Tag Archives: renaissance

Higher education

Colleges popping up!

These things don’t happen all at once. First schools—colleges—popped up, to teach the trivium and quadrivium (the liberal arts). Next, there were specialized schools that taught medicine or law or divinity. In late eleventh-century Bologna (that’s in Italy) somebody got the idea to gather together schools that taught specialties and the liberal arts under one philosophical roof and call them a university. ‘University’ comes from the Latin word universitas that means ‘whole, the sum of all things.’

Side bar: these terms for higher learning institutions are used differently in different countries. In Spain, ‘college’ sounds a lot like their word for high school. In Italy, ‘liceo’ (lee CHAY oh) means high school, but in Great Britain or the US, a lyceum is a hall where people give lectures or concerts.

https://www.medievalchronicles.com/medieval-life/medieval-schools/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_European_universities
https://www.britannica.com/topic/university
https://www.medievalists.net/2011/08/medieval-university/
https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2018-02-14/understand-the-difference-between-a-college-and-university-in-the-us
https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/lyceum

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Charlemagne’s culture boom

Your books will ship in 1-2 business days!

All of Charlemagne’s and Alcuin’s hard work paid off. The scriptoria were busy cranking out books using Alcuin’s new Carolingian-style letters (did you know Charlemagne’s sister Sister Gisele ran a scriptorium?) and choirs were singing those beautiful polyphonic hymns. Charlemagne’s push for education and culture inspired collections of schools to become universities—who clamored for even more books.

Sister Hildegard would do just about anything to improve the lighting in her scriptorium.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolingian_Renaissance
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelles_Abbey
https://thenewinquiry.com/blog/women-scribes-the-technologists-of-the-middle-ages/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Polyphony

A bewigged quartet of musicians I drew for my pals at the good ol’ Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh some years ago. Did Alcuin have any idea his invention would eventually come to this?

It wasn’t long before musicians figured out they could use notation to write several tunes into the same song: tunes that harmonize with or play against the main tune and enrich it. This is called polyphony.

Alcuin’s invention makes it possible to write fugues and symphonies and operas with parts for an entire orchestra of musical instruments and many human voices. Other cultures nowadays may write and perform symphonies, but they couldn’t do it without Alcuin and Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire.

Here are a couple of quick explanations of how musical notation works:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN41d7Txcq0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFaKNR7eeJk
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphony
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/dec/17/polyphonic-music-fragment-origins-rewritten
Mediæval music manuscripts are a lovely combination of lettering and notes. https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/from-tablet-to-tablet/final-projects/music-in-medieval-manuscripts
https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=44459
Here are the Mediæval Bæbes to show us what the Middle Ages sounded like—https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXrdfTSLWCY
Likewise Carlo Gesualdo (he’s the composer; I can’t find who performed the Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday in this recording)—
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjXQeuO0fLw
You sure can’t beat the Tallis Scholars—
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4VoKso5ERI
Girls could play the game, too. In the 1100s, divinely-inspired Sister Hildegard von Bingen created this music—
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YTOiJ-zjP0
Eventually (ad 1700s—see the sketch above) we got Johanne Sebastian Bach writing stuff like this. I believe the bottom staff has the main tune while the top staff has all the deedle-deedle-deedle (I don’t know how to read music so maybe a musically-literate reader can help me out): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCL5Zvnt0TU
A couple centuries later—you can hear and see the different lines of music played here, in Khachaturian’s gorgeous adagio from Spartacus (this piece brings me to tears every time): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXsDsLHasWo
Here’s what 20th-century New York City sounded like. This is a 1940s Hollywood recreation of the 1924 debut of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, but that sure looks like Paul Whiteman at the podium. The piano plays the main tune; the orchestra plays the variations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAuTouBhN5k

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Renaissance & Baroque musical instruments

I had it in mind to create some note cards with these images.  Never got around to it.

A wee spot

Here’s a fun little spot illustration I did for the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, this time to promote a concert of ancient Scottish and Irish music—both sacred (church liturgy) and profane (drinking songs).  The costume is from a painting of a highland aristocrat wearing his hunting clothes.

scot

scotty

Bring me the head of Johann Sebastian Bach

2bach

Awhile back, Ann Mason—then-exec-director of the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh—and I thought it would be screamingly funny to create a promotional bobblehead of the august Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.  And, by George, we were right—it is funny!

Here’s what I envisioned:

bach

One of the rbsp board members, Joy Troetschel, has some expertise in getting merchandise manufactured, and knew of a bobblehead factory in China who could produce our little statuette.  What follows are some images from the correspondence I shared with the talented sculptors who created a brilliant little 3D clay caricature of Bach from the sketches I sent.

Bach Head Clay 1

Bach Head Clay 2

Bach Head Clay 3

Bach Head Clay 4

Bach Body Clay 6

And here’s the prototype.  They even airbrushed a nice 5 o’clock shadow onto JSB’s cheeks!

Bach Colour Revision 3

If you’d like one of these timeless treasures, visit the rbsp website—they’re modestly priced and benefit the Society.

It’s October…

UPDATE! If you live in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area and like to hear really old classical music, mark your calendar Oct 24 to attend The Medieval Beasts concert. I’m told it’s a costume event, but didn’t see any info about that on the R&B website.  Go—you’ll have an enjoyable evening and meet some fun people.

Here’s a little spot illustration I did a couple of years ago for the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh.  For October that year they’d booked a group called Artec who did a concert of Graveyard Music. So, we promoted it with a postcard.  A couple of sketch ideas—

graveyard.A

graveyard.B

Ann Mason—the exec director—liked sketch A.

skeleton

The Robin Hood Project

dr

I like to listen to really old classical music, and have attended the wonderful concerts organized by the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh.  I do illustrations for their season brochures.

A couple of years ago they booked the group Hesperus, who had the clever idea to perform a renaissance/medieval soundtrack to Douglas Fairbanks’ silent movie Robin Hood.  My buddy Ann Mason, who was executive director at the time, asked me to do a poster illustration for this special concert.  How could I resist?

I wanted to show the musicians superimposed on a larger-than-life Douglas Fairbanks, and somehow interacting with him.  I remembered a scene from the movie My Favorite Year, in which Peter O’Toole (essentially playing Errol Flynn) drunkenly walks into a screening of one of his old movies and begins sword-fighting his own projected image.

robinhood

To separate the musicians from Fairbanks, I chose to paint them in color and him black & white—that’s a no-brainer.  Also, they will be lighted from below (as they turned out to be during the performance) while Fairbanks would be lighted from the left.  They will cast hard shadows onto the b&w image to keep up the illusion of a projected movie.  The perspective for Fairbanks is different and far more dramatic than for the musicians—we’re looking at him from a bug’s-eye view; the musicians are level with our own horizon.  As usual with my perspective exercises, if you take a ruler to it and try to find a vanishing point you’ll be doomed to disappointment.  The vanishing points are there, somewhere, but I don’t strictly adhere to them.

Robin hood color

I did a burnt sienna underpainting even for the black and white portion.  I think it warms it up a bit.

fairbanks