The Sound of Medieval Song is a study of how sacred and secular music was actually sung during the Middle Ages. The source of the information is the actual notation in the early manuscripts as well as statements found in approximately 50 theoretical treatises written between the years 600-1500. The writings describe various singing practices and both desirable and undesirable vocal techniques, providing a fairly accurate picture of how singers approached
the music of the period. Detailed descriptions of the types and uses of improvised ornament indicate that in performance the music was highly ornate, and included trill, gliss, reverberation, pulsation, pitch
inflection, non-diatonic tones, and cadenza-like passages of various lengths. The treatises also provide evidence of stylistic differences in various geographical locations. McGee draws conclusions about the kind of vocal production and techniques necessary in order to reproduce the music as it was performed during the Middle Ages, aligning the practices much more closely with those of the Middle East than has ever been previously acknowledged.
`A positive and thought-provoking aspect of McGee's study is its bringing together of so many diverse theoretical sources ... This painstaking collation of extracts, translations and bibliographical information allows the reader to sample and then follow up rare, often hard-to-locate sources: such an arrangement will undoubtedly serve as a valuable resource for students and scholars alike.'
Emma Dillon, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol 124, Part 2
`this book contains an important collection of material to which others will add their scholarly ornamentations.'
Anthony Pryer, Goldsmith's College, London, TLS, 16/10/98
`McGee's contribution to the continuing research related to the sound, performance, and understanding of medieval song is both relevant and thorough. The numerous charts, tables, and musical examples illustrate and support the author's conclusions. The book presents a strong, basic understanding of the style of singing and ornamentation in the Middle Ages, how it changed over the centuries, and a more general impression of the stylistic differences from one
geographic area to another.'
Brad Eden, TMR, 02/11/99
1: Vocal Style and Technique
2: Written Ornaments
Appendix - Quotations from Theoretical Sources