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Related Motets from Fourteenth-Century France

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 1982

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Even the most enthusiastic admirer of fourteenth-century isorhythm would have to admit that the collection of French motets published in the series Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century must present a somewhat forbidding appearance to the casual reader. Certainly a large number of the surviving pieces are characterized by a uniformity of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic style which contrasts all too clearly with the remarkable diversity to be found in contemporary song repertories. And while, upon closer acquaintance, characteristics individual to particular works may increasingly be discerned, it remains surprising just how alike many of these pieces continue to seem to be. That this is not simply a failure on the part of the reader to distinguish more widespread differences between works becomes clear as soon as one begins to investigate their structures in more detail: far from each work being unique in itself, many of the motets surviving from the are nova are found to be related quite closely in matters of compositional detail. Thus instead of representing, as one might expect, widespread activity over a large geographical area, the motet repertory appears increasingly to be confined in matters of both form and content, and thus also, it might be argued, in place and date of origin.

Research Article
Copyright © 1984 The Royal Musical Association and the Authors

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1 Vol. I, The Works of Philippe de Vitry, ed. Leo Schrade (Monaco, 1956); Vols. II–III, The Works of Guillaume de Machaut, ed. Leo Schrade (Monaco, 1956); Vol. V, Motets of French Provenance, ed. Frank Ll. Harmon (Monaco, 1968); Isorhythmic man movements are published in Fourteenth-Century Mass Music in France, ed. Hanna Stäblein-Harder, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, xxix (n. p., 1962).Google Scholar

2 Some of the problems surrounding current attributions to Vitry are discussed in Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Compositional Procedure in the Four-Part Isorhythmic Works of Philippe de Vitry and his Contemporaries (hereafter CP) (Ph.D. diss., University of Cambridge, 1983), i, 29–30. Throughout this paper, motets are referred to by means of abbreviations. Vitry and Machaut motets (V and M) follow the numbering of Leo Schrade, op. cit; while works from the Ivrea codex (IV: published in Harrison, ibid., and Stäblein-Harder, ibid.) follow the numbering of Heinrich Besseler, ‘Studien zur Musik des Mittelalters I. Neue Quellen des 14. und beginnenden 15. Jahrhunderts’, Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, vii (1925), 188–191. A list of abbreviations with full titles will be found in the Appendix.Google Scholar

4 V9 and V10 are both cited in An nova, and (assuming the citations to be original) must therefore date from 1323 or before. Although the other motets in ex. 1 remain undated, their links with V9 and V10, and general stylistic evidence, would support a date for all of them well within the 1320s.Google Scholar

5 CP, 105–107, 119, 129 and 138141.Google Scholar

6 Hence their connection in ex. 9, where the main findings of this article are set out diagram ma deadly.Google Scholar

7 It is a happy circumstance that the only two motet-composers to whom a substantial number of works may be attributed should have such clearly opposed styles. Where, for instance, Vitry strives to bring about regular relationships between text- and music-structures, Machaut's texting is often haphazard in the extreme, even where regularity could easily have been achieved. Similarly, where Vitry's harmonic language and voice-leading are notable for their clarity of texture and direction, Machaut's are often, even by comparison with the rest of the repertory, highly eccentric Much the same may be said of their rhythmic languages and literary styles. None of this is necessarily a matter of varying degrees of competence. In fact, the contrasts so easily seen between their approaches to constructing a motet are perhaps better expressed as the difference between a classical and a romantic attitude to artistic representation (cf. Heinrich Besseler, ‘Studien zur Musik des Mittelalters II. Die Motette von Franko von Köln bis Philipp von Vitry’, Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, viii (1926), 227.) If a parallel were to be drawn with the different approaches of, for example, Stravinsky and Schoenberg, it might also serve as a timely reminder — ignoring, as it does, almost every significant aspect of their music — of the appalling superficiality of our present understanding of medieval musical styles.Google Scholar

8 For a fuller study of this relationship, including a consideration of the disastrous harmonic results of Machaut's rhythmic borrowings, see CP, ch. 2.Google Scholar

9 Ernest H. Sanders, ‘The Early Motets of Philippe de Vitry’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, xxviii (1975), 2445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 See CP, 190–196. This may be a convenient moment to note the remarkable stylistic similarity between the Sanctus of Machaut's Man and a Sanctus/Agnus pair by Leonel Power, preserved in the Old Hall manuscript (ed. Andrew Hughes and Margaret Bent, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, xlvi (n. p., 1969), nos. 118 and 141). Roger Bowers has already pointed out (Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, cii (1973–76), 107) that since Power's employer, Thomas, Duke of Clarence, owned Machaut MS E from 1412, it is not impossible that Power's supposed invention of the cyclic mass owed something to the French composer, whose Gloria/Credo and Sanctus/Agnus are clearly arranged as pairs.Google Scholar

