Conductus: Music & Poetry from Thirteenth Century France
John Potter / Christopher O'Gorman / Rogers Covey-Crump
v. 1 - Hyperion 67949
v. 2 - Hyperion 67998
v. 3 - Hyperion 68115

This is both the largest collection of its kind, in terms of program, and at least arguably the most thorough & detailed attempt to study rhythmic articulation within this large repertory. (Although not collected in such a fashion, Antoine Guerber has also performed & recorded this repertory extensively, most recently in a majority of tracks on Sanctus.)

Although the result is rather stark in its emphasis on unaccompanied voices, often solo, and not all of the material might be captivating on first hearing, there is such a wealth of melodic-rhythmic ideas here that the program takes on an "essential" quality.

As one might expect, the interpretation also becomes more sophisticated with each volume, but I have elected to list the full set, because the process of refining the articulation is itself of interest. Moreover, one might question my choice to list this set under the "sacred" heading, and such a question would be warranted, showing as it does a limitation of the categorical scheme here: One shouldn't make too much of the categories, but conductus is often performed together with organum, which is explicitly sacred, and so I've retained that association, perhaps arbitrarily. (It can thus be compared to e.g. Potter's earlier Leonin.) Perhaps the most appropriate question in response is whether we have any real understanding of secularity per se anyway.

That the conductus form itself — the functional nature of which is still being debated — served as something of a laboratory for melodic exploration seems obvious after hearing this collection.

The result might thus be of more interest to specialists than to anyone else, but there are many intriguing ideas here. It would be interesting to investigate this style alongside other world lyrical traditions, and indeed that seems like a reasonable followup step — if indeed the collection is complete (not the repertory, but the project) at three volumes.

To medieval sacred list

Todd M. McComb