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Release: March 31, 2000

Early music group at the University of Iowa will present 'A Musical Bestiary' April 10

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Collegium Musicum of the University of Iowa School of Music will sing, chirp, bark, hiss and squeak when they present "A Musical Bestiary" -- a program of 15th and 16th century music about mammals, birds, reptiles and insects -- at 8 p.m. Monday, April 10 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus. The performance, under the direction of Elizabeth Aubrey, will be free and open to the public.

The Collegium Musicum is an ensemble devoted to the study and performance of music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque. The members of the group are music students and faculty of the UI and members of the local community. They learn singing techniques appropriate to early music as well as how to play reproductions of historical instruments. Their concerts typically include pieces for singers and for instruments.

Aubrey has directed the ensemble since 1982. A faculty member in the musicology area in the UI School of Music, she is known internationally as a scholar of medieval music and literature.

Aubrey characterized the program as including "whimsical works describing the peculiar characteristics and notable activities of dogs, apes and monkeys, bees, crickets, asps, owls, cuckoos, cocks, and numerous other creatures, as well as some mystical and metaphorical pieces that draw moral lessons from such non-human beings."

Putting together the program was not really difficult, Aubrey said. "Composers have written songs imitating the singing of birds for over 600 years, so the hard part has been selecting the most entertaining pieces from the hundreds that are available. But I was surprised to find an enormous variety of pieces about other animals as well.

"We briefly considered donning appropriate costume for this program, but ultimately decided that the music and texts themselves were more entertaining if something were left to the audience's imagination."

The singers will perform Josquin des Prez'a patter-song "El grillo," based on the chirping of a cricket, and the entertaining "Chant des oyseaux" (Song of the birds) by Nicolas Gombert, which includes lively imitations of the sounds of birds. In addition, ensembles of violas da gamba, recorders, flutes, lute, cornetts and sackbuts will play programmatic pieces including a series of animal pieces from a German songbook of the 15th century: "The Fox's Tail," "The Cat's Paw," "The Ass's Crown," The Rat's Tail," "The Crane's Beak" and of course, "The Peacock's Tail."

Aubrey has published articles and reviews in scholarly journals including Early Music History, The Journal of Musicology, Acta Musicologica and Historical Performance. She is a contributor to the forthcoming revised edition of "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians" and to the new edition of the German music reference work "Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart" (Music in history and the present).

Her first book, "The Music of the Troubadours," was published in 1996 to enthusiastic reviews. The Times (London) Literary Supplement wrote that it is "a down-to-earth treatment which should ensure that (the book) remains of value for many years to come." The Music Library Association journal Notes called the book "a monument in musicology, one no music library should be without. It should be required reading for all students of music history and the Middle Ages."

A second book, an anthology of songs by medieval women musicians, will be published next year by Yale University Press.

Aubrey is also widely known as a performer of early music and is regularly consulted by musicians and scholars for her expertise in performance practice. She has presented solo recitals of medieval songs in the United States, Canada and Europe. Besides singing she also plays recorder, lute, viola da gamba and harp. Before becoming director of the UI Collegium Musicum, she was music director of A Newe Jewell, an early-music ensemble in Washington, D.C.

Aubrey has served on the Council of the American Musicological Society, the Board of Directors of the International Machaut Society, the editorial board of the journal Historical Performance, and a term as president of the Midwest Chapter of the American Musicological Society. She has received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Aubrey received her bachelor's degree from Grinnell College, and both masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland. She has been on the faculty of the UI since 1982.

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