Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Musical instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Some of the characters in my story, The Crimson Orb, play musical instruments. I modeled them after some that were common during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They include:

Theorbo: A large, six course bass lute with an additional set of seven or eight contrabass strings.  In total there are 13 or 14 sets of strings.  Developed in the late 16th century to provide accompaniment for a new style of singing (musica recitativa), it was quickly adopted throughout Europe and used as a continuo instrument in larger ensembles.

Lute: A plucked string instrument with an oblong, rounded body, a short, fretted neck, and a flat soundboard featuring a rosette.  Its predecessors are the Pandora and the ud.  During the Renaissance, it was the dominant musical instrument for song accompaniment, dance music, consort music, and continuo parts.  John Dowland, the leading lute virtuoso, composed many solo pieces; all lute music was written in tablature.

Crumhorn; Krumhorn: A wind-cap, double reed woodwind instrument of the 16th and 17th centuries.  It has a narrow cylindrical bore and is shaped like the letter J.  Among the most common of its several sizes were the alto, tenor, and extended bass.  Developed in 15th century Italy, it was played by court musicians and in larger town bands.

Have you ever heard any music from that time played on any of these instruments?

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