Ad narragoniam

Music in the ship of fools
Sun 28.04.24 Intro 17:45 Concert 18:15

Historical Museum Basel


he title page of Sebastian Brant’s Narrenschiff shows a ship full of fools drifting rudderless on the Rhine. Printed in Basel in 1494, the book is emblazoned with the battle cry of its crew: “Ad Narragoniam” (“Off to the land of fools”)!

At the same time, the Basel student scene brought forth song collections with the greatest hits of the period around 1500, such as the songbook of Johannes Heer von Glarus and the songbook of Ambrosius Kettenacker.

With songs and instrumental pieces from these collections, the musicians of ReRenaissance musically recreate the foolish world of Sebastian Brant. Naturally, the bagpipes that Brant rebuked and the lute and harp that he praised are heard in songs that Brant would have approved of – but also the shady songs that were sung, for example, during nocturnal flirtations.

Korneel Van Neste – voice
Grace Newcombe – voice, harp, organ
Silke Gwendolyn Schulze – douçaine, shawm, pipe & tabor, bagpipes
Tabea Schwartz – viola da gamba, pipe & tabor, recorder
Marc Lewon – lutes, viola d’arco, voice; direction

Julian Anatol Schneider – recitation

Introduction 17:45–18:00 by Prof. Dr. Marc Lewon in the Barfüsserkirche

Detail of the title page of the "Ship of Fools" by Sebastian Brant, Basel 1494


Sing-along_Ad Narragoniam

Practice video by Grace Newcombe: The audience has the opportunity to join in the antiphon “Gaudeamus omnes in Domino” at the concert on 28.04.24.


Felix Platter’s research on anatomy, psychiatry and also his epidemiological reports on the time of the plague made him famous throughout Europe beyond his death in 1614. But Felix Platter was much more than just a physician; already during his studies in Montpellier he received the nickname “l’Alemandt du lut”…


Vlog by Marc Lewon January 2020 or June 2020: To the video premiere January 2021 “Frölich Wesen”.

Video concert Frölich essence

Audio recording by SRF. Video recording:


Silke Gwendolyn Schulze, the internationally renowned specialist in medieval and Renaissance wind instruments, answers questions from Dr Thomas Christ.

Silke Gwendolyn Schulze © Susanna Drescher

Thomas Christ: Dear Silke, how did you find your way from the children’s recorder to the world of shawms? Or how did you get from Lörrach via Bremen to Basel to the medieval department of the Schola?

Silke Gwendolyn Schulze: Originally, it was my recorder-playing mum who simply gave me a recorder for my 5th birthday – so it wasn’t a free decision ;). Then there was my stubborn mother who, apart from a bit of piano, could never be convinced to finally learn a “real” instrument because the recorder sounds the most beautiful after all! Then there was the desire to travel the big wide world and the fixed idea that I wanted to spend the rest of my life playing Vivaldi recorder concerts.

But then I came into contact with the Ars subtilior during my recorder studies in Bremen and heard about the one-handed flute and drum for the first time. I was given a tenor dulcian, and after about a year I was finally able to play a halfway decent melody on it. Fascinated by unfamiliar sounds and unusual instruments, I finally realised that if you really want to immerse yourself in the Middle Ages, you can’t avoid the medieval section of the Schola.

TC: Bone flutes from the Stone Age are considered to be the oldest musical instruments known to mankind, while the recorder seems to be the most popular wind instrument of the Middle Ages. Can your instrument be described as the first attempt in the history of music to accompany the voice with sound? Or was it rather the first instrument to replace the voice?

SGS: As a recorder player, I think that would be great, of course, but whether the recorder was really the most popular wind instrument in the Middle Ages is very questionable; perhaps it was more the shawm or the trumpet, or the one-handed flute and drum? The relationship between voice and instrument has certainly changed again and again over the millennia of music history, as have the instruments and their construction. In many medieval illustrations of wind instruments, it is not exactly clear whether it is a flute instrument (with a flexible number of finger holes), a shawm instrument, or rather an instrument similar to a trumpet or horn.

I think we see this with “too modern eyes”, with our desire to categorise and understand instead of engaging with different sound possibilities.

