London
instruments attempted to imitate and Morrow appears to believe voices imitated
instruments because they were duty-bound to align themselves with the prevailing
sonority of an instrumental texture to avoid tuning problems which medieval and
renaissance listeners would have found ‘sheer cacophony’. The fact that Morrow is so
diplomatic on this point leaves room for a wistful air of necessary compromise about his
beliefs: singers had to imitate instruments to avoid a clash of sonorities, this did not
mean they wanted to, he seems to say:
vocal tone has always been related to the tone produced by the instruments of
the time, and it seems unreasonable to expect musicians of any period to admit
serious incongruity between vocal and instrumental colour […]362
If we look back over the evidence collected so far in this chapter a logical
argument can be constructed: the central problem is that we do not know how medieval
and renaissance voices sounded because none have survived and we cannot reconstruct
a lost vocal style. Morrow, however, believed that voices have always been congruent
with instruments of their time in timbre and in style. Because instruments do survive,
and/or can be reconstructed and their physical properties reveal some necessary playing
techniques, he was able to observe that some European folk singers sound a bit like the
old instruments. Furthermore, Morrow observed that the same European folk singers
displayed astonishingly accurate and unwavering intonation skills. He concluded that if
modern singers borrowed ideas from European folk singers in order to sound congruent
with old instruments, then they may move closer to a lost style.
To begin to place the difference between the prevailing style of early music
singing and Morrow’s new ideas into context, it is useful to consider contrasting
recordings of Kalenda Maya from around the same dates as Partridge’s broadcast. For
many artists after the war, early music singing was undertaken with a standard chambermusic
technique. This sort of approach can be heard clearly if we contrast Noorman’s
362 Morrow, "Musica Reservata."
singing of Kalenda Maya as played by Partridge with a near contemporary recording by
Gerald English and The Jaye Consort.363
Before we start with this pair of recordings, we should note the method used for
analysis. Spectrograms have been chosen as an informative way of illustrating the
musical texture and also, in the following chapters, of measuring vibrato. All
spectrogram images are taken using the Sonic Visualiser program.364 These graphs show
frequency against time and are also coloured by intensity (red being the strongest, green
the weakest). They can be plotted from any sound source and, unless otherwise stated,
all are shown at the same screen magnification to aid quick visual comparison.
Jantina Noorman’s performance demonstrates a strikingly different technique to
Gerald English; consistently loud, unwavering and strong. At times she takes chest
voice as high as possible in a manner reminiscent of a ‘belt’. There is a blend of Balkan
techniques as well as a hint of modern music theatre to her approach. It is easy to see
how anyone familiar with the sounds of medieval instruments might think that she is
imitating one of them just as Ian Partridge suggested. Yet we now know it is more
complex than imitation, it is an attempt to sound ‘congruent’.
At the beginning of Kalenda Maya the percussion part enters first followed by
the recorder.
363 Gerald English and The Jaye Consort, Medieval Music: Songs and Dances of the Middle Ages on
Authentic Instruments, Pye «Golden Guinea Collector» GSGC 14092, 1967, LP.
364 Sonic Visualiser is freeware, distributed under the GNU General Public License (v2 or later) and
available for Linux, OS/X, and Windows. It was developed at the Centre for Digital Music at Queen
Mary, University of London. This particular spectrogram plots (amongst
other things) the pitch of a sound (in cents) against time; and in the example shown here the notes sung
by Jussi Björling show not only their fundamental tone but also their partials (harmonics) too. For an
explanation of measuring vibrato from spectrograms using Sonic Visualiser readers are referred to: "The
Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical Performance," CHARM, accessed
August 18, 2009. (Chapter 8, Paragraphs 72-77).
Another reason for choosing this method of analysis is to aid readers who do not have access to these
audio recordings since, for reasons of copyright, the author is unable to provide an accompanying
collection of audio tracks.
Figure 5 Musica Reservata: Kalenda Maya, introduction
The vertical measuring lines (thin white) show 0.25 second intervals, the other
vertical line (thick white) is simply the curser on the software viewfinder. The
percussion plays for less than two seconds before the recorder enters but it sets up a
loud and regular pattern that is unbroken for the duration of the track. The vibrant and
complex tone of the percussion can be seen in the height and duration of the harmonics
that rise up from the red and yellow readings of the fundamental tones at the bottom of
the screen. The recorder enters with the tune at about 5.5 seconds on the graph and its
steady and loud notes can be seen as bold red lines.
Figure 6 Musica Reservata, Kalenda Maya: recorder trill
This picture shows two recorder trills in the verse introduction before the voice
enters. The trills oscillate rapidly between F5 and D5 with noticeable regularity and
accuracy; this type of trill was particularly associated with the player John Sothcott.
Figure 7 Musica Reservata, Kalenda Maya: Jantina Noorman’s voice
Figure 3 shows the direct vocal sound of Jantina Noorman. In order to orientate
ourselves with the difference between the vocal line and the recorder doubling, let us
take the stressed word ‘per’ at 2’37” as an example. Considering the white vertical
measuring lines show 0.25 of a second, we can see that although the voice is wavering
on ‘per’, this is too fast to be an audible vibrato. What is also of interest is how the
voice is strong in so many of the upper harmonics (green being the weakest colour,
yellow in the middle and red the strongest: see the scale on the left hand side of the
screenshot). The recorder part is still visible towards the bottom of the spectrogram as a
strong, direct, red line. It is doubling Noorman’s part and we can judge how closely the
two align.
Turning our attention to the Jaye Consort recording with Gerald English we can
see from the introduction that the percussion is subtler and less clearly defined. It
actually contains a percussion instrument that sounds three times before the voice enters
just before the 2-second point.
Figure 8 Jaye Consort, Kalenda Maya: introduction and vocal entry
The Jaye Consort are performing the piece much more slowly and, in fact, they
only perform the first verse. This spectrogram shows the seventh line of that verse, the
syllable ‘vos’ of ‘vostre’ is in the same position as the ‘per’ that Noorman sang.
Figure 9 Jaye Consort, Kalenda Maya: Gerald English’s voice
There is noticeable portamento and a slower pitch oscillation which is heard as a
gentle vibrato. The vibrato’s irregularity prevents it from dominating the sound, unlike a
more overtly ‘operatic’ vibrato would (as discussed in the next chapter).365 Notable in
English’s performance is his tendency to lose volume between the syllables; there is
distinct drop between the two syllables of ‘vostre’ which sounds like a clean break
during playback. This avoidance of singing through the phrase helps to keep the
performance light and simple without English having to adopt a straight-tone vocal
technique. The less time he is singing in full voice the less time we hear the voice
So, in these two rather different performances of Kalenda Maya we can observe
several points. Morrow’s style incorporates two very prominent solo lines (Noorman
and the recorder) both of whom exhibit little, if any vibrato and play with an almost
365 Throughout this thesis I use the term ‘operatic’ as a shorthand for the prevailing vocal technique of
mid-twentieth century Western classical singers. This is, in part, because the vocal training was aimed
primarily at operatic repertoire even though these voices worked in oratorio, song and chamber music
constant, rigid tone. The background of his recording is a complex meshwork of
percussion sounds. The precision of his recording is seen in the way that the busy
spectrogram information divides into clear sections achieved by the dramatic drops of
volume between each note. There are no legato phrases. In the Jaye Consort recording,
however, the vocal style is much more legato but with some less dramatic drops in
volume between the notes which give a clean, light feeling. The voice uses an irregular
vibrato. The percussion is much softer and penetrates the texture less. As a result of
these differences, Musica Reservata’s recording is louder and brasher; much more of an
aural assault, and the Jaye Consort seems much more like chamber music.
Munrow’s Performances
Munrow, like many other freelance musicians, had grown increasingly frustrated
with Morrow’s disinterest in the financial potential of Musica Reservata and had, on
occasion, tried to encourage Morrow to take concert programmes on tour once they had
been devised and rehearsed. Morrow, however, was focused on exploring new
repertoire and so the idea of repeating a programme held little interest for him. For
Morrow, the adventure was simply in creating a musical performance.
In the late 1960s, as Munrow was founding his own consort he may well have
felt resonances between Morrow’s ideas and the folk music which he experienced first
hand in South America during his gap year. Certainly, we have seen that Munrow’s
interest in the relationship between South American instruments and early Western
instruments flourished in Cambridge with encouragement from Thurston Dart, and after
1964 (when Christopher Hogwood was in Prague) Munrow’s interests gravitated
towards earlier music. Morrow’s search for a stylistic toolkit was one that Munrow
would also make in the later 1960s as his own knowledge was beginning to find an
outlet in performance; but the Early Music Consort was to be characterized by a quite
different approach to singing styles.
The performances that Munrow directed are, in many practical ways, different to
Morrow’s; yet they were considered by members of Musica Reservata to take much the
same approach. It is possible that Munrow’s performances may be underpinned by his
‘tooth cutting’ experience with Musica Reservata as Bowman suggested, but the
resulting sounds were often different and this is due in a large part to the vocal style of
his singers. Comparing Munrow’s recording of Passe el agoa to Morrow’s, we hear a
markedly different vocal tone from the countertenor James Bowman to that from
Noorman. By simply being a countertenor Bowman was reasonably novel in the early
1970s and his singing is as unwavering and direct as Noorman’s, yet his pure falsetto
could be described as akin to a young choral scholar’s whereas Noorman’s singing took
a different model for its basis.366 This is not to suggest that Munrow was not also
acutely aware of the problems of performing medieval music, and not interested in
authentic style. Indeed, the biography in the programme for his Wigmore Hall debut
with the Early Music Consort of London read:
The Early Music Consort was formed in 1967 by David Munrow to give
authentic and uninhibited performances of music from 1200 to 1750,
concentrating particularly on English Music.367
Yet in his search for this ‘authentic’ and ‘uninhibited’ sound Munrow was
drawn down a different path to Morrow’s, Munrow was attracted to lighter Oxbridge
voices who could also sing with accuracy and steady intonation. This is a point John
Potter, a singer with the EMC in later years, has also made.368
366 Passe el agoa is on the album: David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Music of the
Royal Courts of Europe 1150-1600, Nonesuch 7 1326-1, 1970, LP.
367 David Munrow, Wigmore Hall London, March 17, 1968, DM/2/1/33, Papers of David Munrow, Royal
Academy of Music Library, London.
368 Quoted in chapter 1: “There has been no revolution in singing to compare with that of instrumental
playing. In England the very musical, Oxbridge-trained light voices adjusted to the new requirements [of
the early music movement] with the minimum of change in their existing techniques: the ‘Reservata
holler’[…] proved much less enduring than the relatively conventional singing preferred by David
Munrow” John Potter, "Reconstructing Lost Voices," in Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music,
ed. Tess Knighton and David Fallows (California: University of California Press, 1992), 311.
Compared to the holler, Munrow’s singers are relatively conventional. Maybe
the instant attraction that Munrow reported feeling for Bowman’s ‘fabulous noise’ was,
in part, driven by a desire to minimize the alienation between performer and audience
that Musica Reservata seemed deliberately to court. Interestingly, this quality, as we
have already seen, is stressed by the use of the word ‘attractive’ in a biography of the
Early Music Consort of London.369
Use of the word ‘attractive’ cannot be simply coincidental, there must have been
some conscious, or subconscious, charm campaign in operation. And with this
observation we seem to arrive at a significant forking in the philosophies of Munrow
and Morrow. It was summed up neatly in a newspaper interview with Morrow:
He [David Munrow] said recently that his aim is to popularize old music, which
I think he does very successfully. My aim is not that.370
Morrows’s own aims had no commercial purposes whatsoever, as Sothcott
reflected, Morrow simply wanted to hear the music as it was. Sothcott does not expand
on this comment, but the context seems to imply that ‘as it was’ refers to ‘as it was in
the middle ages’. Morrow’s no compromise approaches with his star singer Jantina
Noorman are far from the softer-yet-equally-accurate tone that Munrow cultivated from
his star soloist James Bowman. One reviewer called Morrow’s 1968 album, Music from
the Time of Christopher Columbus, which featured Noorman’s harsh Pase el agoa,
‘devastatingly ugly’ but not everyone found the results disagreeable; Ian Bent wrote of
another track on that same album Está la reyna:
There is, for example, a wealth of artistry in Jantina Noorman's singing [...] Her
high-pressure sound, begun and quitted without wavering of pitch or volume, is
369 EMC Biography and Discography, July 1972, David Munrow 1968-1975, EMI Archives, Hayes,
370 This is found in an interview with Phillip Sommerich – from a newspaper clipping (no date or
provenance) in Box 1 Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata K/PP93, King’s College
London Archives.
infinitely more moving than would be […] 'a less robust and more "artistic"
He also mentioned in the same review that the voices ‘make the same kind of
sound, translated into vocal terms’ as the instruments, and this is, as we have seen, a
very accurate summary of the philosophy that Morrow was developing.
We need now to ask how this question of making ‘the same kind of sound’
actually operates in performance and how Munrow operates differently to create an
attractive alternative. With Pase el agoa, we have a particularly useful case study
because alongside the two recordings that Munrow compared in his BBC script we also
have his own recording of the same piece.
Firstly, we can examine the two recordings that Munrow himself chose:
Figure 10 Waverly Consort/ de los Angeles, Pase el agoa: introduction
The Waverly Consort performs a neat, light introduction with almost no vibrato
and very clear breaks between each note.
371 Ian D. Bent, "Review: Music from the Time of Christopher Columbus by Musica Reservata; Beckett;
Morrow," The Musical Times 110, no. 1516 (1969), 643-644. In this review Bent also quotes the
‘devastatingly ugly’ comment. The source for ‘devastatingly ugly’ is: Denis Arnold, [Review] ‘Music
from the Time of Christopher Columbus’ Gramophone March, 1969. p. 1318.
Figure 11 Waverly Consort/ de los Angeles, Pase el agoa: first vocal entry
When Victoria de los Angeles enters her voice is clear with a prominent and
regular vibrato. The texture, however, remains uncluttered as her voice stands forward
from the softer instrumentalists and subtle percussion. If we take the longest note of her
performance, which happens to be the last note, we can observe a reasonably regular
vibrato which is almost a whole tone wide.
Figure 12 Waverly Consort/ de los Angeles, Pase el agoa: last note (including voice)
This is all in stark contrast to Morrow’s performance. There is no instrumental
introduction; rather the music begins with a wall of sound.
Figure 13 Musica Reservata, Pase el agoa: first entry
The texture is dense and tightly packed, and the notes are noticeably straighter
toned from vocals and instrumentals alike. If there is oscillation, it is highly irregular.
So why is it so packed? Such density is caused because Morrow is using several voices,
one on each part and doubled with an instrument. If we look at a verse with only two
voices singing we get a clearer picture of the vocal quality:
Figure 14 Musica Reservata, Pase el agoa: Middle verse with two voices
Noorman is joined by another singer (on a lower part) but the straight-toned,
harsh sounds can be seen clearly as can the slight portamento on occasions. Note
Noorman’s very strong word ‘el’ which happens each time. It helps to identify her
waveform in the texture. This part of the texture is similar to that we observed earlier in
Kalenda Maya; tightly defined wedges of sound show little vibrato and strong
harmonics from Noorman. Percussion also pervades the texture giving noticeable
harmonic information as it makes percussive or ‘wet’ sounds which light up the higher
part of the spectrum.
An essential difference between these two performances is encapsulated by the
approach to the word ‘el’. For Noorman, ‘el’ is stressed because it lies on a higher note
and her high use of chest voice demands an increase of volume in order to reach it; but
for de los Angeles, it is an unimportant word so her stress is reserved for the first
syllable of ‘agoa’ on the next note. Noorman is not performing a text-based approach,
and this is crucial to understanding the philosophy of Musica Reservata.
What we can observe from David Munrow’s performance is a combination of
elements found in the other two. Munrow’s performance uses the countertenor, James
Bowman, and begins without an instrumental verse. Like the Waverly recording, the
EMC accompaniment is light and Bowman’s voice matches this sound by exhibiting
only a few irregular oscillations making him sound warm yet minimizing vibrato.
However, like Morrow’s recording, the music is noticeably sectionalized by the words
which creates a very clean and ‘tight’ ensemble; yet again, Munrow is more moderate
and does not go as far as to make it sound choppy.
Figure 15 Early Music Consort of London/Bowman, Pase el agoa: beginning
Bowman is also capable of a laser-like straight-toned sound as we can see here
on his last note.
Figure 16 Early Music Consort of London/Bowman, Pase el agoa: last note
That last note is not quite straight-toned but sounds as though it is. It begins with
a deep orange intensity on the spectrogram which softens into yellow then green
showing a gradual diminuendo. The percussion can be seen rounding off the piece with
four strikes. The very straight red line towards the bottom of the spectrogram is the viol
and it is orange throughout: a firm foundation and Bowman’s note is the thickest line
seen above this. In this respect, his last note is quite different from Noorman’s
unrelenting finish; here, without using a grand ralentando or dramatic decrescendo
Bowman feeds the listener an essential aural clue that the performance is over by fading
his intensity gradually. This clue is compounded by the finishing flourish from the
percussion. The whole manner of this ending is different from Musica Reservata who
seem just to stop, and The Waverly Consort who have Victoria de los Angeles giving a
standard ralentando to her cadence and holding the long note with an operatic vibrato. I
think that with these points in mind it is obvious that the vocal approach, and indeed
technique, is the elephant-in-the-room.
Munrow’s own vocal interests are stated in some of his interviews, and
noticeable in more than one source are references to Alfred Deller and Cleo Lane,
diverse artists (explored in the next chapter) who have a characteristic vibrato pattern in
common. By modeling his performances on a ‘clean’ minimal vibrato sound which is
close to a choral scholar ideal (Bowman), Munrow claims a middle ground between the
acceptably Western sounds of the 20th century (los Angeles) and the forthright delivery
of Musica Reservata (Noorman). Perhaps he is staking out the territory of the newly
emerging Early Music Consort of London as an attractive alternative to the highly
original but contentious sounds of Musica Reservata? Furthermore, Munrow’s
performance is with soft instruments to which he matches a countertenor. This suggests
that an haut/bas binary is in operation. Morrow was lucky to have singers who were
willing to experiment with their voices in such an unconventional way but it is easy to
forget that in 1968, when Munrow met James Bowman, countertenors were also still
unconventional in solo work. Perhaps Munrow was relying on the fact his audience
would also think Bowman was ‘the most fabulous noise’ they’d ever heard? 372
372 There are many references for this story, here the following is quoted: Alan Blyth, "David Munrow
talks to Alan Blyth," Gramophone, May 1974.
The Point of Departure: Landini’s Questa Fanciulla
David Fallows once wrote an article suggesting that the album, Ecco La
Primavera, on which this ballata by Landini can be found, was ‘an attempt to set the
record straight’ after Munrow’s experiences of recording the same repertoire on the
Musica Reservata album Music from the Time of Boccaccio’s Decameron a few days
earlier and he also suggested that the former album influenced the latter.373 Munrow
was furious at Fallows’ assertion that he was influenced by Morrow, and asked for a
printed apology.374 This apology was never granted as there were good reasons for
subscribing to Fallows’ point of view. Ecco la Primavera can been seen both as an
album which is influenced by the work of Musica Reservata and an album which takes a
deliberate and significant step away from the Musica Reservata orbit. Indeed, Ecco La
Primavera was a bold statement on the part of Munrow: an assertion of independence
from the gravitational pull of Michael Morrow’s uncompromising vision for medieval
music as well as the first album made solely by the EMC.
The contrast in the performances of Landini’s Questa fanciulla was referred to
by Munrow himself in a radio script for his 1970 programme, Medieval Florence:
One simply can't be dogmatic about how music of this period was performed.
The composers just didn’t give any performance indications: no tempo, no
dynamics, no instrumentation, and they left the performers quite a few problems
of textual underlay to sort out as well as considerable license to ornament the
music themselves.
Here are two utterly different interpretations of “Questa fanciulla Amor” in the
first, a tenor is accompanied by viols and lute; in the second, a mezzo soprano is
accompanied by two crumhorns and triangle […]375
Despite what is clearly a different approach, both performances used Leo
Schrade’s 1958 edition of this song, and followed his suggestion in the editorial
373 David Fallows, "Performing Early Music on Record-1: A Retrospective and Prospective Survey of the
Music of the Italian Trecento," Early Music 3, no. 3 (1975), 259.
374 David Fallows, email message to author, December 15, 2012.
375 David Munrow, Medieval Florence [Radio Script], October 29, 1970, DM/7/12, Papers of David
Munrow, Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
commentary that the song was most likely to have been performed with a vocal top line
and instrumental accompaniment.376 That several performers were shared across the
albums further highlights the difference in approach taken by both directors.
Questa fanciulla is both a prayer and a love song:
Love, please make this girl compassionate, for she has wounded my heart in
your fashion. / Lady, you have so stricken me with love that I can only find rest
when thinking of you. / You have drawn my heart out of my body with your
beautiful eyes and joyous face / Have pity on your servant, I ask for pity on my
great distress.377
We will consider four performances of this song all recorded within a ten-year
Performance Approx tempo Instrumentation
Musica Reservata 1968378 112 Mezzo Soprano (Jantina
Noorman) 2 crumhorns,
Early Music Consort of
London 1968379
78 Tenor (Nigel Rogers) 2 viols,
Studio der frühen Musik
120 Mezzo Soprano (Andrea von
Ramm) Tenor (Richard Levitt)
Fiddle, Lute
St George’s Canzona 1978381 116 Countertenor (Derek Harrison),
Taking these performances in chronological order, we see that Morrow’s version
used one of Jantina Noorman’s ‘holler’ vocal styles accompanied by crumhorns and a
triangle. The anatomy of this performance can be quickly surveyed using the evidence
for Musica Reservata’s approach already discussed. Noorman has been asked to sing
376 Francesco Landini, The works of Francesco Landini, ed. Leo Schrade (Monaco: Editions de l'Oiseau-
Lyre, 1958).
377 Translation copyright Decca 1968. Printed in Early Music Festival Decca 289 452 967-2, 1968, CD. A
reissue of: David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Ecco La Primavera, Argo (Decca) ZRG
642, 1969, LP.
378 Musica Reservata, Michael Morrow, and John Beckett, Music from the Time of Boccaccio's
"Decameron", Philips SAL 3781 / 802 904 LY, 1969, LP.
379 Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Ecco La Primavera.
380 Thomas Binkley and Studio der frühen Musik, Francesco Landini, EMI "Reflexe" 1C 063-30 113,
1973, LP.
381 St George's Canzona and John Sothcott, A Tapestry of Music for the Black Prince and His Knights,
Enigma K 53 571, 1978, LP.
absolutely in tune and that means without vibrato and with a sound that is not
incongruent with Morrow’s chosen instruments, crumhorns.
Crumhorns, although historically anachronistic, are presumably the right sort of
reedy wind-cap sound to deputize for the long-lost douçaine.382 The decision to include
triangle percussion brought the music into a world of functional dance accompaniment
and this dance style reminds the listener of an oft-recounted contemporary account of
two girls dancing a ballata.383 This, in itself, is a good reason for assuming that Morrow
was at least familiar with Ellinwood’s edition of Landini, despite it being much
criticized by Schrade.
Ellinwood describes a ballata as:
a song-dance which has close connections with the Troubadour music and also
resembles the French virelais. All of this music is very close to the social life of
the period. It is, for example, the sort of music used in the daily interludes of
Boccaccio's Decameron.384
The association with Boccaccio chimes with the title of Morrow’s album —
Music from the Time of Boccaccio’s Decameron — and Ellinwood then moved on to
emphasize the humanist movement by making the point that:
the human emancipation, which was being expressed more and more in the
paintings of the early Renaissance found an immediate expression in these
madrigals, cacce, and ballate of the Italian Ars Nova.385
This, as we have seen, is the very sort of assumption that Morrow railed against
by arguing that although we can understand there is expression at work, we cannot say
how that musical expression once operated and we cannot be sure it worked the same
382 Munrow uses this reasoning in his liner notes for the album: David Munrow and Early Music Consort
of London, Music of the Crusades, Argo (Decca) ZRG 673, 1970, LP. It seems reasonable to conclude
that Morrow is possibly making the same point. Also, for David Fallows’ account of Thomas Binkley’s
attempt to reconstruct a douçaine, see: David Fallows, "Notes on a Mystery: Cornamuse and Dulzaina,"
Early Music 7, no. 1 (1979), 135.
383 Ellinwood recounts a story where some dancing and singing girls were performing Orsu, gentili spiriti
‘…so sweetly that even the birds in the Cyprus trees sang more sweetly’. Francesco Landini, The works
of Francesco Landini, ed. Leonard Webster Ellinwood (Cambridge, MA: The Mediaeval Academy of
America, 1939), xv.
384 Ibid., xiii.
385 Ibid.
way as it does today. This is why Morrow believed that Noorman’s mode of expression
should not worry us if it is not recognizably expressive to our modern ears.386
Musica Reservata’s performance did not set out to defamiliarize this music
entirely: one aspect which is still immediately recognizable is the dance-like quality.
The rhythmic drive of the dance seems to be essential to Morrow’s conception, and
Noorman’s execution, of this piece. Indeed, Wolf, as early as 1931, also described the
balata as ‘a song to be danced’ emphasizing that its ‘relation to the estampida of the
troubadours is evident.’387 Taking Schrade’s edition as a basis, the dotted crotchet beat
is about 112. Fallows has described this performance as ‘a grotesque dance’ but was
also quick to explain that such surprising hard-edge was ‘not born out of ignorance […]
Michael Morrow was posing questions about the nature of music, about musical
expression, and about the very prettiness of the performing style he had inherited.’388
Consider the first entry of the ballata:
Figure 17 Musica Reservata: Questa Fanciulla - first entry
386 Here, I am paraphrasing his comment ‘If, for instance, there is a description of a 13th century singer
that says something to the effect that he sang very beautifully indeed, it might be irresistible – but not to
me – to think of Fischer Dieskau.’ In Morrow, "The Performance of Medieval and Renaissance Music."
387 Johannes Wolf, "Italian Trecento Music," Proceedings of the Musical Association 58 (1931): 19.
388 Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s," 54.
Noorman places her consonant before the first beat of the piece so that the initial
attack of the music occurs as she opens into the vowel-sound. The net result is that her
full-voiced vowel aligns with the instrumental entry. Her tone is strong, even, and
devoid of audible vibrato. From the first four notes shown in the spectrogram (figure
17), we can see that there is no legato singing as Noorman bumps the front of each note
of the melisma with a surge in intensity which causes a slight wavering of pitch.
Notable in figure 17 also, is the vibrato-less tone of the crumhorns.
That Munrow heard this performance before he directed the recording of his
own, just a few days later, is obvious; Munrow is playing the crumhorn on Morrow’s
record. It is therefore possible to read into the sleeve notes of Munrow’s Ecco La
Primavera a barbed comment in his choice of a madrigal-text by Jacobo da Bologna,
thought to be Landini’s teacher, which he quotes:
I do not praise a singer who shouts loudly: / Loud shouting does not make good
singing / But with smooth and sweet melody / Lovely singing is produced, and
this requires skill.389
Munrow says of Jacopo’s text that ‘this gives us an insight into the style of vocal
performance which he preferred’. Making such aesthetic assumptions about the concept
of ‘lovely singing’ in the Trecento is, as we have just noted, exactly the sort of
reasoning that Morrow avoids. Through Munrow’s performance we are alerted to this
fundamental branching of opinion between these two directors, and as a result of this
branching I would suggest again—as, indeed, Fallows has before me—that Munrow’s
album can be read as a response or even a riposte to Musica Reservata. It is, in effect, a
statement of intent for the future differences between these ensembles: the point at
which their paths first significantly diverge.
With the loud, nasal sounds of Musica Reservata still fresh in Munrow’s mind,
he eschewed the crumhorns and percussion for his own performance, instead deciding
389 As translated on the sleeve notes to: Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Ecco La
on soft string instrumentation to accompany this ‘lovely’ style of singing, and he did
this by searching for clues in Trecento poetry. He describes this process in his 1970
script for the radio programme Medieval Florence:
The majority of ballate have three parts of which the top part is melodic and
vocal, and the lower two are without text and are intended to be played on
instruments. The result is a type of accompanied solo song with a wide range of
expressive possibilities. We aren't sure what sort of instruments are used because
the composers never indicated instrumentation. But sometimes the poets provide
a little evidence. In Prodenzani's Saporetto we read:
With the lute played the tenor / With such melody that everyone's heart / was
cheered through its sweetness. / With the cithern he also made some music /
Then came the muted shawm with the tenor.390
Munrow’s first sentence paraphrases the preface to Schrade’s edition of Landini
when discussing the vocal top line, but his passage about Prodenzani’s poetry draws on
the preface to Ellinwood’s 1939 edition, proof that Munrow consulted both.391 The
Prodenzani quote is from sonnets 33 and 34 from a section entitled mundus placitus in
saporetto and quoted in full in Italian by Ellinwood.
This poetry led Munrow to conclude that ‘In practice, a combination of plucked
and bowed strings seems to suit the more serious pieces very well […]’. Such open
acknowledgement of the use of subjective performance descriptions is characteristic of
Munrow’s approach. The resulting EMC recording of Landini’s Questa Fanciulla can
be seen as a deliberate attempt to make a ‘popular and attractive’ performance with
‘lovely’ singing which did not sound like ‘shouting’.
390 Munrow, "Medieval Florence [Radio Script]."
391 Ellinwood mentions Prodenzani's sonnets on p. xxviii, and David Munrow probably read this. On p.
xxxviii Ellinwood also discusses the role of instruments, citing his own paper: Leonard Ellinwood,
“Francesco Landini and his Music”, Musical Quarterly Vol. 22, No. 2, April 1936: 190-216. He also
recommends: Theodore Gérold, La musique au moyen âge, (Paris: H. Champion, 1900), chapter xx. On p.
xxxix Ellinwood goes on to say 'that instruments were used to a considerable degree none will deny. The
parts given without texts have intervals difficult or impossible to sing, and have an excessive use of
ligatures which again excludes the possibility of singing. In the frequent instances where the ballata parts
have texts omitted in one or more manuscripts, but not in others, there is a constant simplification made
by omitting repeated notes and by using more ligatures.’
Figure 18: Early Music Consort – Questa Fanciula, opening
Rogers’ singing has already been discussed in terms of its minimal, but
noticeable, and indeed constant, vibrato sound. Here, in comparison to Noorman we can
see its constant use brings the voice much closer to conventional Western singing and
not only because of this vibrato but also because of the legato phrasing, the slight
portamenti and the richer harmonic information that is synonymous with Western
classical singing. That this performance is also slower, allows this legato to be heard
move obviously, the dotted crotchet beat being approximately 78bpm.
If Fallows encourages us to see Morrow’s performance as having spawned this
reaction from Munrow, he also suggests the same sort of reaction from Thomas Binkley
in Germany after Morrow’s record was released:
Thomas Binkley, director of the Studio der frühen Musik, was not present at the
Musica Reservata recording sessions. But he heard the record (when I played it
to him), and ten days later he too was recording Questa fanciulla. The
immediate results are in a two-record set distributed only by Swedish
Rikskonserter (Expo Norr RIKS LPED 1-2). But a later version is on their
Landini record; and this may be the best of the 'florid style' performances.392
In this later recording to which Fallows refers, Questa Fanciulla is sung by two
voices.393 Fallows appears to imply that Binkely was inspired by the Musica Reservata
recording to perform the work himself. If this is the case then Binkley must have felt
quite strongly about the piece because his performance is quite different to that of
Musica Reservata.
Fallows, who is an important source of information about the performance ideas
of both Morrow and Binkley, contrasts them by saying:
the fundamental difference between the two is one that is present in almost all
music-making, namely between the vertical and the horizontal, between
precision and flow. Every performer is making that choice the whole time. But
both men took their views to extremes.394
Whereas Morrow was interested in strong textures and brilliantly tuned chords
Fallows observes that Binkley took a different approach.
Essentially his [Binkley’s] musical approach was one of long lines, of movement
towards a point, of the overall form being more important than anything else.395
This observation holds true as an accurate summary of Binkley’s performance of
Questa fanciulla. Elsewhere, Fallows goes further in his description:
Everything flows almost shapelessly on its way to the cadences. Two voices
(Andrea von Ramm and Willard Cobb) make Landini's discantus and tenor lines
as smooth as it is possible to make them. On the contratenor line Sterling Jones
played a vielle equally smoothly, almost encouraging the singers to accelerate as
they approach their cadences.396
The vocal lines are indeed, exceedingly legato and do not appear, even on close
listening, to be distracted by vigorous rhythmic intent. Rather, they feel slippery as if
their trajectory from the start to the finish of each section is inevitable and this is an
effect created by those slight accelerations towards the cadences.
