Thursday, September 01, 2011

El Grillo

Just before class today there was a cricket singing intermittently somewhere in the ceiling. I decided to entertain the students who were waiting for class to begin by playing this recording of Josquin's El Grillo to see how close Josquin came to the actual sound of a cricket.

Here's the text in Italian

El grillo è buon cantore,
Che tienne longo verso,
Dalle beve grillo canta.

Ma non fa come gli altri uccelli,
Come li han cantato un poco,
Van' de fatto in altro loco
Sempre el grillo sta pur saldo,

Quando la maggior è'l caldo
Al' hor canta sol per amore.

which Tinelot Wittermans translated to English as

The cricket is a good singer He can sing very long
He sings all the time.

But he doesn't act like the birds.
If they've sung a little bit
They go somewhere else
The cricket remains where he is,

If the month of May is warm
Because he sings out of love.
After the piece was over, the cricket in the ceiling was singing away--loudly and cheerfully, and far more quickly than it had earlier. It just wouldn't stop. I tried playing the piece again, and it kept chirping.

Eventually the cricket quieted down. When the final batch of students showed up a minute or two into the silence, I explained the nature of the experiment, and played a phrase to see if the cricket would start singing again. Nothing happened. Perhaps we exhausted the poor thing, or perhaps it was intimidated by Josquin's very accurate representation.

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