11 Johannes Boen: Ars, ed. F. Alberto Gallo, Corpus Scriptorum de Musica, xix (n. p., 1972), 29–30. Translated and discussed in CP, 1617.Google Scholar

12 Floret/Florens’ and ‘O canenda/Rex’. Johannes Boens musica und seine Konsonanzenlchre, ed. Wolf Frobenius, Freiburger Schriften zur Musikwissenschaft, ii (Stuttgart, 1971), 68. See also CP, 44.Google Scholar

13 The following edition has been newly made in order to avoid the worst of Coussemaker's corruptions. Supporting textual notes will be found in CP, 160–162 and 259–261.Google Scholar

Quoniam sicut domino placuit scientiam musice in corde desiderantium gratiose perlustravit et licet magistri nostri anriqui primum intellectum musicalem habuerunt, et hoc satis grosso modo sicut adhuc patet in motetis ipsorum magistrorum videlicet in Tribum que non abhorruit et in aliis etc; tamen ipsi postmodum subtiliorem modum considerantes primum relinquerunt et artem magis subtiliter ordinaverunt ut patet in Apta caro etc. Sic nunc successive venientes et intelligentes que primi magistri relinquerunt maiores subtilitates invenerunt ut hoc quod per antecessores imperfectum relictum est per successors reformetur.

Because, as it has pleased the Lord, he has graciously implanted knowledge of music in the heart desiring it, and whereas our old masters have had an elementary musical understanding, albeit in crude enough fashion, as now appears in the motets of those same masters, as for example in ‘Tribum que non abhorruit’ and in others; so, subsequently reflecting upon a more subtle style, they abandoned the first and laid down a much subtler art, as appears in ‘Apta caro’. Thus those now coming after and understanding those things which the first masters had abandoned, have invented greater subtleties, so that what was left imperfect by predecessors may be reformed by successors.

14 The suggested date is that of F. Alberto Gallo, in Il Medioevo, Storia della musica a cura della Societa Italianà di Musicologia, ii (Torino, 1977), 38.Google Scholar

15 While on the subject of possible Vitry attributions, this may be the place to renew Schrade's plea (‘Philippe de Vitry: Some New Discoveries’, Musical Quarterly, xlii (1956), 347–348) for the inclusion in the Vitry canon of the Fauvel motets ‘Se cuers/Rex’ and ‘Servant/O Philippe’. Both were originally intended for Louis X (1315), though the second was immediately re-used for his successor, Philippe V (1316–22); and they appear to belong to a substantial tradition of royal motets, being followed by ‘O Philippe/O bone’, probably for Philippe VI (1328–50), ‘Rex Johannes’ (a lost work, quoted briefly by the theorist Anonymous V — Scriptorum de musica medii aevi, ed Edmond de Coussemaker, vol. iii, (Paris, 1869), 397–398) for Jean II (1350–64), and ‘Rex Karole/Leticie’ for Charles V (1364–80). The latter would have been written after Vitry's death; and too little survives of ‘Rex Johannes’ to allow attribution. ‘O Philippe/O bone’ survives incomplete in the Ivrea MS, though its partly illegible Introitus (not printed in Harrison, op. cit.) does show Vitriacan characteristics. Its isorhythmic section, moreover, is exactly the same length (59 longae) as both ‘Se cuers/Rex’ and ‘Servant/O Philippe’ — perhaps an unlikely coincidence — and those two motets, as Schrade pointed out, show all the hallmarks of Vitry's earliest known style, being distinguished by particularly fine voice-leading and directed melody. If they are not by Vitry then there is an anonymous master lurking in the early fourteenth century of whom musicologists have failed totally to take account.Google Scholar

16 Ursula Günther, The Motets of the Manuscripts Chantilly, musée condí, 564 (olim 1047) and Modena, Biblioteca estense, &c. M.5,24 (olim lat.568), Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, xxxix (n. p., 1965), p. lviii. See also CP, 169–81, where the case of IV9 a discussed more fully.Google Scholar

17 Günther, op. cit., p. lii.Google Scholar

18 Discussed in CP, 3349.Google Scholar

19 The best consideration of St Louis of Toulouse within the musicological literature remains that of Harrison, op. cit., p. xiv.Google Scholar

20 See Coville, A., ‘Philippe de Vitri: notes biographiques’, Romania, lix (1933), 522524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

21 Hanna Stäblein-Harder, Fourteenth-Century Mass Music im France: Critical Commentary, Musicological Studies and Documents, vii (n. p., 1962), 36. Could ‘Loys’ possibly be a reference to St Louis, rather than an ascription, acknowledging the work's apparent connection with the Saint?Google Scholar