392 Fallows, "Performing Early Music on Record-1: A Retrospective and Prospective Survey of the Music
of the Italian Trecento," 259.
393 Thomas Binkley and Studio der frühen Musik, Francesco Landini.
394 Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s: Michael Morrow and Thomas Binkley," 52.
395 Ibid., 53.
396 Ibid., 54.
In order to understand this performance and to situate it alongside the work of
Musica Reservata and the EMC it will be necessary to look into the biography of this
group. The Studio der frühen Musik was founded in the same year as Musica Reservata,
and from an LP cover in 1972 (the year before this Landini record was released) we
In 1964 professional musicians joined together as the Studio der frühen Musik
(the Early Music Quartet) to specialize in performances of pre-Baroque music.
Two singers and two instrumentalists founded a new kind of stylistic
interpretation, naturally dependent on the use of original instruments and
original languages. By emphasizing such aspects as stylistically correct
improvisation and the use of full forms in performance, an historically true
sound picture is accomplished. In the twelve years of their existence they have
become world-renowned through their concerts and recordings.397
Unfortunately, Binkley did not discuss his ideas about ‘new kinds of stylistic
interpretation’ in print in as much detail as either Morrow or Munrow discussed theirs.
However, several recent studies have begun to dissect his performance style. Fallows is
obviously a key voice in the understanding Binkley’s approach and he feels that text
was a prime motivation for the singing of Andrea von Ramm:
for Andrea von Ramm everything began with the text. Perhaps what interested
her were the text’s vowels and its consonants before its meaning; but the
meaning was still of major importance. Almost inevitably, then, tempos changed
to accommodate the changes in the meaning of the text, the sounds of particular
words, even the colour of particular vowels. Equally inevitably, there was an
emphasis on the completeness of the story, on the piece coming to an end in a
way that made the listener aware that it was the end.398
Here Fallows describes the primacy of the text, both as meaning and sound, as
the key driver in the slippery phrasing that characterizes von Ramm’s singing and
divergence from steady tempo.
Fallows is not a lone voice in his consideration of Binkley’s style; Benjamin
Bagby and Barbara Thorton have also written about him. Bagby and Thornton were
students at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis where Binkley and his quartet taught
397 From LP Sleeve notes for: Thomas Binkley and Studio der frühen Musik, Guillaume de Machaut:
Chansons II, EMI "Reflexe" 1C 063-30 109, 1972, LP.
398 Fallows, "Performing Medieval Music in the Late-1960s," 53.
during the heyday of their ‘Arabic’ period in the early 1970s. They too focus on
Binkley’s insistence on performance of full-forms, from memory, but also stress that
did not espouse any particular ‘theory’, but was responding as an informed and
intuitive performing musician to the imaginal needs of a music which had lost its
context and its expressive voice.399
This, too, points to an approach, not dissimilar from Morrow, whereby Binkley
saw it as a duty to inform himself historically if he was to perform this music.
Another interesting parallel between Morrow and Binkley is in the use of
memory. Binkley would insist on performances from memory, which created what
Fallows refers to as ‘the most incredible ensemble’ between the performers.400 This can
be related to the telepathic sense of ensemble of the Bulgarian State Choir, performing
at the Royal Festival Hall in London in the 1950s, that so captured the imagination of
Morrow and which he sought to recreate in his performances.401
It is interesting to follow how the paths of Morrow and Binkley diverge from
similar starting points, an inspiration from folk instruments on the borders of Western
classical music and the pursuit of ensemble. Whereas this path drew Morrow ever closer
to exacting standards of intonation and rhythmic vitality, it is quite audible in this
recording that Binkley was less concerned with such short-range details than he was
with the longer-range structure of the piece.
Yet historical evidence was clearly important to Binkley, as David Lasocki
The studio never used the word “authentic” about its performances. Rather, Tom
would inform himself fully about the historical evidence of how a certain
repertoire was performed, try to furnish plausible historical instruments for the
399 David Fallows et al., "Obituary: Thomas Binkley, 1931-1995," Early Music 23, no. 3 (1995): 539.
400 Ibid., 538.
401 This was remembered in detail: John Sothcott, Derek Harrison, and Terry Sothcott, interview with the
author, March 21, 2013.
job, then take his inspiration from the texts and the instruments to make
additions in what he felt was the spirit of the music.402
This is, of course, much more noticeable in monophonic music where the scope
for improvisation is higher than in the comparatively more descriptive notation of
Landini. Still, the broad outline of these comments can be observed in Binkley’s
recording of Questa fanciulla. Something of Binkley’s own viewpoint can also be read
on his LP sleeve notes:
It would be unfair and frivolous to discuss Landini's music in terms of his
cadences or treatment of dissonance. This would be to discuss the paintbrush of
the painter. The artistry of his music is to be found beyond the techniques he
employed. Landini’s was a world of sounds and ideas, and his music is of
immense depth, never frivolous, seldom even really light-hearted, actually
rejecting all simple and clear emotions, yet suggestive, warm and personal.403
Now we hear from Binkley himself that a close inspection of detail is somehow
less important than the longer-range musical ideas of Landini’s work.
Figure 19 Studio der frühen Musik: Questa fanciulla - opening
Immediately, we can see from the spectrogram in figure 19 that this performance
is less defined than either the Early Music Consort performance or Musica Reservata. It
402 David Lasocki, "The Several Lives of Tom Binkley: A Tribute " Early Music America (1995): 19.
403 Liner notes for: Thomas Binkley and Studio der frühen Musik, Francesco Landini.
is also considerably faster (dotted crotchet in Schrade’s edition being equal to 120 for
the first few notes but then displaying considerable flexibility). The main difference
between these performances, however, is that Binkley uses two voices (mezzo soprano
and tenor) and also performs the full form of the poem. This, Fallows observes, creates
some stability because ‘the lower voice more clearly controls the wavy rhythms of the
discantus.’404 This sense of coherence, I would suggest, is a characteristic of Binkley’s
performances, as is the flexible approach to tempo. These aspects of performance
combine to create a smooth lyrical style which has a folksy and intimate feel and is
quite different from the more formal, smooth, yet somewhat laboured, singing of Nigel
One final performance that is worthy of note is by the St George’s Canzona,
directed by John Sothcott (founder member of Musica Reservata). Like Munrow,
Sothcott branched out, away from Musica Reservata, in the early 1970s and invested
increasing amounts of time in his own amateur ensemble, The Harlow Canzona, which
eventually developed into The St George’s Canzona. They took this new name from a
period as the resident ensemble at the St George’s Theatre in North London, a rival
enterprise to today’s Shakespeare Globe.
Sothcott remembers that part of his motivation was to work in a more
democratic ensemble and without a conductor:
we thought this sort of music shouldn’t be conducted, it should sort of be self
motivating from within. Which is the way we always ran The [St George’s]
The resulting performance of Questa fanciulla takes a similarly thorough
approach to Binkley’s in that is also uses the full form of the poem and has a more
flowing and flexible conception of ensemble and tempo. But in terms of a hard-edged,
404 Fallows, "Performing Early Music on Record-1," 259.
405 Sothcott, Harrison, and Sothcott, interview by author.
precise sound-world it owes a great debt to Morrow’s school of thought, theories which
Sothcott would have known intimately from his time in Musica Reservata.
Many of the St George’s Canzona performances are characterized by a bright,
vital and attractive string sound which is the product of the vielles (with and without
drone strings) that Sothcott himself researched and made. Coupled with the brilliantine
timbre of Derek Harrison’s countertenor the whole performance of Questa fanciulla is
lighter and more springy that the others, even though it is not the fastest considered
here. The tempo is around 116 bpm.
Figure 20 St George's Canzona: Questa fanciula - verse 1
If we look here at the line in verse one, ‘falami pia’, we can see that Harrison
uses quite a penetrating tone which floods the texture with harmonic information. He is
loudest on the a: and i: vowels and sings in a direct fashion reminiscent of Noorman’s
style, but entirely in head-voice (falsetto). This creates a reedy, but attractive tonequality
which is maintained at a relatively constant intensity throughout the song. There
are few, if any, deliberately legato moments, and melismas are articulated precisely and
obviously. Set against a bed of plucked string sounds, the texture is busy and detailed
without sounding heavy or cluttered.
The consideration of these four performances of Questa fanciulla again situates
Munrow as being between Morrow’s uncompromisingly empiricist viewpoint and the
relaxed, attractive sound of modern performance styles. To be sure, Munrow’s
performance takes many of the straightforward and bright sounds of Musica Reservata,
but unlike the St George’s Canzona who retain this at the centre of their approach,
Munrow interprets the song as lyrical and dreamy which is something that connects it to
the performance by Binkley. However, what marks Munrow out in this instance is that
he is liberated enough from the constraints of vocal style that seem to bind the other
artists, to allow Rogers to use a noticeable amount of vibrato which, in turn, makes his
performance sound less different or ‘other’ than any of the recordings directed by
Morrow, Binkley or Sothcott.
Where is ‘The Music’?
Throughout this chapter, we have seen several quotes which refer to
performance. Notably, Eric Halfpenny wrote that ‘Performance is music’.406 And I
would like to suggest now that this informed Morrow’s own views to a certain degree
whereas it did not noticeably inform Munrow.
If we take an overview of Morrow’s writings discussed so far we can see that he
suggests that style is essential, without style the music does not exist at all but with the
wrong style the music would be dishonoured.
This distinction between style and performance is of interest. Morrow seems to
be suggesting that if the music is not performed with style it doesn’t exist, which in turn
suggests that if the music is not performed at all it does not exist at all. Is Morrow really
406 Halfpenny, "The Influence of Timbre and Technique on Musical Aesthetics."
suggesting that the music only exists in performance, because only in performance can
it have style? If so, this inspiration for this view can be traced back to Eric Halfpenny.
We can certainly say with some confidence that Morrow is indeed very close to
suggesting that the music does not exist outside of a performance. And just to be clear,
by performance I refer to the performance that takes place in one’s head when reading
the notation as well as a play through by performers.407
Elsewhere in the same piece of writing Morrow states:
any extension of our present knowledge means that we shall be able to examine
afresh well-known manuscripts, but with a greater understanding of the music
they represent.
Which is an admission that ‘the manuscript’ is nothing more than a
‘representation’ of the music. It seems for a moment that Morrow has a definite theory
about performance and music but
In performing medieval and renaissance music we all share the same object: that
of attempting to recreate the past in all its glory and its horror.408
It is surprising, after so much trailblazing, to discover that Morrow does not
distinguish between recreating a performance with recreating the sound of the music.
Usefully, Morrow hints that his sympathies lie with recreating the sound of a
performance when he comments elsewhere that he is trying to give a performance
which ‘might not absolutely affront the composer.’409
What I am suggesting here is that Morrow continually teeters on the brink of
saying that ‘the music’ is ‘the performance’. What he ends up doing, however, is falling
down a linguistic rabbit hole and regarding ‘the music’ as a separate construct that will
arise, resplendent and heroic from hibernation if only someone could unlock the style.
407 His arguments are close to those suggested in: Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, "Compositions, Scores,
Performances, Meanings," Music Theory Online 18, no. 1 (2012). Accessed June 6, 2012.
408 Montagu, "Musica Reservata."
409 Morrow, The Performance of Medieval and Renaissance Music.
It is startlingly close to exploding the persistent myth of servitude to composer
intention. Morrow accepts that he will never know if he has got the style right but
whereas his rival, David Munrow, saw this as a liberating situation, one can sense
Morrow’s continued frustration as he searches for this illusory thing: ‘the music’.
If no one today has heard the music performed by the players for which it was
written […], how can one hope to say with any certainty, as I once heard stated
on the radio, following a bleating English choral performance of a 16th-century
Spanish motet; ‘and that is how it must have sounded in the cathedral of Seville
in 1543’? O madre mio!410
This certainly leads us some way to understanding why Morrow has such fixed
views of performance and why this would have frustrated a young David Munrow who
was, after all, keen to tour, perform, and possibly just to hear as much early music as
possible. Such philosophical reflections on the very nature of music do not appear in
Munrow’s writings; instead he continually describes his sense of wonderment and joy at
the repertoire he is uncovering and openly admits that inconclusive evidence allows for
many different ways to perform a piece. Munrow is closer to an admission that he is
really just building on supposition—as indeed Hogwood commented—and in these
terms he is far more realistic about his activities and what he can achieve. In order to
better understand this distinction, we could usefully reduce this line of reasoning to
compare Munrow as a jobbing musician with Morrow as an historical reenacter.
David Munrow appears to have been influenced by his work as an
instrumentalist with Musica Reservata in the late 60s and certainly he and Michael
Morrow shared an interest in music from across Europe which could serve as a model
for the performance of medieval music. This influence can be traced back to Thurston
Dart’s book The Interpretation of Music in both cases. Morrow tended to confine his
410 Morrow, "Chelsea."
inspiration to ‘the borders of Europe’, the Balkans in particular, whereas Munrow went
further, to South America, to the Middle and Far East and across Europe.
Fundamentally, these two men disagreed about singing and this disagreement
caused an irreconcilable branching of approach between the two ensembles. Morrow
felt that singers would have always had to adapt their technique to align with the
sonorities (or limitations, depending on your point of view) of the instruments involved
in accompanying them, whereas Munrow felt that since all instruments were imperfect
attempts to match the human voice in prowess and flexibility, he could take a broader
and more personal approach to singing and singing styles. His inspiration came, largely,
from a set of conclusions he came to about vibrato which is explored in the next
Chapter 5 - What should it all sound like?
The previous chapter identified both minimal-vibrato and world music models
as key features of the performance practice of Michael Morrow. It also suggested that
Munrow used similar models but interpreted them in a consciously ‘attractive’ fashion.
This chapter now explores vibrato and world music in the writings and record collection
of David Munrow.
Central to this chapter is the reconstruction of two discographies found amongst
David Munrow’s papers. The first accompanies an unpublished paper covering
Munrow’s opinions on vibrato from c1970. This paper includes a discography that lists
individual performances but contains no sound files. The second discography is taken
from a reel-to-reel tape labeled ‘What should it all sound like?’ which is a compilation
of sound recordings from various sources, all without documentation or references. In
both cases I have reconstructed these discographies so that consideration can be given
as to why Munrow should have wished to group these recordings together and to ask
what the narratives of these collections tell us about the musical investigations they
First, this chapter defines features of vibrato that Munrow identified and
admired and then traces those features through EMC recordings. Signal processing
software offers an analysis of such recordings to compare Munrow’s aural observations
with a visual representation of various performance parameters present in each extract.
Secondly, this chapter expands on the broad stylistic influences of folk and world
music. Thus a stylistic toolkit is created which outlines the main tenets of Munrow’s
performance practice in medieval music.
Discography 1: Vocal Vibrato
When Jerome Roche criticized a recording of Gesualdo for unsteady intonation
due to the singers’ vibrato it prompted an exchange of letters in The Musical Times.
This particular exchange so intrigued David Munrow that he took it as a starting point
for his unpublished essay, Vibrato. 411 Munrow’s essay may have been notes for a
public lecture since a page of it is written on ‘Dartington Summer School’ headed
paper. The essay was structured in three parts: first the discussion of Roche’s review,
next a literature overview which considered the current teaching on vibrato, and then,
finally, a discussion of vibrato as exemplified by a short discography.
The catalyst for Munrow’s essay
The subject of Roche's review was the album Monteverdi and his
Contemporaries by Denis Stevens and the Academia Monteverdiana. At one point in
the review Roche complained of ‘excessive’ vibrato in the singing of the five soloists
and justified his stance by saying that ‘…questions such as the singing of pure 3rds in
triads […] cannot be given proper consideration with such general vibrato.’ 412 He then
chose as an example the last cadence of Gesualdo’s Luci serene where he thought that
the bass should ‘support the harmony’ rather than wobbling.
Denis Stevens refuted this charge of excessive vibrato; and measuring it on
electronic equipment reported that ‘the speed of the individual vibratos never falls
below the accepted seven per second, and that deviation from pitch is less than ±3%’
proving, in his opinion, that the lines were never obscured. 413 We should note that
Stevens pointed out that his singers could not have been using excessive vibrato because
they only used it for the embellishment of key moments: ‘I asked the singers for vibrato
411 David Munrow, "Vibrato," Papers of David Munrow, DM 9/11, Royal Academy of Music Library,
London, c.1970. This date is suggested by the RAM catalogue.
412 Jerome Roche, "Review: [Monteverdi and his Contemporaries]," The Musical Times 110, no. 1522
(1969), 1252.
413 Denis Stevens, "Vocal Vibrato," Letters to the Editor, The Musical Times 111, no. 1526 (1970), 387.
on the final chord of Gesualdo's madrigal because the words are “more e non langue”,
indicating a climax both musical and sexual.’ 414 Roche, replied simply: ‘MT readers
need not be blinded by the science […], for on these matters the ear is, thankfully, the
ultimate judge.’ 415
From this exchange we learn that Roche objected to ‘general vibrato’ on the
grounds that it obscured tuning and suggested that choral performance could be the only
way to achieve ‘steady intonation’. He did not elaborate on why choral performance
would be steadier, but we can infer that the nature of a chorally trained voice is one that
employs less vibrato. From Stevens’ reply we learn that he was unaware of the constant
nature of the vibrato in his own ensemble and it is this comment which neatly exposes a
central problem with discussions of vibrato: listeners—be they experienced musicians
or otherwise—appear not to hear vibrato in the same way as each other. If this is the
case, it suggests that there must either be some disagreement about what vibrato is, or a
subjective element to judging how much vibrato is being used.
By way of illustrating the gap between Roche and Steven’s perception of vibrato
in that particular recording of Luci serene the vibrato was measured using software to
create a spectrogram:
414 Ibid.
415 “Jerome Roche writes:” ibid., 388.
Figure 21: Luci Serene - final cadence
On the above spectrograph plot the final two words of the last voice to sing
‘langue’ have been annotated so that the last cadence can be seen clearly. The lowest
voice does indeed appear (visually) to use vibrato. When measured this voice exhibits a
vibrato of: 302cents (3 semitones and 2 cents vibration of pitch) and 0.81 seconds over
a 5 cycle measurement which is an average of 6.09 cycles per second. Clearly, this does
mean that the vibrato speed of the lowest voice drops below 7 cycles per second. Since
Stevens gives no details of how he measured vibrato speed he may have been using an
average which also considered other moments and voices on the recording, but it seems
reasonable to consider this particular bass note at this particular cadence since it is the
one that Roche pointed out.
Again, two useful observations can be made from these measurements: first that
we are immediately confronted with a problem of averages when measuring vibrato,
since even a quick glance at the spectrograph plot above shows that it is often a
changeable phenomenon and secondly that measurements cannot accurately describe
how vibrato will be received and understood by the listener, since elements of personal
taste and aural perception are in operation: what is too much for one listener may be
totally acceptable to another.
Munrow’s literature review
Munrow approached this conundrum by looking back to the first scientific
studies of vibrato from the 1930s acoustics laboratories of the University of Iowa
directed by Carl Seashore.416 In one of these studies, Max Schoen studied pitch vibrato
using a Tonoscope, a device that transferred sound waves to a physical medium so
vibrations could be photographed under stroboscopic light to obtain wave images.417
With this apparatus, Schoen examined ‘five world-famous opera singers’ all performing
the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria. Six years later Seashore himself expanded considerably
this field of research through new photographic and electrical recording techniques; the
result was that he could identify and measure other parameters alongside pitch. These
investigations resulted in a detailed definition of vibrato:
The vibrato in music is a periodic pulsation, generally involving pitch, intensity,
and timbre which produces a pleasing flexibility, mellowness and richness of
tone. 418
Such proof that vibrato was more than just an oscillation of pitch was slow to
influence musicians, and still not fully exploited or even acknowledged by the writers of
Grove’s dictionary more than two decades later.419 This may have been because, despite
the rigorous scientific procedure, Seashore’s study had shortcomings in its chosen
sample field which was indicative, largely, of only one particular type of Western
singing. This is explicit in the title of Milton Metfessel’s paper in the same series: ‘The
416 An example of the continuing influence of this article is its citation in: G. Moens-Haenen. "Vibrato."
Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed January 16, 2013, http://0-
417 Max Schoen, "Pitch and Vibrato in Artistic Singing: An Experimental Study," The Musical Quarterly
12, no. 2 (1926), 275-290.
418 Carl E. Seashore, The Vibrato, Studies in the psychology of music vol. 1 (Iowa: The University of
Iowa Press, 1932), 349.
419 Robert Donington, "Vibrato," in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Eric Blom (London:
Macmillan, 1954), 764.
Vibrato in Artistic Voices’.420 In surveying Metfessel’s work it is clear that what
constitutes an ‘artistic voice’ is one which employs an audible and consistent vibrato
which by the 1920s had become perfectly normal in Western art singing. Such is the
uniformity in the style of singing measured by Metfessel that he is led to confidently
surmise that ‘almost every artistic tone has a vibrato.’ And on another occasion he tells
us that ‘most singers cannot sing a tone that would have any semblance of desirability
without using the vibrato’. That he does not elaborate on criteria for desirability
suggests that it is probably the vibrato that led him to consider the tone as ‘artistic’ in
the first place, or at least contributed an essential component to the tone so that it could
be classified as ‘artistic’. Yet even if he did not specify what factors classify a voice as
‘artistic’, Metfessel tells us that vibrato had been dividing opinions for at least a
There are three rival camps on the point of vibrato desirability. There are those
who object to any kind of vocal pulsation, whether vibrato or tremolo; those who
maintain that vibrato is acceptable in its place on tones which naturally would
tremble; and those who champion the vibrato unreservedly. 421
From this it is clear that judgments of taste and value were already assigned to
vibrato in the early part of the twentieth century in turn indicating this was an era with a
variety of singing styles on offer. This was also an era which immediately followed a
time of change, where overt and constant use of vibrato became the dominant attitude in
Western musical performance; this is exemplified not only in singing but also notably in
the violin playing of Jascha Heifetz (1901–1987). Such debates were common currency
amongst critics and presumably among audiences also, leading one to suspect that older
listeners were used to hearing much less vibrato than younger listeners.422
420 Milton Metfessel, "The Vibrato in Artistic Voices," in Studies in the Psychology of Music (Iowa: The
University of Iowa Press, 1932), 14-117.
421 Ibid., 18.
422 The American critic Virgil Thomson was particularly critical of Heifetz, often resulting in acidic, but
amusing, reviews. For a collection of his writings including such material see: Virgil Thomson and
Richard Kostelanetz, Virgil Thomson: A Reader: Selected Writings, 1924-1984 (New York: Routledge,
Having described what vibrato is in terms of sound waves Metfessel then turned
his attention to how vibrato is created and attempted to explain how it can be taught in
singing lessons. First of all he introduced the concept of ‘involuntary vibrato’, a
situation where the possessor is not aware of having vibrato and cannot sing a ‘desirable
tone’ without vibrato; yet he stated that vibrato was not a universal human trait because,
before training, some voices have vibrato and some do not. Metfessel claimed all voices
could be trained to use vibrato once a certain physical maturity had been reached:
The vocal muscles producing vibrato must reach a certain stage in their
development before they can function in that capacity. With some the muscles
develop quicker than with others; but probably if they are going to function
involuntary at all they will do so during adolescence.423
This suggests that vibrato was understood by Metfessel as a muscular action
which, due to the underdevelopment of a child’s whole physique (not just the larynx),
was not usually observed before adolescence. However, the research in this particular
essay could not identify a single muscle group as being responsible, rather, Metfessel
reported that cases of both laryngeal and diaphragmatic vibrato were observed as well
as a combination of the two. In a survey of research from other sources as well as his
own teaching and observation Metfessel concluded that in training the vibrato:
It is not a matter of voluntarily fluctuating the muscles, but of letting the muscles
fluctuate themselves […] the correct muscle-set will be known when the
muscles fluctuate. Once the right position is achieved the kinesthetic clues for it
will become familiar so that it is not difficult to get the correct muscular
adjustment at will repeatedly. 424
Vibrato, therefore was seen by Metfessel as a learned and deliberate device
employed by the ‘artistic’ singer which could also occur naturally (albeit to a lesser
extent). The central importance of vibrato can be divined from Seashore’s 1936 study
when he says: ‘All recognized professional singers sing with a pitch vibrato in about
95% or more of their tones.’ This not only neatly illustrates how widespread the
423 Metfessel, "The Vibrato in Artistic Voices," 72.
424 Ibid., 84.
practice was at Seashore’s time of writing but further hints towards his definition for the
phrase ‘recognized professional singers’. 425
Having cited these studies, it comes as a surprise that Munrow makes no
reference to their specific findings within his own essay. Rather, Munrow chooses to
discuss a second work: the ‘Vibrato’ entry in Willi Apel’s 1944 Harvard Dictionary of
Music; which cites Seashore. After defining vibrato in stringed instruments as ‘a slight
fluctuation of pitch produced on sustained notes by an oscillating motion of the left
hand’ Apel focused on the discrepancy between the use of the terms ‘vibrato’ and
‘tremolo’ in singers.426 Vibrato, he explains, is historically a reiteration of the same
pitch but at his time of writing is used by singers to refer to ‘a scarcely noticeable
wavering of the tone’ which does not result in a noticeable fluctuation of pitch. If this
wavering of tone were to ‘degenerate into a real wobble’ then such an ‘unwelcome
effect’ is what singers refer to as tremolo even though, historically, that too means
something else. 427 We can read into this that a singer’s vibrato, according to Apel, is
considered to be present when pitch fluctuation is hardly noticeable and tremolo when it
is too noticeable.
Another source, frequently quoted by Munrow in his essay, was Robert
Donington’s ‘Vibrato’ entry in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1954. Here,
Donington offered a definition of vibrato as ‘A slight and more or less rapid fluctuation
of pitch for expressive purposes.’ 428 Interestingly, this definition, like that from Apel,
cited Seashore but also refrained from taking into account parameters of rate, intensity
or timbre as discussed in Seashore’s studies. This focus on pitch fluctuation, however,
supported Seashore’s observation, above, concerning the widespread use of pitch
425 Carl E. Seashore, Psychology of the Vibrato in Voice and Instrument, University of Iowa studies in the
Psychology of Music (Iowa: The University of Iowa Press, 1936), 48.
426 Willi Apel, "Vibrato," in The Harvard Dictionary of Music (London: Heinemann, 1944), 791.
427 Ibid.
428 Donington, "Vibrato," 764.
vibrato in the tones of professional singers. Donington also divided his entry between
string instruments, wind and voice discussing individual techniques for vibrato such as
rocking one or more fingers on the string of an instrument or by fluctuating the air
supply to a wind instrument.
Interestingly, Donington’s description of vocal vibrato classified ‘a comparable
fluctuation of intensity’ as a tremolo explaining that the nomenclature for vibrato and
tremolo have been reversed from their usual instrumental meanings in the case of
singers. Singing teachers, he explains, warn against the fluctuation of pitch, preferring a
fluctuation of intensity which, despite being a tremolo (like the organ stop), is called a
vibrato by singers. Thus, the pitch vibrato gets the title of tremolo and, as such, carries
negative connotations. Here he is in perfect agreement with Apel. These observations
by Donington were expanded in his 1963 book The Interpretation of Early Music,
which was the newest source Munrow considered.429 Here, Donington quotes Carl
Flesch’s The Art of Violin Playing:
From a purely theoretic standpoint, the vibrato, as a means for securing a
heightened urge for expression, should only be employed when it is musically
justifiable. 430
Munrow notated a photocopy of The Interpretation of Early Music with the
words ‘musically justifiable’ where they are cut off on the page-turn suggesting that
they held some importance. Certainly, in his Grove entry Donington recorded his final
thoughts as:
Current opinion tends to disfavour the true vibrato unconditionally, but to
encourage the tremolo or singer’s “vibrato”, provided that it is consciously and
skillfully controlled and used with restraint for deliberately expressive purposes.
429 The pages in question are no 168 and 169 which also contain some crossings out and an annotation in
Munrow’s hand: Munrow, "Vibrato." Photocopied sheets from: Robert Donington, The Interpretation of
Early Music (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), 168-169.
430 Carl Flesch, The Art of Violin Playing, trans., F. H. Martens, vol. 2 (New York: Carl Fischer, 1924)
Quoted in Donington, The interpretation of Early Music, 169.
431 Munrow, "Vibrato."
Here, Donington is suggesting that the use of vocal-vibrato is usually an
intensity (breath pressure) vibrato and that even this type of vibrato could be
encountered too frequently and without thought as to musical context.
Munrow’s views
Having summarized both Donington and Apel, Munrow then chose to illustrate
these arguments with thirteen examples of recordings that appear to exemplify vibrato
used in different ways and different situations annotated with his own comments. Some
of these recordings are instrumental and some vocal. It is possible to retrace Munrow’s
steps through this short discography by aligning his comments with a close analysis of
the recordings on that discography.
Munrow began his essay by focusing on the letters from The Musical Times:
This correspondence is the first really good argument in print about vibrato
which I have come across. It illustrates the confusion that exists about the word
– exactly what it means, how it is defined and how far it should go.432
The tone of Munrow’s comments indicate that he was using the word
‘argument’ to mean a disagreement rather than a hypothesis, thus he observed that such
disagreement over how to use the word vibrato was very common. This led him to
suggest, as a starting point, a simple definition of vibrato as: ‘The slight and more or
less rapid fluctuation of pitch’ which was taken directly from Donington’s entry in the
Grove dictionary. 433 Although Munrow acknowledged this was an incomplete
definition, limiting himself to pitch is somewhat unexpected after citing Seashore’s
work: that Munrow has not included Seashore’s information on timbre and intensity
suggests his intention was to limit the discussion to Roche’s comments about intonation
and pitch vibrato. Taking these parameters as key to Munrow’s thinking, each recorded
432 Ibid.
433 Munrow’s actual words: “If we accept for the moment the fairly simple definition of vibrato as…”
extract from the discography will now be considered first in terms of vibrato depth and
In order to measure different vibratos across such a wide range of recordings
spectrograms have again been been used. Short sections of each audio extract have been
chosen to include reasonably long and prominent notes where vibrato can be heard most
Figure 22 Jussi Björling’s voice spectrogram
For example, in figure 22 we see a short extract of Jussi Björling’s voice on a
long and prominent high note at the climax of a phrase. Björling is singing the duet
Solmne in quest’ ora from La forza del destino (Verdi). At a glance one can see that the
vibrato is regular and from the strong red colour of the third harmonic or ‘singer’s
formant’ (seen on the third line up from the bottom) the voice is loud and clearly heard
over the orchestra. For much of the screen in view we can see a long note is being sung
and the harmonic content of this note is indicated by the wave-forms visible at higher
and lower pitches. It is also easy to observe the differing intensity of the note;
red/orange colour shows points of maximum volume whilst the green/yellow shows the
points of minimum volume.
The green square is a measuring tool. Here it has been placed around five
consecutive vibrato cycles so that the time value of cycles per second can be calculated.
The same square can also be repositioned to read the amplitude of the waveform to see
how wide an individual cycle is. Finally, to aid simple visual comparison, a timemeasure
of thin white lines has been displayed. In this extract the lines are spaced 0.5
seconds apart so this long note lasts just over 5.5 seconds in total. This method has been
repeated for each extract cited in Munrow’s discography.
Key Recordings Source Speed on long note
(cycles per second)
JU La Forza del Destino: Solenne
in quest'ora
Jussi Björling ten,
Robert Merrill bar.
RCA CM 9844-E (10”)
iTunes store 6.1 198
JP Duet from Cantata No 42
J.S. Bach
(Robert Shaw Chorale)
Eileen Farrell Sop Jan Peerce
RCA LM 6023
LP transfer 6.2 249
PM Kyrie: Missa da capella
Prague Madrigal Singers
Supraphon SUA 10558
LP transfer 6.1 147
TYT John Barleycorn
The young tradition.
Transatlantic TRA 172
iTunes store 15.9 30
BW Wedding song: Podrum verviat
kiten svatove.
Bulgarian Women.
The living tradition series,
28.7 92
Key Recordings Source Speed on long note
(cycles per second)
JN Triste Espana
Janita Noorman
Musica Reservata.
