Documentation in the SCA

I believe that one of the purposes of documentation within an SCA Arts and Science competition is to tell the judges what they need to know to adequately judge your entry. Good documentation, again in my opinion, should contain the following things:

Because I've had a few requests for help with documentation for SCA arts competitions, I have webbed what I think is one of my better pieces of documentation.

An account of why I wrote what I did follows the documentation. I hope this documentation and commentary will provide one perspective on A&S documentation within the SCA.

My original documentation


Elwin Bevin's piece, called "Browning", is found in Cosyn's Virginal Book, published in 1620. Although the original piece was written for virginal (plucked string keyboard instrument, similar to the harpsichord) this version is suitable for three recorders. The original copy of the music we are using was obtained many years ago in the midwest. D. Peters, one of the people who had this piece in the Midwest, provided this information via email:

"Elway Bevin? Bevan? (I don't remember anymore) probably came out of "Musica Britannica"; several volumes of that collection are devoted to Elizabethan consort Musicke, and I've seen a number of Brownings out of those books. I played the above Browning in a viol class in an early music workshop that Steve and I went to in WI in June; *fun* piece!"

The composer

Elwin Bevin was born in 1554, perhaps near Wells, England. He was a theorist and a composer, writing mainly Anglican church music. He was an organist for the Bristol Cathedral after 1589. His treatise, A Briefe and Short Instruction in the Art of Musicke, was published in 1631.

The music

The Bevin Browning is an example of an entire category of English instrumental works called Brownings. All the Brownings are related to, or are variations on, "The Leaves be Greene", a popular tune in England. Whether "Leaves" or the Brownings came first is unclear. The words to "Leaves" in part are:

The leaves be green
The nuts be browne
Thaie hange so high
Thaie will not come down

Many composers wrote Brownings, some as canons and others in settings of up to five parts. Byrd, Baldwyne, Parsons, Stonings and Woodcocke all wrote Brownings.

Because this a contrapuntal composition, all three voices are equally important. There is no single solo voice. The alto, tenor, and bass recorders all get several chances to play the theme. Most of the time, one voice has the melody and the other two are playing variations or highly ornamented versions of the tune. The canon section begins with the bass on b flat at measure 73, the tenor on b flat at 81, and the alto on g at 82. All three voices have the theme for several measures.

Counterpoint can be melodic or rhythmic. Rhythmic counterpoint appears most strongly at measure 57. The easiest part to pick out is the melody in the tenor part. The two outer parts have different pitch material but have identical rhythmic patterns: eight note, quarter note, eight note, quarter note, offset by one eighth note time value. This section might not match our modern conception of typical renaissance music.

The instrumentation

Instrumentation was not usually specified in period editions; whatever instruments were available would have been used. We have chosen to use a consort of three renaissance style recorders. (A consort in period was a set of instruments (all recorders, all krummhorns, all viols) often made as a set and sold together.)

The major difference between Renaissance and Baroque recorders is in the configuration of the bore. Renaissance recorders have a more cylindrical bore, Baroque recorders have a more conical bore. A conical bore instrument will be strongest in the higher harmonics, making it better suited to solo performance. A cylindrical bore recorder has a more consistent tone quality across its range, i.e., does not emphasize higher harmonics over lower. Renaissance recorders were intended as ensemble instruments.

The instruments

All three recorders, alto, tenor, and basset (commonly called bass), were manufactured by Kobliczek and are Renaissance style recorders. They are styled after Pratorius drawings (Germany 1620).
The tenor and basset have fishtail keys. In period, recorders were played with either the left or right hand on top. A fishtail key can be reached from either side of the instrument.

These modern "improved" Renaissance instruments have the same sound qualities and similar bore configuration as a period instrument, but have an expanded pitch range. A renaissance recorder typically had a range of about an octave and a sixth. The Kobliczek recorders have a two octave range.


The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians vols. 2 & 3, Stanley Sadie 1954

A Dictionary of Early Music, Jerome and Elizabeth Roche 1981

Music in the Renaissance, Gustave Reese 1959

Private correspondence via email, July 1996

Notes on the documentation.

In the Browning documentation, I explain where I got the music, even though I don't know the true source. I also make the point that this Browning was originally written for a virginal. I believe my original intention for this comment was to let the judges know that this piece might have been a little difficult for wind instruments, because there is no place to breathe. I was too subtle, so that point was lost.

I always give a little information about the composer, I think it makes the docs a little more interesting. Not only is it interesting, it can help further place the music in the context of the time period.

The first paragraph or so of the section about the music is designed to place this piece in the context of the times. It probably wasn't necessary, but I think it adds depth to the documentation.

The section regarding contrapuntal music was deliberately included because this section (from measure 73 to 85 or so) sounds really really strange. I was worried that the judges might not understand that we were playing it correctly, and mark us down for messing it up.

I always make the point of comparing our performance practices and instrument choices to period ones. I was told a long time ago that it is OK to deviate from period, but you should make the judges aware that you know you are, so they don't mark you down for something you know quite well, but forgot to tell them.

Always, always give your sources. Two reasons. It's good scholarship, and it means you (and your audience) can go back and find the exact source later on. There is only one thing I regret about the way I wrote this documentation. I didn't use MLA style, so I don't know which part of the docs came from which source.

MLA style demands that you parenthetically reference each and every piece of information you got from every source. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it. (My Persian Clothing paper is a nice example of proper MLA documentation).

I hope this helps you with future documentation.

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Last revised March 4th., 2006. Comments to: E. A. Young