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Baker's Dozen

Early Music: Sarah Davachi's Favourite Albums
Christian Eede , November 4th, 2020 13:15

Following the release in September of double album 'Cantus, Descant', as well as an impending live album, Sarah Davachi shares a selection of formative records from her teenage years and studies


David Munrow - Instruments Of The Middle Ages And Renaissance

This isn't a record I was hugely familiar with until I saw your list, but I imagine it was quite formative for you.

I was wondering about that, because I feel like David Munrow was such a British treasure. I always wonder if he was massively popular in the UK and then just completely unknown in the US. I don't remember exactly when I heard this record for the first time. I think I heard a lot of David Munrow's performances initially without knowing anything about him or the Early Music Consort [which he co-founded in 1967]. When I started learning about him, probably again maybe five or six years ago, this record just blew my mind in a lot of ways. It was around the same time that I was getting more interested in early music, and this straddled a line between early music and experimental music and helped me see the ways that they can overlap.

Just to hear some of the intimate aspects of these performances – it is meant to be more of an academic kind of thing that spans music in the Middle Ages and instruments from the Renaissance – and the way that the performances are done, I've always felt there's an attitude about early music nowadays that it's very much a modern thing. When you play early music, you're playing it still as a person in the 21st century, or whatever, so you're always connected to that idiom of playing. I hear that a lot on this record, and I think David Munrow's approach to early music – his education, or pedagogy, or whatever you'd call it – has always had this experimental attitude that you don't see in a lot of other scholars of that era.

I probably first came across the record while searching around for specific early music performances. I do remember seeing this video of him with a chrome horn ensemble, which is like a renaissance wind instrument. With him being kind of young in that video amongst everybody else in the ensemble, it just felt really different to me than a lot of the early music stuff that I had seen even coming out of the '60s and the '70s. There was just something about it that felt really different to me. I remember seeing that video and being like, 'Oh, this is weird'. Then when I actually discovered that that person is David Munrow, and he's actually done so much over his career, it was an interesting revelation.