Session 28 (Free Papers): Music theory and motets

Wednesday, 7 July 2021, 11.00-13.00, Room 219 | Chair: Barbara Haggh-Huglo (University of Maryland)

Toward a didactic of music in two Carolingian treatises: Musica and Scolica Enchiriadis | Julieta Cardigni (Universidad de Buenos Aires / CONICET)

Our presentation aims to analyze the didactic features present in two Carolingian writings about music: Musica and Scolia Enchiriadis, from the 9th century. Traditionally transmitted and read together, these treatises contain some of the earliest medieval reflections on Polyphony, modal theory, and musical training. In addition, Musica and Scolica Enchiriadis show how the Ars Musica turns into a performative notion, while still trying to be part –at least formally— of the tradition of speculative music and the harmonia mundi. In the context of the Carolingian reforms, Music seems to be acquiring a more practical dimension, according to the needs of homogenization of Liturgy accomplished throughout the Empire.

This dimension, which of course had always existed in the performative aspect of Music, needs now to be theorized and systematized for its transmission. In his attempt to teach the –until then— oral knowledge about singing, the anonymous writer(s) of Musica and Scolica Enchiriadis needs not only to explain the new concepts, but also to create a common language in order to accomplish this task. The result of this intent is one of the first musical notation systems which, though not of great further impact as a means of transmission in itself, gives us however a glimpse to the metalinguistic process of creating a musical language. Departing from Discourse Analysis, I will trace and analyze these didactic strategies and resources, with the purpose of delineating the didactic project of both treatises.

Uncovering the fundamental structures of medieval mode | Asher V. Yampolsky (Independent Scholar)

In recent years, it has been established that, whereas most modal theorists assigned one mode to each chant according to its final and ambitus, the same theorists’ own discussions of modulation establish that mode was heard continuously throughout each chant, and not only at its end (Yampolsky, 2013; 2020). For people to have heard mode continuously, chant must be pervaded by perceptible structures that signal the mode. This paper seeks to glean those structures from close readings of medieval modal treatises. I begin by investigating indications that mode degrees, analogous to scale degrees, were perceived: hierarchies of mode degrees, privileged positions in phrases and pieces being restricted to specific mode degrees, and consistent behaviour of some mode degrees across modes.

Interval string qualities, however, complicate matters. These are the qualities of notes determined by the pattern of intervals surrounding them, i.e. their interval strings. Interval string qualities were discussed in perhaps every medieval modal treatise, and they eventually led to the hexachord. Listeners might therefore have found them significant, yet these qualities are fundamentally at odds with mode degrees; mode degrees are defined by each degree’s relationship to the final, but interval string qualities are defined by the unchanging intervallic structure of the gamut, making them independent of finals and thus modes. The cognitive, analytical, and historical implications of this apparent contradiction are explored. This paper thus re-examines fundamental structures of modal theory, and in so doing, calls into question the function of the hexachord in the middle ages.

Four-semibreve ligatures in the motet In omni fratre tuo | Kaho Inoue (University of Southampton)

The St Emmeram Anonymous (1279) is arguably the only thirteenth-century theorist who refers to the ligatures including four semibreves that are equivalent to two tempora in total. According to the author, they are seen as a combination of two two-note ligatures cum opposita proprietate (hereafter, c.o.p.) in the motet In omni fratre tuo, but would be notated ‘more safely and properly’ as one c.o.p. ligature with two single semibreves. Indeed, the motet has survived in seven manuscripts. This paper examines whether such c.o.p. ligatures are found in these manuscripts, and if not, why they are not in use and what types of ligatures are employed there.

D-BAs Lit. 115 and F-MOf H 196 notate a double two-note c.o.p. ligature on the syllable of ‘ne’, which has a two-tempora long in the second mode; this notation resembles that mentioned by the St Emmeram Anonymous. On the other hand, F- Pn n. a. f. 13521 illustrates a single four-note c.o.p. ligature on the same text. The other four manuscripts do not include such c.o.p. ligatures in the motet. Here, none of the manuscripts adopts the c.o.p. ligature with two semibreves recommended by the St Emmeram Anonymous. The possible reason for this is that the author designs the notation to refute Lambertus (c. 1270), who explains that a two-note c.o.p. ligature can be substituted for a two-tempora breve, where each or either of the semibreves in the c.o.p. ligature corresponds to a one- tempus breve—contradictorily for the St Emmeram Anonymous. Therefore, the proposed c.o.p. ligature might well be speculative and unnecessary for the motet because each of the four semibreves for a two-tempora long is consistently shorter than a one-tempus breve.

It’s muddy underfoot: Pes tenors in insular thirteenth- and fourteenth- century polyphony | Amy Williamson (University of Southampton)

The surviving insular repertory of the later thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries includes three- and four-part compositions that comprise tenor parts with the designation “pes.” The feature renders these twenty compositions unique to this repertory. Even though only a small proportion of the extant compositions include this term in their manuscript sources, pes tenors are often discussed in reference to insular compositional style in scholarly literature. This is in part because the majority of such works are located in a single reconstructed source from the Worcester Fragments, the leaves of which have occupied an inordinate position of importance since their first serious examination by Don Anselm Hughes in the 1920s. Scholars today commonly characterise insular pes tenors as simple and repetitive melodic phrases supporting upper parts that frequently engage in voice exchange, and are most often associated with the motet repertory.
Yet such an assessment risks oversimplifying the heterogeneous nature of surviving pes tenors. The twenty extant compositions are more varied than secondary scholarship would otherwise imply, and consist of troped chant settings as well as motets. Moreover, the term “pes” is neither described nor defined in any known contemporary literature. It is thus unclear what the label was intended to indicate, and whether it was understood to mean the same thing to the respective scribes who employed and encountered it. Although the limited number of sources in which the appellation “pes” appears would suggest it was not widespread, modern scholars have nevertheless applied the term to pieces where no contemporary “pes” denomination is found in the manuscript source. In so doing, musicologists have engaged with the imprecise use of a term that is not based on historical observation, and this creates a misleading impression of both the character and frequency of pes tenors. This paper investigates closely the twenty extant pes compositions in the insular repertory, highlighting the diversity of their tenors and respective polyphonic settings. I will further illustrate how these compositional styles and techniques relate to other extant compositions in the repertory. Ultimately, this paper argues that less significance should be placed on the term “pes,” and posits that musicologists would benefit from shifting their attention instead to the rich and diverse styles of tenor construction and voice-part relationships of the insular compositional style.