Rock Around the Croc: Renaissance Men

Let’s take some time to talk about rules. Certainly there are those who think art has or should have no rules, but I respectfully disagree. I think there are two kinds of rules in music. Some of them cannot be broken, and some can be broken but only at a price. As an example of the former, if you play a C and a C sharp, it will sound highly dissonant, and if you play a C-E-G chord it will sound highly consonant. That’s not to say dissonant or consonant is good or bad – you need both in music, in the right places. A saxophone has a different timbre than a harp or a drum, and no snotty music theorist can change that.

But there are also rules that can be bent or broken.

It’s just important to be aware that when you are breaking a rule, it may come at a cost. If Beethoven decides that classical-era forms are too constraining for his self-expressive goals, then he is perfectly free to break out of those constraints. In his case, it came at the cost of his contemporary audiences and critics largely sitting there asking what the fresh hell they were listening too. They had no context for what he was doing, because their context followed a certain set of rules and he was breaking some of them. Beethoven’s cost was that his genius was not recognized until much later. Some musicians break the rules in such a way as to make them – hopefully – permanent laughing-stocks:

I showed that video to my kids, and now Yoko Ono is synonymous in their minds with terrible, bizarre, self-indulgent nonsense. Sounds like I’ve done something right as a father. The point is simply this: sometimes you break the rules at the cost of losing your audience, or you might break them in a way that people love, or they might not consciously recognize. In pop or alternative, you can’t make a mandolin the featured instrument, and you need a verse – chorus – verse – chorus – solo – chorus structure, or else you will lose your audience, except for when you don’t lose your audience:

The reality is, in order to make something new you need to break the rules. In my opinion, you should not break the rules without first understanding why they exist, so that you can replace them with something better (and not sound like Ms. Ono up there), instead of just nihilistically tearing everything down and hoping something cool shows up in the aftermath. Guillaume de Machaut, the great pioneer of isorhythm, wrote florid organum pieces that sound just like the old-timers he labelled the ars antigua, proving that he could do it before striking out to do something different.

Last time, I talked about how in the lead-up to the Renaissance, the old rules started to fall apart as the influence of the Catholic Church started to wane. Prohibitions on secular music or instrumental accompaniment started to weaken, and I argued in part that was because it just wasn’t that much of a threat. No one was concerned that someone would listen to Guillaume de Machaut and start worshipping Zeus, or try to translate the Bible into vernacular languages, so it wasn’t a big deal.

The Renaissance was kicked off with a flood of ancient texts hitting the European intelligentsia like a hammer. Before the sack of Constantinople, Greeks started moving their ancient libraries away from the threat center. With the Spanish reconquista of the Iberian peninsula, Arabic citadels were captured and their ancient texts preserved and translated into Latin. The ancient Greek ideas led to revolutions in art, architecture, sculpture, medicine, exploration, philosophy, drama, and of course music. For the ancient Greeks, music was a fundamentally humanistic endeavor. For the early Catholic Church, music existed to glorify God and lead the mind towards His contemplation. In the Renaissance, the pendulum swung back towards the humanistic ideal. The Europeans read Greek authors who said that music had the power to change the physical world – healing sickness, producing physical effects on the psyche, even taming wild animals. The Europeans recognized that, as pretty as their plainchants were, they simply didn’t appear to have the same effects as what the Greeks were describing. So they made some new rules.

Renaissance music emphasizes clear vocal declamation. That means you can’t be overly melismatic, because if your four-syllable word takes 57 seconds to sing, no one will have any idea what you’re singing about. It should also follow, as much as possible, the natural contours of speech, so the spiky rhythms of the Machaut piece I linked last time are definitely out. It should reflect the meaning or feeling of the word, which means complicated rules for word-painting were devised for use in madrigals (more about madrigals later). There were also rules devised for tuning and harmonic structures, so the reason we have B Major and Eb minor scales is because of Renaissance composers.

These harmonic rules allowed for the rise of something called homophony, which is the single most common musical texture you will hear in Western music for the last six hundred hears. As a reminder, there are three harmonic textures in music: monophony (one musical line, and all instruments and voices are doing that same line), polyphony (two or more musical lines at the same time) and homophony. In homophony, there are two or more musical lines, but one of those lines is the dominant line, with the others in a supporting role. The best explanation I’ve ever heard of how this works is, in homophony, there simply isn’t enough musical content in the other voices to compete with the main line. Here’s an example of what I mean, Now Let Us Rejoice as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

There are four vocal lines happening there, but only one of those vocal lines is singing the melody, the flowing line that actually gets stuck in your head. If you sing the bass part, you’ll have long measures where you sing the same note over and over again. If you sing just the bass, you sound more like you’re chanting a monotone than singing. But if you put those four vocal lines together, using harmonic rules developed during the Renaissance, you get beautiful music.

