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Video Clips

Marie Zaerr playing instrumentSir Orfeo (with harp)

Queen Herodis is stolen away by the King of Faerie. This performance of lines 153-200 with gothic harp suggests how a melody can be transformed in response to a text in Middle English. The voice indicates when characters speak by a blend of singing and speaking. For the complete video, see the supplemental website for the Norton Anthology of English Literature.

Sir Orfeo (with vielle)

Queen Herodis is stolen away by the King of Faerie. This rendition of lines 153-200 features a single performer using a five-string vielle tuned according to thirteenth-century theorist Jerome of Moravia. Comparison with the harp performance of the same passage demonstrates how much a text can be transformed by music, even when the narrator is the same person using the same melody.

The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell

King Arthur is alone in the forest when Sir Gromer Somer Joure threatens him. Arthur can go free if he can answer a question: What do women most desire? Compare this with Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale. In this recording of lines 13-108, the vielle is tuned to Jerome of Moravia’s second tuning.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (with vielle)

Sir Gawain beheads the Green Knight, but the knight does not die. He picks up his head, reminds Gawain to find him in one year, and then rides away. In this recording of lines 417-66, I have adapted the Jungere Titurel melody, and I play a vielle with Jerome of Moravia’s first tuning.

The Tournament of Tottenham

The conventions of tournaments are parodied when rough peasants from the village of Tottenham stage an elaborate combat for the hand of Tyb, the Reeve’s daughter. The complete performance of this fifteenth-century text is included on Music and Medieval Narrative (Chaucer Studio).

Weddynge of Gawen and Ragnell – 1999 version

King Arthur is alone in the forest when Sir Gromer Somer Joure threatens him. Arthur can go free if he can answer a question: What do women most desire? In lines 13-108 of the 1999 TEAMS recording (Chaucer Studio), characters are represented in different costumes, and the dialogue is spoken with background gothic harp music by Laura Zaerr.

 Gawain and the Green Knight – 2002 version

Sir Gawain beheads the Green Knight, but the knight does not die. He picks up his head, reminds Gawain to find him in one year, and then rides away. This version of lines 417-66 comes from a 2002 Chaucer Studio DVD with Shira Kammen on vielle and Laura Zaerr on harp.

Bevis of Hampton

When her companion falls sick in Greece, Princess Josian buys a vielle and earns their living as a minstrel in the city. This fourteenth-century English romance is here set to a thirteenth-century English song. For a discussion of how Middle English verse can be set to a melody in triple meter, see Performance and the Middle English Romance (Boydell and Brewer), p. 115 ff.

Aucassin et Nicolete

Disguised as a minstrel, Nicolete plays vielle and sings to her beloved Aucassin the story of their adventures. The DVD Music and Medieval Narrative (Chaucer Studio) contains a discussion of how the vielle can be used with sung narrative.