The Concept Album and the Early Music Revival

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Early music has been recorded for over half a century but most of its pre-1600 repertoire resists the programming conventions accepted in classical-romantic albums. Instead, the early music revival has developed its own unique approach to recording, inspired by innovations in musical styles other than classical music. The emergence of the rock concept album in the 1960s helped to shape the genres of art rock and progressive rock and to set them apart from other sub-genres. Some of the achievements of the early concept album—the use of studio technology and the medium of the LP in a way that yielded a large-scale musical and narrative form—appealed to early music and folk musicians. The article examines the work of prominent early music performers who adopted a conceptual-narrative approach to the recording of early repertories. David Munrow’s first early music albums demonstrate techniques borrowed from his work in the folk scene. Thomas Binkley’s careful handling of large-scale musical form helped to shape the pilgrimage narrative of his influential “Camino de Santiago” album. The article analyses further examples from several recordings of Hildegard’s music, and from the recordings of Jordi Savall and Pedro Memelsdorff, as early music concept albums. These albums show how early music performers use narrativity both to create a quasi-historical illusion and to create abstract musical narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-348
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Musicological Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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