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Mediaeval Baebes, Salva Nos (1997): Song Meanings and Origins
The Mediaeval Baebes are the first name on the lips of any music lover who enjoys medieval culture. They have featured prominently in the music of almost every party I’ve been to. I love medieval music, and many of my friends can tell you how I’ve shut them up after a few drinks to tell them about the true origins of Mediaeval Baebes music. So I decided it was time to give the site my attention, get it out of my system, and save my friends from my ramblings.
My next series of articles will examine the Mediaeval Baebes’ discography, and briefly discuss the origins and history of the music they drew upon to create their masterpieces. I hope you enjoy it.
To begin, let’s take a look at their first album, Salva Nos, which was released in 1997.
1. Salve Virgo Virginum
This is an old Gregorian hymn to the Virgin Mary. The Baebe family approached it from a conservative, historically accurate angle.
2. Now Springes The Spray
This is an English song, circa 1300, and an early example of a chanson d’aventure. A chanson d’aventure features a male narrator wandering the countryside who overhears or interrupts a mystical moment. In this case, the singer hears a maiden cursing her lover who has insulted her.
3. No! It’s Mon Moine
Although this song is said to have originated in France, in the 16th century or earlier, my Canadian readers will be happy to know that our oldest song comes from 19th century Quebec. It is a playful, critical song about dancing monks. The word “moine” means “monk” and “spinning top”.
4. Adam Lay Ibounden
The lyrics are 15th-century English, set to music by the Mediaeval Baebe Katharine Blake. The results are terrifying, powerful, and beautiful. Blake did a great job with the setup. I want to take a moment, to acknowledge that his words are beautiful and important. The first two chapters describe Adam, the first man, imprisoned for a thousand years as punishment for taking the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden. However, in the third and fourth stanzas, the poet praises the sin of the people and the expulsion from the garden as events without which Mary would not be the Queen of Heaven, therefore “Blessed be the time the apple took! This is a powerful message that is still very important today. When we learn to establish peace is our starting point, we are ready to move forward.
5. Foweles in the Beginning
This is another beautiful site by Katharine Blake. His words are simple, obscure, and depressing, from late 1300s England. It remains in one manuscript where it is buried under many legal documents. Interestingly, the record has songs with lyrics, but for whatever reason, the Baebes chose to use the original music for this recording.
6. So Treiben Wir Den Zima Aus
This is a very practical 16th century German folk song about driving in the winter outdoors. Although his lyrics are not left out, one can see them as very pagan when considering the following songs.
7. The Coventry Carol
This is a very popular song, and certainly the darkest of all Christmas songs. The Baebes did a great job of keeping the 16th century writing and making the music and tone sound natural. The results are perfect.
This recorder is a triumph. The lyrics and refrains come from 16th-century Scandinavian manuscripts and the verses were set by Mediaeval Baebe Ruth Galloway. I love the combination of these essentials and respect for the past.
9. The great lullaby
This is the saddest and saddest song written by Katharine Blake. The word is Old English, but I haven’t been able to find much about its origins. If you know something, please leave a comment.
10. Veni, Veni
Another favorite Christmas carol (or Advent carol), it is called “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, but it was sung in the original Latin. The exact origins of this song are unclear.
11. Salva Nos
“Save us, star of the sea and queen of Heaven!” This is an Anglo-Norman worship song from the 1300s. The Baebes have added instruments to emphasize the melody and drive the song forward.
12. Verbum Caro
This is another Christmas carol found in Florentine manuscripts from the 14th century. Again, Mr. Baebe has added simple instruments to enhance the overall appeal.
Another beautiful song from Katharine Blake. This hymn is a 12th century English poem, and is only one stanza long, depicting Christ suffering on the cross.
14. Binnorie O Binnorie
This is a Scottish ballad of which twenty-four versions still exist and dates back to the 17th century. It tells the oft-repeated story of the “brutal sister”. One sister drowns another to marry the sister’s husband, and their bones are found and made into a harp, which sings the truth of the murder. It’s interesting that the Baebes chose photography as a medium. For those in the know, the words are just in the background of the music, like the muffled voice of a murdered girl singing her truth after death.
15. This Ay Nicht
This English song is called Lyke-Wake Dirge, and it talks about the journey of life after death. It was first written in the 17th century, but is considered to be much older. It’s cool and powerful and has been used and reworked by many poets and musicians over the years.
16. Miri is
This is an English song from the 1300s about the sadness that comes with winter when summer is over. An interesting choice to end an album that has many winter songs.
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