Session 32 (Free Papers): Contrapuntal and formal compositional tools

Wednesday, July 7, 14.30-16.30, Room 219 | Chair: Paul Kolb (KU Leuven)

Compositional formulas in three-part villancicos of the Renaissance | Daniel Serrano García (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna)

The term ‘villancico’, which has been referring to a musical genre since the second half of the 15th century, initially referred to the refrain of a secular song, the form of which was derived from popular models – possibly from dances. Since the end of the 15th century, the term again referred to the entire form, which consists of several coplas framed by a recurring estribillo (Pope 1940). The villancicos, which are based on texts with folk subjects in one of the regional languages of the Iberian Peninsula, could be performed in a wide variety of contexts due to their natural diversity and could appear in different forms according to the occasion. The important ceremonies of Spanish aristocratic circles, in which villancicos functioned both as message carriers and as status symbols (Knighton / Torrente 2007), were a frequent opportunity for their use.

On the basis of several three-part villancicos from the Cancionero musical de Palacio (ed. after the manuscript by Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, 1890) and the so-called Cancionero de Uppsala (published in Venice in 1556), the composition formulas used in them are worked out so that at the same time it becomes clear how the genre changed over about a hundred years. In order to examine three- part compositional techniques, music-theoretical treatises, among others by Tomás de Santa María (Arte de tañer fantasía, 1565) and Francisco de Montanos (Arte de compostura, 1592), will be used.

The other half of the mass: Duet counterpoint in the early L’homme armé repertoire | Tim Daly (University of Melbourne)

Fifteenth-century treatises describe counterpoint as the response of a newly- created voice to an existing tenor melody. In the early L’homme armé repertoire, this archetype permits an analysis of passages where the cantus firmus melody is present but does not obviously explain extended passages of the masses in two voices where the tenor is silent and there is no sign of a cantus firmus.

This paper proposes that these passages of two-voice writing in the early L’homme armé masses employ a distinct contrapuntal technique, ‘duet counterpoint’, that accommodates improvisational decision making without cantus firmus. Analysis of excerpts from the masses shows that instead of relying on the tenor as a reference voice, duet counterpoint enables the interaction of independent voices. This process is made possible by a radical simplification of the contrapuntal complex: the hundreds of progressions in Tinctoris’s De arte contrapuncti reduce to around a dozen. This limited contrapuntal palette relies heavily on progressions between pairs of imperfect consonances, typically thirds and sixths, while fifths arise principally as the decorative result of syncopation. The simple construction of duet counterpoint lends it a flexibility that further allows it to be the basis of imitative writing and of three-voice textures. Duet counterpoint is a pervasive feature of these masses in passages where the L’homme armé melody is absent. Its omission from treatises despite its potential derivation from parallel techniques raises important questions about the origin, transmission and teaching of this means of music making and its place in the musical culture that employed it.

Josquin’s Spagna: The apogee of the fifteenth-Century basse danse | Adam Bregman (University of Southern California)

‘…but the qualities of lucid structure and varied texture associated with Josquin (not to mention basic competence in the handling of dissonance) are so conspicuously absent from it that it is impossible to accept it as authentic…’ [Jeremy Noble, “Josquin des Prez: 13,” Oxford Music Online]. Jeremy Noble’s brief acknowledgement of the only surviving five-part setting of arguably the most renowned fifteenth-century dance tenor, ‘La Spagna’ serves only to quickly dismiss its attribution to Josquin. While his complaint of the composition’s approach to dissonance could well be blamed on scribal error, the structure and texture of the setting are indeed not particular to Josquin at all. Rather, they are elements of the rich tradition of the fifteenth-century basse danse, where the dance tenor determines the structure and a long-lived, largely unwritten practice of polyphonic improvisation determines the texture. In order to contextualize this setting of ‘La Spagna’, it is important to reassess the development of the Franco- Burgundian basse danse as a genre independent from the Italian bassadanza in both music and choreography as it approached the sixteenth century. The fundamental musical change in the basse danse was the doubling of the length of each note of the tenor, which afforded musicians a framework for richer contrapuntal possibilities, yielding denser textures. Thus, positing Josquin as the composer of this work, we would associate him with this rich courtly tradition as the creator of its crowning achievement, in typical Josquin fashion.

Authorship, homage, and palindromic play in Josquin’s Missa L’ami baudichon | Adam K. Gilbert (University of Southern California)

Josquin’s Missa L’ami baudichon continues to provoke questions about its authorship and compositional techniques. While Rifkin, Wegman, and Dickey raised doubts about the authenticity of Missa L’ami baudichon, this paper identifies traits shared with Josquin’s Missae L’homme armé super voces musicales, Gaudeamus, Malheur me bat, and Hercule Dux Ferrariae that argue for Josquin’s undoubted authorship. Fallows identifies motivic links to Dufay’s Ave regina and the first anonymous Naples Missa L’homme armé, to which this paper adds further links to Dufay and allusions to Ockeghem chansons.

The most striking feature of Missa L’ami baudichon, unrecognized until now, is its extensive use of concealed imitation and palindromic play. For example, in the opening of the Benedictus, the first eleven pitches of the Cantus are a retrograde inversion of the last eleven pitches of its cantus firmus. (Its three remaining pitches invert the opening of L’ami baudichon). Concealed permutations derived from the opening motives of Tenor, Altus, Cantus, and Bassus pervade the Mass. The significance of this discovery is threefold: First, these features echo procedures identified in Ockeghem’s Missa Quinti toni, including the extensive use of palindromic passages and the central role of the Bassus in generating musical subjects. Second, references to motives and techniques of Dufay and Ockeghem hint at something more than mere youthful cheeky homage. Third, many of these passages are only identifiable in Petrucci’s Missarum Josquin liber secundus (J1505), suggesting that this source is more authoritative than the more florid version in Verona, Biblioteca Capitolare 761 (I-VEc DCCLXI).