Medieval Folk Rock is a subgenre of Folk Rock and Rock music, which blends more modern musical techniques and sounds with that of music from the Medieval era. The Medieval era was between the years of 500-1400 AD in Western civilisation, and is included within the ‘Middle Ages.’ The genre of Medieval Folk Rock came to prominence in Germany and the United Kingdom in the 1970’s. Since, the label has been used as a description for any artists who include any features of Baroque, medieval and renaissance music within their works, which perhaps suggest the genre is slightly misleading. After receiving some mainstream recognition in the 1970’s, many groups split up, and those involved in the genre went on to create music in other Folk styles or some branched into Prog Rock. Medieval Folk has been widely attributed to influencing Heavy metal, which in many instances used classical styles and some antiquated instruments within its composition.
Musical modes are a common feature of this style of music. A mode generally refers to a type of scale, which has certain behaviours, e.g certain notes are always sharp, or it ascends by a certain amount of semitones for example. Frequently used instruments within Medieval Folk are, guitars, woodwinds, bass guitar, strings, vocals, hurdy-gurdy’s, and alongside those, replicated medieval instruments such as Shawms (a reed instrument), lyres and Fiddles to name a few.
This genre is quite a niche genre and as such is not seen particularly within mainstream music today. Perhaps the most notable example would be the band Blackmore’s Night, formed by Ritchie Blackmore, featuring Candice Knight as lead vocalist. Blackmore describes his band as ‘Renaissance rock.’ Renaissance is very similar in style to Medieval, as the Renaissance was a time when people attempted to revive ideas and culture from the Middle Ages and also Classical eras, such as that of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. As such, there is very little difference between the Renaissance and Medieval folk Rock genres; they are typically grouped together.
Blackmore’s Night base their lyrics upon themes that would be relevant to people of the Middle Ages, such as travelling, or the life of Kings and Queens, or mythology, such as ‘Lorely.’ They not only play medieval instruments such as those previously mentioned, but also when touring, wear medieval dress, and play their concerts at castles, rather than in typical auditoriums. Alongside the Medieval style however, are interspersed electric guitar solos which gives the music a more contemporary feel, and therefore makes it more accessible to a wider audience, as it is an interesting fusion of genres.
Overall, I think that Medieval Folk Rock is a particularly important genre of music, as it can teach us a lot about the culture of the Middle Ages, and creates a form of transcendence between the times. Equally, it provides as very different sound to any other style of music, which makes it a must for any music enthusiast. The dynamic fusion of genres and instruments means that a style of music that was perhaps once inaccessible and only performed by Classical musicians is now accessible to the entire population.