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Understanding Fifteenth-Century Chansonniers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020


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1 On this aspect of the layout of words in Cord and its unusual nature at this time, see David Fallows, Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu (ca. 1475): Commentary to the Facsimile (Valencia, 2008), 45.

2 See Bernard Cerquiglini, In Praise of the Variant: A Critical History of Philology, trans. Betsy Wing (Baltimore, MD, 1999).

3 David Fallows, ‘“Trained and Immersed in All Musical Delights”: Towards a New Picture of Busnoys’, Antoine Busnoys: Method, Meaning, and Context in Late Medieval Music, ed. Paula Higgins (Oxford, 1999), 21–50 (pp. 41–2).

4 David Fallows, ‘Late Survival of the 15th-Century Song Repertory’, Sine musica nulla disciplina …: Studi in onore di Giulio Cattin (Padua, 2006), 213–20 (p. 213).

5 Fallows dates the entry of Se la face ay pale into Ox213 as c.1435 and regards NYB as perhaps a little earlier; see his ‘Ballades by Dufay, Grenon and Binchois: The Boorman Fragment’, Musikalische Quellen – Quellen zur Musikgeschichte: Festschrift für Martin Staehelin zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Ulrich Konrad et al. (Göttingen, 2002), 25–35. On the copying process in Ox213, see especially Hans Schoop, Entstehung und Verwendung der Handschrift Oxford, Canonici misc. 213 (Berne, 1971). The song was also in the second layer (believed to date from after about 1435) of the destroyed Strasbourg Chansonnier, though – according to Coussemaker's transcription (Stras-Br, p. 79) – without text beyond incipit. For full details of the transmission of Se la face ay pale, see David Fallows, The Songs of Guillaume Dufay: Critical Commentary to the Revision of Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, ser. 1, vol. VI (American Institute of Musicology, 1995), 78–82.

6 For a summary of the relevant copying processes, see Lawrence Earp, ‘Texting in Fifteenth-Century French Chansons: A Look Ahead from the Fourteenth Century’, Early Music, 19 (1991), 194–212.

7 This at least seems evident in cases where the Niv scribe spaces out musical notes to avoid collisions with text underlaid immediately beforehand to the staff above (e.g. on f. 13v, fourth stave down).

8 Theodor Dumitrescu argues that Prioris's authorship, questioned by many on grounds of the song's appearance in sources as early as these, now looks entirely probable in the light of the new biographical information on the composer he presented in his recent article ‘Who Was “Prioris”? A Royal Composer Recovered’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 65 (2012), 5–65.

9 David Fallows, ‘Texting in the Chansonnier of Jean de Montchenu’, Songs and Musicians in the Fifteenth Century (Aldershot, 1996), X.5.

10 Joshua Rifkin, ‘Scribal Concordances for Some Renaissance Manuscripts in Florentine Libraries’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 26 (1973), 305–26 (pp. 318–26). See also Alden, p. 127.

11 Joshua Rifkin, ‘Pietrequin Bonnel and Ms. 2794 of the Biblioteca Riccardiana’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 29 (1976), 284–96. As Rifkin remarks, Pietrequin may conceivably have taken the chansonnier with him from the French to the Savoyard court, where he worked in 1488–9, and thence to Florence, where he resided intermittently from 1490 to 1493. On composers, scribes and texting, see further Warwick Edwards, ‘Alexander Agricola and Intuitive Syllable Deployment’, Early Music, 34 (2006), 409–26.

12 Louise Litterick, ‘The Manuscript Royal 20.A.XVI of the British Library’ (Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1976), Chapter 2.

13 On EscB, see especially Dennis Slavin, ‘On the Origin of Escorial IV.a.24 (EscB)’, Studi musicali, 19 (1990), 260–303. On the aspect of Pav362 presentation noted here, see further Henrietta Schavran, ‘The Manuscript Pavia, Biblioteca Universitaria, Codice Aldini 362’ (Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1978), i, 28. Schavran says that the scribe ‘generally attempted to place a lengthy text phrase as close as possible to the musical phrase to which it should be sung, even if this meant squeezing the words together and bringing them out into the right-hand margin’, as, for example, in Le serviteur (no. 23, on f. 40v). On the various scribes in Col, francophone and otherwise, see Joshua Rifkin's detailed analysis in ‘Busnoys and Italy: The Evidence of Two Songs’, Antoine Busnoys, ed. Higgins, 505–71.