22 This, and similar evidence elsewhere in the manuscript, suggests that the Tenor parts might have been added to Ivrea not only after the upper voices but also after the songs added to the bottoms of those pages where room remained. Otherwise the Tenor of IV18 would have been placed beneath the erroneous V10 Tenor, where instead we find a later added song. The differences in notation between this fragment of the V10 Tenor and its full statement in its proper context later in the manuscript, may show that the scribe copied the latter from a different source to that containing the Tenor of IV18 (and possibly this other version of V10).Google Scholar

23 While this may appear a fault, according to the standards established by Vitry, it is quite possible that Machaut took the realistic view that most listeners would be quite unable to hear, amidst the complex texture of an isorhythmic motet, where text-lines began and ended in relation to talea-statements, concluding that regular taring was therefore a matter of purely academic interest.Google Scholar

24 M18's play on the number 12 — (24 breves × IV taleae = 96 breves) + (12 × 4 diminished taleae = 48) = 144 breves total + 12 × 12 — may have to do with the traditional association between ‘12’ and ministers of God, via the biblical 12 apostles, 12 prophets and 12 tribes.Google Scholar

25 Except where the colores are actually identical. The other cases are: V9 and IV71 (Wednesday of Holy Week), V7 and M17 (‘Ave regina celorum’), V3 and M9 (3rd Sunday of Quadragesima), and M8 and M21 (Passion Sunday).Google Scholar

26 Le jeu de Sainte Agnès: drame provençal du xive sièle, ed. Alfred Jeanroy and Th. Gérold, Les classiques français du moyen age, lxviii (Paris, 1931). I am most grateful to Christopher Page for this reference.Google Scholar

27 Margaret Hasselman, The French Chanson of the Mid-Fourteenth Century, (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1970), 159 and 163.Google Scholar

28 Discussed in more detail in CP, 199.Google Scholar

29 Harrison (op. cit., pp. xiv-xv) suggested that the texts of IV26 might have been composed in northern Italy during the decade after 1323. In view of the work's pan-isorhythm so carry a date might seem unlikely, but Italian provenance might be supported by the absence of the work from the Trémoille manuscript (see below). The Franciscan associations noted by Harrison provide another interesting link betwee IV26 and IV15, perhaps accounting for the large geographical and chronological gap which appears to separate them.Google Scholar

30 See note 13.Google Scholar

31 See, for example, ‘O Philippe/O bone’, ‘Altissonis/Hin’ (the links between this motet and M22 suggested in CP, pp.149–151, now seem rather tenuous), ‘Febus/Laista’, ‘Post/Post’, ‘Si enseignement/De tous’, and most of the Machaut motets.Google Scholar

32 Thus, for example, IV72 has the same subject, color and total length as IV67, but relates closely to IV18 in text layout, section-lengths and rhythms; while IV67 shares text and talea quantities with IV26 which also relates closely to IV15 and, less so, to IV31.Google Scholar

33 On the dating of IV15, see above. On V14 and IV71, tee CP, 48–49 and 193196.Google Scholar

34 Hasselman, op. cit., ch. 1.Google Scholar

35 The full callmarks for the latter four sources are: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, nouvelles acquisitions latines, 2444; Cambrai, Bibliothèque Comunale, B.1328; Ivrea, Biblioteca capitolare, 115; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, nouvelles acquisitions françaises, 23190. The best consideration of the Ivrea manuscript remains that of Heinrich Besseler, ‘Studien zur Musik des Mittelalters I. Neue Quellen des 14. und beginnenden 15. Jahrhunderts’, Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, vii (1925), 185–195. The most satisfactory edition of the Trémoille inventory is contained in Craig Wright, Music at the Court of Burgundy, 1364–1418: A Documentary History, Musicological Studies, xxviii (Henryville, 1979), 147158.Google Scholar

36 Ursula Günther, ‘Problems of dating in An nova and Ars subtilior’, L'Ars Nova italiana del Trecento, iv (Certaldo, 1978), 291293.Google Scholar

37 These translations follow Gallo, op. cit. A useful list of musicians mentioned in motet texts will be found in Harrison, op. cit., 205, where his text no. 18 refers to IV20, and no.46 to P5. P5’s inclusion of Johannes de Muris suggests that it was written before his death in 1351 (Richard H. Hoppin and Suzanne Clercx, ‘Notes biographiques sur quelques musiciens français du XIVe riècle’, ed. Suzanne Clercx, Les colloques de Wégimont II, 1955, L'Ars Nova, Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres de l'Université de Liège, Fascicule cxlix (Paris, 1959), 66); and, if so, this provides a valuable terminus for the development of pan-isorhythm.Google Scholar

38 Richard H. Hoppin, ‘Some remarks a propos of Pic’, Revue belge de musicologie, x (1956), 110111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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