I’ve written a lot of words about Renaissance music without playing any Renaissance music, so I’ll end with a piece that demonstrates how the rules can sometimes come into conflict with each other. Here is Ave Maria, Virgo Serena by Josquin des Prez. This music is stunningly beautiful:

The two rules that come into conflict are that 1) you need clear vocal lines, and 2) harmonic structure allows for multiple lines to run concurrently. Each one of those voices, taken alone, is clear as a bell. But the fact that they weave together, overlap, compete with each other for musical space, means as a whole piece you can’t follow what is being said at all. This is an issue that will definitely come up as the Church faces the threat of the Reformation.

Next week (or whenever) I will talk about the two dominant musical forms of the Renaissance: the Renaissance mass, and the madrigal. In the mean time, do yourself a favor and spend the coming week looking on YouTube or wherever for Josquin Des Prez and Giovanni da Palestrina.


  1. Thanks Sobek, these are great.

  2. I did some word-painting on your mom’s face while she screamed like Yoko. It was a mixed media modern art masterpiece.

  3. Yoko is a musical genius… you h8r’s need to come up to speed

  4. Florid organ.

  5. Sobek has brought the chat room iq up about 100 points.

  6. Hey Jam, I saw your comment a while back that you weren’t impressed with the .300 Blackout at the range, can you elaborate? I’m not all in on caliber for my growing AR collection and would like some data if you care to share.

  7. Congrats to Sean on 10 and still going.

  8. I did some word-painting on your mom’s face while she screamed like Yoko. It was a mixed media modern art masterpiece.
    I laughed and laughed. That’s how you do a mom joke.

  9. Pup – it was more a comment on accuracy than the caliber.
    This build is not a shooter.
    In all fairness I have not given it a thorough test with reloads yet either.

  10. I know we don’t gun talk here much but if I get some time I’ll throw together some picks and babble about the build and initial sight in.
    If peeps don’t want it up I won’t be insulted if it’s deleted.

  11. I put the palmetto state armory build together this past week. I need to test that too it’s in 223.

  12. Not my rocket, but one of the weirdest launches ever.

    SpaceX Dragon with my stuff did launch properly, should dock with ISS tomorrow.

  13. I would LOVE it if we had a Tactical Thursday or whatever. LOVE.

    I can’t really commit to more pupster poasting than I already do now, but I can help with editing if anyone needs a guiding hand.

  14. I’m no rocket scientist but I’m pretty sure sideways is not a good launch attitude.

    SpaceX Dragon with my stuff did launch properly, should dock with ISS tomorrow.

    YAAAY! I also love the insider space stuff Rocket Chick. LOVE.

  15. Congratulations, Sean! (((squishy hugs)))

  16. I saw your comment a while back that you weren’t impressed with the .300 Blackout at the range, can you elaborate?
    I have a .300 Blackout and that thing is a tack driver out to 100 or so meters. I don’t like it for anything past 200… there is a lot of drop, and, maybe just the ammo I use (cheap… blackout is pretty expensive no matter what you do), but it seems to destabilize quite a bit at longer ranges.
    For me, the upside to the blackout is that subsonic ammo through a can is really, really quiet. As in, the action is almost as loud as the shot, with a gem tech, at least. The down side is that I saw supressed subsonic blackout ammo fail to drop a white tail doe at around 130 meters, even though it was a solid hit.
    It is cost/benefit. I’m not sure what you are looking for, but if I wasn’t looking for to put a silencer on it, OR I wasn’t looking for a good CQB – 120 meter rifle, I would probably look at a different caliber. But your mileage may vary.
    My rifle is very, very smooth. You cannot mix supersonic and subsonic without changing the gas pressure, or you will get misfeeds. But the stopping power with supersonic rounds at moderate distances is decent, at least according to me. Not as good for the price as some other calibers for ballistics, but versatile in some fairly narrow aspects. I enjoy it. I won’t get another one in the same caliber. But I also won’t sell the one I have. Probably.

  17. Early scuttlebutt on the weird launch was that an engine failed right after ignition, and that’s what it looks like when your thrust to weight ratio is one. I’m impressed that it didn’t go cartwheeling off somewhere, so props to guidance for that. It burned enough fuel to drop the weight, so it sloooowly gained altitude. There’s a cable run cover banging around, so I don’t know if it took out the engine or the engine took out the cover.

  18. One of the things I noticed about both the Mormon Tabernacle and the Ave Maria videos is that the buildings are correctly designed for sound. My old church has horrible acoustics. You can be sitting right in front of the choir and not understand the words because it’s just terribly muddy. They’ve spent a lot of money trying to fix it when they should have just chosen a more traditional architecture. At my current church, if the sound system goes out, the priest can stand in front of the altar, and everyone can still hear him.