14 David Fallows, A Catalogue of Polyphonic Songs, 1415–1480 (Oxford, 1999), 38.

15 See further on Pix, Sean Gallagher, ‘The Berlin Chansonnier and French Song in Florence, 1450–1490: A New Dating and its Implications’, Journal of Musicology, 24 (2007), 339–64, and ‘Caron and Florence: A New Ascription and the Copying of the Pixérécourt Chansonnier’, ‘Recevez ce mien petit labeur’: Studies in Renaissance Music in Honour of Ignace Bossuyt (Leuven, 2008), 83–92.

16 See Gallagher, ‘The Berlin Chansonnier’, 349–51.

17 Stanley Boorman, ‘Did Petrucci's Concern for Accuracy Include Any Concern with Performance Issues?’, Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis, 25 (2001), 23–37 (p. 37). See also James Haar, ‘Petrucci as Bookman’, Venezia 1501: Petrucci e la stampa musicale: Atti del convegno internazionale Venezia 10–13 ottobre 2001, ed. Giulio Cattin and Patrizia Dalla Vecchia (Venice, 2005), 155–74.

18 See Warwick Edwards, ‘Agricola's Songs Without Words: The Sources and the Performing Traditions’, Alexander Agricola: Musik zwischen Vokalität und Instrumentalismus, ed. Nicole Schwindt, Trossinger Jahrbuch für Renaissancemusik, 6 (Kassel, 2006), 83–121 (pp. 93–4); also at <>.

19 See Warwick Edwards, ‘Agricola's Songs Without Words: The Sources and the Performing Traditions’, Alexander Agricola: Musik zwischen Vokalität und Instrumentalismus, 83–4 and 96–7, with transcription and English translation of the publication's preface at pp. 120–1.

20 See Warwick Edwards, ‘Agricola's Songs Without Words: The Sources and the Performing Traditions’, Alexander Agricola: Musik zwischen Vokalität und Instrumentalismus., esp. pp. 88–94.

21 David Fallows, ‘French as a Courtly Language in Fifteenth-Century Italy: The Musical Evidence’, Renaissance Studies, 3 (1989), 429–41 (p. 434), repr. in Fallows, Songs and Musicians, VI.

22 See James Haar, Città del Vaticano MS Urbinas Latinus 1411 (Lucca, 2006), 18.

23 Warwick Edwards, ‘Word Setting in a Perfect Musical World: The Case of Obrecht's Motets’, Journal of the Alamire Foundation, 3 (2011), 52–75, esp. pp. 52–3, and ‘Text Treatment in Motets around 1500: The Humanistic Fallacy’, The Motet around 1500: On the Relationship of Imitation and Text Treatment?, ed. Thomas Schmidt-Beste (Turnhout, 2012), 113–38, esp. pp. 116–17.

24 As I acknowledge in ‘Text Treatment in Motets around 1500’, 116, my thinking on this aspect of the topic is influenced particularly by Reinhard Strohm, ‘Music, Humanism, and the Idea of a “Rebirth” of the Arts’, Music as Concept and Practice in the Late Middle Ages, ed. Strohm and Bonnie J. Blackburn, New Oxford History of Music, 3/i (Oxford, 2001), 346–405, esp. pp. 353–5.

25 Edwards, ‘Text Treatment in Motets around 1500’, passim.

26 Strohm, ‘Music, Humanism, and the Idea of a “Rebirth” of the Arts’, 346–7, 395–9.

27 The chansonnier P12744 is exceptional in this regard: it is a collection of poems, each supplemented by a copy of its melody underlaid with a duplicate of the first stanza.