Philips SAL 3697
Philips CD:432
(released 1992)
12.7 45
JB Triste Espana
James Bowman & EMC
BBC Broadcast (Plaistow)434
This recording
is not available.
The same track
is taken from
‘Music for
Ferdinand and
Isabella of
Testament SBT
7.1 111
LT The mad scene:
Lucia de Lammermor Donizetti
Luisa Tetrazzini
ATL 4079 Fidelio
Itunes store 7.2 110
AD Agnus Dei:
Mass in B Minor
Alfred Deller. Leonhardt
Baroque Ensemble. BachGuild
BG 550.
LP transfer
purchased from
6.7 227
CL Please don’t talk about me when
I’m gone
Cleo Laine.
Fontana TL 5 316
iTunes store 5.6 500
LC Llul arique
The Flute of Latin America –
Los Calchakis.
Major Minor records SMLP76
5.52 243
CD Heartsease
Carl Dometsch, Joseph Saxby
Decca LM 4518 (10”)
Carl Dolmetsch
Pearl CD
transfer. Gem
7.6 51
HY Air on a G String
Hozan Yamomoto Shakuhachi
Victorola VICS 1458
LP transfer 4.4 101
BL Doina Oltului Hora
Panpipes and Romanian Folk
Artia AZp-105
6.9 131
MK Mevlana
Mustafa Kandirali
Clarinet and Turkish night club
5.8 127
HS Feathers by Hale Smith
Eric Dolphy sax.
ESQ 32. 153
Out There/Eric
New Jazz
4.7 74
434 Music of the Iberian Peninsula, 01/PC/DGM, contract dated April 27, 1970, BBC WAC RCONT12 -
David Munrow - Artists File 2 - 1968-72. The producer for this programme was Steven Plaistow.
Figure 23 Results table
The following figures show screen-grabs from the spectrograph plots of each
extract corresponding to the points at which they were measured. Such screengrabs can
only show a few seconds’ worth of music so each one is chosen to be as representative
as possible for the vibrato featured on the recording as a whole.
Figure 24 JP
Figure 25 PM
Figure 26 TYT
Figure 27 BW
Figure 28 JN
Figure 29 JB
Figure 30 LT
Figure 31 AD
Figure 32 CL
Figure 33 LC
Figure 34 CD
Figure 35 HY
Figure 36 BL
Figure 37 MK
Figure 38 HS
The table of results and the spectrograph images immediately suggest a wide
variety of different sounds and vibratos across the selection of recordings. We can now
take each recording in turn to trace the main features of Munrow’s argument.
In the example of Jussi Björling’s (1911–1960) singing, vibrato can be heard
clearly on every note except the one in the turn before the climax and the oscillations on
the long climatic note are extremely regular. Munrow said that this example was ‘a
good illustration of the battle between voices and orchestra… [and]…it makes clear that
vibrato has become one of the singer’s principal weapons in a formidable armoury.’435
In his essay he made a clear link between vibrato and the process of creating enough
volume to sing with a large orchestra and below this recording in his list he wrote:
‘Whatever you may think of this style of singing and its use in romantic opera, it has
produced generations of singers who can’t sing in any other way.’436 Since this is the
only recording on the list that has a specific location embedded in the essay, we can also
relate it to the quote which follows, a sentence from Marafioti’s book called Caruso’s
Method of Voice Production:
A wonderful display of brute force […] performed by ignorant screamers who
feel proud of their athletic achievements437
Let us consider why the vibrato is present in the first place. Munrow suggested
that it was a necessary by-product of increased volume yet did not elaborate on the link
between these two factors. By quoting Marafioti he also implied a macho element
(‘brute force…’). Munrow avoided comments about the physical science of the sound
waves and would not have been able to measure them as has been done here without
laboratory equipment. However, when it came to the psychology of hearing, he made
several comments: First he suggested an appreciation of craft in this singing
(‘formidable armoury’) and implied an alignment of his views with those of Marafioti
that it is or could be ‘ignorant’ and ‘athletic’. Secondly, Munrow gave his opinion that
435 Munrow, "Vibrato."
436 Ibid.
437 P. Mario Marafioti, Caruso's Method of Voice Production: The Scientific Culture of the Voice (New
York: D. Appleton and Company, 1922), 35.
these sorts of singers had lost the ability to sing in any other way. This implied that
Munrow sought to criticize this style of singing simply because it was inflexible.
For his second example, Munrow again chose a recording of internationally
recognized solo singers (Eileen Farrell 1920–2002 and Jan Peerce 1904–1984), but
rather than romantic opera they are singing a cantata by J S Bach. The style of singing,
however, exhibits some similarities to that of Jussi Björling, chiefly the wide and
obvious vibrato as well as the sheer heft of the sound. It is impressive if not a touch
overwhelming to the post-HIP listener. Similarly, in the next disc, The Prague Madrigal
Singers (PM) recording in 1966 also employ what could be described as a mid-century
operatic style of singing. Munrow wrote on his list next to this recording: ‘It’s not just
solo singing: listen carefully to this choir – exhibiting many other faults besides
vibrato.’ He also adds: ‘The lines of polyphony aren’t clear…’ which is an openly
negative reaction to The Prague Madrigal Singers and their use of vibrato as well as
being dismissive of their performance standards. This Prague Madrigal Singers example
supports Munrow’s observation that ‘…it has produced generations of singers who
can’t sing in any other way’ because here, as in the Bach, are singers performing music
with is clearly not romantic opera but using the vocal technique one would expect to
hear in Verdi’s music. This opening trio of recordings thus appears to demonstrate both
the impressive stamina as well as the inflexibility of a modern operatic technique. This
universal application of such technique to all eras of music (not just romantic opera)
would appear to be Munrow’s chief objection.
The next four recordings on the list appear to belong together in a group since
they sound as if they have little or no vibrato at all. Contrasted with the choral singing
of The Prague Madrigal Singers is a song which Munrow also played in his radio series
Music of Ritual: ‘John Barleycorn’, sung by The Young Tradition (TYT). The recording
sounds unusual because of the acoustic space, or lack thereof, when a spectrogram is
examined it is obvious that it has been recorded in a particularly dry acoustic as there is
almost no reverberation at all. This results in the voices sounding exceptionally
delineated. Despite this fact, we can observe from the graph plots that there is vibration
here, yet if we cannot hear it then I would suggest it is not vibrato but simply the natural
imperfections in a human sound known as jitter.
These British folk singers are followed by a recording of Bulgarian folk singing
from the Argo Living Tradition series. Their piercing straight-toned voices sing in clear
unwavering lines, which at times lock together to form a striking unison. Again, there is
no audible vibrato but there is what Morrow described as ‘throat-cuttingly precise
harmony’ with wide major seconds and piercing unisons.
The vibratoless soundworld of this group continues with two recordings of the
same piece: Triste Espana sung first by Jantina Noorman and then by James Bowman.
As we have already seen, Noorman was the main singer with Musica Reservata with
whom Munrow also played at this time. As shown in the last chapter, Michael Morrow
had particular views about singing which were influenced by folk singers from the
Balkans and these views would have most certainly been known to Munrow when he
compiled this discography, leading Noorman’s placement after the Bulgarian voices to
be more than coincidental. In the second example of Triste Espana, by Munrow’s own
ensemble, we hear countertenor James Bowman singing the top line. The contrast
between Musica Reservata’s attempts to reconstruct older singing techniques and
Munrow’s success led John Potter to describe Munrow’s ensemble as the first time that
‘early music singing was perceived as attractive to listen to.’438 This recording of James
Bowman’s singing is not the exact one that Munrow listed in his paper since, when he
was writing, the album Music for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain still lay in the future
and Munrow had listed a live BBC broadcast of this piece produced by Stephen
438 John Potter, Vocal Authority: Singing Style and Ideology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 115.
Plaistow which appears not to have survived. When the EMC Triste Espana was
measured it was not possible to calculate the speed of James Bowman’s vibrato on any
notes apart from the last one because that was the only note that had enough clear
cycles in it.439 We may also note that Noorman exhibited measurable oscillations
despite vibrato being difficult to identify by ear. These two performers are similar
examples of minimal-vibrato singing where the measured deviations of pitch are vocal
imperfections rather than intentional oscillations. These four recordings appear to
represent a negligible vibrato style and vibrant, clear lines of music.
There then followed a pair of recordings that Munrow grouped with the same
Many of the best early opera singers did use vibrato with taste, care and could
effect a portamento.440
Luisa Tetrazzini (1871–1940) came first and although famous for her romantic
opera roles, is of an earlier generation than Jussi Björling, and therefore represents a
very different style of singing. This is highlighted by Munrow’s use of the term ‘early
opera singers’ and with this in mind it seems Tetrazzini’s presence in this discography
is merely to show simply that she is capable of lesser vibrato rather than to comment on
a larger change in singing styles. In this extract Tetrazzini was singing with minimal
vibrato to imitate birdsong and she called this her ‘white voice’ and wrote about her
decision to sing this way:
Too wide a smile often accompanies what is called "the white voice." This is a
voice production where a head resonance alone is employed […]. This "white
voice" should be thoroughly understood and is one of the many shades of tone a
singer can use at times, just as the impressionist uses various unusual colors to
produce certain atmospheric effects.
439 Five clear cycles of vibrato were taken as the standard measurement for vibrato speed throughout this
440 Munrow, "Vibrato."
For instance, in the mad scene in "Lucia" the use of the "white voice" suggests
the babbling of the mad woman, as the same voice in the last act of "Traviata" or in the
last act of "Boheme" suggests utter physical exhaustion and the approach of death.
Having touched upon the reasoning and technique behind ‘white voice’ she offered the
following caveat:
An entire voice production on these colorless lines, however, would always lack
the brilliancy and the vitality which inspire enthusiasm.441
So Munrow felt that this example of Tetrazzini's singing demonstrated her
flexibility as an artist, it showed that she was in control of her vibrato because she could
reduce it to ‘white voice’ passages on demand. This is something which Munrow seems
to imply that later generations of artists like Björling or the Prague Madrigal Singers
could not do. Interestingly, Tetrazzini also wrote directly about the subject of Vibrato:
The pupil suffering from tremolo or even very strong vibrato must have courage
to stop at once and to forego having a big voice. After all, the most beautiful
voices in the world are not necessarily the biggest voices, and certainly the
tremolo is about the worst fault a singer can have. But that, like almost any other
vocal defect, can be cured by persistent effort of the right kind.442
Here we can observe one possible source in which Munrow may have read about a link
between vibrato and volume.
The second of this pair of soloists is Alfred Deller (1912–1979), a countertenor
whose sound is quite different from James Bowman (although we should note that he is
singing quite different repertoire and at a higher tessitura than Bowman). Despite
beginning his notes with almost undetectable oscillation, Deller’s vibrato is much more
obvious towards the ends of the notes where it reaches 227cents showing that he, too,
seems to be able to use vibrato with discretion.
The last section of recordings was grouped under a note by Munrow: ‘Use of all
kinds of controlled vibrato in jazz and pop worlds’. Cleo Laine (1927-) came first, and
441 Luisa Tetrazzini and Enrico Caruso, Caruso and Tetrazzini on the Art of Singing (New York: Dover
Publications, 1975), 30.
442 Ibid., 37.
as one of the most famous jazz singers of the time would have been a recognizable
voice of the early 1970s. Laine, like Deller, also used vibrato most noticeably towards
the end of her notes rather than consistently throughout and with much larger
oscillations than Deller. In fact, this last group of extracts appears to serve the purpose
of merely demonstrating that there is a large variety of vibrato types available, the
pressure-vibrato of Carl Dolmetsch’s recorder playing, the intermittent vibrato of the
South American flutes, Panpipes, a Turkish clarinet player and the sensuously slow
vibrato of a modern jazz saxophone - so slow in fact it is almost a pitch bend rather than
true vibrato. Munrow shows us that vibrato is not the intellectual copyright of Western
art-music, and that it is a far more complex and varied phenomenon that the regular
oscillations of modern Western operatic technique.
When these vocal vibratos are plotted onto a graph we can draw comparisons
between them more readily and we can see an exemplification of Harold Seashore
conclusion: ‘…the vibrato is not heard even by the best musician as it really is, which
lies at the bottom of the confusion which has prevailed on this subject.’443 So with
Seashore’s words in mind, it ought not to surprise us that some of these figures turn out
to be rather unexpected.
Figure 39 Results graph
443 Seashore, The Vibrato, 10.
The first three recordings, JU, JP and PM, show a similarity of pitch depth and vibrato
speed that we would expect from their aural characteristics.
One of the first things we can note about the second group is that none of these
singers could completely eliminate pitch vibration from their voices despite sounding as
if they had. That is no great surprise because this is one of the features that enables us
recognize a sound as human, a phenomenon which has been described by John
Chowning in his study ‘Perceptual Fusion and Auditory Perspective’.444 What is
surprising is that TYT, BW, JN and JB all sound like vibratoless production. There are
actually good reasons to disregard this second group of recordings from this graph
altogether: first, TYT, BW and JN are all greater than 12 cycles per second which is too
fast to be considered vibrato suggesting that spectrogram technology enables us to
measure with more accuracy than we can hear and secondly, JB only exhibited vibrato
cycles in one note on the entire recording so that can be considered an anomaly. If ‘the
ear is the ultimate judge’ these recorded sounds do not exhibit a noticeable vibrato.
The next group: LT and AD both display oscillations albeit LT at a shallower
pitch depth (which is presumably what contributes to the ‘white noise’ approach). But
how to explain Deller’s apparently standard vibrato size? This is easily accounted for
when we look at the characteristic shape of vibrato on key notes; a straight sound which
develops into a standard vibrato later. This is something we can observe even more
clearly in the vocals of Cleo Lane too:
444 John Chowning, "Perceptual Fusion and Auditory Perspective," in Music, Cognition, and
Computerized Sound, ed., Perry Cook (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), 265.
Figure 40 Deller: developing vibrato
Figure 41 Laine: developing vibrato
Figure 40 shows the syllable ‘to-’ from ‘qui tolis’ sung by Alfred Deller with
white vertical lines placed at 1second intervals. Figure 41 shows the word ‘do’ sung by
Cleo Laine, with white lines placed at 0.5 second intervals. In both of these cases we
can see clearly how the note begins with a minimal vibrato and develops over time.
(Here, the magnification is different for each image so please refer to the earlier screengrabs
for an indication of the relative size and speed of each cycle.)
The front of Deller’s note tells us a lot about the way we hear vibrato or, as in
this case, the way we often do not hear it. There is a visually noticeable imperfection on
the waveform plot but we do not hear vibrato on the recording until the strong, wider,
more regular cycles after the first 1.5 seconds. Regularity of frequency and depth is key
to our detection and perception of vibrato. Cleo Laine’s truly straight-toned front-end is
prefaced by a stylish portamento which is a characteristic of her personal style. This
portamento gives the front part of her note warmth and intimacy, two characteristics we
would not expect in the absence of vibrato.
From the colouring of the spectrogram we can also see that the intensity of
Laine’s waveform is subject to change. The peak of each vibrato wave from her voice is
more red than the middle or bottom which may explain the bright sound of her voice. In
Deller’s example we notice a general swelling of intensity that occurs when vibrato
begins to become noticeable towards the second half of the note which suggests he is
(deliberately or otherwise) highlighting vibrato as an expressive device.
In his next section Munrow has paired an example of recorder playing by Carl
Dolmetsch with a track by the South American musicians Los Calchakis. His comment
that it is ‘quite wrong to suggest that vibrato is a sophisticated device and that primitive
musicians don’t use it’ is written beside these two discs. 445 In the table and the figures
above, the singer of Los Calchakis was measured, (as it is assumed from the title of the
paper—vocal vibrato—that this was the point Munrow was making) but like Dolmetsch
this track also begins with a pressure vibrato on the recorder.
Figure 42 LC: first entry (second note of the piece) pressure vibrato
445 Munrow, "Vibrato."
This first recorder entry shows pulsations of intensity (and therefore breath
pressure) in the recorder playing. It can be seen more clearly in the upper partial of the
spectrogram although the changing colour of the lower plot also indicates changes of
intensity. If we compare this variation of intensity with Carl Dolmetsch, the results are
Figure 43 CD: first entry
The vibrato of Dolmetsch has a more regular shape and, indeed, he seems to be
using an unusually obvious amount of vibrato, much more than in other tracks from the
same recording session with Joseph Saxby. It is fair to assume, therefore, that vibrato is
an important part of his interpretation of Heartsease. The results when plotted on the
graph (CD) are most similar to James Bowman (JB). Yet the vibrato from Dolmetsch is
more shallow than James Bowman, so why does it sound so obvious? The explanation
is twofold: first Dolmetsch applies vibrato for the duration of each and every note
whereas Bowman’s singing uses vibrato only on one note in the entire piece, and then
for only part of the note. Secondly, Dolmetsch’s playing includes more pressure vibrato
so what we hear is a difference in wind pressure on the recorder to make the oscillating
sound. In order to see this clearly the colour rotation has to be increased to 100 on the
spectrogram software and the display set to show peak bins only. This colouring allows
us to see how the intensity of the waveform changes constantly through each note with
green being the least intense and red the most intense. This effect is greatly enhanced
because the note passes in and out of a narrow frequency band which constitutes one of
the ‘singer’s formants’. Anything within that band is louder than outside it thus a
fluctuation of volume can be detected by the listener during the note. Here we can see
that the upper part of the cycle is more intense than the lower:
Figure 44 CD: changes of intensity during vibrato cycles
The resulting aural similarity, which is what Munrow would have considered, of
these two recorder players (LC and CD) is striking and by exploring their waveforms
electronically we realize that pressure vibrato is what contributes to this similarity.
Munrow may have therefore been intending to point out similarities of vibrato across
the different traditions of the music and the players in these extracts.
In the last group of examples Munrow simply wrote on his list ‘Vibrato as an
expressive device’ and here we see the most pronounced demonstration of the
developed vibrato: Bach’s Air on a G String played on the Japanese shakuhachi
(bamboo flute) which was the first example of this section. Here is the first note of that
recording taken from the spectrogram plot.
Figure 45 HY: first note
There is an obvious development of the vibrato through the note in this example
too and the same phenomenon is observed in much of the shakuhachi playing on this
track. We should also note that at a rate of 4.4 cycles per second this is one of the
slowest vibratos we have heard so far and therefore one of the most prominent. This
phenomenon of developing vibrato is also shown on many of the long notes of the
panpipes in the following example Doina Oltului Hora.
Figure 46 BL: developing vibrato on a long note
Mustafa Kandirali’s clarinet solo in Melvana shows a mixture of straight toned
and vibrato notes with a clear instance of a long note developing vibrato. The slowest
vibrato, however, is recorded in the last example on Munrow’s list: Feathers by Hale
Smith, played on the saxophone by Eric Dolphy. This has a rate as low as 1 cycle per
second on certain prominent long notes, and moves through 117 cents so it arguably
slows down to a pitch bend effect and ceases to become vibrato at all. The vibrato
measured for our purposes here, though, is from one of these regular sections on the
image below since this is a frequently occurring formation on long notes. In this
spectrogram plot we can see that not only is the vibrato prominent and slow but
portamento is also an important part of this performance.
Figure 47 HS: characteristic portamento and developing vibrato shapes
This combination of slow vibrato and portamento coupled with reasonably
straight toned beginning on long notes is an essential part of the lazy, intimate feeling of
Smith’s playing. It sounds unhurried and improvisatory.
Interpreting the results
Taking the information above we can now consider how Munrow has built his
discography. It starts with two groups of three examples. In the first group (JU, JP, PM)
he began by playing an example of modern operatic singing as used chiefly in romantic
opera, with Jussi Björling. Björling used an obvious and constant vibrato. Munrow
expressed disappointment that many artists exclusively use constant vibrato even in nonoperatic
repertoire and to illustrate the point he included recordings of Bach cantata 42
and The Prague Madrigal singers singing Monteverdi both with constant and obvious
vibrato from the singers. Munrow’s point would appear to be that whilst this is a
perfectly legitimate and impressive style of singing it is not suitable for all forms of
Contrasted with this constant vibrato singing, Munrow’s next section of the list
included music where negligible vibrato was used (TYT, BW, JN, JB). First the folk
singing of The Young Tradition where the style was bold and clear with minimal
vibrato, and then the voices of Jantina Noorman and James Bowman both demonstrate
singing the same song with minimal vibrato but using very different vocal techniques.
This section of the discography seems to demonstrate how much variation there is in a
minimal vibrato sound and also how clear and tidy homophonic and polyphonic textures
can sound when vibrato is reduced. That Munrow also included a track of Bulgarian
singing in this section of his discography may well have been intended as drawing a
parallel with the research that Michael Morrow was undertaking into folk singing as an
explanation of Jantina Noorman’s singing style. The results from these four are all
irregular; the vibrato is either too intermittent to warrant measuring (JB) or too fast to be
considered vibrato. In these latter cases it is possible that the spectrogram shows ‘jitter’
(JN particularly) which is the natural imperfections on a waveform produced from a
human voice. Measurements should be viewed with those considerations.
The next two extracts show famous solo singers from a Western music tradition
singing solo arias with little vibrato. Luisa Tetrazzini and Alfred Deller (LT, AD) both
sing parts of their arias with minimal vibrato but do allow it to develop on longer notes.
Munrow acknowledges that Tetrazzini is from an earlier generation than Björling (a
generation where singing styles were different) but he chooses an example with
especially minimal vibrato to show that reducing vibrato is a skill Tetrazzini has. This
theme is then taken up in the track from Cleo Laine (CL) who develops a very wide
vibrato on long notes which all start with minimal oscillation suggesting that she uses
vibrato consciously rather than automatically. This section highlights that some artists
can exercise choice and control over their vibrato and Munrow also crosses the high art/
low art binary between pop, jazz and classical.
Then Munrow turns to instruments and includes two examples of vibrato on the
recorder, one from Latin America and one by Carl Dolmetsch (CD) notable for use of
pressure vibrato. And in the last few examples included in this study we find uses of
vibrato as an ‘expressive device’ by a Japanese shakuhachi player (HY), panpipes (BL),
a Turkish clarinet solo (MK) and a jazz saxophonist (HS). These tracks show vibrato
developing on long notes but not being omnipresent on every note. These vibratos were
among the slowest measured and the wide tradition of musics surveyed also makes an
important cultural point; vibrato is not the sole domain of Western musicians.
A toolkit for interpreting vibrato
If we relate these results to the subsequent research from scientific fields, it
would appear that Munrow had a keen ear. First, on the point of regularity in operatic
singing, Johan Sundberg’s research from the early 1980s concludes that:
The regularity of this modulation [phonation frequency] is considered a sign of
the singer’s vocal skill: the more regular the vibrato, the more skilled the
This would appear to agree with the regularity of the first three examples and
also of the singing of Victoria de Los Angeles examined in the previous chapter.
Björling’s vibrato is the most regular and, it is notable, that his singing is balancing
quite a loud orchestra. Munrow already pointed to a connection between volume and
vibrato as part of the singer’s ‘formidable armoury’ and again, turning to Sundberg’s
seminal study of Western operatic singing we find he is in agreement:
The amplitude of the vibrato undulations varies with loudness of phonation […]
Generally the extent is ± 1 or 2 semitones (we recall that a semitone step along
an equally tempered scale corresponds to a frequency difference of almost 6%).
446 Johan Sundberg, The Science of the Singing Voice (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1987),
Vibrato rates smaller than ± 05 semitones are more typical of wind instruments
than of singers, and vibrato rates exceeding ± 2 semitones tend to sound bad.447
Remember that Sundberg is only considering Western operatic singing yet this
is in agreement with Munrow’s observations. Now it becomes obvious how Tetrazzini
sang her scene with minimal vibrato, because in this scene her singing is so soft that
volume is not needed whereas in Björling’s scene he is more heavily orchestrated and
producing a wide spectrum of sound in order to balance that orchestra. Besides, his aria
is a crowd-pleaser and as such demands high volume since it is intended to impress and
overwhelm the audience with its power and physical endurance, whereas Tetrazzini’s
‘Mad Scene’ is of an entirely different psychological nature altogether. There is a
further point to be made here about the history of singing, Tetrazzini belongs to an
earlier generation than Björling where styles were different. In fact, Tenors singing
Italian opera started using heavy vibrato long before anyone else and Björling is a
wonderful example of this famous sound which would not have been known to
Tetrazzini’s generation.
This short comparison is pointing towards a different sort of toolkit than has
been imagined so far. Whilst the measurement of vibrato speed and depth, as
undertaken in the graphs above and as undertaken by Denis Stevens in 1970, proved
that Munrow had a good and perceptive ear for understanding vibrato, it is the shape
and the nature of the vibrato use that seems to be the theme running through these
examples. With this in mind, a toolkit for understanding Munrow’s approach to vibrato
must include consideration of when vibrato is used, rather than just the depth and speed
of that vibrato. We should, based on the evidence so far, expect it to be used in a
developing fashion (like Cleo Laine or Alfred Deller) and not in a constant fashion like
447 Ibid., 164.
Vibrato in other recordings by David Munrow
The Early Music Consort of London’s chief singer was James Bowman, a voice
which we know instantly impressed Munrow on first hearing. Bowman’s sound is that
of minimal (if any) vibrato. The other countertenors that Munrow uses regularly are
Charles Brett and David James; singers also noted for their own minimal vibrato.
Taking Brett’s singing into consideration first, it is useful to find a track where
he is a solo singer. There are only a few such tracks under Munrow’s direction since
Brett was more often used as an ensemble singer but in volume II of The Art of Courtly
Love Brett sings De home vray by Johannes de Meruco accompanied by rebecs and an
alto cornemuse.448
Figure 48 De home vray
448 Incidentally, as Ian Bent notes in his review of Trecento repertoire as recorded by Morrow and
Munrow, that this harsh reeds-and-alto ensemble is unusual for Munrow and is more associated with
Morrow: ‘James Bowman's smooth countertenor voice on the former contrasts sharply with the throaty
'shouting' style of Jantina Noorman, whose voice is often combined in Reservata's favourite ensemble
with two alto crumhorns to produce a bristling, ear-cleansing sound quite foreign to David Munrow's
conception of the music.’ Suggesting that this very combination is derived by Munrow from his work
with Morrow. Ian D. Bent, "Review: Music from the Time of Boccaccio's Decameron by Musica
Reservata; Morrow; Beckett," The Musical Times 111, no. 1527 (1970), 513.
Brett’s voice is easy to distinguish in this spectrogram because it is surrounded
by straight instrumental tones. In this particular part of the spectrogram Brett has three
hocketted notes in a melisma on the French ‘eu’ vowel sound. His voice can be seen
clearly against the straight tones of the instruments. His vibrato sounds slight on very
short notes, and is often intermittent. It measures as 114 cents in depth (over a semitone)
and aurally, it is noticeable as a gentle flutter rather than a true vibrato.
Martyn Hill, a frequent singer with the EMC has the most noticeable vibrato of
any of the performers and his voice is closest to the traditional operatic sound. An
example of his most ‘operatic’ style of all performances for Munrow can he heard on En
memoria d’Alixandre.449 In this track, Hill is accompanied by a regal, and from the
figure below we can see the contrast in tone:
Figure 49 Martyn Hill and regal
449 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Music for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, EMI,
CSD 3738, 1973, LP.
First the regal is playing several notes and its clear, straight tone can be seen.
Compared with this it is easy to identify the waveform of Hill’s voice and with that the
incongruity of Hill’s vibrato with the straight tone of the regal. This is a clear departure
from the Morrow-approach of twinning ‘bite and attack’ which is similar between an
instrument and a voice.
On the long note in figure 50, Hill’s vibrato is 259 cents wide and 5.30 cycles
per second, which is quite slow and sounds quite obvious. However, it is only really in
operation towards the end of the note, following this developing vibrato style that I
suggest is a Munrow trait.
Figure 50 Hill: vibrato on a long note
Hill’s voice is strong in the traditional ‘singers’ formant’ but, as we see in this
instance of the Munrow trait, his vibrato is not constantly used and neither is it entirely
regular when it is in operation. This takes away from the operatic sound and leaves a
clarity to each pitch; the antithesis of the ‘nearest semitone’ approach which Morrow
railed against. Interestingly, Hill remembers that he was not included in Munrow’s
plans to reform his consort towards the end of his life but that he did promise ongoing
solo engagements. Munrow, Hill recalls, was encouraging him to pursue an operatic
career and not a consort one with the EMC. 450
A quick glance at the singing of Nigel Rogers in Questa fanciull'amor allows us
to briefly survey the singing of another tenor soloist who worked much less frequently
with the Early Music Consort of London.451
Figure 51 Nigel Rogers: Questa fanciull'amor
Rogers’ approach to vibrato is much more consistent within each note and the cycles are
much more regular.
450 Martyn Hill, interview by author, March 3, 2009.
451 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Ecco La Primavera, Argo [Decca] ZRG 642,
1969, LP.
Another singer who appeared in a one-off capacity for the Early Music Consort
was the soprano Christina Clarke. In Chanterai por mon corage we can hear her light,
resonant soprano voice but also a noticeable amount of vibrato.452
Figure 52 Christina Clarke: Chanterai por mon corage
The song is performed quite gently and quietly, so there is less activity in the
third harmonic than would be expected. The voice is also closely recorded to give an
intimate feeling. There are also fewer long notes in this piece so it is harder to see the
vibrato in a prolonged situation. Aurally, the vibrato is noticeable but not dominating.
Clarke remembered this recording session in an interview with the author:
[CC]: Well, there was one recording that I was in, it was called Music from the
Crusades, I think Geoff [Shaw]’s on it […] where I simply had one little thing
[…] Chanterai por mon corage. Um, first of all it was hammered down all the
time and because my French was wrong! I mean it was a distinct disadvantage to
know any French you know?
[EB]: Yes, because you’re singing in medieval French or something I suppose
aren’t you?
452 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Music of the Crusades, Argo [Decca] ZRG 673,
1970, LP.
[CC]: mmm. And then I was hammered because I’d got too much vibrato. And I
got very annoyed. I felt like saying ‘stuff it you lot you’ve got the wrong
soprano’ you know. I didn’t actually walk out on them but I nearly did.
[EB]: So he did actually ask for a minimal vibrato sound then?
[CC]: Yes453
Christina Clarke was a voice already known to Munrow from other concert
situations but she was unprepared for this recording session and unfamiliar with the
style in which she was asked to sing. Therefore, whilst we should not see Clarke as
indicative of Munrow’s intended ensemble singing ideal, her recollection of this
recording is extremely helpful in pointing out that Munrow was pursuing a minimal
vibrato sound.
Soprano sound is something that would appear to be unsettled over the recording
life of the EMC. Munrow did not settle on a regular performer (as he does on other
voice parts). It is possible, of course, that he wanted to change the soprano sound
dependent on repertoire, but this seems unlikely when we consider the two different
soprano voices used on the album The Art of the Netherlands.454 On the track Inviolata,
integra et casta es, Maria, Sally Dunkley and Rosemary Hardy are the sopranos but
they have noticeably different voices (figure 53).
453 Christina Clarke, interview by author, February 22, 2013.
454 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of the Netherlands, EMI SLS 5049,
1975, LP.
Figure 53 Inviolata, integra et casta es, Maria: Sally Dunkley and Rosemary Hardy
In figure 53, a green box has been drawn around two notes sung by Sally
Dunkley which appear to overlap because of the resonant acoustic. We can see these
notes are quite straight toned and gentle. In fact, this is a vocal renaissance texture and
all the voices appear quite straight-toned without strong third formants. The strongest
voice is actually the countertenor David James, who also exhibits a very straight tone
with no noticeable vibrato at all. What is intriguing about the recording of this motet
however, is the two incongruent voices. Both Rosemary Hardy and Martyn Hill have
obvious vibrato in what is otherwise a straight texture.
Figure 54 Rosemary Hardy
Figure 54 shows how Rosemary Hardy’s vibrato on her first phrase entry is a
subtle but regular occurrence. The same is true of Martyn Hill. These gentle vibratos
warm an otherwise straight texture which, one could posit, was an intended effect by
Munrow. Particularly noticeable is the fact that Dunkley has the long straight notes of
the cantus firmus so that the top of the texture is always a vibratoless ceiling whereas
Hardy sings a more busily moving inner part. This could also be noted of the twinning
of Bowman and Hill in Passe el agoa considered above. The top line characterizes the
vibratoless quality of the performance as a whole whereas Hill’s vibrato towards the end
of the notes lends a warmer character to the texture from within but does not dominate
the overall blend.