  19. Congrats, Sean. Truly impressive.

  20. I would also like a tacpost, sounds interesting. I’m also available for posting difficulties.

    I would also like a breakdown of why Tom petty music appeals to me so much

  21. it’s truly a great experience hearing musical performance in a place that’s acoustically friendly. CY Stephens in ames is one of those places

  22. Here’s what I’m listening to this morning, while making spicy breakfast fajitas with fried eggs and guacamole:

    You seriously can’t go wrong with Josquin.

  23. How odd, we went to a funeral mass for a friend of a friend recently and we were remarking on how awful the acoustics were. We could barely make out what people were saying, the interior was bouncing sound around in such an awful distracting racket.

  24. wakey wakey

  25. Truck drove off the highway here this morning. My guesses:

    1. medical event
    2. texting
    3. spider

  26. There really can’t be any other causes.

  27. Sleepy?
    Lid on the giant gas station coffee fell off?
    That’ll make you forget what the big wheel in front of you is for.

  28. Acoustics in interior spaces is an interesting science. Back in the old days people experienced music mostly in cathedrals, so the music was composed accordingly to account for the long reverberation times in those spaces mostly built of stone and wood.

    However, long reverb times make speech unintelligible because one word runs over the next.

    Music directors fight with pastors about this all the time today. One wants it as lively a space as possible for the music, the other wants it dead so people can hear the sermon, etc.

    The answer is a sound system that can deliver the words simultaneously throughout the room. But of course it doesn’t help the people when they want to talk to each other.

    Or maybe they were all just cunts wearing masks.

  29. Very interesting, Hotspur. No, no masks, or very few on that day. And when the priest put on a mask to hand out the host, Scott rolled his eyes so hard I could hear it.

    I guess today there would be all masks in there, because virtually every town in CT has reinstated the mandate and is begging the state to apply it statewide again. They don’t like the fact that their municipal mandates are toothless and they can’t fine businesses. They want the stick. It’s sniveling Karen snitches all the way down. Depressing.


  30. Its very, very warm outside.

    Mowed the lawn. Now I have to do some weeding.

    All running today is of the indoor variety.

  31. Three years and change.

    They’re really gonna do this until the 2024 election.

  32. I saw Jonah was on Fox yesterday being interviewed by someone. I did NOT listen. I was busy, and fuck him. But I am curious wtf he has to say right now.

  33. Feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap.

    That’s his new name.

  34. DRPOS.

  35. that’s one po’d mama bear. boebert visiting her tomorrow or today, guess we won’t hear anything about that

  36. Jonah and Steven Hayes. two pees in a pod.

    I know what I typed

  37. sniffy checking his watch at the ceremony.

  38. Typical. SO, we apparently drone struck a car packed with explosives, yet w/in the first thirty minutes the TollyBon said the only person who died was a child.

    That’s when I knew something was up. That was the first bit of news announced.

  39. Ed Asner was a liberal POS. I said it. I don’t care.

  40. I bet its pudding cup and nappy time for DRPOC

  41. Sobek, these posts are great. If anyone cares I only have two bullwhips up my ass because I’m feeling awful retentive today.

  42. Lothar, the number of bullwhips in your ass RIGHT NOW!,is a private matter between you and your doctor. And all of the Hostages who are still searching for the record holder.

    Two? Piker!

  43. J’ames, the watch was Beaus. We are supposed to get all verklempt because DRPOC knows the pain of loss. IMAO FT.

  44. We were in DC in 07. National Cathedral had choir practice. A cappella and awesome. We went to American University. Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Organ and violins. The acoustics are amazing.

  45. Scroll through. If true, I really miss Rush. He could have bullhorned the bullshit.

  46. What actually happened:

    Our idiotic military leaders asked the Tolly Bon for names of people who were involved with the bombings and Mahmoud, spotting an opportunity, gave our brass the names of two guys he owed money to.

  47. Nailed it.

  48. What actually happened:

    They made it up.

  49. In his advanced state of dementia, how often do you think DRPOS sucks Dr. Jill’s dick?

  50. “DanCrenshaw
    America, you need to know this: Biden is not letting US citizens through the airport gates. It has been impossible to get anyone through for the last 24 hours.

    This administration has been lying about their intent to save Americans. Unforgivable.”


    I keep seeing our reps tweeting this stuff but you’re not seeing them doing anything about it.

  51. How is that not some sort of civil rights violation?

    We’re not far from Mark of the Beast territory here.

  52. Chase Bank is filled with a bunch of pissy high school mean girls.

    Do they do business with any Mexican drug cartels?

