A note on terminology
for those who found this page through a search engine:
This page uses the term "early music" frequently.
People generally use this term to mean one of two things:
This page belongs to the the Crown Province of Østgarðr, a local branch of the
Society for Creative
Anachronism, whose official focus ends in 1600.
So for our purposes, "early music" is medieval or Renaissance,
excluding the Baroque and later periods. The Webmaster happens to enjoy
playing Bach, Chopin, and even Scott Joplin, but those won't be discussed
on this page.
- music of a particular chronological period, e.g. pre-1700 or
pre-1800 (or, for some people, before the Beatles broke up!)
- music performed in a "historically informed" manner,
i.e. using as nearly as possible the instruments, forces, tempi, vocal
techniques, etc. current when the music was written (theoretically, this
could apply to playing early-1960's rock with a Telecaster and a 10-watt
For more concerts (and a broader definition of "early
Where do I find sheet music?
One of the most common questions we get: a newcomer plays guitar, or
fiddle, or recorder, or sings, and wants to know if there's any period
(i.e. pre-1600) music around for him/her to learn. This is sorta like
asking "does anybody know a good place to eat in Manhattan?":
it's hard to answer without narrowing down the question. But here are
- Joseph Casazza's arrangements of the melodies of "Inns of Court"
dances (Elizabethan English), freely downloadable (retaining
his copyright to the arrangements)
- Joseph Casazza's article about Arbeau's Orchesography,
including his arrangements of many of Arbeau's dance tunes. Again,
freely downloadable although he retains copyright.
- Paul Butler (ska Master Arden of Icomb) has arranged a number of
medieval and Renaissance pieces, and made them freely available for
performance and distribution within the SCA
- Steve Hendricks's
- Steve Hendricks has done multi-part arrangements of
hundreds of Renaissance dance tunes; this page lists them
all, in a convenient tabular format.
- the Choral Public Domain
- a massive collection of copyright-free vocal music from all eras,
categorized by time period, genre, number of voices, etc. Only a few
dozen medieval pieces as of this writing, but thousands of Renaissance
- Your local college or University library
- More useful than most public libraries for this purpose (although
see the NYPL Performing Arts Library, below). Since
most academic libraries use the Library of Congress cataloguing
system, you'll probably want call numbers starting with M2, which
includes music scores from all periods. You'll still need to know
what you're looking for, but once you find it you can generally
photocopy the relevant pages in the library under the
"fair use doctrine" (depending on what you plan to use
- the Performing
Arts Collection of New York Public Library
- at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. A world-class collection of
performing-arts materials (music, theatre, dance, film, etc.), many of
which can be checked out with your NYPL card. Even if you don't have
an NYPL card, you can walk in and browse the collections; it's much
friendlier than the 42nd-Street main library.
- Other early-music hobbyists
- If you see or hear somebody playing or singing early music at an
SCA event, an American Recorder Society workshop, a Renaissance faire, etc,
they probably have lots of printed music at home, and some with them.
Most of these folks, including John & Rufina, love to talk about
their interests and hobbies, so strike up a conversation (unless
they're rehearsing for a performance in a few minutes) and you'll
probably get more information than you know what to do with.
On-line reference sources on early music
The public radio show Here of a
Sunday Morning has a series of articles about various periods
of music. A good way to get a quick view of different styles and
Some articles are on the site but don't have links to them on the
"Periods" page mentioned above. One of those is The Ars Nova in
The Indiana University page for general
- The Early Music Network, an international early music
society. Site includes a concert calendar, jobs board, instrumental
rental board, collection of links, used instrument marketplace, news,
La Trobe University's Database
of 14th-century European Music
La Trobe University's Medieval
Online Encyclopedia: Cynthia J. Cyrus's Introduction
to Medieval Music (also points to her articles on Women in Medieval
Music, Church Modes, etc.)
of medieval music from the University of Calgary's Applied History
Todd McComb's awesome Early
Music FAQ (check out the recording reviews...)
- FreeDB, a
database of MP3 files, including some early ones. (I have no idea how
copyright-legal this site is; use at your own risk.)
An elegant, concise Early
Museum Exhibits on early music
Pages for Specific Instruments
Pages about Early Music Performance Practice
We've done business with some, but not all, of these companies. Inclusion
in this list does not constitute an endorsement by the Webmaster, the Crown
Province of Østgar?r, the Society for Creative Anachronism, or anybody
else. If you're considering buying anything from these merchants, please
do some research before shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The Early Music Shop,
the U.K.'s "Early Music Instrument Specialists to the World..."
The Boulder Early Music Shop.
- Boston Catlines, aka Olav
Chris Henrikson, sells gut strings for musical instruments. Simple
strings are sold in 3-meter lengths (know the exact diameter you want
before you contact him), while twisted catlines are made to order.
- William Monical, a
highly-regarded maker and repairer of Renaissance and Baroque
bowed-string instruments, conveniently located at 288 Richmond Terrace,
Staten Island. (The last time I was there, I glanced at the pile of
papers on his desk and saw an envelope labelled "Yo Yo Ma Bridge".)
Von Huene Workshop/Early
Music Shop of New England.
Antique Sound Workshop
Kelischek Workshop for Historical
in the Morning
Morse-Brown, a UK-based maker of early stringed instruments.
- Peter Noy, a
maker of early flutes and recorders.
- Philippe Bolton, another maker of early flutes and recorders.
Editions, which sells sheet music including a lot of medieval and
Oberlinger Organ Works,
a German company that builds mechanical-action organs. Note particularly
and Reconstructions of Historical Instruments
Early music on the radio
in and around NYC
There's not a lot, frankly, but here are the programs we've found so far.
"The Early Music Show" on WKCR,
89.9 FM, 9:30 AM-12 noon Fridays.
"Here of a Sunday Morning"
99.5 FM, 9-11 AM Sundays.
"Sound and Spirit"
on WNYC, 93.9 FM, 7-8 AM Sundays, is
not, strictly speaking, an early music program, but early music frequently
appears on the playlist.
WQXR, a classical station whose daytime
DJ, Jeff Spurgeon, mixes in a significant amount of medieval and
Renaissance music too.
elsewhere around the country
I'm sure there are many more than these, but I know that these are available
in syndication, so there's some hope of persuading a local radio station
to pick them up. Except, of course, for the "if it's not from New York,
it's CRAP!" phenomenon....
a weekly program (Thursdays 9:00-10:00 PM EST) from Indiana University's
renowned Early Music Institute (available free on satellite).
Duffin's Micrologus (which actually ran only from 1981-1998,
but reruns are available).
Aubry Davis's Millennium of Music, a weekly program
(Sundays 10:00-11:00 PM Eastern time)
on Washington, DC's WETA.
Davis also plays early music on the digital satellite radio channel
Early Music Classical Fiasco, a weekly program (Sundays from 7-9 PM Pacific
time, i.e. 10-midnight in New York) on KXLU. I think the first hour is early music, and the
second hour is "unusual classical and world music", but I haven't
actually listened to the program yet.
of Early Music, a Web-radio station specializing in Medieval,
Renaissance, and early Baroque music.
Various individuals' and groups' pages on early music
Pages for Specific Composers or Genres
Pages with Photos and Sound Files of Early Instruments
D. Peters / Magistra Rufina Cambrensis / seahorse at ostgardr
Stephen Bloch / Master John Elys / email@example.com