Summary of Discography 1: Vocal Vibrato
Munrow’s own conclusion in his essay touched on the central idea behind this
discography when he quoted extensively from Carl Flesh’s 1924 violin tutor, which
suggests that we tire of ‘perpetual vibrating in an excited manner’ [my emphasis],
because such an effect makes ‘all performers appear too like one another.’455 This was
heard in the examples of JP and PM. We should note that these examples show no
extremes of depth or speed in their vibrato but are united by their constant use of it.
Including The Prague Madrigal Singers in this discography served an interesting
purpose. Not only did it allow Munrow to comment on how unclear the lines of
polyphony are when sung with unrelenting vibrato but it also enabled him to draw
favourable attention to the sound of The Young Tradition, Musica Reservata and his
own ensemble, The Early Music Consort of London all of whom Munrow had
performed with before 1970. With this in mind we can assume that an advertisement for
the newer early music ensembles (chiefly The Early Music Consort of London) is in
The minimal vibrato sounds that Munrow listed, chiefly TYT, JN, JB and LT,
were all faster and shallower than the other examples of vibrato. When this was
combined with Munrow’s own explicit disapproval of constant vibrato we begin to
understand that he was suggesting a preference for ‘controlled’ vibrato. Such controlled
vibrato is heard in the examples of LT and AD where they consciously opt for a
minimal vibrato sound even though in different repertoire we may hear them use more
vibrato. By ‘controlled’ he referred to vibrato when used as the artists chose rather than
unrelentingly applied. In the instrumental extracts he also referred to this vibrato as
being used for ‘expressive’ purposes.
455 Flesch, The Art of Violin Playing. Quoted in: Munrow, "Vibrato."
Munrow’s discography, therefore, shied away from scientific observation as in
the Seashore studies, and opted instead for an observational approach. Yet, it is this
spectrogram-science that allows us to see something of how Munrow’s ears were
judging the sound.
Discography 2: What Should It All Sound Like?
David Munrow used to say that if you wanted to travel in time you should travel
in space: he claimed that it is possible to learn something of the aesthetics and the
techniques of medieval and Renaissance music of Western Europe by studying the folk
musics of the wider world.456
This phrase apparently originated with Thurston Dart and was put into action by
early music ensembles such as Studio der frühen Musik, Musica Reservata and the
Early Music Consort of London during the 1960s.457 The influence of Dart on such
exploration of folk music is palpable even as early as 1952 where one can read, in his
monumental book The Interpretation of Music:
Other evidence may be found in the remoter regions of Europe and the Near
East. The music and musical instruments heard in the mountains of Sardinia and
Sicily, and the bands still used for Catalan dance music are medieval in flavour.
The Arabian lute, rebec and shawm are still much the same as they were when
they were introduced into Europe by the Moors. 458
Dart drew attention to the very borders of Europe which we have already
identified as later fascinating Morrow. Perhaps it was Dart, having been invited to that
debut concert by Musica Reservata, who introduced Munrow to Morrow? Munrow
would have had the opportunity to hear Morrow’s BBC broadcasts during the 1960s and
456 Keith Potter, "Oriental Influence: Keith Potter on a New 'Music in Our Time' Series Devoted to East-
West Musical Relations, Which Begins on Thursday (R3, 10.15pm)." The Listener, September 29, 1983,
457 It is remembered as having originated with Dart by David Fallows speaking on: "Mr Munrow, His
Study," Jeremy Summerly, The Archive Hour, aired January 7, 2006, on BBC Radio.
458 Thurston Dart, The Interpretation of Music (New York: Harper Colophon, 1954; repr.,1963), 153-154.
also the broadcasts of baroque music performed by John Sothcott and John Beckett.459
We have established that Munrow’s interest in folk music was encouraged initially by
Thurston Dart himself, and I have suggested (in chapter four) that Munrow was also
significantly influenced by Morrow’s work with Music Reservata. Whatever the initial
catalyst for his interest, Munrow’s own consumption of folk music records is readily
discernable from many of his radio broadcasts including the Pied Piper series in which
programmes could feature a range of music from African drumming to Victorian Music
Hall numbers.
The amount of folk music considered by Munrow on the air during the early
1970s is considerable. Furthermore, Munrow had already spent time in the late 1960s
working with Michael Morrow’s ideas on folk music in Musica Reservata and, at the
same time, working with many leading folk musicians such as Shirley and Dolly
Collins, The Young Tradition and the electric-folk group Pentangle; so his connections
to the British folk scene were clear. It is therefore both interesting and potentially
significant that a tape of selected recordings should survive which bears the title ‘What
should it all sound like?’ amongst Munrow’s papers in the Royal Academy Archive.460
There are no further details, but the way the tape is labeled, with the total time as well
as David’s name, suggests it was edited for his use perhaps to accompany a talk or,
indeed, a radio programme.
There remains the possibility that this tape was prepared for Munrow by
Michael Morrow and that it is an example of Morrow asking his players to listen to folk
musicians. This however, seems remote as such a system of preparing tapes has not
been remembered in any of the interviews conducted with Musica Reservata players
459 This was mentioned by John Sothcott in: John Sothcott, Derek Harrison, and Terry Sothcott, interview
by author, March 21, 2013.
460 David Munrow, "What Should it All Sound Like?," in Papers of David Munrow: DM 9/14 (Royal
Academy of Music Library, London, c.1970). A spool of audio tape (¼ inch) in its original box, which
has written on it: title "What should it all sound like?”, duration "7½ mins". This spool has been
transferred to CD and is available to listeners visiting the RAM archive. It cannot, however, be copied.
and also one of the extracts is the same as from Munrow’s vibrato paper. I would argue
against this possibility based on the release date of the first track listed: The Swingle
Singers’ 1968 album Going Baroque offers a terminus post quem for this collection of
extracts which is the same year as the Musica Reservata album Music from the Time of
Boccaccio’s Decameron and a year after French Court Music of the 13th Century. This
seems rather late for Morrow to be addressing Musica Reservata performers through
this medium when evidence from many press reviews indicate that they had already
been performing in folk-inspired styles for a while. Conspicuous by their absence are
the many recordings of folk dances and epic ballad singers which Morrow discussed in
radio broadcasts, and conspicuous by their presence are two tracks thought to be South
American, further suggesting this collection was compiled by Munrow.
The tracks on the tape are as follows:
1. Largo, Swingle Singers: Going Baroque (1968)
2. Low, soft reed instruments and a cornet? Not quite polyphonic or possibly with
several mistakes in the performance. Sounds like a private recording – these
could be antique instruments.
3. Shawm Band – Possibly Gypsy/ Kosovo / Macedonia?
4. Dajcova and Konesta dances – (gajda solo) from from Songs and dances
from Bulgaria (Argo, The Living Tradition 1968)
5. Rumanian panpipes and folk orchestra. Possibly: Barbu Lautaru Rumanian Folk
Ensemble (similar to Folkways album Rapsodia Romina MON00377)
6. Wooden transverse flute? Possibly South American.
7. Ud? Accompanied by qanun or santur?
8. Venezuelan harps. Possibly: Juan Vicente Torrealba?
9. Rebec/fiddle double-stopping and shouted instructions. Gudulka? Similar to:
Folk music of Greece (Topic Records)
10. Podrum verviat kiten svatove – wedding song (Madžare, 1965) from Songs and
dances from Bulgaria (Argo, The Living Tradition 1968)
11. Organ music played on reed stops. Possibly a private recording of the
Compenius organ? The piece is probably a renaissance dance.461
There are two interesting factors which arise from consideration of this musical
compilation: the source-material is quite similar to that which influenced Michael
461 Michael Morrow mentioned this organ’s reed stops in a BBC radio script which survives in his own
archives: Michael Morrow, "Obrecht: Missa Fortuna Desperata – Introduced by Michael Morrow," 1967,
in Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata, King's College London Archives.
Morrow, and some of this source material is also associated with Lloyd’s field
recordings. Here we see another strong indication that similar influences lead Munrow
down a different path to Morrow.
Taking each of these tracks in turn we can begin to see how a sound picture of
the past can be constructed from a composite of other musical traditions. First, The
Swingle Singers, which is one of only two vocal tracks on this tape. The track is most
noticeable for the astonishing vocal precision of the soprano soloist who uses very little
vibrato and eschews the technique of formal operatic training. This example combines
two themes in Munrow’s work; the consideration of style and an approach to vibrato.
To consider vibrato, let us look at her opening few notes in a spectrogram:
Figure 55 Swingle Singers: opening notes
Immediately, once can see this voice has very little vibrato indeed, and the
spectrogram is comparable to the voice of James Bowman since the vocal line (and its
harmonics) are clear, almost vibrato less without being as intense as Noorman and
without having the strong third harmonic of a modern operatic voice.
As a control, it is useful to compare this spectrogram with one taken from a
modern digital remastering to see how much harmonic information is missing, limited
by the monaural reel in Munrow’s collection. The settings for viewing the spectrogram
(sensitivity, colour rotation, magnification) are the same in each case.
Figure 56 Swingle Singers: digital remaster
This shows that quite a lot of information has been eliminated from the upper
harmonic range on the tape copy, but that the basic spectrogram form of the voice is
accurate. This voice is clear, almost entirely vibratoless and uses a slight flutter of
vibrato to ornament the end of long notes as can be seen in this following plot.
Figure 57 Swingle Singers: characteristic shape of vibrato at the end of a long note
These broad points certainly accord with the spectrograms of James Bowman’s
singing and can be seen as the middle ground between Morrow’s ideas taken from folk
influences and the trained operatic singing of the mid 20th-century. The problem here is
that although Munrow’s later style bears similar hallmarks to this Swingle-Singers
track, we must remember that this soprano is amplified and as such is not representative
of the impact of this style of singing in a purely acoustic situation. Also worthy of note
is that this track is a piece of Baroque music performed in a modern, jazz style. Perhaps
part of the reason for including it was to make us realize that earlier music can be sung
differently to advantage or even that when sung differently, it still has integrity? By
beginning with this track Munrow may be attempting to remove a perceived stigma or
fear associated with defamiliarization.
The second track appears to be a private recording of renaissance polyphonic
music played on low reed instruments and this may even be Munrow’s own students.
Curtals are the most likely instruments being played. The performance sounds amateur
because the lowest instrument in the texture makes what sounds like several mistakes in
the fugal texture and then at the end of the track reaches the low ‘tonic’ note for the first
time only after a delay. I would suggest that this track serves the purpose of illustrating
the articulation and sonority that such instruments are capable of. As the instruments
make a relatively soft sound, they could also be illustrating the quiet, indoors side of the
haut/bas distinction discussed earlier.
The third track appears to be a shawm band. It is clearly an outdoor recording
and Munrow once commented that the shawm ‘was normally reserved for use out of
doors’.462 As we have already noted, David Munrow once introduced the shawm in
terms of its Eastern origins mentioning that it was first heard by Europeans during the
crusades.463 Despite fitting this description nicely, the extract on this tape, however, is
different from the one that Munrow uses on his Granada television series of 1976 to
illustrate ‘a typical Saracen military line-up’ of shawms, long trumpets and drums.464 It
could therefore be assumed that the function of this recording is to illustrate outdoor
music rather than the shawm specifically.
The fourth track contains music played on a bagpipe. Besides the shawm,
Munrow thought that this was ‘the other really important reed instrument of the Middle
Ages’.465 That this is a Bulgarian bagpipe (Gaida) suggests the influence of Morrow.
Next, we hear panpipes and an orchestra. The music is very familiar to the track
Mugur, mugurel on the Folkways/Monitor Records album mentioned in the list above.
It is based upon the same accompaniment. The panpipe player sails above the orchestral
accompaniment with a noticeable vibrato. Throughout the recording, vibrato is used on
462 David Munrow, "Reed Instruments," in Early Musical Instruments, directed by Peter Plummer, aired
October 1976 on Granada Television (UK) Produced for DVD by David Griffith, Viking New Media
2007. Accessed May 12, 2009.
463 This was quoted in chapter 3, p. 118.
464 Munrow, "Reed Instruments."
465 Ibid.
long notes and several cases of ‘developing vibrato’ are seen. I would suggest that this
is related to Munrow’s views (discussed in the first part of this chapter) on the use of
vibrato to the louder requirements of a soloist when accompanied by orchestral forces.
It also shows vibrato in a soloistic setting outside the tradition of Western classical
Figure 58 Panpipe vibrato: What should it all sound like? (track 5)
These panpipes are followed on the sixth track by a vibratoless solo instrument.
The quality of the recording makes it hard to hear if it is a wooden transverse flute or
even an instrument made of animal horn. The articulation of the notes is reminiscent of
a flautist’s embouchure and tonguing technique, yet there are also horn style traits to the
timbre. If this is a South American flute then it harks back to the links with
conquistadores that Munrow talked about on Woman’s Hour. 466 That was the very
466 "Woman's Hour," presented by Sue MacGregor, aired September 3, 1975, on BBC Radio. As quoted
in Chapter 3 of this thesis.
connection that Dart encouraged Munrow to explore by handing over a lecture on the
history of instruments in Cambridge, as we saw earlier. This link with South America
could stem from Munrow’s Peruvian experiences, as John Turner once suggested: ‘He
[Munrow] retained a particular affection for South American folk music with its breathy
flutes and lazy percussion.467 This, again, is a soft, indoor sound.
Figure 59 Breathy flute playing: What should it all sound like? (track 6)
Track seven features the ud. Possibly this is an ud player accompanied by a
qanun or santur. Munrow once bemoaned the lack of plucked instruments in the modern
orchestra and mused:
Of course, in the Europe of 400 years ago, a rather different situation existed.
Then, plucked instruments really occupied a central part in musical life.468
Munrow went on to mention the Middle East, Cairo and specifically Damascus as ‘the
Mecca of Lute making’. ‘Of course, it’s not just making traditions but playing traditions
that survive as well’ he commented - which gives us reason to suppose these could be
467 John Turner, "Pills to Purge Melancholy: A Personal Memoir of David Munrow," The Recorder
Magazine 16, no. 2 (1996): 53. A longer version of this quote appears in chapter 3 of this thesis.
468 David Munrow, "Plucked Instruments," in Early Musical Instruments.
Damascan musicians.469 The monophonic style of Arabic traditions fascinated Munrow
and he explained in his Granada documentary series that this was also the case with the
medieval lute because medieval players were reliant on a plectrum to strike the strings.
This particular recording is plectrum struck. The hard attack and bright sound that this
method of attack gives can be seen from the array of harmonic information in the
Figure 60 Plucked Ud: What should it all sound like? (track 7)
Continuing with plucked instruments, the eighth track features Venezuelan
harpists clearly identifiable from the enthusiastic cry of ‘Venezuela!’ from a performer
that begins the track. This is the arpa llanera of the Andes and the complex rhythms are
typical of this region which Munrow visited in the early 1960s. Several players seem to
participate in this recording and after the initial patriotic outburst there are several
instances where ‘Brrr’ is shouted in the music as well as whoops and cheers which may
469 Ibid.
be structural communications and I suggest that the artist is likely to be Juan Vicente
Torrealba whom David Munrow selected for one of his Desert Island Discs.470
Figure 61 Opening cry 'Venezuela': What should it all sound like? (track 8)
Performer interaction through vocalization also features in the next track which
appears to be dance music played on one or more small bowed string instruments. This
could be a gudulka or rebec descendent and has similarities to Trigonia on the Folk
Music of Greece album (Topic records).471 The highly repetitive music seems to be
punctuated by shouted instructions and audible footfall and tapping. This could be a
folk dance.
The tenth track, Podrum verviat kiten svatove, was also used by David Munrow
for his vibrato script discussed at the beginning of this chapter. However, the precise
tuning and unwavering consistency of this singing is possibly why it is relevant here.
The women sing a wedding song but this is not an expression of joyfulness that would
470 Roy Plomley, "David Munrow," in BBC Desert Island Discs, aired September 30, 1974. Accessed
September 30, 2010.
471 Wolf Dietrich, Folk Music of Greece, Topic Records TSCD750, 1969, LP.
have been recognized by a British listener in the late 1960s. This track recalls Michael
Morrow’s theories of precise and defined styles for music which have a simple
harmonic basis; the aesthetics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are clearly not
absolutes, nor are they universal traits.
The final track is a reed organ. I suggest it is the Compenius organ (The Chapel
of Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark) again, an idea which Morrow had talked about in a
radio script.472 The reedy sonorities provide a clue to the laser-like accuracy of some of
Munrow’s recordings, in particular his preference for minimal vibrato sound.
This tape reel ‘What should it all sound like?’ provides several important clues
to performance practice around the world on folk instruments and allows us to take an
overview of Munrow’s world music interests. With this in mind, we are able to provide
a toolkit for useful comparisons as we look at some individual performances in the
following chapters. The instruments on this reel tape are all instruments related to
Medieval forms. That is voice, soft and loud reeds, bagpipes, panpipes, flutes, ud, harp,
bowed strings, Bulgarian singing and an organ. This selection shows that Munrow was
interested in surviving traditions of folk instruments but that he is often focused on the
softer, more aesthetically familiar (attractive) examples rather than Morrow’s hard
Balkan models. Munrow’s selection also indicates a preference for demonstrative
rhythmic vitality and clarity.
The two documents reconstructed and explored in this chapter, Munrow’s essay
on vibrato and the tape reel ‘What should it all sound like?’, have both been
preliminarily dated c.1970 by the archivist of Munrow’s papers at the Royal Academy
472 Morrow discusses the attack of this sound on: Morrow, "Obrecht: Missa Fortuna Desperata –
Introduced by Michael Morrow."
of Music library in London. Their content and their position in his files have both
contributed to this decision as has the medium of their content such as the tape reel and
the early Xerox copies amongst the pages of ‘vibrato’. If these dates are to be taken as
accurate for a moment, it places this whole line of thought at the very beginning of
Munrow’s commercial career. Having only recorded a few records by 1970 and having
yet to embark on regular broadcasting, Munrow’s view of the musical past as preserved
by folk music seems to be crystallized by the beginning of this new decade.
What we may find of interest here is the difference in results that Munrow draws
from this source material as compared with the conclusions of Michael Morrow who
also surveyed Balkan sources. Munrow seems to have been drawn to an idea that music
could be attractive and uncompromisingly vital at the same time. This feels as if it is a
tempered view of the Musica Reservata approach but could, in reality, be an influence
from the sparkling South American music as represented by the Venezuelan harpist of
‘What should it all sound like?’ or the lullaby of Los Calchakis as listed in the
discography accompanying ‘Vibrato’.
Interesting also is the wide range of world music traditions that Munrow
surveys. This is also reminiscent of the approach to musical surveys that Munrow took
in his popular Pied Piper radio series. However, it is also suggestive of the approach to
medieval music, and styles of improvisation in medieval music, taken by Thomas
Binkley and his Studio der Frühen Musik. Binkley, as we shall see in the next chapter,
looked at Andalusian, and North African traditions of folk music for potential models
for improvisation and it is notable here how Munrow has also included music with
improvisatory sections in the two documents just surveyed. For this reason, the work of
Thomas Binkley and his Studio is included in the case studies of the next chapter.
A recurring theme throughout all of this music would appear to be an approach
to vibrato which develops from minimal to a slight, but noticeable oscillation
throughout the duration of a note. This is a trait that can be specifically linked to
Munrow’s vibrato paper and also found in his recordings throughout the remainder of
his life.
This, and other factors discussed here, will be traced through a selection from
the Early Music Consort of London discography in the following chapter.
Chapter 6 - Shared Music-Cultural Space
This chapter contextualizes EMC performances within a shared music-cultural
space created between the four leading ensembles for medieval music during the 1960s
and early 1970s. These are the ensembles identified by David Fallows in chapter one of
this thesis: New York Pro Musica, Studio der frühen Musik, Musica Reservata and The
Early Music Consort of London.
First, considering the performance of medieval monophony, the dances Tre
Fontaine and Ghaetta and also Machaut’s Douce Dame Jolie, are compared and the
toolkit of performance analysis as defined in chapters 4 and 5 is applied to the
recordings to identify meaningful points of overlap and departure in performance
practice. Then, in the second part of this chapter, the same process is undertaken with
contrasting pieces of medieval polyphony: the anonymous On parole de batre from the
Montpellier codex and Dufay’s Vergine Bella. These pieces offer a greater focus on
vocal styles in performance.
This chapter shows how often an idea generated by a single performance may be
taken up and considered by the other ensembles who, in turn, invoke a sense of dialogue
by recording the same work in a variant ways. It also considers which musical editions
and musicological publications these ensembles were consulting when preparing their
performances and how closely these performances reflect the musicological advice of
their time.
Part One: Medieval Monophony and ‘Turkish Nightclub Music’
David Munrow once spoke of the monophonic medieval repertoire as offering
the most problems to a potential performer:
I think the most difficult to come to definite conclusions about performance is
the music of the troubadour and trouvère and minnesingers period where you
have these often very long unaccompanied melodies which there seems to be a
certain amount of evidence to suggest that they were not sung unaccompanied
and where there are enormous problems as to what rhythm was intended by the
composer. This wasn’t very clearly indicated and there are all sorts of arguments
as to whether they were sung freely or whether we apply the rules of modal
rhythm from the church music of the time and then when you’ve done that you
still have the problems of fitting verse two and three and then when you’ve done
that you still have to decide whether there should be any accompaniment and
then you have to get it translated and then you have to find out how to
pronounce it and for one song you could have spent about a week and still not
have come to any definite conclusions. I think that’s the hardest. And generally
speaking, the less that there is written down then the harder it is until you finally
reach medieval dance music where there is hardly anything written down. I
mean, there are just a handful of dances and what are we all to do when we have
all played all the dances that there are? Well I think then perhaps we ought to
start making up some of our own. As far as dance music is concerned I think it is
rather absurd to try and treat it reverently as if it was a mass. And so we [The
EMC] try to take the spirit rather than the letter.473
From this intense and dense paragraph it is immediately obvious that Munrow
both relished and respected the challenges presented by performing the medieval
monophonic repertoire. His own performances of troubadour and trouvère repertoire
have been touched upon in the previous chapter when discussing the singing of
Christina Clarke, but it is worth noting here that for a 1970 album of such repertoire,
Munrow’s editions were prepared by the musicologist Ian Bent, and modal rhythm was
applied.474 It is of particular interest that Munrow should have grouped this very early
repertoire together with the much smaller surviving medieval dance repertory in his
comments. That dance repertory was a regular part of EMC concert programming and
often provided encores in concerts or instrumental showpieces during broadcasts:
moreover it often forms the mainstay of recollections by Munrow’s performers.
From comments made during a radio interview by James Bowman, we learn that
these dances were often referred to as ‘Turkish nightclub music’ within the EMC. To
move towards understanding this, let us first examine a transcript of Bowman’s
473 David Munrow speaking on: Talking About Music 161, vol. 1 LP0200417, British Library Sound
Archive, 1974.
474 For a particularly clear application of modal rhythm in this repertoire, see Li noviaus tens (Le
Châtelain de Coucy) on: David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Music of the Crusades,
Argo (Decca) ZRG 673, 1970, LP.
comment in detail; the other speakers are Jeremy Summerly (who presented the
programme) and David Fallows. They have just heard an extract of Munrow playing
Istampita Tre Fontane:475
[JS] - This is obviously ringing bells for the people ‘round this table looking at
the David Munrow archive. I’m sure I’ve just seen that 13th-century Salterello go
past. Here it is. But what he’s done is he’s taken a 13th-century saltarello—David
Fallows talk us through this—I mean what you would see in the manuscript is
not what we’ve just heard there I would think?
[DF] - Well all you have is one line in the manuscript but the rhythms is
basically what David Munrow does, the percussion backing was added, he’s put
in a few more ornaments and he’s just played that music at a hell of a lick and
with so much verve that it sounds as though it’s from a Turkish nightclub as
James was saying.
[JS] - This is a piece you remember him playing well I think...
[JB] - Oh, we used to get it every concert, it was a standing joke. It was known
as ‘the Turkish nightclub piece’ and he used to make it longer and longer in
concerts and go redder and redder in the face. I mean it was a sort of standing
joke. It was always brilliant; we were always amazed. But it was the one that
brought the house down, all over America, you’d go to some terrible
Midwestern town which didn’t know a crumhorn from a whatever […] and this
piece would absolutely have them totally hysterical. […] but it was the
wonderful percussion on that recording of David Corkhill which really made it -
which I always thought was terribly exciting.476
This interview, therefore, reveals that the medieval dances bore a fond (and
potentially revealing) nickname and it also illustrates that these dances were very
popular with audiences when played by Munrow largely because of his extrovert
instrumental technique. We are also reminded that they were a key part of EMC concert
Locating the influences behind Instampita Ghaetta
When, in 1969, two recordings of Italian trecento music were made within days
of each other, it did not escape critics that Munrow’s instrumental playing was evident
475 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of Courtly Love, EMI SLS 863, 1973, 2
476 "Mr Munrow, His Study," presented by Jeremy Summerly, aired January 7, 2006, on BBC Radio 4.
on both records.477 Was this idea of playing the music ‘at a hell of a lick’ a new idea
first heard under the auspices of the Early Music Consort of London or was it one that
Munrow imported from Musica Reservata or does it may be stem from another, earlier
source? Certainly the approach taken to some of the dance music on these albums was
felt to be very similar in at least one way by the musicologist Ian Bent:
both groups treat the instrumental dances as long virtuosic solos on single
melodic instruments over drones, allowing no change of solo instrument during
their course. David Munrow’s dazzling shawm technique is evident on both
records […]. The dances are colourful, exciting not rarely exotic; and are
magnificent showpieces for early instruments.478
Jeremy Montagu remembers that these trademark performances by Munrow of
medieval dance music took place first as a solo shawm player in Musica Reservata
which is where he encountered the transcriptions of the famous Lo manuscript made by
Michael Morrow:
David Munrow—who had started his own group I think while he was at
Cambridge—obviously having heard us, did come and join us [Musica
Reservata]. He was a highly capable musician of course, as you know, he was
always quite easy to deal with and everything else. You know, he was a good
acquisition. […]
And in fact David, […] right to his last days played pieces like Ghaetta and the
big Istampitas from Michael’s manuscript. […] but I mean Ghaetta, great chunks
of it Michael had written because the manuscript itself is corrupt and so on and
David went on playing all these without the slightest attribution or credit or
royalty when it was recorded or anything. 479
We can see that between them Bent and Montagu make several points: Munrow had a
reputation for playing these pieces in a quick fashion which was popular with
audiences, this was a style that came into being during his time with Musica Reservata,
and that he was accused of using Michael Morrow’s transcriptions (identifiable by
reconstructed passages) of some of the dances for his later performances with the EMC.
477 The records in question are: David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Ecco La Primavera,
Argo (Decca) ZRG 642, 1969, LP. And Musica Reservata, Michael Morrow, and John Beckett, Music
from the Time of Boccaccio's "Decameron", Philips SAL 3781 / 802 904 LY, 1969, LP.
478 Ian D. Bent, "Review: Music from the Time of Boccaccio's Decameron by Musica Reservata;
Morrow; Beckett," The Musical Times 111, no. 1527 (1970), 513.
479 Jeremy Montagu, interview by author, December 6, 2009.
Montagu’s assertion that Munrow used transcriptions made by Michael Morrow
is not unique to the interview of 2009, it is echoed in earlier sources too. A letter from
Montagu to Morrow mentioning this very fact is preserved amongst Morrow’s
collection of papers in the archives of King’s College London. Dated September 1973,
Montagu suggested the possible licensing of Musica Reservata scores to Paul
Williamson’s Oriana Enemble:
I’ve been doing some playing with a small group organized by Paul Williamson
[…] the other players in the group are, like Paul, all young, or anyway younger
than us, and keen, […] The result is that we play from printed editions, and you
have spoiled me with your editions, for enjoying this.480
Musica Reservata had severe financial difficulties in the early 1970s and had
that very same month advertised for donations to their music research fund.481 This
letter might be read as Montagu politely finding a way for Morrow to make some more
money from his music research. What is interesting about this letter is that Montagu
continues with a cautionary word:
Before doing any of this, I would need [Paul Williamson’s] agreement, and that
of the other members of the group, that they would not do a David Munrow with
any of the music; unless they all promise this, I would not proceed.
Presumably, Morrow found Montagu’s suggestion agreeable, and logically we
can assume that he also agreed that David Munrow did at some point ‘do a David
Munrow’ because the archive also preserves a copy of the letter that Montagu then sent
to Paul Williamson a few days later.
The problem of the safeguards is that neither [Morrow] nor I want another David
Munrow, who is still using Musica Reservata material with neither
acknowledgement nor fee.
480 Montagu to Morrow, September 6 1973, in The Papers of Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica
Reservata. London: King's College London Archives.
481 Michael Morrow, "Advertisement: Musica Reservata Research Fund," Recorder and Music 4, no. 6
(1973). Press clipping in The Papers of Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata. London:
King's College London Archives.
John Sothcott, who often played Ghaetta as the soloist in Musica Reservata also
remembers the outline of the story when David Munrow was accused of using
Morrow’s transcription of the dance without proper acknowledgement:
There was a famous piece called Ghaetta which is a 14th century Italian
Istampita which I used to play on the recorder. Munrow had borrowed it because
he said he wanted to, he asked Michael if he could borrow it because he wanted
to play it on the curtal or whatever he wanted to play it on. And he used to do
this and then Michael found it was on records with no acknowledgement of
Michael. And he said there was a whole section of that which was missing from
the manuscript and Michael had put it in and he’d used that without any
acknowledgement. Of course it was fatal, and the BBC got on to it and
eventually Michael got on to the BBC who got on to me. And, what was all I
knew, is that I had a copy of this Ghaetta and David Munrow asked to borrow it
and Michael told me to lend it to him; which I did. So there. I knew nothing
more about it but he had a copy of it and apparently Munrow had pinched it and
anyway there was a terrible row about it at the time. Not with me, but with
This particular recollection by Sothcott suggests two important additional
features. Firstly that there should be a significant part of the score which is
reconstructed by Michael Morrow (and therefore not found in the earlier transcriptions
which were widely available) and secondly that the scoring and style of this dance on
the recorder was part of Musica Reservata’s approach.
Ripples from this story may also be detected in a further source, Jeremy
Silverman, writing in Time Out magazine nearly two years after Munrow’s death, also
mentions that Morrow’s scores were often circulated without permission:
Most of the best early music performers are, or have been associated with
‘Musica Reservata’: Andrew Parrott, Katherine Mackintosh, the Skeaping
brothers, Don Smithers etc. And there are many Morrow-versions, stolen and
unacknowledged, passing the rounds of other groups. Munrow was a fledgling
here, so were James Tyler and ex-adman Anthony Rooley, organizer of our
Early Music Centre’s ‘Festival’.483
I quote him here at length to show how he places Munrow, Tyler and Rooley in
the very next sentence which may imply that The EMC’s [and Rooley’s?] involvement
in ‘passing the rounds’ is common knowledge. There seems to be no reason why they
482 John Sothcott, Derek Harrison, and Terry Sothcott, interview by author, March 21, 2013.
483 Julian Silverman, "The Old Band Wagon," Time Out (London), October 13-19, 1978, 19.
could not otherwise have been placed along with Parrott, Mackintosh and Skeaping in
the first sentence. Morrow, this article suggests, is the godfather of his own generation
of the early music revival.
From such anecdotes it seems reasonable to assume that Morrow sometimes
made his own editions. An overview of published scores for Ghaetta and Tre Fontane
reveals that there was limited choice in the 1960s and that none of them was reliable.
Indeed, Frederick Crane commented on the editions of these dances whilst reviewing
Musica Reservata’s Music from the Time of Boccaccio’s Decameron:
The editions used are pretty faulty; what is notable about them is that in the long
pieces the manuscript’s rhythms have been altered at several points in order to
maintain a fixed metre throughout. […] The Early Music Consort’s Ecco La
Primavera […] includes six Lo pieces in fine performances of greater
authenticity than most, except for the faulty editions used (as with Musica
Crane has noted that based upon the aural evidence the same edition is being
used by both ensembles. Alexander Blachly went a little further in the Musical
Both groups appear to have used a limited number of sources, insofar as this can
be determined from checking the performances against the available editions.
