The Internet Renaissance Band

Frequently asked questions
about the Internet Renaissance Band

What is "early music"?

People who are interested in early music often do not agree about what it is, but a common definition is European music prior to the death of Johann Sebastian Bach, who died in 1750. My interests lie in the music of the European Mediæval period, or "Middle Ages " (ca. 300 - ca. 1450), and the European Renaissance (ca. 1450 - ca. 1620). The period from 1620 to 1750 is generally called the Baroque. Early music is marked by the first use (in Europe, at least), development, and perfection of "polyphony", music containing multiple, generally consonant melodic lines.

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What is "midi"?

"Midi" is an acronym; it stands for musical instrument digital interface. It was originally designed as a means of communication between digital synthesizers, and between synthesizers and input devices such as electronic keyboards (piano style, not computer keyboards). With the advent of computer sound circuitry (such as sound cards) that contains musical synthesizers, midi has become a standard for computer-based music. Most computer sound cards adhere to the "General Midi" standard, which specifies 16 separate channels, as well as the instruments, or "patches", that correspond to the 127 digits used for that purpose. All of my files are written for General Midi.

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How to listen to these midi files

There are several ways to enjoy these files, depending on your operating system and web browser:

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Making the midis

Midi files were sequenced with Noteworthy Composer and tweaked with Voyetra Ochestrator. I've tried several programs designed to produce midi files from musical scores, and IMHO Noteworthy Composer is the best. It is shareware, and the license fee is still reasonable.

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Booking the Internet Renaissance Band

Yes, the Internet Renaissance Band will play for your web site, and if you meet these criteria, it's free! (Here are instructions for embedding the files).
  1. Your site must be non-commercial - you can't be selling anything.
  2. You can't modify or alter the midi files (that includes changing the file name, although you can use either the short or long name).
  3. You must inform people who access the midi files that they are used with permission.
  4. You must provide a link to the Internet Renaissance Band ( and identify it as the source of the midi files. Here are two examples, a text link and a graphic link (use "view source" to see the HTML code):

    Music courtesy of The Internet Renaissance Band

    Music courtesy of
    The Internet Renaissance Band
    I've put it in a table so the graphic will show against a contrasting background. Of course it would blend right in to this page
  5. I used to provide links to the pages, but now I rely on back-links from Google.
Please read the license agreement, and then fill out the form if you want to use the midis.

But what about weddings, parties, and such? Sure, you can play the midis as long as nobody makes money off of them, but won't that seem pretty lame? (I actually played a midi in a public concert, but I'd rather play period instruments.) Wouldn't you be a lot happier with real musicians, playing period instuments and perhaps in costume? All over the world are musicians looking for opportunities to play the music they love. Some are professionals, and will expect to be compensated accordingly, since music is their livelihood. Others are amateurs, who are often happy with enough to cover their expenses (which are sometimes greater than you might imagine, but often no more than a dinner for several people at a good restaurant). If you don't know of any groups in your area, you could check with the music department of a local college or university, or ask on the Internet newsgroup (sample query: "I'm looking for a Renaissance music group to play at a wedding in the Pomona, California, USA area. Please respond directly to me by e-mail.").

(If you live in southern California, and are interested in the group I play with - Tapia's Gold - e-mail me.)

If you can't find musicians, or truly can't afford them, look for a CD with the music you want. If the stores in your area don't carry early music, check out the Early Music FAQ, which has some discography.

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How to embed midi files in web pages

Here is an example of HTML code that will work for Netscape since version 2, and for Internet Explorer since version 3 (I think...):
<embed src="the_name_of_the_midi_file.mid"
align="baseline" border="0" width="50" height="15"
controls="smallconsole" autostart="true" loop="true">
You can play with the parameters; it won't break. Some people set up embedded midi files as Crescendo objects; Crescendo is a midi file player for both Mac and Windows. I strongly recommend that you not do that: it prevents anyone without Crescendo from hearing the midi. The code above should work fine with Crescendo, with the built-in midi players in Netscape and Internet Explorer, with Windows Media Player, with MidiGate, or with any other midi player that is set up to work with your web browser.

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Why I don't accept submissions

My page is meant to provide access to my own work, rather than to be an archive for Early Music midi. There are three very good reasons for this.
  1. I don't want to run an archive. It's a lot of work, and takes time that I could spend sequencing new material (currently I don't even have much time for that).
  2. There are already far better archives for Early Music than I could ever assemble.
  3. Space for these pages is provided on a University computer, and even though midis don't take a lot of room, the people that support the webserver didn't sign on for an archive.
I'm happy to have people send me examples of their own Early Music midis. I love the music (that's why I do all this), and I've gotten to hear some really good work. I strongly recommend that people submit their sequences to the Classical Midi Connection or the Classical Midi Archives. If there are other Early Music archives out there that I've unintentionally slighted, especially that accept contributed sequences, please let me know. An alternative is to do what I did, and make your own web page. You can get a free web page at Geocities or many other places (I'll provide links eventually). You can use my pages as a model for how to link the midis (please don't rip off my graphics). Be sure to register with Standard MIDI Files on the Net.

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Where are the Renaissance instruments in General Midi soundcards?

The short answer is that there aren't any. Even modern instruments with the same name often have a subtly different sound. But then even the best wavetable sound cards have a different sound from actual modern instruments, and with a bit of picking and choosing, it is possible to get a "Renaissance" sound, at least from my Ensoniq Soundscape.

Some general principles:

Here are some early instruments with the patches I have found useful, at least for my Soundscape:

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How it all started

It began with the Cucamonga Renaissance Ensemble (now Tapia's Gold), which was originally a class for aspiring Renaissance musicians taught by Jim Stehn. My musical education has been very spotty, and I still can't look at a score and know what the music sounds like without laboriously playing it out. But I play best when I know what a piece sounds like. So I started sequencing the music for the class, and it has grown from there. Maybe half of the music here is stuff we played in class or more recently in performance; I've added other pieces by composers I like, or that I was familiar with, or that struck my fancy. I'm planning for this to grow over time into a sizable collection of Renaissance and Mediæval music, and I hope it will be useful to others for enjoyment or education.

When I first started doing these pieces, I wanted to hear the individual parts, and the recorder patch on my sound card seemed at the time to fade into obscurity on the alto, tenor, and bass parts. The sound isn't bad (many of the newer pieces are scored that way), but it wasn't giving the separation I wanted. I started scoring the middle parts for shawm (the shanai patch; see below) before I had an appreciation of how an actual shawn would drown out the recorders. I also tried using baritone sax as a crumhorn, but it really isn't a good match.

More recently I've been trying to pay attention to the ranges of the actual instruments, and to score for ensembles that have some precedent in modern or historical practice. This includes SATB and ATTB recorders, SAT recorders with serpent for the bass (sometimes the french horn patch, sometimes the tuba), and cornetto/shawm/sackbut/serpent (trombone/shanai/tuba/french horn on the sound card). The nice thing about midi is that you can reorchestrate them if you have the right software.

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Sites than link to the Internet Renaissance Band

Web sites that use midi files from the Internet Renaissance Band provide me with their URL (as required by the license agreement). I used to keep track of these in a links page, but web sites come and go, and the list was out of date and no longer useful.

Fortunately, Google does some of the work for me, by providing "back-links", sites that link to this site. Many of them use midis, and others are also early music sites.

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Some early music links

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Some of the links are broken; awards come and go.

The Mining Company Fairy Award Lady Gwyneth's Holy Grail Award The Classical MIDI Connection
Gloriana's Class Act Award Elfdragon Award

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This page Copyright © 2001 by Curtis Clark.