Tu tu pan pan / Poul Høxbro
A Piper's Journey through Medieval Europe

Classico CLASSCD 286


1. Got in vier elementen   [2:42]   Meister RUMELANT, Germany 13th century

2. Salterello   [5:03]   anon. Italy, c. 1400

3. La tierche estampie royal   [3:15]   Anon. France, c. 1300

4. Christo e nato e humanato   [3:47]   From the "Laudario de Cortona", Italy 13th century

Melodic material from the "Cantigas de Santa Maria", Spain 13th century
5. Sabor a Santa Maria   [2:53]   CSM 328 + CSM ? · CSM ?
6. Santa Maria loei   [4:03]   CSM 200 + CSM 166 · CSM 9

Two ballatas by GHERARDELLUS, Italy c. 1363
7. De' poni amor a me   [2:35]
8. I vo bene a chi vol bene a me   [2:08]

9. Danse   [2:32]   anon. France c. 1300

10. From 'Danger me hath, unskylfuly'   [3:06]   England 13th c.

Untitled instrumental piece from England (Coventry ?) 13th century
11. Douce 139   [1:44]

HILDEGARD von BINGEN, Germany 1098-1179
12. Unde quocumque   [4:14]
13. O Euchari   [3:45]

Melody from a song of praise to the Danish King Erik Menved by Meister RUMELANT, Germany 13th century
14. Got in vil hohen vreuden saz   [5:02]

Material from melodies collected in the 19th century to the Danish medieval ballad about the talking harp. (DgF 95)
15. Den talende strengeleg   [2:39]

A set of folk tunes from Denmark and the Faroe Islands to the songs
Skon Redselil og hendes moder, Ramun, Det var bolde Hr. Nilaus)

16. Folktunes   [4:12]

Poul Høxbro
pipe and tabor, pipe and string drum, double pipes

All instrumental renditions and arrangements by Poul Høxbro
Recording: Audiophon Recording Studio, 1999

"...Guy with drum and pipe plays for them this estampie..."

This line is from a song by the trouvère Jehan Erars (c. 1200 -1259), and it is one of the first references in existence to the instruments pipe and tabor being played by one and the same person. The first actual illustration is found in the El Escorial manuscript of the Spanish king Alfonso the Wise's large collection of Marian songs Cantigas de Santa Maria from about 1260. When the instrumental combination was conceived remains uncertain for the time being, but what is certain is that the combination flourished in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, when it was prevalent on the whole of the European continent as a more or less commonly used musical instrument, if literary references and numerous illustrations are to be considered significant. Of course it can always be maintained that both words and pictures have been created according to literary or iconographic models, but if one disregards this rigid view of historical sources, a completely different picture of the instrumental combination pipe and tabor emerges from that suggested by reading books and articles on mediaeval music.

It is quite clear that there was never any question of the instruments being a musical curiosity in the Middle Ages. Neither was there any tendency to limit the use of them to specific musical situations or any unequivocal association with the Devil - or God for that matter. It is true that the few Nordic pipe and tabor players we can see illustrated today wear a fool's costume, and indeed there are many situations involving dancing which are connected with the instruments, but otherwise the pipe and tabor crop up quite simply on the same footing as other common instruments of that time, from the great, symbolic orchestras of angels to illustrations of everyday music-making, when their function seems to have been unusually versatile. On the street level it can be seen as an accompaniment to bear-tamers, acrobats and the chain dances so deplored by the clergy. At the other end of the scale the pipe and tabor appear in church processions, at royal wedding ceremonies as well as generally in small ensembles of angels, when it was often used together with the harp and rebec.

Between these extremes the instrumental combination was a common form of entertainment for both high and low, often as part of a small ensemble of various combinations of the harp, lute, rebec/fiddle as well as the cornetto. But for the seductive Moorish dances they were always the only instruments played.

The pipe and tabor are however also seen in more official situations, for example as a trio leading an infantry unit or on horseback in a royal ceremonial procession and providing a background for tournaments and jousts.

In the Middle Ages it was customary to divide musical instruments up into two main groups depending on the power of the instrument in question. The powerful ones like for example trumpets, horns and shawms were called haut (loud) instruments, and all string instruments, flutes and portatives were called bas (soft) instruments. The two classes of musical instruments were as a rule kept clearly apart and did not play in the same ensemble. But here the pipe and tabor apparently create an interesting exception, since in the many pictures where they are portrayed they play in one instance together with the trumpet, shawm and bagpipe, in another with the harp, lute, psaltery, rebec and fiddle. In the pictures of the large orchestras of angels or other pictorial allegories in which all instruments are represented and often divided into the two main groups, one also sees indications that the pipe and tabor had not achieved a permanent position in either of the groups, since they seem to have been classed as loud or soft an equal number of times. In other words it was an unusually flexible instrumental combination which could be heard in every conceivable context and perhaps in a far greater part of the mediaeval tonal conception than former reconstructions of mediaeval music would seem to suggest.

This was the state of affairs until the beginning of the 16th century when the pipe and tabor slowly began to disappear from everyday life and only survived in certain regions. They are thus specifically mentioned in connection with France, the Netherlands and England. In the Netherlands they disappeared into obscurity while in England they were the traditional instruments for Morris Dances until the beginning of the present century, when the tradition managed to die out in the space of only a few years, until the instrumental combination returned to favour in connection with the Morris Dance tradition. But in the South of France and many places in Spain as well as in Peru this resourceful oneman-band still plays an important part in folk music. In the Salamanca province in Spain the pipe and tabor can still be heard in some churches during the offertory.