[…] The dances are taken mainly from Johannes Wolf's "Die Tänze des
Mittelalters" in Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, I (1918), although The Early
Music Consort sometimes seems to follow the versions of the dances contained
in the Davison-Apel and Schering anthologies. Let us look more closely at
Musica Reservata's use of Wolf. The correction of some of Wolf's errors of
transcription, in addition to the appearance on their record of a dance published
in only recently a modern form (In pro), implies that [Musica Reservata] had
access to Lo or at least to a reproduction of it.485
Since neither the Davison-Apel nor Schering anthologies mentioned contain
either of the dances under consideration in this chapter we can safely remove these from
the equation. Also, the 1965 facsimile edition by Gilbert Reaney is footnoted in
Blachly’s review as apparently being unknown to the performers so that can be removed
484 Frederick Crane, "On Performing the "Lo Estampies"," Early Music 7, no. 1 (1979), 30.
485 Alexander Blachly, "Review: Musik aus der Zeit von Boccaccios Decamerone by Musica Reservata;
John Beckett; Michael Morrow; Ecco la Primavera: Florentine Music of the 14th Century by The Early
Music Consort," The Musical Quarterly 57, no. 2 (1971), 338.
from consideration also. This evidence also seems to point towards a unique edition of
the Lo dances peculiar to both Musica Reservata and The Early Music Consort of
London. It seems, however, unlikely that any influence over the choice of edition could
have flowed from Munrow to Morrow since most of Morrow’s colleagues remember
him as having undertaken all the musicological scholarship and performance decisions
by himself. As Sothcott puts it, ‘Michael was always the absolute arbiter.’486
Certainly it was the general feeling of Montagu that Munrow used Musica
Reservata material for his own performances, and the extent of this closeness between
the two performing groups on the cusp of the early 1970s has already been explored in
chapter four (using the case of Landini’s Questa fanciulla). Unfortunately, direct
comparison of scores in the case of these Lo dances is not possible. Whereas the scores
for Munrow’s performances, largely preserved in the Royal Academy of Music archive,
can be viewed; the scores for Michael Morrow’s performances in the same archive are
unavailable for study.487 Therefore, any analysis between the two performances to
determine the use of a similar transcription source has to be undertaken aurally.
Returning, then, to this question of published editions we see that elsewhere
Crane also compiled a chronological list of editions of the Lo estampies.488 If we look at
the contents of such publications we discover that only the following published prior to
1976 contain either Ghaetta or Tre Fontane:
• Johannes Wolf, 'Die Tänze des Mittelalters', Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, 1
(1918–19), 10-42.
• Hans Joachim Moser, 'Stantipes und Ductia', Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft, 2
(1919–20), pp. 194–206. (Ghaetta only)
• Gilbert Reaney ed., The Manuscript London, British Museum, Additional 29987
(Musicological Studies and Documents, 3, n.p., American Institute of
Musicology, 1965).
486 Sothcott, Harrison, and Sothcott, interview by author.
487 Morrow’s collection of performance materials held by the RAM is, at the time of writing,
uncatalogued and therefore not available to researchers.
488 Crane, "On Performing the "Lo Estampies",” 31.
• Jan ten Bokum ed., De dansen van het trecento (Scripta musicological
ultrajectina, 1, Institut voor Muziekwetenschap der Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht,
Utrecht, 1967).
Performances before the death of David Munrow must therefore either be
derived from one of these editions or from a specially prepared and unpublished
performing edition. Considering the publication of Lo in facsimile by Reaney in 1965,
this latter point is entirely possible, despite Crane’s note that Musica Reservata were
apparently unaware of its publication, since both Musica Reservata and Lo were London
The Recording Process
Recording these dances presented several difficulties. Jeremy Montagu
remembers that the plan was that percussion should remain absolutely constant
whatever happened to the solo instrumental line:
Now Michael, as I said, had ideas about the sound and he also had strict ideas
about the rhythm with which I totally agree, in my own part that dance music
should be played as dance music and what’s needed in dance music is a steady
rhythm and if you listen to a Strauss waltz the whole way through you get umchaa-
chaa, um-chaa-chaa [sings: 1-2-3, 1-
2-3, 1+2+3, 1-2-3] and so on. […] It’s a steady rhythm with a little something
on the corners as you might say, as you go around the bend. And you look at
Arbeau's Orchesography, the basic dance manual of 1588, the only two dances
that he gives in full with the percussion part there’s no variation whatsoever. It’s
absolutely constant; which is what we did. That and the fact that we went, as you
might say, slap-bang into things is what broke the ground with the audiences
who had never heard medieval music played like that—they’d been brought up
with Dolmetsch—and we were fundamentally anti-Dolmetsch...490
A little later on in our conversation Montagu mentioned recording the medieval dance
They were hell to record those big istampitas, […] because if you fluff in a
concert you go on, if you fluff in a recording you stop. […] And if you start
489 The initial Musica Reservata programme from 1960 shows that an Estampie (not identified) was
programmed so if Morrow did make transcriptions of instrumental dances himself, including those from
Lo, he may well have done so before Reaney’s facsimile was published. “A Concert of Mediaeval Music
Given by Musica Reservata,” January 30, 1960, Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata,
King's College London Archives.
490 Montagu, interview by author.
again, are you in exactly the same rhythm and tonality and so on that they can
splice the tape? The answer is no. So eventually the way we did it is that I would
go on, and I would go [claps a regular 1-2+, 1-2+ rhythm] and whatever it was
and David would stop and catch his breath and then pick up again.
Similarly, David Corkhill, in an interview with the author, remembers the same
system used for recording when he was the percussionist for Munrow’s performances
with the Early Music Consort of London:
[EB] How did you improvise, or plan, in rehearsal or did Munrow notate things
for you?
[DC] Nearly…he would give me an indication of a rhythm [sings, Dah, duh,
duh, duh, duh in 1 2+ 3+ style] certainly in the early stages. I would also have a
part, not a percussion part but a top line of a score or something.
[EB] And you would know what the dance rhythm for it was or whatever? There
would be a plan?
[DC] Yes I mean he occasionally wrote crotchet four quavers, or Dum digga
dum dum dum, he would write some suggested rhythm […] maybe a couple of
bars and then I might have had, the only real discussion would come, as I
remember, when we had to end the piece and it would usually be last note, one
extra bar and then a note. [sings] and then there would be a little quaver in
there... and that would be two bars and a note or one bar and a note.
[EB] comments that the riotous style of ending sounds like the sort of thing
you’d hear in a Black Dyke Mills performance.
[DC] Yes! It is! And it’s great because occasionally there are early music groups
here [the Guildhall School] and they’re great, they’re very intense about it and
they want to do it all which is wonderful and is great and again the only
discussion we have is how to end it and once we’ve sorted that they’re so
thrilled because they’ve got an end to a piece. It’s a really crucial bit of…
[EB] But did you then have to follow the structure, so you would have to know
if it was, you were doing ABBA, or…
[DC] Oh yes, yes. I would usually write it down. But the rhythm would remain
constant. […] well one thing we did might have been on the, I don’t think it was
on the Two Renaissance Dance Bands, probably another record. It was such a
long blow for everybody, so we’d start dun digga dun dun whatever it was, you
know, and then we’d get to the end of the ABA and everyone would stop except
for me—it’s like having a constant click—I’d keep doing the rhythm [sings dun
digga again] and then when they were ready [mimics panting] we’d go on. And
then Willan or somebody would edit at that point and then so there are these
kinds of bits in between…491
491 David Corkhill, interview by author, London, October 19, 2012.
Taking an overview of these interviews with the percussionists, it is interesting
that in more than one respect the modes of operation between Musica Reservata and
The Early Music Consort of London are the same: both percussionists play from
fragmentary notation provided by the director of the ensemble and both ensembles take
recording breaks whilst relying on a constant percussion track for continuity. Since
Munrow was playing these dances with Musica Reservata before the foundation of the
EMC it seems reasonable to suggest that these ideas originated within Musica Reservata
whilst it included Munrow as soloist.
Presenting the dances in performance
David Corkhill remembers Tre Fontane specifically:
[EB] do you remember Turkish Nightclub music?
[DC] It rings a small bell.
[EB] It’s what James [Bowman] calls one of the medieval dances that Munrow
plays always at every concert which was a trademark piece. […] The really
manic one he always does…with the shawm
[DC] Oh that one, that one! Yes yes yes yes! And he used to go completely
purple in the face. In fact, recording that kind of music, I remember recording it
at EMI, and he stripped off virtually—I remember him taking his shirt off—[…]
and it was almost like being there you know.
[EB] Did those things develop over time, did they get more complex?
[DC] Yes, well you say ‘over time’ but there wasn’t very much of that time only
a few years you know so it’s not like we’re talking about a decade or two, you
know we’re talking about just a handful of years so and as you say it was all
very intense you know crammed in to just a few short years so that, and it wasn’t
as if we were meeting every week.492
Corkhill’s two points are firstly that the physical effort involved in Munrow’s
performances was great and secondly that the dances had little time to develop since the
performing career of the Early Music Consort was so short. If Munrow’s dance music
style had gone through a phase of radical development it must have been after 1964
when he first became interested in medieval music and before Corkhill joined the
492 Corkhill, interview by author.
consort around 1970. This does suggest that Munrow’s style came of age during his
performing time with Musica Reservata. But that is not to assert that he simply stole it
from Musica Reservata but, rather, that it may have been inspired by their approach.
Fortunately, a performance of Tre Fontane by The Early Music Consort of
London is preserved on film.493 This performance confirms the structural points that
Corkhill makes. Firstly, Munrow introduces the piece:
The recorder probably first came to light in Northern Italy, so here’s a brilliant
piece of fourteenth century Italian dance music; just the sort of thing that the
earliest recorders would have played.494
Munrow then indicates the tempo to his colleagues before the music begins by
conducting two beats (a whole bar) with the recorder at his lips.
Figure 62 Munrow indicates tempo with the recorder at his lips ready to start playing
As the music starts the camera pans out to show the ensemble and the title of the
piece is displayed on screen. David Corkhill plays a percussion accompaniment on
nakers, James Tyler plays a bandora and Oliver Brookes drones on a viol.
493 David Munrow, "Flutes and Whistles," in Early Musical Instrument, directed by Peter Plummer, aired
October 1976 on Granada Television (UK) Produced for DVD by David Griffith, Viking New Media
2007. Accessed May 12, 2009.
494 Ibid. 10’01”.
Figure 63 The ensemble for Tre Fontane
As the performance develops the camera focuses on Munrow’s face during a
high note; it appears that Munrow is making a great physical effort (despite playing a
sopranino recorder).
Figure 64 Munrow: physical effort in Tre Fontane
Several other aspects of this performance are deliberately caught on camera.
First, Tyler’s foot is shown stamping out the beat and then as he introduces a sequence
of four descending chords into the music his hand becomes the focus.
Figure 65 Tyler: stamping to the beat in Tre Fontane
Figure 66 Tyler: chordal accompaniment
Figure 67 Corkhill: percussion
Munrow’s bodily movements indicate when he begins the long final note and he
drops his head to show the cut off point. All the other members of the ensemble take
their cue from him.
Figure 68 Munrow: final note
Figure 69 Munrow: releases final note
The performance, as we shall see, is consistent with the memories of members
of the Early Music Consort of London and also other performances of medieval dances
captured on film. The key features are: Munrow was always the soloist and indicated
tempo with his instrument at his lips, Munrow showed physical effort and flushed red in
the face, David Corkhill’s percussion was complex and the camera focuses on him for
part of the dance, the ending included the addition of an extra bar (Munrow’s high
note), a percussive flourish and often a crescendo and that Munrow used exaggerated
body language to indicate the end of his last note to the ensemble.
Now we can observe the contours of this Tre Fontane performance as seen in
other Trecento dance repertory on film. Consider a Saltarello played in a different
episode of the same series495:
Figure 70 Munrow: introductory beats with Shawm at his lips
495 "Reed Instruments," in David Munrow, Early Musical Instruments.
Figure 71 Ensemble for Saltarello
Figure 72 Munrow: physical effort in Saltarello
Figure 73 Munrow: long note at end of Saltarello
Figure 74 Munrow: releases final note
This particular performance was remembered by Andrew van der Beek, who
plays one of the drone instruments, in a discussion with Nicholas Kenyon after a public
viewing of the film:
[AvB] I think the thing you notice was his energy that came out of that clip. I
think he had all the attributes associated with leadership—energy, capacity for
hard work, very quick and sure judgment—and that’s very important when
you’re rehearsing and performing musical programs. And I also think the ability
to assemble a team who would all work together. And everything we did was
terribly well prepared before we’d arrive at the rehearsal. He’d decided exactly
what was going to happen, who was playing what, what instruments, there was
no time wasted with discussion or any of this pretense of democracy [audience
[NK] It does slightly seem as if you were playing a supporting role there.
[AvB] I think in that clip we were given those instruments about sort of ten
minutes before the recording and it was assumed that one had a basic knowledge
of any sort of instrument, and we were all playing one note of course so we used
to play that. Yes. I think, that piece, David had been touring in his one-man
lecture recitals for probably 5 years so he knew it back-to-front, he knew how to
milk it for what it’s worth.496
Van der Beek refers to this style of performance as ‘milking’ the music. And in
an estampie from the BBC programme, Ancestral Voices, of 1976 we again see the
same process in operation:497
Figure 75: Ancestral Voices (BBC) Estampie: performers watch Munrow for his final note
And also for another Saltarello later in the same series:498
496 Nicholas Kenyon, Sally Dunkley, Andrew Van der Beek, and Deborah Roberts, “Celebrating
Inspiration: In Memory of David Munrow,” Pre Concert Discussion: Brighton Early Music Festival,
November 10, 2012.
497 David Munrow, "Origins and Flutes," in Ancestral Voices, produced by Paul Kriwaczek, aired May
1976, on BBC Television.
Figure 76 Percussionists watch Munrow for his final note
It is apparent; therefore, that Munrow curated and delivered well-rehearsed
performances of medieval dances that followed a basic template. Furthermore, a
comparison of Tre Fontane performances played by David Munrow compared with
other recordings from similarly specialist early music ensembles will now reveal a
flexible approach to performance within an obvious framework of limited options such
as percussion, fixed drone, moveable drone etc. What now follows is a consideration of
that music-cultural space in Tre Fontane performance.
Istampita Tre Fontane
Tre Fontane is an Italian estampie, and contains a complex formal structure in a
duple meter. The key structural element of an estampie (or istanpita, to give it its Italian
name) is the puctum, a unit of melodic material followed by an open or closed ending.
In Italian estampies—like Tre Fontane—the puncta are long enough to be considered as
verses which themselves contain a varying number of sections. Each verse ends with the
same melodic material (section D) which is then followed by an open or closed ending,
and each new verse begins with a new melodic section not heard before. The structure
has been represented by Timothy McGee in the following manner:499
498 David Munrow, "Reeds," in Ancestral Voices.
499 Timothy McGee, Medieval Instrumental Dances, Music: Scholarship and Performance, ed., Thomas
Binkley (Bloomington Indiana: Indiana Univerity Press, 1989), 40.
Verse Endings
ABCD x/y
EBCD x/y
F_CD x/y
G__D x/y
These open and closed endings can be seen clearly marked as first- and secondtime
bars from a transcription in Munrow’s hand:500
Figure 77. Tre Fontane in Munrow's hand (used by kind permission of the Royal Academy
of Music, London)
500 David Munrow, "Tre Fontane in "Volume II" (The Art of Courtly Love)," in Papers of David
Munrow: DM4/9/2 (London: Royal Academy of Music Special Collections Archive, c1972).
Considering a range of recordings of this dance, Tre Fontane, it is possible to
compare two performances by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London
with another featuring Munrow as a wind soloist (with Musica Reservata) and also with
two performances by different artists in later decades. In the comparison table below the
general starting tempo is given as a metronome mark for the crotchet beat as indicated
by Munrow’s transcription.
Tre Fontane
Musica Reservata:
4’15 118 Alto shawm, two drums
Early Music Consort
of London: EMI
4’00 132 Sopranino recorder, citole,
crwth, nakers
Early Music Consort
of London: Granada
TV 1976
2’34 141 Sopranino recorder, citole,
Viol drone, nakers
St George’s Canzona
7’53 111 Vielle(s), plucked strings,
New York Ensemble
for Early Music:
9’45 93 Transverse flute, 2
The general tempi of the dances, however, show considerable variation. As
befits functional dance music, there is no significant gain or loss of speed over the span
of each performance yet the speeds fluctuate slightly within the performance. Munrow’s
1973 performance is the one Fallows described on BBC radio as being played ‘at a hell
of a lick’.
The internal organisation of such dances as presented in performance also
exhibits significant structural variation. The two sound recordings featuring David
Munrow as the solo wind player only perform verses one and two. That is ABCDx –
501 Musica Reservata, Michael Morrow, and John Beckett, Music für Kirche und Kneipe, Philips 6833
046, 1978, LP.
502 Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of Courtly Love.
ABCDy followed by EBCDx – EBCDy. As Alexander Blachly has suggested, the
deviations between the Musica Reservata 1968 and the Early Music consort of London
1973 recordings are similar enough to suggest the same score is being used and that
these two performances are simply distinguished in ornamentation only,503 although this
is actually impossible to ascertain with any accuracy due to the high levels of
ornamentation in Munrow’s EMC performances frequently obscuring the melodic
outline. Interestingly, Munrow does not follow the score exactly as it is seen in his own
hand (figure 77). A serious difference occurs between Munrow’s sound recording
(1973) and his TV recording (1976) in that on the television performance Munrow does
not repeat the second verse but instead plays it just once with a highly decorated closed
ending. Such structural differences may have been at the root of how Bowman
remembers the performances becoming ‘longer and longer’ while presumably, the same
modular approach enabled this particular performance to be shortened for the
requirements of a television broadcast.
The similar deviations from the Wolf’s transcription of Tre Fontane by both
Munrow and Morrow offer an interesting clue as to their performing editions on both of
these recordings. Looking at the first verse only, and using Wolf’s score as a template,
four extra bars of melodic material are inserted between the bars numbers 32 and 33 in
Morrow’s score for Music from the Time of Boccaccio’s Decameron.504 The same
location includes an insertion in Munrow’s score for The Art of Courtly Love but this
time there are only two bars of extra material. Similarly, both performances add an extra
beat between bars 39 and 40 in Wolf which duplicated the material in bar 43 and
503 Blachly, "Review: Musik aus der Zeit von Boccaccios Decamerone by Musica Reservata; John
Beckett; Michael Morrow; Ecco la Primavera: Florentine Music of the 14th Century by The Early Music
Consort," 338.
504 Johannes Wolf, "Die Taenze des Mittelalters. Eine Unterſuchung des Weſens der aelteſten
Inſtrumentalmuſik," Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 1, no. 1 (1918).
balances that melodic motif with the other repeated A’s in the same section of the
Furthermore it could be suggested that both of these performances must be
based loosely on Wolf’s score because they both include his transcription variant in bar
81 as shown in this figure from Blachly’s review:
Figure 78 Blachly: analysis of Wolf’s transcription. 505
It would seem that both Morrow and Munrow treat vertical strokes present at
this point in the Lo manuscript as dividing lines rather than rests. Furthermore, neither
Musica Reservata nor The EMC play the Tertia pars and Quarta pars as shown by
Wolf. Blachly suggested that this truncated nature of performance is ‘not because this
section lacks musical interest but because it shifts meter and introduces faster notes’ in
the fourth verse that would be difficult to play at these fast tempi.506
The remaining two performances have been chosen because they are structurally
complete. Both the St George’s Canzona and The New York Ensemble for Early Music
perform all four verses, each repeated with open and closed endings. Exactly the same
deviations as Musica Reservata make from Wolf’s first verse are found in the St
George’s Canzona recording, which is not surprising since Sothcott was a founding
member of Musica Reservata and letters between Montagu and Morrow discuss
505 Blachly, "Review: Musik aus der Zeit von Boccaccios Decamerone by Musica Reservata; John
Beckett; Michael Morrow; Ecco la Primavera: Florentine Music of the 14th Century by The Early Music
Consort," 339. Blachly himself describes Wolf’s variants as ‘errors’ which he says ‘have been ‘corrected’
in his example.
506 Ibid.
Sothcott’s legitimate use of Morrow’s scores. Indeed, Derek Harrison, a regular
performer of the St George’s Canzona confirmed this in an interview:
[EB] And what scores did you play from, were you playing from printed
academic editions?
[DH] No, I don’t think we ever had any. Well, that’s not entirely true. I mean, a
certain amount of it came from Michael and what he’d done. Particularly his
researches on dances, of course, his realizations.507
This confirms that ideas and scores for medieval dance repertory were shared
between Musica Reservata and the St George’s Canzona and as a result we can expect
to see some overlap of ideas. This will not be the case with more modern groups: The
New York Ensemble for Early Music, for instance, follow Wolf’s score quite closely
and exhibit none of the same deviations in the first verse as the other performances we
have just discussed. This marked difference by an ‘outsider’ group serves to throw more
emphasis on the suggestion of a very close-knit performance community between
Musica Reservata, EMC and the St George’s Canzona where I would suggest that
Morrow’s editions are influencing the performances. This is a point that will be
revisited when we look at a wider range of performances of Instampita Ghaetta.
The style of accompaniment in Tre Fontane shows significant differences
between these performances also and is summarized in the following table:
Tre Fontane
Drones Extra information
Musica Reservata:
D - -
Early Music Consort
of London: EMI
D G & D A flat and F sharp are
introduced into
accompaniment chords also
Early Music Consort
of London: Granada
TV 1976510
D G & D F and F sharp are introduced
into accompaniment chords
along with B flat also
507 Derek Harrison, interview by author, February 20, 2013.
508 Musica Reservata, Morrow, and Beckett, Musik für Kirche und Kneipe.
509 Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London, The Art of Courtly Love.
510 Munrow, "Flutes and Whistles."
St George’s Canzona
C G & D This different pitching of
the melody in relation to the
drone gives an overall
‘minor’ flavour to the
modality of this dance.
New York Ensemble
for Early Music:
D - No drone, but often parallel
passagework in fourths with
the lower voice emphasizing
the main notes of the
melody so that the top voice
(the notated part) sounds
like a decorated version.
In these five performances we encounter a variety of accompaniment techniques,
the most elaborate being with David Munrow’s Early Music Consort of London.
Munrow plays the dances faster and more elaborately decorated than the other
performances. In contrast, his own instrumental solos for the Musica Reservata
recording are less decorated and accompanied only by a single drum.
In terms of accompaniment, the two other recordings show a significantly
different approach to both Musica Reservata and the EMC. The St George’s Canzona
use a G-D drone but start the music on a C, which changes the relationship between
drone and melody to imply a minor modality. The dance sounds melancholy, a
characteristic that is emphasized by the bourdon vielle on which it is played, since this
lacks the soloistic flair of a loud wind instrument or a high recorder. Similarly, the New
York Ensemble for Early Music dispenses with fixed drones altogether, opting for a
steady parallel 4th and 5th motion which shadows the structural notes of the complex
tune in the higher part. This technique is, in effect, a moving drone.
This accompaniment information is suggestive of a general picture where
Munrow’s EMC performances are again conceptually close to the approach taken by
Musica Reservata. This broad observation is made on the basis of structure, speed and
511 St George's Canzona and John Sothcott, Medieval Songs and Dances, CRD 11 21, 1986, LP.
512 New York Ensemble for Early Music and Frederick Renz, Istampitta, Lyrichord LEMS 8016, 1995,
virtuosic style. The later performances reflect other, alternative performance decisions
further highlighting the many possible paths not chosen by Morrow or Munrow.
Istampita Ghaetta
Ghaetta, as we have already seen, has been recalled specifically as one of the
dances that David Munrow is thought to have played from Michael Morrow’s
transcription. The dance was certainly featured in more than one Musica Reservata
concert performance. In an early Conway Hall programme of 1965 we read:
The istampitta, “Ghaetta”, is a 14th-century Italian dance. It is florid and very
instrumental in style, and its rather loose formal organization has all the
characteristic of notated improvisation.513
And for a concert in the early 1970s at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, a
programme note reads:
Gaeta is a town north of Naples, and the Gulf of Gaeta contains the island of
Ischia. How this dance came to be named after it we do not know. It is one of the
strangest and most colourful of the istampittas. 514
The suggestion of improvisation along with the title’s invocation of exotic
beauty from that famous Italian coastline may have been an important influence on the
way this dance was perceived, and in turn presented, by the performers in Musica
Reservata. Sothcott also remembers that Michael asked him to play these pieces on the
recorder because he was a virtuosic performer on that instrument and that he saw these
pieces as inherently virtuosic:
The point is I’d already made something of a reputation for playing sort of
brilliant recorder pieces and we quickly found Michael had dished these… 14th
and 13th century dance music—estampies and things—which were the
Minstrel’s virtuoso pieces, just suited me down to the ground. I made a sort of
corner of doing this and I was very influenced and Michael encouraged me by
513 Michael Morrow, "Programme for Conway Hall," 1965, in Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica
Reservata, King's College, London Archives.
514 "Programme for Cambridge Arts Theatre," 1972, in Michael Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica
Reservata King's College, London Archives. This concert was shared with ‘Principal Edward’s Magic
Theatre’ who presented “Stoneage Sam”. The dating of this concert as the early 1970s comes from this
latter group who formed in 1972.
listening to folk musicians from the Balkans to try and play them the same way.
[…] to throw the thing off with panache.515
So panache in the performance by Musica Reservata is remembered as being
related to the folk music of the Balkans. The dance is also described in Musica
Reservata literature as ‘colourful’, ‘strange’ and ‘florid’. It is revealing, therefore, to see
it recorded by both Morrow and Munrow simply with a solo instrumental line and
percussion (Munrow uses a drone also) as this implies that the floridity was perceived in
the execution of the solo line rather than in any accompaniment that may be improvised
around it. Ghaetta has been much more widely recorded than Tre Fontane, so a larger
sample of performances can be considered here. Eight recordings have been chosen, six
of which are from a similar generation to David Munrow.
New York Pro
Musica 1967516
5’25 104 Vielle, Rauschpfeife,
Recorder (unspecified),
triangle and drum
Musica Reservata:
3’35 103 Sopranino recorder, two
Early Music Consort
of London 1969518
3’54 112 Sopranino recorder, viol
drone, percussion
5’19 90 Shawm and percussion
Studio der Frühen
Musik 1974520
6’09 72-79 Variety of plucked and wind
St George’s Canzona
4’31 83 Vielle(s) with bourdon
New York Ensemble
for Early Music:
7’15 84 2 bagpipes, tambourine,
frame drum
515 Sothcott, Harrison, and Sothcott, interview by author.
516 Noah Greenberg and New York Pro Musica., Florentine Music, New York: Decca Gold Label Series
DL 7 9428, 1967, LP.
517 Musica Reservata, Morrow, and Beckett, Musik für Kirche und Kneipe.
518 Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London, Ecco La Primavera.
519 Ulsamer-Collegium and Konrad Ragossnig, Tanzmusik Der Renaissance, Archiv Produktion -2533
111, 1971, LP.
520 Thomas Binkley and Studio der frühen Musik, Estampie, EMI "Reflexe" 1C 063 30 122, 1974, LP.
521 St George's Canzona and John Sothcott, A Tapestry of Music for the Black Prince and His Knights,
Enigma K 53 571, 1978, LP.
Dufay Collective
6’45 88 2 Rebecs, vielle, traditional
Turkish long-necked lute,
traditional Moroccan/Indian
Timothy McGee explains the structure of the Ghaetta dance as simpler than that
of Tre Fontane:524
Verse Endings
Each verse is formed of three sections and always begins with new material and
ends with the same section before the open or closed ending (x or y in the above chart).
This gives the dance a more repetitive feeling than Tre Fontane.
This time both structure and accompaniment information are shown in the
following table:
Accompaniment Structure
New York Pro
Musica 1967
E flat No regular drone, but
E flat drone
temporarily. Changes
of instrumentation
illustrate the
4 verses, each repeated with
open or closed endings.
Each ‘c’ section always
played with full
Musica Reservata: A flat No drone, just Verses 1, 2 and 4 only. Each
522 New York Ensemble for Early Music and Frederick Renz, Istampitta II, Lyrichord LEMS 8022, 1996,
523 Dufay Collective, A Dance in the Garden of Mirth: Medieval Instrumental Music, Colchester:
Chandos Chan 9320, 1994, CD.
524 McGee, Medieval Instrumental Dances.
1968 percussion. repeated with open or closed
Early Music Consort
of London 1969
G G & C drones Verses 1, 2 and 4 only. Each
repeated with open or closed
D - Verses 1, 3 and 4 only. Each
repeated with open or closed
endings. Gaps between each
verse bridged by percussion
Studio der frühen
musik 1974
D No drone, uses a
parallel style which
shadows the ‘main’
notes of the tune.
Verses 1, 2 and 3 only.
Sections within verses
marked by changes of
St George’s Canzona
D G & D Verse 1, 2 and 4. Each with
open and closed endings.
New York Ensemble
for Early Music:
A Bagpipe drone. D 4 verses each with open and
closed endings. Notable
increase of ornamentation in
verse four.
Dufay Collective
D G & D drones in V 1
and 2, parallel style
in V 3 and 4.
4 verses, each with open and
closed endings.
Again, as expected, a wide variety of performances can be seen in this sample
but the overall structure of the performances by the Early Music Consort of London and
Musica Reservata are similar. The use of drones by the Early Music Consort is a
significant departure but similarities can been seen elsewhere within the score.
Firstly, neither Morrow nor Munrow perform raised leading notes as in the
second and fourth bars of Wolf’s transcription; yet Wolf’s rhythmic transcription error,
as identified by Blachly in bar 69, is present on both recordings:
Figure 79 Blachly: analysis of the Wolf’s Ghaetta transcription.525
525 Blachly, "Review: Musik aus der Zeit von Boccaccios Decamerone by Musica Reservata; John
Beckett; Michael Morrow; Ecco la Primavera: Florentine Music of the 14th Century by The Early Music
Consort," 339.
New York Pro Musica use a performing edition with significant differences to
Wolf throughout although this bar 69 variant is present. It is also present in the edition
used by St George’s Canzona (as would be expected considering their close relationship
to Musica Reservata). This variant is adjusted/corrected in the recordings by Studio der
frühen Musik, The Dufay Collective, The Ulsamer Collegium and The New York
Ensemble for Early Music. In fact, these other performers all seem to use an edition
closely aligned to Jan ten Bokum (1976) listed above, although it is possible that the
slight variants in melody are due to individual transcriptions.
Once again, the faster tempo on the Munrow’s recording makes the exact
rhythmic detail of his performance harder to identify but it appears that he, too, also
repeats Wolf’s variant in line with the Musica Reservata performance. It is noticeable
that no performance uses a trill in this bar. Also noticeable is the wide range of
accompaniment patterns with Morrow as the most minimal, and Munrow taking a
similarly conservative approach.
Summarising Tre fontane and Ghaetta
In his review of Ecco la Primavera, Ian Bent noted the trecento repertoire had
been thus far somewhat neglected and that Munrow’s album served as a much-needed
anthology. He singles out Ghaetta for special praise:
David Munrow's recorder and crumhorn playing is beyond praise, particularly
his marathon sopranino performance of Ghaetta. In these dances the
instrumentation of the melodies, the drones and the percussion are all sensitively
But in a later review of Music from the time of Boccaccio’s Decameron we saw
how Bent had seemed surprised that another album of similar repertoire was recorded at
around the same time yet, again, went on to praise Munrow’s technical prowess as a
526 Ian Bent, "Review: Ecco La Primavera," The Musical Times 111, no. 1526 (1970), 398.
wind-player.527 This virtuosic treatment is presumably derived from the Balkan
influence that Sothcott refers to and as such it cannot be claimed securely as an idea
unique to Musica Reservata since a slightly earlier recording by the post-Greenberg
New York Pro Musica takes a similar approach.528 However, considering Sothcott’s
recollections it is likely that this virtuosic style of playing was considered by the
members of Musica Reservata to be their own idea.
