Jon Sayles, Heinrich Isaac, and a Hound

All parts of all music performed by Jon Sayles.

You see jugglers.  You see sword swallowers.  You see a man with a tiger in a cage.  You see a man with a Turk in a cage.  Relic sellers rattle their wooden saints’ medallions or their bones.  A mime follows you, imitating your movements for a few seconds.

Entertainers and vendors work the crowd of people making their way to the dedication of a new church.  Or celebrating a saint’s day.  Or just coming to a market fair.

You see a group of coarse players enacting the story of Pope Joan, who pretended to be a man and was elected pope until she bore a child and came to ruin.  A Meistersanger fills the air with a lyric poem set to music.  His song tells of Neidhart, who found a violet and rushed to tell the Duchess, but while he was gone, a peasant picked the violet, sending Neidhart into a rage.

You have brought your food from home, dried meat, bread, and a crock of pumpkin compote.  But you cannot resist the food vendors.  The sausages sizzling in skillets.  The whole hog rotating on a spit turned by a dog-powered treadwheel.  The very salty radishes.  The gingerbread cookies shaped like St. Anthony’s pig.  The beer flowing in rivers from casks and kegs.

There is music.  Hurdy-gurdies.  Pipes and tabors.  Portive organs.  Bagpipes.  A fidel.  But what are the tunes?  (Take a deep breath, relax, and listen, Gentle Reader.  Time travel takes only a few seconds.)

Perhaps you hear Die Katzenpfote (Cat’s Feet  1:37).

Or Ich Weiss Nit (I Know Nothing  2:16).

Or, my own favorite, Shaerffertanz.  (Shepherd’s Dance  1:37).

These wonderful songs, and many more, are available for free, thanks to the talent, generosity, and love of music of Jon Sayles.  Today, Capito speaks with this musician, blessed by Euterpe.

Capito:  Thank you, Master Sayles, for agreeing to speak with me.  And thank you for the wonderful gift of this music.  How did you become interested in classical guitar?

My mother was a music major, and my father, a naturally gifted jazz pianist.  He brought me a ukelele when I was about seven.  I learned to play it and a Roy Rogers plastic guitar at that time.  There have been numerous music teachers whom I owe huge thanks, and I have dedicated my site to them.

Capito:  And what prompted you to devote so much time and effort to early music?

At the University of Hartford, I was fortunate to work with Joe Iadone, a world-class lutenist, who introduced me to early music.  I taught music until 1983 and then switched to software development.  Now I take my two weeks of IBM vacation in December to record new tunes for the website.

Capito:  Your site has an interesting collection across several centuries and countries.  You have brought these songs out of rare academia and given them to the world.  And what a great job you do in performing them.  Let’s listen to a few more tunes composed by Heinrich Isaac.

Maudit Soy  (1:21)

And here’s the hound.  Der Hund  (the Dog 2:29)

Isaac is a very popular composer.  He was a singer for Duke Sigismund (a Habsburg) in Innsbruck in 1484.  The next year, he went to Florence, where he was employed as a singer at the church Santa Maria del Fiore.  He composed several important pieces in Florence, under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici.  Isaac performed in Rome for the coronation of Pope Alexander VI.  In 1496, he moved to Vienna.  He was court composer for the Emperor Maximilian I and remains in his employ, though not in Innsbruck.  One of Isaac’s most famous works is the poignant Insbruck ich muss dich lassen (Oh Innsbruck, I must leave you.)

Here’s what I, Capito, know.  It is one thing to be a scholar of history, learning dates, wars, movements, religion.  Even knowing details of food, clothing, and farm implements.  But only when the music of a people comes alive for you, do you feel their soul.


Capito thanks Susan Iadone for her help with this post.

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Published in: on September 9, 2011 at 6:55 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If the painting is correct, Der Hund is an Italian Greyhound. Mia Bella, my white Greyhound looks just like it.

  2. I stumbled across Jons site a good few years back and not only is he responsible for enabling me to listen to some amazing tunes played as only Jon can he also makes all at Minstrel Hall look forward to December every year to see what delights he posts .Fortunate enough to consider him a friend and I would advise anyone who hasn`t discovered the music available on his site to get over there right away.An amazing talent,amazing guy and he keeps the music alive,what more could anyone ask……………………………….

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