And why did this instrumental combination disappear from everyday music-making? In Thoinot Arbeau's dancing treatise Orchesography from 1589 an explanation almost reminiscent of market economy is offered, since Arbeau says that in his father's time it was customary to cut down on expenses by hiring only one musician who played two instruments at once, while at the present time the lowliest workman would have both oboes and trombones playing at his wedding. This is hardly the whole truth and probably not the most important reason. A more likely explanation is to be found in the relationship between the specific limitations of the flute played with one hand seen in connection with modifications of the then prevalent musical language. As long as music exclusively moved within a modal universe with simple chromatic adjustments determined by the so-called rules of musica-ficta, the flute could cope with most demands made upon it, but it failed when further demands for greater flexibility were made upon it. Neither had the tendency to increase the range required in written compositions encouraged the use of the flute, since it was extremely uneven in the uppermost register. Indeed it was not able to keep up with developments in art-music, and in this way it was compelled to retire from the scene and continue an obscure existence as an instrument of the people, so that in general it had been supplanted by other, more popular instruments.

The pipe, or flute played with one hand, is a type of recorder / flageolet with three finger holes. A narrow inner bore ensures that it is easy to play notes in the harmonic series by overblowing. In the first octave it is only possible to produce the first four notes before overblowing to the second octave, but from here the three holes are sufficient to make it possible to fill out the intervals between the notes which are overblown and in this way play a full scale with a compass of at least one and-a-half octaves. There seem to have been three basic sizes, the middle one tending to be the favourite, although in the Middle Ages there were probably no actual standard sizes. However, judging from the dimensions in the vast majority of pictures, the most common pipe seems to have had a fundamental somewhere between a and f. In several of the earliest pictures there is also a pipe which seems to be smaller than this, whereas especially towards the end of the period in which the pipe flourished, the upper classes appear to have preferred a somewhat larger pipe, probably with a fundamental between e and c.

Apart from this pipe played with one hand the standard version of the "ensemble" also comprised a tabor. The tabor had parchment on both sides which was secured by string, making it possible to regulate the tautness of the skin. In the great majority of cases strings were stretched over one of the skins, giving a rattling effect each time the drum was struck. Until well into the 15th century the tabor was always flat, the diameter (8 - 14 inches?) being greater than the depth, but in the course of the 15th century and later, there was more often a tendency to make the tabor deeper than the diameter. And not until the very latest pictures from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries does the tabor now and then assume the dimensions which are known from the Provençal tambourin or the tamboril of Salamanca.

So this is the standard version of the popular one-man-band. But there were also exceptions which in the most beautiful possible way justify the modern musician's desire for experimentation with sounds. In a tapestry from about 1510 in Musée Royaux et d'Histoire in Brussels an aristocratic trio consisting of a singer, a clavichord and a large one-handed pipe is woven into the portrayal. In Palazzo Publico in Sienna, Taddeo di Bartolo (1362-1422) has painted an angel with pipe and triangle, and in Estuna Church, Sweden, a musician can be seen holding a pipe in one hand and two bones in the other in exactly the same way as musicians playing Irish folk-music still do today. With regard to living musical traditions it is in this connection interesting to turn one's attention to Gascogne and Beam in France as well as to Aragon in Spain, where the tabor is replaced by a drum with strings. This instrument is an ordinary box-zither, i.e. a resonating box with strings tuned in fifths corresponding to the tonality of the pipe played with one hand, and it is beaten by the same musician with a stick in accompanying rhythmical patterns in the same way as with a drum. Such an instrument was also known in the Middle Ages under names including Chorus and is seen illustrated in several places in connection with singing. As far as I know there are no mediaeval pictures of the pipe and string drum, but on the basis of well-known traditions and pictures of the pipe and triangle and pipe and bones it seems highly unlikely that no attempts were made to exploit this combination in the Middle Ages, if only to a limited extent, since there is no iconographic or literary evidence to support this claim.

Yet another mediaeval instrumental combination with the pipe played with one hand can be mentioned here, namely the double pipe (double flageolet), which means two pipes played by the same person. This instrument was also of common occurrence in certain regions. Howard Mayer Brown has for example established that it was frequently to be found in 14th century Italy. It can often be difficult to see which flutes, or perhaps reed instruments, are in question. In some pictures it would seem that there are merely two small recorders with the small range made possible by the few holes, but in other cases there are clearly two pipes of the kind which are played by one hand. The double flageolets are also most often illustrated at a time and in such a way that makes it difficult to determine their scale in relation to each other because of the lack of perspective in the pictures, but from those which are clearest it would seem that in most cases the flutes were the same size and with the mouths in the same place, which would give the same tuning, and only exceptionally did the pipes' proportions differ. Exactly which function these double flageolets had is in many ways far more puzzling than that of the pipe and tabor, whose built-in logic of melody and rhythm in combination with living, accessible musical traditions to a great extent points forwards (or backwards). But however clear or obscure an early practice may appear today, historical fact will always support any argument that creative experimentation, curiosity and the wish or demand that innovation at whatever time in western history has been the driving force, also in everyday music-making.

This of course also applies today, when one looks back in a forward-moving perspective.

Poul Høxbro, Copenhagen 1999
English translation: Gwyn Hodgson