What these performances suggest, therefore, is a web of connections concerning
performance practice between Musica Reservata, The Early Music Consort of London
and the St George’s Canzona. With the last group this is verifiable from Sothcott’s own
admission that many of the ideas explored in Musica Reservata were continued when he
formed The St George’s Canzona, albeit along more democratic lines.529 What is
troubling about the perceived similarities between these three groups is that Musica
Reservata is the oldest, yet David Munrow denied having been influenced by them as
already confirmed by David Fallows.530
Whilst the evidence is suggestive of Musica Reservata’s influence on
Munrow—by which I really mean that Morrow’s musicological ideas were found to be
persuasive by Munrow when planning his own performances—there remains the
possibility of a more mundane reason for some of these performance similarities. These
dances are performed at considerably fast speeds on the Reservata recordings and so the
instrumentalists, Sothcott and Munrow who are both the directors of later performances,
would have had to learn them very carefully in order to play them so fast. The muscular
527 ‘David Munrow's dazzling shawm technique is evident on both records […]’ Ian D. Bent, "Review:
Music from the Time of Boccaccio's Decameron by Musica Reservata; Morrow; Beckett," The Musical
Times 111, no. 1527 (1970), 513.
528 Noah Greenberg, the founder and director of this ensemble died in 1966. LaNoue Davenport, a longtime
performer with the ensemble and close collaborator with Greenberg, directs this 1967 recording. It is
possible, therefore, that his direction reflects earlier performance practice ideas of Greenberg.
529 Sothcott, Harrison, and Sothcott, interview by author.
530 “[H]e [Munrow] was absolutely FURIOUS when I wrote a piece in Early Music on Trecento
performance and implied that his playing was influenced by Michael: in fact he demanded (but didn't get)
a printed withdrawal”: David Fallows, email to the author, Dec 15, 2012.
memory involved with their necessary instrumental technique could have been
persistent in these later recordings making (subconscious?) parallels between their work
with Morrow and their independent work noticeable to listeners. Furthermore, by
denying a connection Munrow may have actually felt that some of the performance
ideas (trills, exact tempo) were originally his own (even if they were first used in the
context of Musica Reservata) since Morrow neither performed nor conducted these
The business of the Ghaetta score is not preserved in any greater detail than that
already quoted in this chapter amongst the surviving papers of Michael Morrow as
available to the public. Had strong feelings persisted between Morrow and Munrow one
would expect official correspondence on the matter to be found among the papers of
one or both of these men. However, correspondence post 1972 between them makes no
mention of this situation so it may be assumed for the moment that no breach of
intellectual copyright was ever proved.
That said, Munrow is clearly influenced by Musica Reservata performances, but
since he himself is part of those performances it is not possible to conclude firmly that
all of these influences come from Morrow alone rather than the collective collaboration
of Munrow and/or other performers in Musica Reservata. Influence is present but the
level of consciousness of this influence is not clear.
Machaut: Douce Dame Jolie
For one final case study in monophonic music we turn to this lively virelai
which opens the side 2 of the first volume in The Art of Courtly Love. An LP which is
devoted to ‘Guillaume de Machaut and his Age’.531 This is a work often associated with
Munrow, as Anthony Burton explained on a BBC radio documentary programme:
531 Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London, The Art of Courtly Love.
A crucial question, though, is what kind of medieval music audiences and record
buyers expect to hear, and whether today’s more scholarly performers can fulfill
that expectation. Christopher Page thinks that performances like this one by the
Early Music Consort [of London], of a single line Virelai by Machaut, created a
particular view of medieval music or even reflected an existing view.532
Page, as we saw in chapter four, has often suggested that the persuasive
viewpoint of histories such as Huizinga can be heard in the colourful and elaborate
performances by Munrow and other early music ensembles who take a similar
approach. Christopher Page, when responding to Burton on air, however, was cautious
not to apportion any blame for these events to Munrow:
I think that many people expect that any sound picture of the Middle Ages is
going to be rumbustious and good fun. […] And they like to think that medieval
music is going to come across to them as turbulent, flamboyant, colourful […]
That’s really the sense they want to have. […] If you try and give people a sense
that’s anything other than this rather rumbustious sense, well, you have to lead
them more gently, you have to require them to be more persistent and attentive
and they don’t always want to be.533
Pragmatically, Page seems to be suggesting that Munrow’s audience may not
have been ready for any other sort of approach. This colourful view, he tells us, was the
most potent one for the audience of the time and it was therefore necessary at that stage
of the Early Music Revival for Munrow to use it to attract audiences.
In order to see how this works in terms of performance practice, we will survey
briefly six performances of Machaut’s work:
Performers Approx Tempo Instrumentation
New York Pro Musica
92 Sopranos (Sheila Schonbrun, Elizabeth
Humes), Bass (Anthony Tamburello),
crumhorn, recorder, vielle, organ, bells
Early Music Consort of
London 1973535
98 Tenor (Martyn Hill), chorus, sopranino
recorder, cornetts, citole, tabor
St George’s Canzona 77 Soprano (Rosemary Harrison), vielle,
532 “After Munrow,” Anthony Burton, Early Memories, aired 1992, BBC Radio 3. British Library Sound
Archive reference: H777/01.
533 Page speaking on: ibid.
534 New York Pro Musica and John White, Ah Sweet Lady: The Romance of Medieval France, New York:
Decca Gold Label DL 79431, 1967, LP.
535 Munrow and The Early Music Consort of London, The Art of Courtly Love.
1977536 plucked strings, percussion
Gothic Voices 1987537 62 Mezzo soprano (Margaret Philpot)
Grupo Cinco Siglos
86 flute
The Orlando Consort
68 Tenor (Mark Dobell)
The New York Pro Musica recording of 1967 (made under the directorship of
John White, a professor of musicology at the University of Indiana) is sprightly,
colourful and lively. Choruses are performed by the full ensemble with verses of the
poem sung one by each of the soloists against a changing array of highly decorative
instrumental accompaniment. The tone of both sopranos and bass are vibrato-rich as the
following spectrogram demonstrates:
Figure 80 New York Pro Musica: Douce dame jolie. Soprano solo.
536 St George's Canzona and John Sothcott, A Tapestry of Music for King Wenceslas and His Page,
Enigma VAR 1046, 1977, LP.
537 Christopher Page and Gothic Voices, The Mirror of Narcissus, London: Hyperion CDA66087, 1987,
538 Grupo Cinco Siglos, Unos tan dulces sones, Fonoruz CDF 204, 1995, CD.
539 The Orlando Consort, Scattered Rhymes, Harmonia Mundi HMU 807 469, 2008, CD.
Figure 80 shows a fragment of the first soprano soloist singing the repeated
word ‘Cherie’ in medieval French pronunciation (it has three syllables). The oscillations
are quite regular and noticeable (aurally as well as visually). In this particular verse the
instrumental accompaniment includes many recorder trills, a drone and bells. The
overall feeling is one of celebratory joy and happiness.
In both mood and speed, David Munrow’s performance is quite close to that of
the New York Pro Musica. Indeed, Munrow collected the New York Pro Musica
recordings throughout the 1960s and it is therefore probable that he knew this recording.
What separates Munrow’s performance from this American ensemble is that he uses a
more limited array of accompanying instruments which remains unchanged between
each verse. Munrow also creates coherence throughout his performance with a regular
percussion part and rhythmic drone. He does not include recorder trills, but sometimes
fills in the rising intervals with a flourish.
Figure 81 Early Music Consort of London: Douce dame jolie. Introduction.
Figure 81 shows the introductory drone and rhythmic percussion that precedes
the explosive chorus-entry of Munrow’s Douce dame jolie. The clear regularity of this
introductory passage acts as a springboard for the joyful chorus singing of the verse, yet
the words are those of a poem relating courtly love and are not, in themselves, overtly
Fair and gentle lady, please believe, I beg of you, that you alone rule my heart.
Long have I lived, a humble and loyal servant, in sincerest admiration for you.
But, alas, now all forlorn, I am prey to deep despair, which only your
compassion can dispel. Fair and gentle lady, please believe, I beg of you, that
you alone rule my heart.540
This poem alone might outwardly suggest a somber and reflective atmosphere.
Indeed, Munrow himself admits that it is the melodic contours, rather than the poem, he
finds suggestive of joyfulness:
Occasionally there seems to be a dichotomy between words and music. It is
difficult to believe that the melody of Machaut's monophonic virelai Douce
dame jolie is anything but joyful, exuberant and extrovert, yet the text fluctuates
between a confident assertion of love and the conventional despair of a
tormented heart. Perhaps this is a case where our attention should be directed not
so much to the sense of the text but to the ingenuity of the versification with its
short lines of varied lengths and virtuoso treatment of the 'ie' rhyming scheme.541
This suggests that in Douce dame jolie Munrow’s approach could be likened to
that of Binkley’s general philosophy; after informing himself of the relevant historical
knowledge, Munrow turns to the musical phrases and structure for inspiration about
performance practice. Historical knowledge in this case is an important foundation but
not the final arbiter.
Munrow also comments on the pitch of the performance, something which the
score can only indicate relatively:
The solo vocal lines themselves usually suggest the use of high male voices,
most commonly at a pitch which implies the use of falsetto technique.542
540 Translation by Michael Freeman in liner notes to: Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The
Art of Courtly Love.
541 David Munrow, "The Art of Courtly Love," Early Music 1, no. 4 (1973): 197.
542 Ibid.
James Bowman (countertenor) is singing in the full chorus sections of Douce
dame jolie, but it is to the tenor Martin Hill that the solo verses fall.
Figure 82 Early Music Consort of London: Douce dame jolie. Martyn Hill solo.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, Hill’s singing typically uses the most
vibrato out of any regular vocalist in The EMC. Here, because the speed of the music is
quite fast (MM 95) and the individual notes of Machaut’s melody are quite short, Hill’s
voice is somewhat constrained and does not often have opportunity to vibrate for long.
This means that although Hill has a Western classical trained vocal sound, his singing
here is not overtly operatic or laboured. Hill is also a technically agile singer and this
serves to make the song lighter and perkier than it might be if sung by a more heavy
operatic voice. Yet, this singing is quite obviously in a more conservative Western vein
than the Balkanesque folk-based style of vocal production pioneered by Musica
The St George’s Canzona perform this virelai with Rosemary Harrison,
soprano.543 Their performance is also softer than the ‘Reservata holler’ and actually
closer to an English folk-singer sound. The speed is noticeably slower (MM 77). They
use vielle strings, plucked and bowed with lighter percussion to create a reflective
atmosphere whilst still keeping a dance-like quality.
Three further recordings, each from a later decade, present this virelai as an
unaccompanied monody and it is notable that these recordings were all made after the
1970s. Grupo Cinco Siglos perform the work instrumentally on a transverse flute.544
Gothic Voices use a solo mezzo soprano, and The Orlando Consort a solo tenor.545
These solo renditions are performed simply, without ornamentation or drones. Both solo
voices avoid overtly extrovert performances and present the music modestly and simply
leaving the listener with a lasting melancholic impression.
So this sample of performances again situates Munrow’s monophony on a
colourful, and instrumentally adventurous side of the spectrum. His tempo is upbeat and
the colours of instrumentation and chorus/solo balance all give the listener added
interest. Yet, again, he does not go as far as Musica Reservata (or here, their satellite
group: St George’s Canzona) by using folk-derived vocal styles. Rather, he maintains
Westernized ‘attractive’ singing in a style close to the choral tradition.
Part Two: Case Studies of Medieval Polyphonic Music
In chapters four and five, several important observations concerning singingstyles
in medieval music performances directed by David Munrow and Michael Morrow
were made. Having now identified an important sense of shared cultural space between
key ensembles in the 1960s and 1970s, we must now look at those observations in the
same context. We will consider music from Munrow’s posthumous release Music of the
543 St George's Canzona and Sothcott, A Tapestry of Music for King Wenceslas and His Page.
544 Grupo Cinco Siglos, Unos tan dulces Sones.
545 Page and Gothic Voices, The mirror of Narcissus. And: The Orlando Consort, Scattered Rhymes.
Gothic Era, and end with Dufay. These two case studies allow not only for crossreference
between major recording ensembles but also include both high profile boxed
sets of medieval music that Munrow recorded, the first of which illustrated his
performance practice right at the end of his life.
Anon: On parole de batre
As Emma Dillon has pointed out, this anonymous triple-texted motet is a rare
piece of music where a city itself is the topic of each line of the work.546 As such it has
invited some different approaches, each one attempting to unlock perceived
atmospheres and (re)create the street sounds it preserves and parodies.
Munrow’s recording of On parole de batre comes from one of his last albums,
Music of the Gothic Era, released posthumously on the Archiv label. This move to
Archiv was a single occurrence that had been organized by Jasper Parrott (Munrow’s
agent) who introduced his client to Prof Dr Andreas Holschneider (Polydor
International, Hamburg) with a view to recording for the Archiv label. There is some
evidence to suggest that Munrow was unhappy with the financial constraints which
sometimes compromised programming and forward scheduling of recordings at EMI.
Yet he remained under contract with them, with the EMC, so this recording was made
by special arrangement since it was deemed to be a long-standing negotiation that
predated the last renewal of the EMI agreement.547
A letter in Munrow’s collection, dated September 1975, from Holschneider
mentions the cancellation of a recording session with the words ‘We were all very
worried hearing from your attack […]’, which suggests that Munrow was taken unwell
suddenly. Holschneider continues by saying that Munrow is not to worry about
canceling the recording, and also offers to put him in contact with Prof Mario Fabri
546 Emma Dillon, The Sense of Sound (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 87.
547 Mentioned in a memo: John Willan to John Pattrick, April 4, 1975, EMI Archives Hayes Middlesex.
during his ‘planned tour to Austria and Italy in November this year’, suggesting that
other potential projects were under discussion with Archiv at this time. Holschneider
then thanks David for having ‘saved his life’ as he narrowly missed a bomb explosion
in London the previous week because he was out exploring the places in a good food
guide that Munrow had given him.548 This could be a reassuring gesture to a worried
Munrow that his relationship with Archiv was undamaged by his ‘attack’.549
This glimpse of social history is a preciously rare insight into Munrow’s state of
health in the year before his death and it also sheds light on the importance of the
Archiv contract to him. Archiv can be seen as a more self-conciously intellectual record
label than EMI or DECCA, and as such it was the source of many performances that
influenced a young Munrow, particularly the Trecento recordings of Safford Cape’s Pro
Musica Antiqua and Praetorius dances recorded by the Ulsammer Collegium.
We will consider Munrow’s performance of this Parisian-themed work
alongside two others:
Performers Approx tempo Instrumentation
Various, directed by
Thurston Dart 1967550
125 3 tenors (The singers on this album
are: Raymond Bonté, Jacques
Husson, Jean-Jacques Lesueur and
André Danjou)
Musica Reservata 1968551 150 2 tenors & baritone (Nigel Rogers,
Edgar Fleet, Geoffrey Shaw),
Early Music Consort of
London 1976552
123 2 countertenors & baritone (James
Bowman, Charles Brett, Geoffrey
Shaw), percussion
548 On the 5th September the London Hilton was bombed by the IRA and Holschneider could be referring
to this incident in his letter.
549 Holschneider to Munrow, September 30, 1975, in Papers of David Munrow: DM1/1/5/3 (London:
Royal Academy of Music Special Collections Archive, 1975). Here the assumption is that this was a
personal attack of some sort since it would seem unusual for Holschneider not to comment further if
Munrow’s incident was also an IRA attack or other form of public catastrophe.
550 Thurston Dart and Vokal- und Instrumentalensemble, Notre Dame de Paris Im 13. Jahrhundert,
Philips 839 306 EGY, 1967, LP.
551 Musica Reservata, French Court Music of the Thirteenth Century, Delysé DS 3201, 1968, LP.
552 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Music of the Gothic Era, Archiv Produktion,
Polydor International GmbH DG Archiv 2723 045, 1976, LP.
Dart’s recording of this motet begins like that of a stereophonic test record: the
strawberry seller sings first as he wanders from left to right. Dart explains this rationale
in his LP sleeve notes:
The tenor sings a fragment of a Paris street cry (‘Fresh strawberries! Ripe and
French!’); we have tried to reproduce the effect of someone strolling along the
streets towards the market, selling his wares. The double sings of the splendours
of Paris (‘In Paris by night or by day there is good bread and good claret, good
meat and good fish, good company, fine ladies’ and so on); then the triple joins
in with a second verse in faster rhythm, pattering and chattering its way to the
end; and this miniature street scene ends with the strawberry-seller strolling on
into the distance.553
Dart, in effect, creates a staged scene from what would otherwise be just a sonic
tableau vivant; a brief moment of street life framed by the ambling strawberry-seller
who crosses from left to right, then back again. Indeed, an earlier performance of this
work on disc took this more static approach with all three voices entering together.554
Dart’s recording presumably introduced the singers one by one to make the text clear
without requiring the performers to shout over one another. Despite these staggered
entries, the singing is extremely robust and the technique is clearly from an operatic
framework. At times the singers can be so loud that Leech-Wilkinson has described
these tenors elsewhere on this disc as ‘self-consciously virile’.555
Musica Reservata included this motet on their 1967 album French Court Music
of the Thirteenth Century which was one of the first commercial recordings to really
explore the Balkan influence on singing. Clearly, Dart’s advice from 1960 to make the
music sound ‘robust’ was followed on this track as the singing is loud and penetrating
553 Thurston Dart and Vokal- und Instrumentalensemble, Notre Dame de Paris Im 13. Jahrhundert.
English translation available on Fontana SFL 14133.
554 Anonymous, Polyphonies du XIIIe siècle: [Yvonne Rokseth memorial album], Paris: Cire OL 16
L'Oiseau-lyre, 1950) 6 disques. This recording in available online: Accessed December 4, 2013.
555 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music: Scholarship, Ideology,
Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 85.
and the tempo is brisk.556 Morrow has also decided to insert a single large drum, which
is struck loudly and unrelentingly throughout. The combination of three loud voices (all
quite high in their range) with this drum makes for an explosive entry, the energy of
which does not abate during the course of the music.
Munrow may well have heard one or both versions of this motet mentioned
above before October 1967 when he included it in one of his first BBC broadcasts with
the Early Music Consort of London. It was performed with Robert Spencer singing
tenor and Munrow, who also wrote the announcer’s script, introducing it with a joke
about the delights of Paris:
In the motet, the most sophisticated musical form of its age, composers tried to
make the different voices as distinct as possible, usually giving them separate
texts to be sung simultaneously as in the first example which has three, 'A Paris -
On Parole - Frèse nouvelle'. Here the tenor, sung by Robert Spencer is
apparently a street cry with 'Fresh strawberries, wild blackberries'. It is repeated
while the upper parts extol the delights of Paris which do not seem to have
changed much over the centuries. 'There is no life so good as being at ease, with
good clear wine and capons, to be with good companions, and to have when one
needs them fair ladies to solace us as we wish'.557
When, in 1976, Munrow came to record this track on Music of the Gothic Era,
he scored it quite differently. This time, a baritone—Geoffrey Shaw—took the part of
the street seller; he stands still in the left hand speaker and after one statement of his
song the countertenor—Charles Brett—and a small tabor joins in, and a gentle dialogue
is begun. After the first statement of Brett’s part a second countertenor—James
Bowman—sings his, higher, chattering part. This trio is recorded in a generous acoustic
so that it actually sounds somewhat like the burble of street chatter bouncing around the
narrow streets of a crowded city. The tempo is brisk but the singing is unhurried and
casual in character so that the overall effect is charming rather than realistic. It ends on
556 Details of this correspondence between Dart and Morrow can be found in chapter four.
557 David Munrow, "Notes for BBC Monday Concert, October 30th, 1967," in Papers of David Munrow:
DM7/1 (London: Royal Academy of Music Special Collections Archive, 1967).
well-tuned final chord which reverberates for a second or two after the singers are
This latter approach from Munrow is a noticeable departure from his
performance in 1967. Of course, one can argue that in 1967 Munrow was constrained
by the available budget for a lunchtime recital and could not afford three singers in
addition to the instrumentalists used for the rest of the programme; however, there are
other examples (Guillaume De Machaut: Lasse! Comment Oublieray) also on Music of
the Gothic Era that suggest Munrow was increasingly interested in an all vocal sound
for Medieval motets where text survived in all voices. This, indeed, could have been
one of the reasons for Munrow’s apparent move away from the smaller-scaled
programmes that he regularly performed with his touring band of five musicians and his
reluctance to record the proposed Music for Poets and Peasants with EMI in deference
for the larger budget Music of the Gothic Era on Archiv.
Christopher Hogwood once pointed to Munrow’s later medieval performances
as possibly heralding the way forward for medieval music as it was performed in the
immediate post-Munrow years, and certainly indicative of a new direction in Munrow’s
music-making towards the end of his life:
[CH] - What David left unfinished was a more focused view on vocal music and
religious music and that was certainly followed up by Gothic Voices. And I
think we would never have had Hildegard and things like that had there not been
this move away from the cheer-raising sort of rauschpfeife solo and estampies
with heavy drumming from amateur drummers like myself in the background. I
mean it was a sort of tribal art being delivered; it was a bit of a campfire scene.
And I think the Chris Page’s approach to repertoire and scholarship must have
sprung partly from the fact that it was a sort of more esoteric repertoire, it
needed facts producing for it and therefore the people, at least, in charge of it
were very much on their metal as musicologists as well as performers. I don’t
think David would have suffered in the public eye if the musicology had been all
wrong but the performance had been exciting. And I think the next generation
definitely, headed by people who had credentials as musicologists or were
musicologists coming out and saying ‘I think the music I research should also be
performed’ and people saying ‘ I think old French and its pronunciation has to
be investigated’ you can’t just make it up any longer you have to do it
accurately. They carried much more credibility and because they went into that
sort of detail as musicologists, their reputation was on the line. They wanted the
performances to match that type of sound and exactitude.558
Hogwood is also suggesting that Munrow’s performances although leading the
way for a more considered approach to Medieval music, did not go far enough in the
eyes of the next generation of scholar/performers. In this programme, after playing a
clip of Gothic Voices performing Machaut’s Douce dame jolie, the presenter Humphrey
Burton comments on the stark vocal sound, devoid of instrumental colours and suggests
that it reflected the search for ‘a new spirituality and purity in music.’ Christopher Page
himself voiced his own theory:
[CP] - The audience for vocal performances of medieval music in some parts of
England is very good. Can be very good. And maybe if people can’t have
crumhorns and a strange and rumbustuous Middle Ages they’ll have, as it were,
a rather cathedralish one; and the purity of the voices—trained sometimes in
cathedrals or collegiate chapels—is another kind of medieval past that people
will accept. It is, as it were, slightly austere and soaring. Maybe soon we’ll find
the middle ground.559
And it is here that Page neatly summarises the two contrasting approaches for
us: ‘rumbustuous’ or ‘cathedralish’. Munrow’s performance of On parole de batre
would appear to fall into the latter category, whilst Morrow and Dart’s recordings fall
into the former.
Dufay: Vergine Bella
Vergine Bella is the penultimate track on The Art of Courtly Love, and it is also
the last vocal track to feature in the boxed sets of LPs. It is performed as a solo for
countertenor voice (James Bowman) accompanied by two viols. It seems appropriate to
offer it here as a final case study since Munrow described this work as Dufay’s ‘greatest
song’ and highlighted the lack of formes fixes which allows the composer to produce ‘a
through composed song in which the flow of music serenely matches that of the text.’560
558 Christopher Hogwood speaking on: Burton, After Munrow.
559 Christopher page speaking on: ibid.
560 From liner notes by David Munrow to: Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of
Courtly Love.
Vergine bella is a prayer to the Virgin Mary and is translated by Martin Freeman
into English as:
Oh fair Virgin, who, decked in sunlight and crowned with stars, did so please the
mighty sun that he hid his light in you. Love prompts me to sing your praises.
But without your help and that of him who, out of love, came to dwell in you, I
cannot even begin. I pray to you who have always answered the pleas of the
faithful. Oh Virgin, if the utter misery of man’s lot has ever moved you to pity,
heed my prayer. Help me in my hour of need, even though I am but earth and
you the queen of heaven.561
The prayerful quality of this song is brought out in the intimate approach taken
by all three ensembles in this study. The singers are recorded quite closely and the
strings lull into the background during the vocal line to create a bed of accompaniment
rather than to imply lines of an equally balanced polyphonic texture.
Table 1: Dufay Vergine bella
Performers Approx
Instrumentation Vocalist
Pro Musica Antiqua
1953 (?)562
100 Voice and fiddles? Mezzo-Soprano: Jeanne
Early Music Consort of
London 1973563
95 Voice and viols Countertenor: James
Studio der frühen Musik
125 Voice and Vielles? Mezzo-soprano:
Andrea von Ramm
Tempo in the above table can be a slightly misleading factor since none of the
performances maintains a constant speed, but rather responds to an implied ebb and
flow in the musical line, with notable ralentandos on the lead to cadences.
Of the three performances, it is Pro Musica Antiqua and the Early Music
Consort of London that sound most like close relatives. Studio der frühen Musik, on the
other hand, maintain a slithery, changeable approach to phrasing with characteristically
approximate tuning, and rhythmic coordination subjugated in view of the longer-range
561 Translation by Martin Freeman in: ibid.
562 Pro Musica Antiqua and Safford Cape, Series A: The Florentine Group « 8 Madrigals and Caccias
from Codex of Antonio Squarcialupi » / Series D: The Netherlanders to Ockeghem « Guillaume Dufay: 8
Sacred Songs », III. Research Period - The Early Renaissance, Archiv Produktion APM 14019, 1953, LP.
563 Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, The Art of Courtly Love.
564 Thomas Binkley and Studio der frühen Musik, Guillaume Dufay - Adieu m'amour, EMI "Reflexe" 1C
063-30 124, 1974, LP.
reach of each line. Binkley would appear to have a consistently esoteric approach to the
medieval vocal repertoire which does not appear to influence Munrow to any noticeable
effect. This is in stark contrast to Binkley’s Arabicized accompaniments which we
heard echoed in Munrow’s Saltarello performances. Instrumental influences from
Binkley can certainly be detected in Munrow’s work, but they are not apparent in vocal
Rather than phrasing or tempo, it is vibrato which proves, yet again, to be a
defining feature of the Munrow/Bowman performance. Indeed, vibrato serves to define
a different approach in all three performances under consideration here. Take for
instance the three solo notes set to the syllables of Ver-gi-ne that open the work as
performed by Pro Musica Antiqua:
Figure 83 Pro Musica Antiqua: Vergine Bella. Opening.
We can see from the spectrogram that the mezzo soprano Jeanne Deroubaix
sings the first three notes lightly before opening out into a fairly regular vibrato on the
first long note of the next bar.
This is even more pronounced at the end of that first musical phrase on the last
syllable of the work ‘vestita’:
Figure 84 Pro Musica Antiqua: Vergine Bella. End of first phrase.
A regular, but more slight, vibrato is also heard in the accompanying strings
leading to a mid-century chamber music sound which could be equally applicable to
Schubert or other romantic song conceived on a small scale. The voice is not projected
aggressively or even in an overtly impassioned way, but it does use considerable
diaphragmatic support and, as a consequence, vibrato, particularly on notes at the peak
of phrases.
In contrast to this, from the Early Music Consort of London we see Bowman’s
first group of three notes have a vibrato-led emphasis on the second beat:
Figure 85 Early Music Consort of London: Vergine Bella. First entry.
Bowman employs a typical vibrato pattern on the end of the second syllable,
which develops the oscillation towards the end of the note to ‘warm’ the sound. That the
vibrato is irregular creates a less obviously operatic or trained sound and also makes the
note appear to be more straight-toned than it really is. This development of vibrato on
the second syllable emphasizes the way Bowman lingers on that note, tucking the third
note in gently to create a springboard for the peak of the first phrase—‘bella’—with a
slight vocal slide as the voice leaves the initial consonant. On the first vowel of ‘bella’
we again see the familiar developing vibrato mannerism of Bowman.
This microcosm of activity relegates the whole group of three notes on the word
‘Vergine’ to a feeling of upbeat into the rest of the piece. Each note develops a little
more vibrato than the last which signifies a build-up of energy. These arch-shapes of
energy which can also be detected to a lesser extent in the Pro Musica Antiqua
recording are not seen with the Studio der frühen Musik.
Figure 86 Studio der frühen Musik: Vergine Bella. Opening.
The surface of this recording is quite still with fewer expressive surges of
volume and intensity. Andrea von Ramm etches the first three notes quite clearly with
equal emphasis after which the first phrase simply slithers towards its final note. There
is no climax, just a feeling of moving onwards to a predefined destination.
What is remarkable about Binkley’s performance is, again, the sense of
ensemble. Tempo is frequently adjusted during a phrase so that cadences can be
tumbled towards and then placed gently with a rallentando, yet all this happens with no
loss of ensemble, nor is there a feeling that one person is dictating such changes. It is a
telepathic style that appears to be foreign to Munrow whose own performance of
Vergine bella would appear to gently update Cape’s recording with ‘popular and
attractive’ Early Music Consort of London features.
Munrow’s notable style features would appear, again, to be the developing
vibrato on longer notes (which is arguably a feature of Bowman’s voice also) and a
keen ear for instrumentation. The viols are possibly anachronistic for Dufay but they
provide a luscious and warm bed of accompaniment that feels both fuller and less
obtrusive than in the other two performances. Presumably viols are used here to
deputise for vielles? The singing, although falsetto was still reasonably novel for 1974,
is phrased in a reasonably traditional manner through an arch shape, but cadences are
never laboured in the manner of Cape’s ensemble, so that the motet as a whole
maintains forward momentum. This is a very atmospheric and thoughtful performance
that owes much to the style of renaissance polyphony as sung by leading Oxbridge
practitioners in the 1970s.
These case studies, despite touching upon music separated by a large timespan
within the medieval period, continually suggest certain connections between Munrow
and the practices of Musica Reservata, and also broad themes in performance such as
vocal production (vibrato in particular) and extrovert instrumental technique coupled
with fast tempi. These studies are poorer for the lack of filmed performances which
could have offered a deeper understanding of the ensemble dynamics and, of course, the
lack of oral history interviews with the directors, most of whom have now passed away.
What these studies do achieve, however, is the highlighting of consistent themes
in Munrow’s performance that mark him out as both developing Musica Reservata
practices in a different direction, rejecting some other performance options practised
mainly by non-British ensembles and, possibly most importantly of all, as heralding a
more ‘cathedralish’ approach to the Middle Ages which was to prove popular in the
years after his death.
Chapter 7 Discussion and Conclusions
In this concluding chapter of the thesis, four main themes which have emerged from the
new research documented in previous chapters are extrapolated and discussed in the
context of their contribution to Munrow’s performance practice: Revivals, Pioneers,
Personalities and Style. The interactions between these themes are also explored before
being weighed against the existing literature reviewed in chapter one. Finally, and by
way of conclusion, the original aims and research question associated with this thesis
are reconsidered in the light of this new research.
It is both an irony and a truism that the story of opera’s creation and
development can be told as a history of its revivals, and the same dictum could just as
easily be applied to early music. It appears throughout this thesis that the EMC belongs
to a period of the early music revival which is quite different to today’s more overtly
scholarly approach and, at the same time, quite different from the early music that Dart
once described as being played with ‘kidgloves’ in the 1940s and 1950s. Different too
were the even earlier performances of the Dolmetsch family or the charismatic
performances of Wanda Landowska. Large and operatically influenced singing in use
across all styles throughout the mid-century period, such as the example of The Prague
Madrigal Singers, simply display the prevailing vocal technique of their time—one
voice fits all styles—and this is the very approach which seems to have waned in the
post-Munrow period. If we consider this as indicative of the changing face of early
music then there is clearly a level of delineation at work within the twentieth-century
early music revival that could be usefully considered as series of smaller stages.565
However, since each generation paints a new picture of early music—which is always
possible when so little evidence survives—the stages can be thought of as reinventions.
Vincenzo Borghetti compartmentalized such smaller revivals in the last half of
the twentieth century by linking them with the broad changes of fashion observable in
each decade.566 Whilst this provided a useful sketch and a potent aide-mémoire for the
chronology of the revival, I am mindful that Kailan Rubinoff also found that she could
usefully argue for a focused investigation of the single year 1968 since this was of
central importance for not only the revival of early music but also a number of other
social and political movements of that decade.567
Rubinoff’s focus on 1968 is slightly misleading since she uses this date as a
moniker for ‘The ‘long 1968’ (circa 1965-1975)’ as a transitional period where ‘HIP
concerts flourished and period instruments were widely adopted.’568 This period is in
taut alignment with the span of Munrow’s professional musical activities, drawing
attention to his influence on this musical revival. Furthermore, Rubinoff explored the
wider sense of revival in operation during the late 1960s seeking connections between
HIP and wider social and political protest at that time. She quoted Thomas Kelly to
make this point:
to the extent that early music was seen as non-traditional, and participatory
(there were, and are, a great many summer workshops where early music is
played), it could be seen as part of a cultural trend toward music of the people,
music without pretense, music that expresses a general union of popular and
565 Here, again, I invoke the title of: Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music:
Scholarship, Ideology, Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
566 Vincenzo Borghetti, "Purezza e trasgressione: il suono del Medioevo dagli anni Cinquanta ad oggi "
Semicerchio XLIV, no. 1 (2011), 37-54.