  53. Create your own banking industry, bigots

  54. All humans actively spread disease all the time. They do that even when wearing cloth masks, because cloth masks are ineffectual at stopping aerosolized viruses. They do that even when vaccinated against covid, because we have been repeatedly assured by those who most want us to get vaccinated that the vaccine doesn’t prevent transmission.

    And I wonder what Nassim Taleb would think about government stopping HIV positive individuals from having sex with others. Or any STD. If anyone who tested positive for gonorrhea were imprisoned in solitary confinement, would that be symmetry?

  55. Also, doctors must abide that oath because they voluntarily assumed the obligations of that oath. No one is born a doctor (Jill Biden excepted) and this no one had that oath thrust upon them. And no one must continue under that oath after they retire and leave behind the perquisites associated with that oath.

  56. Taleb has utterly lost his shit over this ever since Fauci flip-flopped on masking. He’s also completely enveloped in the network narrative and will not consider that he’s in a bubble of censorship. He’s become his caricature of a person who cannot estimate nor manage risk.

    Someone should take away his driver’s license. He might hit someone.

  57. Libertarians do not ask for freedom. They recognize they were born with it, and resist lawless or immoral encroachment upon it.

  58. I have no idea who Taleb is.

  59. Cancelled appts. Dan’s vein surgery has been moved from December to next week. His stitches were removed. Scars on his face are almost invisible.

  60. I look forward to the media giving Kathy McCollum the same megaphone and prominence as they gave to Cindy Sheehan.

    When monkeys fly out of my butt.

  61. Taken is a guy who had a sort of interesting idea once, and combined it, along with a successful career in finance, into a cult.

  62. Every interesting thing he’s ever published could have filled a tight doctoral thesis… in sociology or social psychology. It’s got all the mathematical depth of a high school course in stats.

  63. Moral authority yall

  64. I look forward to the media giving Kathy McCollum the same megaphone and prominence as they gave to Cindy Sheehan.
    I had the same thought and conclusion about the likelihood of it happening

  65. Speaking of butts, what’s with all the bullwhips stuck in them around here? That’s really valuable ass-penny real estate you’re wasting.

  66. What’s funny is that the COVID shenanigans are an illustration of so much of what he’s railed against over the years, in terms of overly credentialed idiots and improper risk management.

  67. If we adjust for inflation, ass nickels.

  68. When push comes to shove, he’d rather be invited to parties thrown by finance types who puff up his ego.

  69. Bull whips are racist.

    From now on we should ask how many shillelaghs someone has up their posteriors.

  70. Dan chose Bruce Dern as the product of his Hulk Story.

  71. Shillelaghs should only count if they go fat end first.

  72. At least, that’s what your mom said.

  73. fun site for sausage making and curing, good videos on youtube too

  74. The “Suicide Bomber” in the car they droned was a family of 9, with 4 little (2, 3, and 4 years) kids. Nice shot, guys!

  75. Jude –
    Whose barrel do you have on your blackout ?

  76. Thanks to those of you who expressed well-wishes today, both here and on social media. I can hardly believe that it’s been ten years since I’ve had a drink. I get to be a part of love and service today in ways I never could have imagined back then, and I’m regularly surrounded by incredible people whose stories and (more importantly) whose actions inspire me and fill me with hope for this crazy, fucked-up world we live in. The last three years haven’t been easy–I’ve lost my dad, my dog, and several friends. I’ve had moments of incredible joy and intense heartbreak, but through it all, a drink has been the furthest thing from my mind. Because I’m a free man, and I love being free. Even if I don’t participate here all that much anymore, I still love you guys, and I’m glad you’re a part of my life.

    And then I found twenty dollars.

  77. Jude –
    Whose barrel do you have on your blackout

    Honestly don’t remember right now. I will check when I get home. Which will not be this calendar year… so… I may need a reminder.

  78. When push comes to shove, he’d rather be invited to parties thrown by finance types who puff up his ego.

    It’s hilarious because apparently on Twitter he’s quick to block anyone who dares question his sage-like wisdom.

  79. Saw this and thought Jay (and others here) might enjoy reading it

  80. Hey Jay, you’ve got 2 count ’em two poats scheduled for Tuesday. I appreciate the effort but I think you may be over poated.

    /surrogate blogmom

  81. Twitter is getting better at blocking my ability to read threads – since I cancelled my account.



    Here’s the blog series that was linked.

  83. Looking around me, I can usually pinpoint why people have extra weight. I mean, I’m not saying it’s not in the food for some people, but if you try to eat real food versus manufactured crap, you can eliminate a lot of that.

    I literally cannot believe the things some people eat on a regular basis. And the activity level … for way too many people is close to non-existent.

    “Finally, no diet will reliably help because obesity isn’t caused by a bad diet and can’t be cured by a good one.”


  84. MMM 459

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