Jessica Comeau | Songs of the Earthly Pilgrimage: Medieval and World Folk Music on the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer

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World: World Traditions Classical: Medieval Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Songs of the Earthly Pilgrimage: Medieval and World Folk Music on the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer

by Jessica Comeau

An adventurous yet meditative acoustic pilgrimage on the mountain dulcimer that guides the listener on a unique yet universal journey, beginning with life’s sunrise and ending in paradise.
Genre: World: World Traditions
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Phrygian Sunrise
2:22 $0.99
2. Divinum Mysterium
3:02 $0.99
3. Cantiga #1
2:30 $0.99
4. Annika's Dance
2:00 $0.99
5. The Ranger
2:31 $0.99
6. Dheanainn Sugradh
2:56 $0.99
7. Childgrove
2:13 $0.99
8. Douce Dame Jolie
1:56 $0.99
9. Quant voi la fleur
2:18 $0.99
10. Edi beo thu hevene quene
2:00 $0.99
11. Rolandskvadet (Song of Roland)
2:57 $0.99
12. The Angelic Salutation
3:11 $0.99
13. Villeman og Magnhild
3:32 $0.99
14. In Paradisum
4:40 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The one great story that unites all the songs on this album is the medieval vision of human life as an earthly pilgrimage from birth until death and into eternal life. On this journey, one will experience not only battles, internal and external, but also times of joy, and even profound encounters with the sublime. Each song, in its way, pays tribute to an aspect of this timeless journey through medieval and World folk expressions. All the songs are played entirely on the Appalachian mountain dulcimer, a traditional American instrument. Sharing these songs on the mountain dulcimer is meaningful to me not only because many of these pieces strike me as the kind of music that would have been played on the zither ancestors of the mountain dulcimer but also because these songs are deeply associated with stories I have loved throughout the years. My hope is that these songs from my journey might be as small beacons for you on your own pilgrimage… - Jessica Comeau

Phrygian Sunrise
I first developed this song on a small dulcim er that hung on my wall; I tuned the bass string to C and the other two to C an octave higher, and this song, with all its Eastern vibes, emerged. It reminds me of the myth of King Midas, who was said to have lived in Phrygia and been visited by the sun god Helios. It seems to me that it was not so much Midas’
golden touch that turned everything to gold; it was the radiant Phrygian sun that gilded the entire landscape in light and warmth… Listen for my use of the bowed dulcimer technique!

Divinum Mysterium
Better known as “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” this traditional chant is one of many from the Finnish anthology Pies Cantiones (1500s) that became popular through John Mason Neale’s English translations. The lyrics speak of Christ being begotten of the Father’s love “before the worlds began to be”: a mystery well contemplated through a sparse, finite arrangement that mirrors one’s smallness before the infinite.

Cantiga 1- Des Oge Mais Quer'eu Trobar
This cantiga is the first of 420 Cantigas de Santa Maria (Songs of Holy Mary) written in Galician-Portuguese in the court of the Spanish King Alfonso X, el Sabio in the 13th century. These songs were very popular among pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. This first of the cantigas celebrates a popular theme in medieval devotional music, literature, and art: the Seven Joys of Mary.

Annika’s Dance
“Annika’s Dance” was inspired by the thought of a young girl that might have lived in ancient Scandinavia. The music suggests the warmth and playful freedom she feels, even in the vast, imposing expanse of the fjord, because she is secure in the protective, loving presence of her father. The vastness comes from the drone of the open G tuning (D-G-D), the childlike simplicity from the simple melody, and the wild, Scandinavian exoticness comes from the modal quality into which this melody often settles…

The Ranger
“The Ranger” is another original composition, this time inspired by Bilbo’s prophecy in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings that Aragorn would become a king. To me, it evokes images of the brooding, determined “Strider” riding on horseback under a rainy, cloud-covered sky.

Dheanainn Sugradh
For this traditional Scottish song, I felt drawn to an unusual tuning scheme: D-G-D with a capo on the 1st fret. “Dheanainn Sugradh” is a sea shanty that gradually turned into a waulking song (one that women would sing while pounding tweed fabric to tighten it). The song’s hypnotic drone is suggestive of all-night celebrations that fade into dawn…

This lively, minor-key English country dance was set forth in John Playford’s famous 1651 anthology The English Dancing Master. You might recognize it from its appearance in the 2007 television adaption of Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey.”

Douce Dame Jolie
“Douce Dame Jolie” is a courtly love song composed by Guillaume de Machaut in the 14th century (who, incidentally, lived through the years of the Black Death). It is a song I have listened to for many years; some performances have a slow, reverential pace while others interpret it as a dance tune. I have chosen a moderate dance pace for my arrangement of this virelai.

Quant voi la fleur
This is the main melody of a French polyphonic composition recorded in the 13th century in the Montpellier Codex. Its Old French lyrics speak of the flowering of springtime, the greening of the wood, and gentle pastoral joys, such as a shepherd girl singing and playing her flute to call upon her sweetheart, who responds, “Spring lightly so that your slipper be not weighted down.” May it be so for my listeners!

Edi beo thu hevene quene
This 13th century English song translates as “Blessed be thou, heaven’s queen,” and it may have been sung in the context of Ladymasses offered to honor the Virgin Mary. The lyrics employ courtly tropes to extol Mary’s beauty in physical terms in order to glorify her spiritual beauty. The melody is a joyful dance!

Rolandskvadet- The Song of Roland
“Rolandskvadet” is one of many Scandinavian ballads reimagining the narrative of “The Song of Roland,” an epic poem of medieval France. For me, this melody evoked not so much the battlefield (of which the lyrics tell) as the determination of the march and the journey of the warriors’ campaign. It is this more reflective side of the story that my interpretation represents.

The Angelic Salutation
One of the most ancient Christian prayers is the Angelic Salutation, drawn from the words of the archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would be the Mother of Christ. For this musical setting, I have also included the traditional lines added to the prayer in the 16th century.

Villeman og Magnhild
This Norwegian ballad tells how the harper Villeman rescued the maiden Magnhild from the clutches of a troll through the power of his harp, or the harpans kraft. The tale strikes me as a fable about how powerful music can be as a force for good. Listen for my interlude midway through the piece in which I try to evoke Villeman’s intense encounter with the troll!

In Paradisum
This antiphon from the ancient Christian funeral liturgy speaks of how angels and martyrs will lead the departed soul to heaven, or Jerusalem, in the company of the risen beggar Lazarus. The chant’s analogy of heaven with the holy city Jerusalem makes a poignant connection with the Crusades. My arrangement, therefore, is meant to suggest the crusaders’ hope that their deaths would ultimately lead to eternal life in the New Jerusalem.



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