Christesmaesse: detailed background notes to the compositions

landschaft 025

Available to listen to and buy at Bandcamp

Release date: 11 December 2021

Format: digital download. Artwork and typography by Landschaft.

The work explained

Six short and medium format pieces exploring the evolution of christmas. These works are managed generative using 'well-formedness' cycles to MIDI trigger my faithful workhorse Korg Karma, a difficult beast to tame. Still learning and pushing this fantastic instrument's limits. Christesmaesse - Christes Maesse - Festival of Christ in Old English is an inherited festival, re-purposed by the ever-pragmatic Romans from pagan predecessor faiths, merging with the emerging Christianity. 25 December in the Roman calendar was the Winter Solstice. This was validated by Pope Julius I in the fourth century a date coincident with the Germanic Modranicht, as Bede records in the eighth century - 'heathen mothers night' or 'night of the mothers' culture that carried with the Anglo-Saxon migration west filling the vacuum created by the Roman retreat.

'Christesmaesse pt I': The first of a two part free-improvised stream of conciousness that simply says the cold evergreen mystery of Christesmaesse.

'Song for Nicola': My celebration of 10 years with my wonderful Nicola. Vini Reilly venerated his friendships in song, and this is my take on his theme. Simple, short and says it all. A nod to Jethro Tull's 'Ring out Solstice Bells' here an ep colection that entranced me in 1976 in my musical awakening.

'The Mummer's Guising': The Beginners' Guide to English Folk Drama provides a pretty comprehensive explanation of the 'Mumming Play'. The active period of this word of mouth and rural pageant was from the 18th to early 20th centuries. I'm not wholly convinced by the implication in the Guide that the activity built from a standing start. There are similarities to much earlier Saturnalian lively practice that is likely to have persisted and evolved through the centuries. I suspose we'll never know. It was all handed generation to generation by word of mouth. Mumming was simple seasonal performance for small scale reward, with the Mummers walking miles between performances - a dozen in a day over 30 miles of walking is mentioned in the Guide. A dozen in the day with food and drink offered at each stop would make for lively performance. The Mummers at least in the later and revival years would dress up - Guise - in the folk way familiar to anyone who has attended a Morris or Mayday performance. Earlier costumery was less elaborate it has been said and performers were said to dress in a similar manner. Read more here including the sub-types of Mummery and regional variation: Beginners Guide to English Folk Drama

'Be in Good Health': In mediaeval times you would greet with this salutation, and so I greet you!

'Christesmaesse pt II': Part two of this gentle exposition on Christesmaesse.

'Lord of Misrule': So on to Tudor times the practice of appointment of the 'Lord of Misrule', and it's clear lineage back to and resemblence to the Roman Saturnalia. The Lord of Misrule oversaw wild carousing which got so out of hand the Puritans banned Christmas (to be reinstated later in the C17th). Master/servant roles were exchanged, much ale was quaffed, bawdy excess was enjoyed, Figgy Pudding was demanded with menaces...