Magna Melodia – designing the CD

 

I’ve been working on the cover image for the new CD. I wanted something that suggested ‘Magna Carta’ but also something that emphasised music. So this is what I’ve come up with.

The primary image is taken from the seal of King John, as used on the great charter, but here in full colour. This is the obverse of the seal, which always shows the monarch in majesty – sat in state and holding the insignia of his (or her) office. Thus John holds imagea sword in his right hand and the orb in his left hand. The other side of the seal – the reverse – showed the monarch on horse back, in the characteristic knightly pose: horse at the gallop, knight in full armour with sword raised to the back. This double-faced style of seal was instituted in this country by William the Conqueror, and remains in place to this day with the reverse of the current royal seal showing Queen Elizabeth on horseback as the Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards and the obverse showing her ‘in majesty’ with the sceptre and the orb,

On John’s royal seal, the image is surrounded by the words Ioannes Dei gratia rex Anglie dominus Hibernie, in other words’ “John by the grace of God king of England lord of Ireland”. I’ve replaced this with the name off the CD! using letters modelled on those in the seal.

So that’s the Magna Carta angle. For the musical side of things, I thought I might echo the many medieval images of King David, the great biblical musician. He is often shown (usually himself playing an instrument) surrounded by other musicians.

So I snuck in images of a female musician playing a harp in the top left and a symphony on the bottom right (representing me!) and a male musician playing a duct flute in the top right and a medieval lute in the bottom left (representing Paul). All four of these images are loosely based on medieval exemplars. The harp player is based on the King David in the Westminster Psalter – the same image upon which Eric Kleinmann based my wonderful new Romnesque harp – while the symphony player is based on the famous miniature in the Cantigas de Santa Maria. The lute player is drawn from the Cantigas and also a couple of images in Alphonse X’s Book of Games, while the original of the flute player is a slightly earlier and English image.

Having created the image, we will now pass it on to our splendid graphic designer, Matt Riley of fusion design in York to transform it into a CD cover with our logo and all the other details and packaging.

It was an added bonus that this design echoed the circle-in-a-square design we’d used in the past for ‘Music for a Medieval Feast’ and ‘Music for a Tudor Feast’. We toyed satirically with the idea of calling this CD ‘Music for a Major Medieval Constitutional Change’ but wisely thought better in the end…

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Musically, things are going really well. Paul has been concentrating on the troubadour material and has been recording the first instrumental pieces. I’ve been working on the pronunciation for ‘La dousa votz’ and ‘Voulez vous que je vous chant’ – those pesky differences between Occitan and French are testing me!  We’ve decided to include Raimbaut de Vaqueiras’ Kalenda Maya (in an instrumental version) and the melody sometimes known as the English Dance. This comes from the same manuscript as Foweles in the Frith – Douce 139 – and so is right at the end of our period. Soon we will be turning to the Sicilian repertoire, which being largely Christmas tunes and also twelfth century, will also play a large part in our music for the Norman Christmas event at the Tower of London (27-31 December), and our ‘Medieval Christmas’ concert at Barley Hall in York (18 December).

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