TC: As most of your wind instruments did not make the step into the more recent modern era and have only been known to us for a few decades through replicas, I am interested in how you deal with the sources. Did the discovery of early wind instruments in the paintings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance contribute much to the history of research, rather than the construction plans from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance?

SGS: As the sources from the Middle Ages are very limited in terms of precise construction plans, we like to consult illustrations; in what context and with what other instruments was music played, what different construction methods seem to have existed? Here, however, we have to interpret precisely and carefully; these are not always realistic depictions of musical moments that actually took place, but allegorical representations or enumerations.

If you take a closer look, however, most of my instruments have made it to the present day. In various regions of Spain, Catalonia and France, the “one-handed flute and drum” is still present; it is impossible to imagine Valencian culture without the shawm, and in Mallorca the duo of “bagpipes with one-handed flute and drum” has been a firm musical fixture since the Middle Ages – to name just a few examples. The music may have changed to some extent over the centuries and the instruments may have evolved, but the function has mostly remained the same since the Middle Ages.

TC: Your CD project “‘The Medieval Piper” was created in 2017; perhaps you could tell us something about the repertoire of those pipers. How was the exchange with the folk music of the time organised? Or what bridges can be built to traditional music today?

SGS: We know from numerous illustrations and mentions from the Middle Ages that there was a wide variety of wind instruments, we know the different possible uses and roughly the repertoire. But the question of what exactly is technically playable on these instruments, or what can be played as a modern medieval piper, was my concern in the context of this recording. The result was this colourful programme of music from the 12th-14th centuries, interwoven with the idea that a medieval piper travelled the country with countless melodies and a bunch of instruments in his luggage, met other minstrels from all over the world and presented his songs. In turn, he picked up new melodies, which he incorporated into his repertoire and arranged for his own purposes. And here, too, I think we want to understand the musical world of the time with “too modern eyes”: Folk music at the time (if it can even be so clearly delineated) was certainly much more interwoven into musical life than it is today, where it is unfortunately still strictly delineated in the classical music world; the instruments and musicians:inside even overlapped in some cases.

TC: The Forum for Early Music in Basel focusses on the rich musical life before 1600 and is of course aware of the brilliant market development of baroque music in recent decades. How do you assess the market opportunities for early music, i.e. medieval and Renaissance music, which is a niche market for many listeners today?

SGS: In Basel, we are currently witnessing a growing curiosity. I think niches are fantastic! You can really immerse yourself in the music there, far away from the hustle and bustle of the market giants, search, discover, experiment … I think it’s much more exciting to stay in this niche and instead give the audience access, to take them along on a small, winding path that leads to a vantage point undiscovered by the masses, which leaves you amazed.



Why I’ll be there!

David Fallows

“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold.”

For some sixty years I have been reading fifteenth-century literature avidly, but never even opened Sebastian Brant’s Narrenschiff. I knew about it of course, and realised that now was indeed time to open it. Fortunately, my wife has a copy of the gorgeous 1913 facsimile of the first edition (Basel, 1494).

And I fell in love with the book already on the first page, not so much for the wit of the writing but because each mini-chapter has a woodcut at the start and everything else has gorgeous decorative margins, all quite an achievement in 1494. The poetry is a kind of doggerel (strangely reminiscent, for English readers, of the Rupert Bear tales in the Daily Express), in which he complains about all the ills of the world. But we will have a chance to hear the verses, recited by the actor Julian Schneider; so we can judge for ourselves. In between the musicians will provide a wide variety of music from the same date from Swiss sources. Promises to be a colourful concert.



(italic = instrumental)

1. Gaudeamus omnes in Domino – gregorianische Antiphon zum Introitus
2. Gaudeamus omnes in Domino – Alexander Agricola (?1445/6–1506), Segovia, Archivo Capitular de la Catedral, Ms. s. s. («Segovia Codex»), fol. 200r

Sebastian Brant (1457–1521): Das Narrenschiff (Basel: Johann Bergmann von Olpe, 11. Februar 1494), fol. A2r–A4r

3. Der Benzenauer-Ton – Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, M. 53 (c1550), fol. 160r–163r: «Ein lied vnd vermanung an die Lantzknechte, Das sie der armen Christenheyt vnd jhrem lieben vaterlande bey stehen, vnd die vorrether vnd verherer desselben straffen wollten. jn des Pentzenawers Thon zu singen.»

Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff, Kap. 44, fol. G6v–G7r

4. Jn disser zeit vnd ellends tag – anonymes Unicum; Mainz: Peter Schöffer, 1517 («Schöffer Liederbuch»), Lied Nr. 1, Discantus: fol. A1v–A3r, Altus: fol. A1v–A3r, Bassus: fol. A1v–A3r, Tenor-Neukomposition: Marc Lewon

Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff, Kap. 13, fol. C1v–C3r

5. Ain frewlich wesen ··· in re – Otmar Nachtgall (1478/80–1537); Berlin Staatsbibliothek–Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Mus. ms. 40026 («Leonhard Klebers Claviertabulatur»), fol. 28v–29r

6. On freud verzer ich mengen tag – Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 462 («Liederbuch des Johannes Heer von Glarus»), Lied Nr. 23, fol. 22v–23r

7. Est y conclus par ung arrest d’amours – Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, F IX 56 («Lautentabulatur des Bonifacius Amerbach», 1525–1525), fol. 1v–2r, Discantus und vierstimmiger Satz aus:      Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, F IX 32–35 (Stimmbücher aus dem Besitz von Basilius Amerbach, 1546), Lied Nr. 22 («Des künigs lied Est il conclud»), Dicantus (F IX 32): fol. 14v; Tenor (F IX 33): fol. 23r; Altus (F IX 34): fol. 15r; Bassus (F IX 35): fol. 15r

Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff, Kap. 62, fol. K4v–K5r

8. Ach guoter gsell von wannen her / Ich traw keim alten stechzeug mer – Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, F IX 63 («Liederbuch des Arnt von Aich», gedruckt in Köln: Arnt von Aich, 1519), Lied Nr. 57 (Discantus: S. 34; Altus: S. 77; Bassus: S. 75; Tenor: S. 59) und Nr. 33 (Discantus: S. 25; Altus: S. 59; Bassus: S. 61; Tenor: S. 34)

Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff, Kap. 53, fol. I1v–I2r

9. Hie schenckt Neithart wein und ließ pinen under die pauren: Wiß gotwilkumen, maien schein – Neidhart (c1180–c1240 & Epigonen, 14. Jh.); Melodie: Berlin, Staatsbibliothek – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, mgf 779 (Berliner Neidhart-Handschrift (c), Nürnberg? c1470), Lied Nr. 11: «Neithart im vas», fol. 141r; Text: Augsburger Neidhart-Fuchs-Druck (z), Augsburg: Johann Schaur, c1495, Lied Nr. 6, S. 21–25

Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff, Kap. 54, fol. I2v–I3r

10. Cecus non judicat de coloribus – Alexander Agricola; Liederbuch des Johannes Heer von Glarus, fol. 62v–63
11. Ich spring an disem ringe – anonymes Tanzlied; Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz Mus. 40613 («Lochamer-Liederbuch», c1455), S. 41

Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff, Kap. 61, fol. K3v–K4r

12. Pavane est il conclud/ La pavane precendete plus diminuee – Adrian Le Roy: Premier livre de tabulature de luth, Paris: Adrian le Roy & Robert Ballard 1551, fol. 24r–25v

13. Dantzmoss Benczenauher (Tanzmaß Benzenauer) – Hans Buchner (1483–1538); Orgeltabulatur des Bonifacius Amerbach, fol. 72v–74r

14. [Tanz ohne Titel] – Augsburg, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek, MS 2° 142a («Augsburger Liederbuch»), fol. 19v
15. La monina – Augsburger Liederbuch, fol. 20v

Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff, fol. V4v

16. Nun ist es doch kein Reuter – Tanzlied von Hans Taiglin; Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 292 (?Basel, c1525), Altus-Stimmbuch; Satz ergänzt aus: Georg Forster: Der ander theyl kurtzweiliger guter frischer Teutscher Liedlein zu singen vast lustig, Nürnberg 1540, Lied Nr. 11



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