567 Kailan Rubinoff, "A Revolution in Sheep's Wool Stockings: Early Music and '1968' " in Music and
Protest in 1968, ed., Beate Kutschke and Barley Norton, Music Since 1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univerity Press, 2013), 237-254.
568 Ibid., 239.
569 Thomas Kelly, Early Music: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 3.
Quoted in: Rubinoff, A Revolution in Sheep's Wool Stockings, 238.
The phrase ‘music of the people’ is evocative of folk music rhetoric. However,
following such comments through Rubinoff’s essay we observe how her study is largely
centered on baroque repertoire, which makes one mindful of John Potter’s observation
of how the revolution in instrumental techniques was unmatched by singing styles.570
Much work remains to be done if connections between medieval music and other
revolutionary developments and revival of the 1960s are to be explored. This thesis has,
however, already highlighted the work of A. L. Lloyd with Musica Reservata as one
such connection but further studies may usefully explore the relationships between
Munrow and folk music, ethnomusicology and jazz. Jasper Parrott invoked such
connections when he stated that Munrow’s Peruvian adventure left him with a sense that
music ‘was all joined up’.571 However these connections unfold, there seems to be a
general consensus to view the 1960s and early 1970s as a chapter of revivals.
Elizabeth Upton has also suggested a four-stage model for early music revivals:
the postwar baroque revival, the ‘original-instruments’ response to that revival, an
interest in ‘older, extinct instruments’ and ‘a response to the requirements of
unaccompanied, one-per-part vocal music’.572 I also note that as I write, 2013 marks an
anniversary year for Early Music magazine and several leading ensembles founded in
1973, another year which has recently featured heavily in a book-length study about
Early Music.573 So from just these examples we see that the choice of delineation is
clearly a balancing of key moments and developments, which leaves one to question
how wide open the revival in general may be to any kind of compartmentalization one
might wish to bring to it? An artist who has a catalytic effect on others, as Munrow did,
570 Quoted on page 29 of this thesis.
571 Quoted on page 95 of this thesis.
572 Elizabeth Upton, "Concepts of Authenticity in Early Music and Popular Music Communities,"
Ethnomusicology Review 17 (2012), accessed September 1, 2013,
573 Nick Wilson, The Art of Re-enchantment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
needs to be seen in relation to both key moments and developments if his role and
significance is to be assessed fully. Neither an individual artist not the early music
revival as a whole can be explained fully through synchronic or diachronic means alone;
it is a combination of historical trajectories that involve social, historical and
musicological influences all in operation against a backdrop of chance encounters which
result in fruitful collaborations. In fact, the one artist who appears to stand aside from
the concept of chance encounters with mentor-like musicians is Michael Morrow whose
ideas appear to be almost entirely sui generis, although it is not possible to make such a
claim with any security whilst more exhaustive biographical details are lacking. Daniel
Leech-Wilkinson, identifying instances when performance has led musicology, has
pioneered a useful approach to the history of the early music revival.574 As far back as
1966 it became obvious that performers were asking that musicologists provide them
with more tools to help them realize the music and this was summed up by Noah
The developments in the field of musical performance have been so numerous
and have happened so quickly that certain aspects of scholarly work have not
kept pace. Whereas performers for decades felt free to ignore the patient and
adventurous labors of musical scholars, today it is the performers who are
making adventurous demands upon scholarship without whose guidance their
undertakings are unduly perilous. Before our performers journey too far, I think
the scholarly world should be apprised of their course.575
Greenberg was no lone voice in this matter. During the course of this thesis we
have also seen other instances of the performers themselves noting changes in
performance practice such as Philip Pickett’s plea in the 1980s for audiences to take
574 Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music. Also of significance to this argument is
"Musicology and Performance," in Music's Intellectual History, ed., Zdravko Blažeković and Barbara
Dobbs Mackenzie (New York: RILM, 2009), 791-803. In which Leech-Wilkinson explores the chickenand-
egg relationship between musicology and performance but in different repertoires (Schubert,
575 Noah Greenberg, "Early Music Performance Today," in Aspects of Medieval & Renaissance Music: A
Birthday Offering to Gustave Reese, ed., Jan LaRue (New York: Norton, 1966), 316.
their ‘rosy spectacles off’ when considering recordings of medieval music from the
previous decade. 576
Taking these two remarks by leading performers of medieval music as bookends
leads us to understand how Borghetti approached his decade-by-decade division of the
revival mentioned above. Greenberg’s comments suggested that a conservative phase of
performance ended at some point prior to his time of writing (1966) when performances
had simply realized the printed scores in a modern manner without addressing the few
points of performance guidance that were available. He then saw his post-1966 phase as
a more adventurous one where performers had to go-it-alone when attempting different
styles of early music performance because there was simply not enough musicological
work undertaken to satisfy their demands. Yet by the early 1990s, Pickett looked back
on the 1960s and 1970s and suggested that great musicological advances had been made
during the 1980s which increased the accuracy of historical performance practice as
compared to Munrow’s overt and joyful performances of the 1970s.
So a threefold period begins to unfold like a triptych with the four groups that
have been the mainstay of this study—New York Pro Musica, Studio der frühen Musik,
Musica Reservata and The Early Music Consort of London—in the central panel.
Flanking them are, on one side, earlier ensembles such as Pro Musica Antiqua and
possibly the early work of Noah Greenberg who performed closer to the prevailing
styles of his time (vocal tone in particular). On the other side we see the post-
Munrow/post-Morrow ensembles such as Gothic Voices (Page) who followed closely
the new developments in musicology and pursued a less extroverted instrumental
approach eventually coming to a vocal texture not unlike that being used in sacred
renaissance music.
576 Philip Pickett interviewed on: “After Munrow,” Anthony Burton, Early Memories, aired 1992, BBC
Radio 3. British Library Sound Archive reference: H777/01.
Perhaps the seeds for this new wave of medievalist performer-scholars were
sown in 1973 when, as Nick Wilson noted in his recent study, many of today’s leading
ensembles specializing in the later periods of early music were founded.577 Wilson
divides the early music movement roughly into two halves: Authenticity1 and
Authenticity2. The former can be summarized as medieval/renaissance/baroque (Musica
Reservata, The Early Music Consort of London et al) and the latter category largely
refers to baroque, Beethoven and beyond, or the ‘Class of ‘73’ as Wilson dubs them
(The Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert, The Taverner Consort et al).
This is by no means a catchall scenario but a very useful starting point for structuring a
survey. The division is arrived at through a rigorous argument: rather than cleave the
authenticities in two immediately, Wilson first problematized the field in what can only
be described as an Ockeghemesque stroke of numerology: he took the seven ages of
man (Shakespeare, As You Like It) and plotted the early music revival across it, thus
arriving at 1973 as a pivot point. This is a neat device since it also broadly encompassed
the previous studies by Rubinoff, Upton and Borghetti. The vigorously objective
approach that appeared to gather pace after 1973 may well mark the start of the
‘modern’ baroque-orchestra sound and may also have been what Pickett, Page and
others took as a model for their objective approach to medieval music.
This is, of course, a case for a different thesis, but worth mentioning in passing
in order to point up the centrality of the Munrow-phase of the revival. And with just
such a broad plan in mind, this thesis explored the central panel of that triptych in terms
of the evidence of sound recordings.
577 Nick Wilson, The Art of Re-enchantment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
Having explored aspects of the differences in performance practice by the four
central performing groups of the 1960s and 1970s it is fruitful to consider, for a
moment, the similarities that have also surfaced during this study.
The overriding similarity seems to be the approach taken by the directors. The
pioneering spirit so essential to twentieth-century performances of early music seems to
have been driven primarily by musicians with a non-standard musical education. Such
unusual routes into music appear to have contributed to their desire for non-standard
performance. On one level this is self-fulfilling since a conservatoire student would
have focused on standard repertoire in the 1960s and may not have had the opportunity
to meet early music. If a performer had already decided to perform early music there
was no point, then, in going to a conservatoire. Similarly, if you wanted to be a
performer there was no necessity to read music at university. So we have no reason to
expect early music people to have had a standard music education when they had no
need of it, especially in the repertoires where performance is more technically
simplistic.578 Whatever the reasoning behind this lack of standardization it certainly
appears to have left them with more open minds, and it should follow that as twentyfirst
century performers often go to conservatoire to learn to be early musicians their
performances sound more standardized, and many critics feel that it does. This was the
focus of a paper in the 40th anniversary issue of Early Music where Bonnie Blackburn
commented: ‘The performance ideal of balanced voices and uniform tempo and
dynamics is not a medieval or Renaissance principle.’579
578 I mean this comment to be read solely in the light of ‘getting the notes right’ rather than any notion of
style, taste or interpretation.
579 A recent, and thoughtful, essay on this topic was featured in the 40th anniversary issue of the Early
Music journal: Bonnie J. Blackburn, “Tramline music,” Early Music 41, No.1 (2013): 52-53. Another
recent example can be found in the writings of Bruce Haynes who coins the term ‘click-track baroque’ for
modern HIP performances that eschew rubato: Bruce Haynes, The End of Early Music (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2007), 60.
The foremost example of this pioneering spirit, however, comes from the world
of instrument making and organology of which Arnold Dolmestch is one of the earliest
celebrities. Dolmetsch is no isolated case, however, as similar non-standard
backgrounds are seen in Dart (who is representative of a generation whose education
was disrupted by the second world war), Greenberg, Morrow and, as I have argued,
Munrow himself. For a variety of personal reasons, these artists were all able to operate
outside of the chamber-music model and were not dissuaded by the perceived
eccentricity of early music. In fact there have been cases where it seems that
eccentricity and defamiliarisation were deliberately courted, such as Michael Morrow’s
entirely plausible comment ‘Whatever we know or don’t know about 13th century
singing and, God knows, there’s very little we can say for certain about it, we may be
certain that it didn’t sound like 20th century singing.’580 This is not to say that the raison
d'être for any one of these four performing groups should be seen as promoting the art
of being different for its own sake; rather, that an approach was sought which could
navigate the potential rabbit holes in twentieth-century aesthetics and expectations by
robustly defending links to potential vestiges of past practices: the twin medievalisms of
folk and world music and their assorted echoes of ancient instruments.
Having said that, there are important nuances at play between the ensembles:
Greenberg’s pioneering spirit can be seen chiefly in both his ability to introduce
audiences to such unfamiliar instruments and unfamiliar music and his genius for
persuading record companies that his product was worth marketing. For Greenberg, the
challenge began by performing music from the medieval to baroque periods and
persuading audiences to listen to it. Building on the work of Safford Cape and others
Greenberg raised the bar by igniting a public interest in larger personality performances.
Binkley’s pioneering spirit was less multi-instrumental since much of his work was
580 Michael Morrow, “The Performance of Medieval and Renaissance Music,” c.1970, Papers of Michael
Morrow (1929-1994) & Musica Reservata. King's College London Archives.
undertaken with a quartet. This quartet’s performances are infused with Binkley’s desire
to explore methods of bridging unknowable parameters in early music—most notably
music of the minstrels—by seeking inspiration from the accompaniment and
improvisation techniques of musical practices in India, Morocco and Andalusia. This
has frequently been dubbed as an extension of the ‘Oriental hypothesis’, or passed off as
overtly Arabicized. With Morrow, folk models also suggested useful templates for
performance but they tended to be drawn from European sources—the Balkans in
particular—and informed by a concept of congruity between the instrumental and vocal
styles rather than a personal lexicon of improvisatory techniques. Morrow’s Musica
Reservata performances were often robust and loud affairs drawing on outdoor styles of
folk music from the Balkans. For Munrow, however, there were no such instantly
identifiable templates since his was a magpie approach that drew on the many folk
connections made by these other ensembles, but which he fused with the familiar and
‘attractive’ sounds of the English choral tradition as it was beginning to take shape
during the reign of David Willcocks over the choir of King’s College Cambridge.
Notable too were late 1960s recordings of renaissance repertoire by The Clerkes of
Oxenford (whose recording of Spem in alium Munrow chose as a desert island disc) and
the clear tone of The Swingle Singers.581 A study with a different focus might also
detect links between some of Munrow’s performances and the growing revival and
commercialization of British folk music in the 1970s in audiences, instrument-makers
and repertoire.582 Closely aligned with notions of performance practice was Munrow’s
ability to compile and deliver concerts of interest to the public. Performance practice, as
such, does not stretch far enough to incorporate Munrow’s skill at marketing and
enterprise: ‘musicking’ might have been a better term.
581 Details of Munrow’s selection for the BBC radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’ can be seen online:
"Desert Island Discs: David Munrow,"
582 The links between commercial folk music and the early music revival are discussed in Upton,
"Concepts of Authenticity in Early Music and Popular Music Communities."
This leads to an overarching summary that Munrow, rather than pioneering a
single particular performance practice, made several notable contributions to a
performance practice which, having roots in the work of others, he developed in his
own distinctive manner and promoted in a way which chimed with the early 1970s
The public, it would seem, did not only consume early music out of historical
curiosity, many of them went to concerts because the music was presented to them in a
format that they found both informative and entertaining. It is through manners of
presentation that we can begin to understand the central importance of the four key
personalities at play in the medieval music revival of the 1960s and 1970s. It takes a
certain type of curiosity to explore the craft of playing old, and at that time obsolete,
instruments and a particular intellectual ability to programme the repertoire in
performance. It is, however, an entirely different skill to present this music to the public
through performance, broadcast, talks, lectures and television programmes. The public
needed figureheads, interpreters if you like, to affect an introduction between them and
the sounds of early music; Thurston Dart, Noah Greenberg and David Munrow are key
examples of that type of personality in the English-speaking world; Thomas Binkley
more so in continental Europe. Yet, as we have seen, Michael Morrow continually
refused to take part in the world of regular broadcasting, touring and lecture recitals and
this is perhaps why, more than the other ensembles, Musica Reservata was beset with
continual financial difficulties since they could not rely on regular income from repeat
programming on tour.
Munrow, in particular, appears to have been a true multi-platform personality.
He traversed with apparent ease the medium of public lecture and print journalism
through to television and radio broadcast often with minimal special effects and
certainly without the battery of historicized reconstruction footage that accompanies
modern music history broadcasts. Indeed, Munrow’s work with the BBC was, as we
have seen, an anchor in the early days of his career, and throughout the 1970s was the
dominant contributory fact in Munrow and the EMC gaining the status of household
names, insomuch as that has ever been possible in early music. By appealing to an entry
level audience for both early music and classical music, Munrow’s name became
synonymous with enjoyable, informative broadcasting. This public profile, in turn,
offered Munrow a springboard from which he tirelessly publicized and promoted his
EMC concerts and recordings. Attention to detail at every stage of the concert process
even led to Munrow taking new EMC LP stock on his Australia tour to sell after
concerts, a fact that did not escape a note of admiration in EMI internal
Another factor unique to these four ensembles is that their individual members,
as well as directors, were also pioneers. Much of the success of the performances lies
with the fact that these pioneering directors found pioneering performers who could,
and would, put new ideas into practice. This is most pronounced in the case of the lead
solo singers of each ensemble. Russell Oberlin (countertenor with the New York Pro
Musica), Andrea von Ramm (mezzo soprano with Studio der frühen Musik), Jantina
Noorman (mezzo soprano with Musica Reservata) and James Bowman (countertenor
with the EMC). That each of these singers performed in alto range with a non-Westernstandard
vocal technique was no coincidence.
583 John Pattrick, memo to worldwide offices, July 12, 1974, EMI Archives Hayes Middlesex.
The most obvious style-trait explored was the minimal vibrato sound. This, it
seems, has been a clarion call of the early music revivalists since Musica Reservata’s
performances began to turn heads in the 1960s. As chapter five explored, in Munrow’s
hands this hard-line approach to clarity and tuning softened somewhat as it absorbed
influences from folk and choral singing. Chiefly, Munrow’s achievement seems to have
been that he directed performances notable for a selective use of vibrato towards the
ends of sung notes rather than continuously throughout them. This is certainly a trait
that is instantly recognizable in the later performances of many other early musicians
too and seems to have stemmed from Alfred Deller and Cleo Laine, both favourite
singers of Munrow.
Munrow seems to have worked out, quite early on in his recording career, that it
is the top line that most defines the sound of a small ensemble. For instance, Martyn
Hill regularly used much more vibrato than James Bowman ever did, and Munrow’s
changing soprano line-up seems to suggest a search for a high sound that was never
quite achieved. In this respect, Munrow is in line with the other four ensembles in
letting alto soloists dominate vocal styles.
The clear texture produced by a minimal vibrato sound in turn left less
negotiation for inexact tuning or directionless phrasing. With most of the early
twentieth century mannerisms trimmed from performance it became increasingly
important to develop ensemble skills in new ways. The methods of drumming and
cadencing (by adding an extra bar) in medieval dances were discussed in chapter six
and these, also, seem to have drawn on the Balkan influenced styles that Musica
Reservata had pioneered.
Folk and world music too provided an almost inexhaustible supply of models
that early music ensembles could use. In this regard Munrow was no different to so
many other performers but his approach, as I have already mentioned, was one of
blending where the soft, easy sounds of South American pipes could find themselves in
the same mix as a folk-influenced English singer and an improvised percussion part.
When James Bowman referred to Munrow’s South American travels as having ‘made
him exotic’ he invoked a sense of orientalism as defined by Edward Said.584 Munrow’s
invocation of the East in his concert talks and notes happened at one of the last points
where a connection could be made between everyday life and the past. The comment ‘it
is still possible to make your living as a shawm player on the streets of Cairo today’
must have come during the very last few years that this was true and Munrow, as we
have seen, was aware that people were at heart collectors and liked to surround
themselves with historical artifacts, be they books or albums of old music.585 It is
important to reiterate here that Munrow, like Morrow, was interested in Cairo’s shawm
players not because he thought their tradition was unchanged from medieval times, but
rather because he sought to learn more about general shawm technique and repertoire.
Modern practice, he hoped, would contain vestiges of older styles, however unknowable
those traces might be.
Munrow, would have also been aware of the potency of world music for a small
but significant number of War veterans, some just 20 years his senior, anxious to taste
more of a lifestyle glimpsed on overseas leave. That there were LPs available
(Folkways and Topic Records to name just two) that he could feature on his reel ‘What
Should It All Sound Like?’ described in chapter 5, may have been in part due to the
number of Westerners who ‘had a good war’ including visits to remote regions. When
Munrow drew connections between early (folk) instruments and early music in his BBC
584 Bowman makes this comment, quoted in full in chapter one, when speaking on: "Mr Munrow, His
Study," presented by Jeremy Summerly, aired January 07, 2006, on BBC Radio 4.
585 The Cairo comment is made in several places, this exact example quoted is on: David Munrow, "Reed
Instruments," in Ancestral Voices, produced by Paul Kriwaczek, aired May 1976, on BBC Television.
television series, he was relying on low-level general knowledge of, or general interest
in, such cultures.586
What Munrow ended up creating was a 1970s medievalism; an understanding of
the past based on a composite picture that was assembled from those aspects of
scholarly evidence and anthropological speculation that chimed with what the public
found palatable.
The central research questions of this thesis asked if it would be possible to
indentify influences on the performance of medieval music by David Munrow and The
Early Music Consort of London and also, if it would be possible to isolate particular
performance practice traits that were unique to David Munow and his Consort in
medieval music?
Of the many influences discussed in this thesis, it is possible to situate Munrow
as an enthusiastic heir to the Musica Reservata philosophy with some important
crossover also with Studio der frühen Musik. However, it would not be reasonable to
suggest he was a wholesale copyist of either style. Important research undertaken by
Morrow and other organologists and academic musicologists was indeed consumed by
Munrow and used, quite accurately, in performance. Yet what Munrow appears to have
done, however, is to hold back from pursuing these ideas to their logical, and often
coldly objective, conclusions when he thought it would obscure an audience’s
understanding of the music. What one critic dubbed as ‘playing to the gallery’ might
also be thought of more kindly as an attempt to meet his audience half way.587
586 See: Munrow, "Origins and Flutes," in Ancestral Voices.
587 ‘Playing to the gallery’ was a turn of phrase used by Robert Donington on: "David Munrow," Michael
Oliver, aired May 15, 1977, on BBC radio.
This point might best be illustrated by two broad examples: first, when Binkley
and the Studio der frühen Musik used Andalusian influences to generate potential
accompaniment patterns in the monophonic songs of the troubadours and trouvères,
Munrow also used such influences and patterns but avoided Binkley’s long, meandering
improvisatory preludes and interludes, preferring to keep his instrumental sections
shorter and more suited to the attention span of a concert audience. He also adapted the
songs more drastically when in the recording studio by performing only selected verses
so that he could represent a greater variety of music on a single album rather than
presenting just a few very long and highly repetitive songs. Secondly, with Musica
Reservata influences, the notion of vocal and instrumental congruity so cleverly
assembled and argued by Michael Morrow often led to performances where singers
were required to blend with the harsh, reedy sounds of crumhorns. Munrow was careful
frequently to match his singers with softer plucked or warm bowed strings so as to
avoid the need for such nasality from the singers. Where Munrow did use reedy sounds
was often in solo instrumental passages or in medieval motets when an argument for
differentiation of melodic lines could be made.
Combined with a particular skill for careful programming and a flair for
showmanship in performance, Munrow’s avoidance of the harder line in each case was
an attempt to find attractive routes through existing scholarship. After he began to pay
greater attention to avoiding anachronistic instrumentation, nothing he did directly
contradicted scholarship, but it certainly pushed the more commercially viable findings
of such scholarship to the fore.
The use of ‘triangulation’ comparisons between archival evidence, recorded
sound and interviews has proven a fruitful path for exploring Munrow’s medieval
legacy. Many recordings and broadcasts have come to light and been dated by crossreferencing
between archives and these have broadly accorded to the recollections
gathered from interviews and oral histories. Yet, it was noticeable that comments about
vibrato did not reveal the full extent of the vibrato used by Munrow and his Consort in
performance and this, in turn, has implications for the empirical study of recordings as a
musicological tool. Not only did the recorded evidence serve to lend weight or
clarification with points raised by interviews, but it also revealed new and interesting
details, which justify such analysis as a useful tool. Furthermore this makes a powerful
case for the preservation of recordings alongside more traditional archival
Finally, the central result gained through the empirical analysis of recordings in
this thesis has been able to identify a performance practice trait specific to Munrow and
his Consort in the field of vocal style and ‘developing vibrato’. The use of lighter,
nimble voices with warming vibrato qualities withheld from the beginnings of notes.
Furthermore, this practice was found to be most notable on the upper lines of
polyphonic textures. In instrumental music this crystalised tuning and created nimble,
accurately tuned performances, and in a cappella music it helped create a clear texture
sympathetic to the British choral tradition.
Postscript: influences and legacy
Important careers were launched under the auspices of David Munrow and the
EMC and, as has been regularly attested in the interviews undertaken for this thesis,
countless careers have been inspired by their work. Munrow’s popularity suffered
somewhat in the years following his death by both marked shifts in the focus of early
music towards later repertoire and by a musicological rethinking of approaches in
medieval works which favoured a purely vocal line-up in much of the liturgical music
and secular motets that Munrow had already recorded with instrumental participation.
This led to many EMC albums falling from record catalogues. Whilst Munrow was
always careful to follow existing scholarship as he understood it at the time, that
scholarship moved on leaving his recordings prematurely dated, but not forgotten.
As we have seen, Sally Dunkley has used two interviews to highlight the
importance of Munrow’s vocal textures in renaissance polyphony as an important part
of his legacy. The album ‘The Art of the Netherlands’ used singers who were all to
become major voices in the consort-based approach of the 1980s. In particular, several
key members of The Hilliard Ensemble participated in that album.
One of the great musical partnerships of baroque music performance in the later
1970s and early 1980s, James Bowman and Christopher Hogwood were also performers
who worked regularly with David Munrow and were core members of his Early Music
Consort of London right from its first concerts. Besides Munrow, they also worked
together with Neville Mariner and The Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and
Munrow even chose one of the Messiah arias (Handel) as sung by Bowman with this
orchestra for his [BBC] Desert Island Discs programme. The interplay of ideas between
Hogwood and Munrow is one of the unique points about the EMC albums since theirs
was a close working relationship that also incorporated lecture recitals and
recorder/harpsichord recitals from student days until the end of Munrow’s life.588 We
have seen how Munrow was instantly captivated by James Bowman’s falsetto-voice
which in turn characterized the lighter, brighter textures of EMC performances.
Munrow even used a direct comparison with Bowman’s and Jantina Noorman’s voices
when discussing vibrato.
Perhaps the biggest legacy from Munrow and his EMC is preserved in the
smaller-grained narrative of the EMI archives. Munrow’s tireless promotion and
588 Christopher Hogwood agreed to be interviewed for this project but, regrettably, that interview never
took place. He has spoken on a number of BBC progammes about David Munrow and those interviews
have been transcribed and used throughout this study. Since this thesis focuses on medieval music
Hogwood’s performances and views on performance are less evident than they would have been in a
study of renaissance or baroque repertoire.
constant record sales helped to put much pre-baroque music into the public
consciousness, especially that of the medieval repertoire, in particular the Italian
Trecento. Never before had records of early repertoire sold in such numbers, and
Munrow used every platform available to him to promote this music both in his own
performances and in the performances of others. In doing to so he made a significant
contribution to a public appetite for early music and his frequent mentions in early
music literature over the following decades betrays something of the debt which later
ensembles owe Munrow in helping to create the markets that they enjoyed.
The David Munrow Files. BBC Written Archive Centre. Caversham.
David Munrow Artist File. EMI Group Archive Trust. Hayes, Middlesex.
The Musica Reservata Files. BBC Written Archive Centre. Caversham.
Michael Morrow (1929–1994) & Musica Reservata. King’s College London Archives.
King’s College, London.
Michael Morrow Collection (C981). The British Library Sound Archive, London.
Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
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Burgess, Grayston. Interview by author. London, February 21, 2013.
Clarke, Christina. Interview by author. February 22, 2013.
Corkhill, David. Interview by author. London, October 19, 2012.
Fallows, David. Interview by author. London, December 13, 2012.
Harrison, Derek. Interview by author. February 20, 2013.
Hill, Martyn. Conversation with author. London, March 25, 2009.
Kenyon, Nicholas. Interview by author. London, October 12, 2012.
Hirst, Linda. Conversation with author. London, September 9, 2008.
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Munrow, Gillian. Conversation with author. London, August 14, 2008.
Munrow, Gillian. Conversation with author. Middlesex, April 23, 2009.
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Sandler, C. Cannam and C. Landone and M. "Sonic Visualiser: An Open Source Application
for Viewing, Analysing, and Annotating Music Audio Files." In Proceedings of the
ACM Multimedia 2010 International Conference, 1467-68. Firenze, Italy, 2010.
Accessed May 8, 2011.
Saunders, Archibald. A Practical Course in Vibrato for Violinists. London: J. H. Lavender,
Schering, Arnold. Tabellen zur Musikgeschichte : ein Hilfsbuch beim Studium der
Musikgeschichte Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1914.
———. Geschichte der Musik in Beispielen : dreihundertfünfzig Tonsätze aus neun
Jahrhunderten Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1931.
Schoen, Max. "Pitch and Vibrato in Artistic Singing: An Experimental Study." The Musical
Quarterly 12, no. 2 (April 1926): 275-90.
Schrade, Leo, ed. The Roman de Fauvel, The works of Philippe de Vitry, French cycles of the
Ordinarium Missae. Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century 1. Monaco: Editions
de l'Oiseau-Lyre, 1956.
Seashore, Carl E, ed. The Vibrato. Studies in the Psychology of Music vol. 1. Iowa: The
University of Iowa Press, 1932.
———. Psychology of the Vibrato in Voice and Instrument. Studies in the Psychology of
Music vol. 3. Iowa: The University of Iowa Press, 1936.
———. Psychology of Music. McGraw-Hill Publications in Psychology. New York: McGraw-
Hill, 1938.
Service, Tom. Remembering David Munrow. Tom Service On Classical (blog). Accessed
August 4, 2012.
Shaw, David Gary. "Huizinga's Timeliness." History and Theory 37, no. 2 (May 1998): 245-58.
Sherman, Bernard D. Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers. London: Oxford
University Press, 1997.
Shull, Jonathan. "Locating the Past in the Present: Living Traditions and the Performance of
Early Music." Ethnomusicology Forum 15, no. 1 (June 2006): 87-111.
Silverman, Julian. "The Old Band Wagon." Time Out, October 13–19, 1978.
Smith, Judy. "Recordings: Quarterly Checklist 11, 12." Early Music 3, no. 2 (1975): 207-16.
Stevens, Denis. Fragmenta Autobiographica. Virginia: Schola Antiqua Press, 2001.
Stevens, John E. Music & Poetry in the Early Tudor Court. London: Methuen, 1961.
Stock, Jonathan. “Musical Narrative, Ideology, and the Life of Abing.” Ethnomusicology 40,
no.1 (Winter 1996): 49-73.
Strohm, Reinhard. The Rise of European Music, 1380-1500. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1993.
Strohm, Reinhard, and Bonnie J. Blackburn. Music as Concept and Practice in the Late Middle
Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Sundberg, Johan. The science of the Singing Voice. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press,
Taruskin, Richard. "The Limits of Authenticity: A Contribution." Early Music 12, no. 1 (1984):
———. Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
———. The Oxford History of Western Music. 6 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
———. The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays. Berkeley, Calif.: University of
California Press, 2009.
Tassel, Eric van. "Performing Early Music on Record-1: English Church Music c 1660-1700."
Early Music 6, no. 4 (October 1978): 572-78.
Tetrazzini, Luisa, and Enrico Caruso. Caruso and Tetrazzini on the art of Singing. New York:
Dover Publications, 1975.
Thomson, J. M. "Editorial: David Munrow Obituary." Early Music 4, no. 3 (July 1976): 253-
Thomson, J. M., John Sothcott, David Fallows, and Christopher Page. "Obituaries: Michael
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Thomson, Virgil. Virgil Thomson: A Reader: Selected Writings, 1924–1984. Edited by Richard
Kostelanetz. London: Routledge, 2002.
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University of Chicago Press, 1993.
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Wellesz, Egon. Ancient and Oriental Music. London: Oxford University Press, 1957.
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Winternitz, Emanuel. Musical Instruments and their Symbolism in Western Art. London: Faber,
Witts, Richard. Artist Unknown: The Alternative History of the Arts Council. London: Warner,
Wolf, Johannes. " Die Taenze des Mittelalters: eine Untersuchung des Wesens der aeltesten
Instrumentalmusik." Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 1, no. 1 (1918): 10-42.
———. "Italian Trecento Music." Proceedings of the Musical Association 58 (1931): 15-31.
Wood, Bruce. "Recordings." Early Music 21, no. 1 (February 1993).
Wood, Richard. "David Munrow (1942–1976)." The Recorder Magazine, no. 26:3 (Autumn
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Yri, Kirsten. "Noah Greenberg and the New York Pro Musica: Medievalism and the Cultural
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Selected Discography
Anonymous. Polyphonies du XIIIe siècle: [Yvonne Rokseth Memorial Album], Recorded
c.1950. L'Oiseau-lyre Cire OL 16. Accessed March 10, 2012.
Binkley, Thomas and Studio der frühen Musik. Francesco Landini. EMI "Reflexe" 1C 063-30
113. 1973. LP.
———. Guillaume de Machaut: Chansons II. EMI "Reflexe" 1C 063-30 109. 1972. LP.
———. Guillaume Dufay - Adieu m'amour. EMI "Reflexe" 1C 063-30 124. 1974. LP.
———. Estampie, EMI "Reflexe" 1C 063 30 122. 1974. LP.
Burgess, Grayston, Purcell Consort of Voices, Musica Reservata, and Michael Morrow, To
Entertain A King. Argo K 24, 1968. LP.
