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Chapter 4 - Secular Music before 1650

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2022

Trevor Herbert
Affiliation:
Royal College of Music, London
Martin V. Clarke
Affiliation:
The Open University, Milton Keynes
Helen Barlow
Affiliation:
The Open University, Milton Keynes
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Summary

The dominant genre of secular music in medieval Wales was cerdd dant (literally ‘string craft’), a highly distinctive repertory played on the harp or crwth. Its delivery relied on highly trained professional instrumentalists, who worked in close partnership with Welsh strict-metre poets: both crafts were an intrinsic part of Welsh medieval ‘high culture’, linked to an exclusive bardic order. Though largely transmitted orally, some thirty items from the repertory were entabulated by the Anglesey harper Robert ap Huw c.1613. Cerdd dant largely retained its status until the 1560s, when the fashion for acquiring an English education gradually brought about a sea change in musical taste, effected by the importation of English tunes, texts, instruments and books. Some of the Welsh nobility nevertheless retained a loyalty to the practitioners of the traditional bardic crafts well into the seventeenth century, resulting in a mixed economy in some households, where vernacular music and poetry might rub shoulders with the latest English-style entertainments.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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