Cuenod, Hugues, and Herman Lee. German Songs of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Westminster XWN 18848, 1959. LP.
Dietrich, Wolf. Folk Music of Greece. Topic Records TSCD750, 1969. LP.
Dufay Collective. A Dance in the Garden of Mirth: Medieval Instrumental Music. Chandos
Chan 9320, 1994. CD.
English, Gerald, and The Jaye Consort. Medieval Music. PYE GSGC14092. 1967. LP.
Greenberg, Noah, and New York Pro Musica. The Renaissance Band. Brunswick SXA 4536.
1965. LP.
Greenberg, Noah, and New York Pro Musica. Elizabethan and Joacobean Ayres, Madrigals
and Dances. Brunswick AXA 4515. 1959. LP.
———. Music of the Early German Baroque. Brunswick AXA 4516. 1961. LP.
———. Renaissance Festival Music. Brunswick AXA 4511. 1964. LP.
———. Florentine Music. Decca Gold Label Series DL 7 9428. 1967. LP.
———. The play of Daniel. Decca "Gold Label" DL 9402. 1958. LP.
Grupo Cinco Siglos. Unos tan dulces Sones. Fonoruz CDF 204. 1995. CD.
Lloyd, A. L., ed. The Folk Music of Bulgaria. Columbia Records KL 5378. 1954. LP.
Munrow, David. The Amorous Flute: David Munrow Plays Popular Music from Early
Eighteenth Century London. Argo ZRG 746. 1974. LP.
———. The Art of the Recorder., EMI (His Master's Voice) SLS 5022. 1975.2 LPs.
Munrow, David, and Early Music Consort of London. The Art of the Netherlands. EMI SLS
5049. 1975. 3LPs.
———. The Art of Courtly Love. EMI SLS 863. 1973. LP.
———. Ecco La Primavera. Argo ZRG 642. 1969. LP.
———. Music of the Crusades, Argo ZRG 673. 1970. LP.
———. Two Renaissance Dance Bands. EMI HQS 12491971. LP.
———. Henry VIII and His Six Wives. EMI CSDA 9001. 1972. LP.
———. Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. EMI SLS 988. 1976. LP.
———. Monteverdi's Contemporaries. EMI (His Master's Voice) ASD 3393. 1975. LP.
———. Music for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. EMI CSD 3738. 1973. LP.
———. Music of the Crusades. Argo ZRG 673, 1970. LP.
———. Music of the Gothic Era. DG Archiv 2723 045. 1975. 3 LPs.
———. Music of the Royal Courts of Europe 1150-1600. Nonesuch 7 1326-1, 1970.
———. Se la face ay Pale. EMI CSD 3751. 1974. LP.
———. The Triumphs of Maximillian I. Argo ZRG 728. 1973. LP.
———. Renaissance Suite: Music Composed and Arranged for the Soundtrack of the Joël
Santoni film "La Course en Téte". Pathé Marconi / EMI HQS 1415. 1974. LP.
Munrow, David, Early Music Consort of London, and Boys of the Cathedral and Abbey
Church of St Alban. Michael Praetorius: Dances from Terpsichore, Motets from
Musae Sioniae. EMI CSD 3761. 1974. LP.
Munrow, David, Gillian Reid, and Christopher Hogwood. The Mediaeval Sound: David
Munrow Introduces Early Woodwind Instruments. Oryx / Peerless EXP46. 1970. LP.
Munrow, David, Members of the Early Music Consort of London, and George Malcolm.
Greensleeves to a Ground. EMI CSD 3781.1977. LP.
Munrow, David, Neville Marriner, and Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Munrow &
Marriner. EMI ASD 3028. 1974. LP.
Musica Reservata, Michael Morrow, and John Beckett. A Florentine Festival. Argo (Decca)
ZRG 602. 1970. LP.
———. French Court Music of the Thirteenth Century. Delysé ECB 3201. 1967. LP.
———. Music from the Time of Boccaccio's "Decameron". Philips SAL 3781. 1969. LP.
———. Music für Kirche und Kneipe. Philips 6833 046. 1978. LP.
———. Music of the 100 Years War. Philips SAL 3722. 1968. LP.
———. 16th-Century French Dance Music. Philips SAL 6500 293. 1971. LP.
Musica Reservata, Michael Morrow, and Andrew Parrott. Josquin Des Prés. Argo (Decca)
ZRG 793. 1975. LP.
New York Ensemble for Early Music, and Frederick Renz, Istampitta. Lyrichord LEMS 8016.
1995. CD.
———. Istampitta II. Lyrichord LEMS 8022. 1996. CD.
New York Pro Musica, and LaNoue Davenport, Florentine Music. Brunswick (Decca) SXA
4546. 1967. LP.
New York Pro Musica, and Noah Greenberg. A Twelfth Century Musical Drama: The Play of
Daniel. Decca DL 9402. 1958. LP.
———. Instrumental Music from the Courts of Queen Elizabeth and King James. Brunswick
(Decca) ATL 1099. 1962. LP.
New York Pro Musica, and John White. Ah Sweet Lady: The Romance of Medieval France.
Decca Gold Label DL 79431. 1967. LP.
New York Pro Musica Motet Choir and Wind Ensemble, and Noah Greenberg. Josquin Des
Prés. Decca DL 9410. 1961. LP.
Noorman, Jantina. Dutch Folk Songs. Folkways FW6838. 1955. LP.
Oberlin, Russell, and Seymour Barab. Troubadour and Trouvère Songs. Expériences
Anonymes EA-0012. 1956. LP.
Oberlin, Russell, Charles Bressler, Donald Perry, Seymour Barab, Martha Blackman, and
Saville Clarke. Music of the Middle Ages: Volume IV - English Polyphony of the XIIIth
and Early XIVth Centuries. Expériences Anonymes EA-0024. 1958. LP.
Oberlin, Russell, Charles Bressler, Donald Perry, Seymour Barab, and Saville Clarke. Music of
the Middle Ages: Volume II - The Twelfth Century. Notre Dame Organa Leoninus and
Perotinus Magister. Expériences Anonymes EA-0021. 1958. LP.
Page, Christopher, and Gothic Voices. The Mirror of Narcissus. Hyperion CDA66087. 1987.
Page, Christopher, and Gothic Voices. Music for the Lion-hearted King: Music to
commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Coronation of King Richard I of England in
Westminster Abbey, 3 September 1189. Hyperion CDA66336. 1989. CD.
Piguet, Michel, and Ensemble Ricercare de Zurich. Ballades, Rondeaux & Virelais from the
14th and 15th Centuries. Harmonia Mundi France HM 592. 1967. LP.
Pro Musica Antiqua, and Safford Cape. Series A: Troubadours, Trouvères and Minnesänger «
Adam de la Halle: Le jeu de Robin et Marion ». Archiv Produktion APM 14 018 1953.
———. Series A: The Florentine Group « 8 Madrigals and Caccias from Codex of Antonio
Squarcialupi » / Series D: The Netherlanders to Okeghem « Guillaume Dufay: 8 Sacred
Songs ». Archiv Produktion APM 14019. 1953. LP.
Smithers, Don, and David Munrow. Courtly Masquing Ayres. Decca SA 16. 1970. LP.
St George's Canzona, and John Sothcott. A Tapestry of Music for King Wenceslas and His
Page. Enigma VAR 1046. 1977. LP.
———. A Tapestry of Music for the Black Prince and His Knights. Enigma K 53 571. 1978.
———. Medieval Songs and Dances. CRD 11 21 1986. LP.
The Purcell Consort of Voices, and Musica Reservata. Music of the Early Renaissance: John
Dunstable and his Contemporaries. Turnabout TV 34058. 1966. LP.
Thurston Dart, and Vokal- und Instrumentalensemble. Notre Dame de Paris Im 13.
Jahrhundert. Philips 839 306 EGY. 1967. LP.
Ulsamer-Collegium, and Konrad Ragossnig. Tanzmusik Der Renaissance. Archiv Produktion
2533 111. 1971. LP.
Appendix - Archival Sources
Royal Academy of Music Library. Marylebone, London.
The Royal Academy of Music (RAM) purchased a substantial quantity of
papers, books and music from an occasional EMC performer, Iaan Wilson, in 1993 who
had previously bought it at auction from Sotheby’s. Chris Beckett who subsequently
curated an exhibition drawn from the files in York Gate during the academic year
2005/2006 catalogued the collection at the RAM. The full catalogue as prepared by
Becket is available online as part of a national database of archive catalogues: Access to
Archives (A2A).589 The rest of the collection, not covered by this catalogue, comprises
555 books (not all directly music-related) and 1071 unmarked scores. Only scores with
markings have been incorporated into the A2A catalogue.
The archivist has grouped the collection into nine main categories:
• DM1 – Correspondence. These letters range from personal mail whilst
in Peru (1961) to official EMC correspondence in the mid 1970s, which
cover topics such as Munrow’s schedule and letters of thanks for
• DM2 – Concerts. Includes an incomplete collection of concert
• DM3 – Music. This mostly comprises folders organized per performer
per programme. The folders are often incomplete where manuscripts
have been removed to be used in other performances.
• DM4 – Audio Recordings. Sleeve notes, correspondence and music
relating to commercial recording contracts. Also folders organized per
performer for each recording similar to DM3. Some of these folders
contain recording schedules and other relevant correspondence.
• DM5 – Film. Music and recording session schedules for film
• DM6 – Television. Music and notes for three series.
• DM7 – Radio. Radio scripts for a wide selection of programmes
(although notably few Pied Pipers) many of these scripts do not survive
589 A full catalogue of the collection is available from the website of The National Archives. Accessed
September 5, 2010,
• DM 8 – Publications. Mostly galley proofs and correspondence relating
to Munrow’s OUP publication.590
• DM 9 – Miscellaneous Material. Lecture notes, bibliographies and
discographies. There is also the draft of a paper on vibrato and copies of
articles by other authors.
Although not part of the catalogued Munrow archive, I had access to his books
and noted that Munrow made very few markings in these books—mostly limited to
pencil underlining—and I photographed a few examples of this in key texts.
The scores from this collection are not kept in order and are mostly published
copies of music bought in duplicate for the ensemble and contain few markings.
However, there are some handwritten scores and scraps of paper with annotations in
Munrow’s hand stuffed between the pages of other music scores. The RAM collection
as a whole is used extensively throughout this thesis: the concert programmes from
DM2 make a valuable contribution to the early biography in chapter 3, the unpublished
paper on vibrato in DM9 forms the basis for chapter 5 and the Radio Scripts are
discussed below.
One of the key documents in this collection is a set of university teaching notes
in DM9.591 Munrow taught at Leicester University from 1966–1974 and these notes
appear to have been his plans for the Music History course that he taught there.
They are arranged by ‘lecture titles’:
1. Some approaches to music history
2. The age of the troubadours
3. Music and mediaeval drama
4. The mannered school and the Ars Nova
5. Dunstable and the English school
6. The Burgundian school
7. The Flemmish school
8. Two great renaissance courts
9. New forms
10. The later 16th C madrigal
11. The English Ayre
590 David Munrow, Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
591 David Munrow, [Academic Notes], DM/9/8, c1966, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of
Music Special Collections, London.
12. The later 16thC consorts
13. Italy I – concerto and sonata
14. Italy II – opera and stile rappresentativo
15. Masques and musicals
16. Purcell
17. Lully, Couperin and Rameau
18. Vivaldi and the Scarlattis
19. Bach and Telemann
20. Handel and Italian Opera
Each section is written on a separate side of paper and contains a series of bulletpoints
(presumably for teaching and discussion) a bibliography and short selection of
recordings. Later in the document, there is a list of recommended books for the library
to buy. That this list should have been for Leicester University agrees with the
presumed dates in the file (on the back of one of the reading lists is the draft of a letter
for 1968). David Munrow is remembered as having ‘made sure there were some darn
good things in the Leicester University library’ by his student, the soprano Deborah
The reading lists for individual lectures provide an overview of Munrow’s own
reading and show that he had an interest in German musicology of the early twentieth
century as well as the latest papers in academic publications. In particular, works by
Arnold Schering and editions by Friedrich Gennrich.593 There is a particular mention of
the series: Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century edited by Leo Schrade which
also appears throughout Munrow’s papers as miscellaneous photocopies for use in
performance.594 As such, these notes are used to trace the sources for Munrow’s
performances and concordances can often be found elsewhere in the Papers of David
Munrow at the RAM where Xeroxed performance scores have survived.
592 Nicholas Kenyon, Sally Dunkley, Andrew Van der Beek, and Deborah Roberts, “Celebrating
Inspiration: In Memory of David Munrow,” Pre Concert Discussion: Brighton Early Music Festival,
November 10, 2012.
593 Arnold Schering, Geschichte der Musik in Beispielen: dreihundertfünfzig Tonsätze aus neun
Jahrhunderten (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1931) and Friedrich Gennrich, Rondeaux, Virelais und
Balladen aus dem Ende dex XII., dem XIII. und dem ersten Drittel des XIV. Jahrhunderts mit den
überlieferten Melodien (Dresden: Gesellschaft für romanische Literatur, 1921).
594 Leo Schrade, Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century, 4 vols., (Monaco: Editions de l'Oiseau-
Lyre, 1956).
The short discographies accompanying each lecture show a selection of the early
music ensembles that Munrow was listening to during the late 1960s. Safford Cape’s
Pro Musica Antiqua Brussels features several times, as do many other recordings in the
Archiv series. Recordings by Russell Oberlin on the Expériences Anonymes label also
feature prominently as do the records of the New York Pro Musica and the Deller
Consort (notably for their recording of Machaut’s Mass). Also, the record: Estampies,
Basses dances, Pavanes by Ricercare Ensemble d’Instruments Anciens de Zurich
(Michel Piguet).595 Recordings that are used for comparison purposes in this thesis have
been drawn from these discographies where possible.
BBC Information & Archives Service
The BBC Information and Archives service (I&A) is the internal archive
available to BBC staff for research. Much of the film or video in this collection can be
accessed by the public via the BBC Motion Gallery but since copyright still applies to
much of Munrow’s output it is not always possible to obtain viewing copies even for
academic research purposes.596 A search on the Information & Archives database (then
Infax, but changed to a new system called Fabric in 2012) undertaken in 2008 listed 203
separate entries for David Munrow including repeats, 155 of which are from his
lifetime. Knowing that Munrow made over 500 programmes of his popular series Pied
Piper alone gives an indication of the paucity of the data. Fortunately several broadcasts
made about Munrow are stored in this archive and have been used in this study.
Of the television broadcasts, two programmes are preserved on film reel only
and as such are not available for viewing without incurring prohibitive charges for
transfer to DVD. These are: So You Think it all Started with Bach? Presented by
Clement Freud (1970) and a collaboration with the National Trust: Music From Great
595 Michel Piguet and Ensemble Ricercare de Zurich, Ballades, Rondeaux & Virelais from the 14th and
15th Centuries, Harmonia Mundi France HM 592, 1967, LP.
596 BBC Motion Gallery can be accessed via
Houses: Montacute House (1973).597 Short excerpts from both of these programmes
appear in Levin’s 1976 BBC television tribute.598 According to the RAM archive there
is also a very early programme Festival Music 1550-1700 (1968) devised and directed
by David Munrow and filmed in Tiffin School that does not appear in the Infax
database.599 The series of programmes that Munrow made for the BBC, and which were
broadcast posthumously, were called Ancestral Voices and directed by Paul
Kriwaczek.600 These programmes explored the origins and evolution of instruments and
saw Munrow and his colleague Alan Lumsden play an astonishing variety of
‘primitive’, folk and early instruments as well as many modern ones. Several guest
musicians such as James Tyler appeared also. The five episodes were broadcast the
same year as Early Musical Instruments, a Granada Television production filmed in
Ordsall Hall, Salford which demonstrated a range of medieval and renaissance
instruments and their repertoire and which involved many of the instrumentalists of the
Early Music Consort of London.601
BBC Written Archives. Caversham, Berkshire (W.A.C.)
The BBC archives hold official correspondence received from David and Gillian
Munrow and also their agent, Jasper Parrott. There are also many carbon copies of BBC
correspondence sent to these three people but it by no means reflects the true amount of
paperwork that passed between the BBC and EMC representatives.
The collection falls into several main sections:
1) Microfilm record cards. These refer to four radio scripts:
597 For reviews of these programmes see: Keith Spence, "Television," The Musical Times 111, no. 1531
(1970), 920. and "Television," The Musical Times 114, no. 1570 (1973), 1268.
598 "David Munrow," Presented by Bernard Levin, aired June 27, 1976, on BBC Television.
599 Munrow’s script for this programme: David Murnow, Tiffin School Kingston, July 3 1968, DM
2/1/38, Papers of David Munrow, Royal Academy of Music Library, London.
600 David Munrow, "Origins and Flutes," in Ancestral Voices, produced by Paul Kriwaczek, aired May
1976, on BBC Television.
601 David Munrow, "Bowed Instruments," in Early Musical Instruments, directed by Peter Plummer, aired
October 1976 on Granada Television (UK) Produced for DVD by David Griffith, Viking New Media
2007. Accessed May 12, 2009.
a) “Munrow, David introduces 1971 series “Pied Piper” file under title in
Gram Progs”
b) R.3. 3.12.70. 8) Early Ensembles – “THE SOUNDS OF MUSIC”
c) R.3. 18.6.71. “Telemann and Handel”
d) R3. 27.12.71 “If Music be The Food Of Love” Music of the English
stage before 1700.
2) A bundle of papers from BBC Midlands where the BBC handled David. Not
held in a file but tied by string. Mostly relating to accounts. BBC ref: M31/1491.
3) A large file from BBC Registry services. Central Registry (Langham) Rcont 12.
Titled “David Munrow (early music consort). Contributors – artist File I 1966-67”
4) A similar file titled “BBC Registry services. Central Registry (Langham) Rcont
12. 00918. David Munrow (early music consort). Contributors – artist. File II 1968-
5) A file titled: “BBC Registry services. Central Registry (Langham) Rcont 15. 328418.6 David Munrow (early music consort)
6) File of Contributors – artist File III 1973-82”
7) File “BBC Registry services. Music Registry Rcont 15. PP20
8) File of David Munrow 1975–1984”
9) File: “BBC Registry services. Music Registry PP20. David Munrow 1955–
Within each file the letters and papers occur roughly in reverse date order,
suggesting that they were filed one on top of another until the folder was full and a new
one started. These contents reveal a surprising amount of detail concerning both
Munrow and the EMC’s financial arrangements with the BBC and also the number of
rehearsal and recording sessions that various projects required. It is possible, through
these documents, to trace the extent to which the BBC fostered Munrow’s talent.
This archive often serves to date the radio scripts found in the RAM collection:
DM/7. As such these two archival sources form much of the biographical discussion of
Munrow’s relationship with the BBC in chapter 3.
EMI Archives. Hayes, Middlesex
The EMI archives contains two files relating to David Munrow:
1. A4 lever arch file (large). Label: David Munrow 1968–1975. Contents in
roughly reverse date order. This was clearly a working file; where dates are out
of order it is because the documents have been grouped by subject.
2. A4 Box File. Label: David Munrow 1976 – Recording sheet, photos etc.
Contents separated into two cardboard folders, one of press cuttings and the
other of recording sheets that are unordered.
The first file contains a mixture of in-house memos, official correspondence and
paperwork relating to specific recording projects. In particular it preserves many of the
forms detailing the decisions of the International Repertoire Committee pertaining to
cost analysis of Munrow’s proposed albums.
Munrow’s first contact with EMI was in 1968 when he wrote to R. Kinloch
Anderson in the International Artists department:
I am writing to tell you that the Early Music Consort will be giving the first half
of the BBC Tuesday Invitation Concert on May 21st at 8.30pm. I hope that you
will be interested in this broadcast which is devoted to fourteenth century Italian
The Early Music Consort is the only professional group of its kind in England.
Ideally suited to touring, it has visited many clubs, festivals and universities
since its formation in 1967. Engagements for 1969 include concerts in the
Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, a programme for the Royal Musical
Association Annual Conference and a tour of the United States. […]602
He included two reviews drawn from the first Wigmore Hall recital earlier that
year. Anderson wrote back to thank Munrow on the 16th and, on the 18th Munrow wrote
again to EMI, this time to Peter Andey to offer him tickets to the concert and to mention
that the EMC had already recorded with Shirley and Dolly Collins for the EMI Harvest
Presumably neither of these two letters was followed up because the archive
then jumps almost two years when Munrow writes to the producer Christopher Bishop:
602 David Munrow to R Kinloch Anderson, May 13, 1968, File David Munrow 1968-1975, EMI Archives
Hayes Middlesex.
Here at last are all the details of the two proposed records. I am sorry you had to
wait so long and hope that all the information you want is there.
If both records are passed would it be possible to record ‘The Art of the
Recorder’ in September and the dance music disc 27th-29th January 1971? The
latter dates are rather vital so that the recording can come immediately after a
concert performance.603
The EMI archives do not detail how this contact was initially made, but in a
radio interview Christopher Bishop remembers that he and Munrow met at a BBC
recording session which is referred to in later EMI correspondence. The BBC
programme was called Madrigals for Voices and Instruments and was produced by
Basil Lam.604 Christopher Bishop conducted his twelve-voice ensemble The London
Madrigal Singers who were joined by The Munrow Recorder Quartet. Bishop had
initially been reticent to use recorders but Basil Lam assured him that Munrow was a
really exciting musician and backed this up by taking Bishop to hear Munrow in a live
performance. This was an important early opportunity for Munrow who was only in his
second year of freelance employment at the BBC, but still Bishop remembers:
[Munrow] mucked about all the time—he was great fun—and he also muckedabout
musically. The first one of the madrigals we did […] was Hark All Ye
Lovely Saints by Weelkes where the choir sings the verse and the ‘fa la las’ at
the end, which are really instrumental anyway, were played by David and his
group. An in the second verse he really goes to town and enjoys it and decorates
it in a way that I’m sure no singer ever would have done.605
Bishop goes on to remember how David asked for a lift back to Marylebone
station from Broadcasting House after the broadcast and in that short time persuaded
him to consider his group for an EMI record. Bishop was a producer for EMI at the
603 David Munrow to Christopher Bishop, 27 April 1970, File David Munrow 1968-1975, EMI Archives
Hayes Middlesex.
604 Correspondence and the BBC contract for this recording can be found here: Contract 01/PC/DGM,
January 14 ,1970, BBC WAC RCONT12 – David Munrow – Artists File 2 -1968-72.
605 Christopher Bishop, "Podcast: David Munrow on the record." On An Overgrown Path (blog), 2007,
The first two proposals that Munrow sent to EMI were for ‘Renaissance Dance
Music or Three Renaissance Dance Bands or The Renaissance Sound or other title
TBC: The largest collection of renaissance instruments ever assembled for one record’
and also for a record which was never made in the form of its original proposal, The Art
of the Recorder. Bishop’s first response was to ask Munrow to adjust these proposals to
allow for up to 4 minutes more music on each side and he sent both proposals to the
International Repertoire Committee who rejected each one in turn on grounds of cost
analysis.606 Just a month later, the committee reconsidered their decision and decided to
make the Big Band record but postpone Art of the Recorder ‘for the moment’. The
resulting album was eventually called Two Renaissance Dance Bands. The archive
preserves many letters showing how Munrow was involved in the preparation of the
edits, the sleeve notes and also the quality controls (he complained that he thought the
pressing of Two Renaissance Dance Bands was slightly off-centre which affected the
playback pitch). In short, this archive proves that Munrow was involved in every aspect
of record production.
The next EMI project to involve Munrow was the recording of the soundtrack
for a film about Henry VIII.607 After the sessions had taken place J. Whittle (Manager of
the Classical Repertoire and Marketing Division of EMI) wrote to Munrow’s agent
Jasper Parrott:
We have got I think a very exciting package on our hands in terms of music and
visual appearance […] I imagine this film is going to do David a lot of good. We
are all very excited about it.608
A few weeks later, Whittle wrote directly to Munrow to congratulate him on the
success of a recent concert that he had attended and mentioned ‘the next project is
606 The committee met on August 8, 1970.
607 David Munrow and Early Music Consort of London, Henry VIII and His Six Wives, EMI CSDA 9001,
1972, LP.
608 J.K.R. Whittle to Jasper Parrott, September 9, 1971, MS7/JKRW/EAS, EMI Archives Hayes
urgent – the Spanish LP!’609 Within the space of a year Munrow had caught the
attention of the EMI music division so much so that in July 1972 EMI hosted a
reception for him. The invitation read:
EMI invites [blank space] to meet David Munrow, Director of The Early Music
Consort of London at Bianchi’s Italian Restaurant 21a Frith St. London W1 on
Wed 5th July at 5pm RSVP to Douglas Pudney.610
Among the journalists invited were: Daily Telegraph, Keith Nurse; United News
Service, The News Editor; Guardian, Edward Greenfield, Alan Smith and Denis Barke;
Evening Standard, Sydney Edwards and Jeremy Deedes; Daily Express, Noel Goodwin;
Daily Mail, Paul Mayberry; Observer, Michael Berkeley; Gramophone, Malcolm
Waller and the Press Association, Michael Day.
In January of 1973 Munrow met with several EMI executives to discuss future
recording projects and suggested the following:
a) Purcell: Come Ye Sons of Art / Blow: Ode on the Death of Henry Purcell
first recording on original instruments at old pitch. (If we’re going to do it then
let’s make it soon before someone else does: I talked to Chris about it).
b) A Dufay Mass / selection of motets. Dufay died in 1474 – if we do this, it
should be out early in 1974.
C) Handel: Complete Chamber music with recorder (with very varied continuo)
2 record box. Does this count as a solo disc or a consort one? We should do it
before someone else thinks of it.
D) Praetorius: Terpsichore/Choral works (Follow up to Two Ren. Dance bands).
E) A Christmas record (For Christmas ’74, ’75) Medieval to Baroque – Songs,
jolly carols etc. A good seller?
F) Music of Breughel’s Time – Flemish music by Josquin, Obrecht, Ockeghem
G) Cantigas de Santa Maria – Medieval Spanish music (Follow up to Ferdinand
e Isabella)
H) German Peasant Music (I’m not sure I can quite justify the title!)
I) Machaut Mass / Motets. If you like the Dufay idea, and if it sells, this could
become a sort of series. Plenty of good unrecorded material here.
J) The Art of the Troubadours – 2 record box of 11th, 12th, 13th French music
(follow up to the Art of Courtly Love)
K) The Art of the Recorder – Medieval to Modern
L) Greensleeves to a Ground (recorder e harpsichord recital)
609 J.K.R.Whittle to David Munrow, September 30, 1971, MS7/JKRW/EAS, EMI Archives Hayes
610 Invitation card: July 5, 1972, EMI Archives Hayes Middlesex.
M) Music of Chaucer’s Time – early English Music
N) Telemann – complete recorder sonatas611
The astonishing completeness of this list shows an overview of the discography
that Munrow envisaged at the start of his first EMI contract; a greater emphasis on the
baroque and an urgency for more period instrument recordings since he felt others were
already following the same path. Over the following years it become clear that EMI
reduced the size of several projects including suggesting a 5-man ‘poets and peasants’
programme on a cheaper label instead of Music of Chaucer’s Time at one point to save
money.612 Any perception one infers from the record releases that only towards the end
of Munrow’s life did he become more interested in larger projects is therefore
overturned. This archive demonstrates clearly that Munrow was attempting to record
large-scale projects and baroque period-instrument projects as early as 1973 which,
incidentally is the same year that Andrew Parrott’s Taverner Consort, Choir and
Players; Christopher Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music; and Trevor Pinnock’s
The English Concert were founded. The only reason that these records did not come to
fruition is because they were not approved by EMI cost/benefit analysis at that time.
With this in mind we can see that Munrow from his comment ‘If we’re going to do it
then let’s make it soon before someone else does: I talked about to Chris about it’ is
likely to have been expressing concern that Christopher Hogwood would beat him to the
forefront of this period instrument Baroque movement. As a result it must have been
disheartening when EMI continually stalled such plans.
In 1974 Robert Myers from the American division of EMI (Angel records) heard
Munrow play in New York and approached Christopher Bishop to see if he could hear a
test pressing (white label) of the new Praetorius record, Bishop responded to say that he
611 David Munrow to Christopher Bishop, January 13, 1973, EMI Archives Hayes Middlesex.
612 John Willan to Mr Pattrik, April 4, 1975, EMI Archives Hayes Middlesex.
would, of course, send a copy but that he may prefer the Dufay Se La Face Ay Pale
since it was, in his opinion, a better record. Myers replied:
I am still inclined to believe we will be more inclined towards the Praetorius
over the Dufay. It seems there is a sort of vogue right now towards the music of
Praetorius as the result of some recordings on DGG and Nonesuch which are
presumably successful. (Actually “vogue” is perhaps too strong a word as the
interest in this old music seems to be limited at the moment to the college areas,
but it does seem to be increasing).
Somehow or other I have a hunch that we are going to have more successes with
this artiste and that he will be increasingly important to us.613
Eventually, Angel records did release many of Munrow’s records and in
particular the boxed set which included the book Instruments of the Middle Ages and
Renaissance. The success was convincing enough for EMI to offer an extension to
Munrow’s contract for a further two years from 1975. The archive records plans for ten
records to cover that period:
1. Solo records:
a) a general recital entitled “Greensleeves to a Ground”
b) Vivaldi op10 with the Academy [of St Martin-in-the-fields / Marriner]
c) A box set of 2 records entitled “Handel Complete Chamber Music with
2. Consort records
a) Monteverdi’s Contemporaries
b) Music of the Time of Chaucer
c) Machaut Mass to be released by 1977 to coincide with the 600th anniversary
of his death
d) The art of canon to include Ockeghem’s Missa Prolatonium [sic]
e) The art of the Troubadours.614
Since the EMI contract did not cover solo appearances and pre-standing
agreements with other record companies David Munrow recorded Music of the Gothic
Era with DG Archiv in 1975.
British Library Sound Archive, London
Many publicly released sound recordings as well as BBC programmes are
available through the British Library Sound Archive but these programmes cannot be
613 Robert Myers to Christopher Bishop, June 27, 1974, EMI Archives Hayes Middlesex.
614 John Willan internal memo to EMI staff, January 22, 1975, EMI Archives Hayes Middlesex.
borrowed or copied. They are also not available as data files so cannot be measured
with signal processing software.
The archive contains many valuable recordings of the four main groups under
study here. Much of Michael Morrow’s work with Musica Reservata was, for instance,
live BBC broadcast and not recorded so that it is preserved in very few other places in
the world. A collection of tapes from Jeremy Montagu that was acquired by the Sound
Archive preserves many performances by Musica Reservata that are unavailable
With Munrow’s output, the Pied Piper series is sadly underrepresented, the
BBC not having kept many of the broadcasts but many ad-hoc interviews and
documentary programmes do survive.
The Open University, Milton Keynes
There are two educational broadcast recordings broadcast in 1972 held by The
Open University’s archive in Milton Keynes.615
A201/18 English consort music (audio tape in archive collection)
A201/10 Secular music of the Renaissance (U-matic video in reference and
archive collection)
They also have a range of other materials for the A201 course for which these
programmes were used.
Private Collections
Many of Munrow’s colleagues have private collections of his letters, papers and
concert programmes. Fortunately, Munrow usually kept the music scores after
performances to be reused on subsequent occasions so the RAM collection houses a
significant number of performing scores that bear markings, many in Munrow’s hand.
615 The Open University keeps archives of broadcast material, most of which is searchable on their
However, much material exists outside of this collection in private hands and as part of
the oral history interviews, musicians were asked to share any scores or recordings with
me or with one of the public archives.
As a result of this, Alison Crum has offered almost 40 reels of sound tape to the
British Library sound archive. These tapes contain many recordings of The Browning
Consort of viols with soloist Emma Kirkby from the late 1970s and are currently in the
process of being identified so the Sound Archive can assess their value.
Related Collections
Also at the RAM Library is the Robert Spencer Collection. Spencer (1932–
1997) was an English lutenist, guitarist and singer who frequently performed with
Munrow’s Early Music Consort of London. They also have the performance materials
from Michael Morrow’s collection but they are, as yet, uncatalogued and as such are not
available to the public. Michael Morrow was director of the consort Musica Reservata.
Michael Morrow’s papers have been donated to King’s College London and the
papers of the musicologist Denis Stevens are at Goldsmith’s College, London.


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