Session 39 (Free Papers): Questions on attribution

Thursday, 8 July 2021, 11.00-13.00, Room 219 | Chair: Wolfgang Fuhrmann (Leipzig University)

What’s in a name? Who’s who (or not) in music of the early fifteenth century | Ralph Corrigan (Independent Scholar)

The large number of essentially anonymous composers that fill the surviving manuscripts present a problem for academics. Without biographical details, key pieces of information about the dating and motivation for compositions are missing, leaving lacuna in our understanding of the period and its music. Not surprisingly, this has led to both successful and unsuccessful hunts for information. But for every composer whose biography has been revealed, many more exist as speculative associations, and the increasing number of resources available to researchers only adds to this situation.

The current study began as a search for Johannes Rezon, a composer known from a small number pieces in an even smaller number of manuscripts from Northern Italy in the first half of the fifteenth century. Little is known about his life, so I was delighted to find a tantalising lead in the Brescian Archives – a location that, as I shall explain, was a reasonable place to start looking. However, the problem of disambiguation – isolating the target individual from others of the same or similar names – remains. In this paper I will look at the problems of identification in relation to Johanne Rezon (and at least one other composer), within the context of existing scholarship, and also my recent work on musical prosopography in Oxford and Scotland. Using examples from successful searches (as well as some that are less so) this paper seeks to present potential methodologies to identifying potential individuals, and quantifying confidence in those identifications, in an inconsistent and incomplete record.

Collaborative composing in the 16th century? Considerations on Lasso’s mass cycles | Esther Dubke (HU Berlin)

The problem of unambiguous authorship attribution regarding Lassos masses is comparatively small due to the existence of numerous parallel sources. But a remainder of cycles pose reasonable doubt about his compositional accountability. Especially the phenomenon of multiple attribution turned out to be a central issue for the editors of the Neue Reihe as they were forced to take a definite stand. Throughout the decision-making process it was necessary “to evaluate the assignment on the basis of the particularities of transmission and, in addition to diplomatic findings, to take into account the quality of the music itself as a criterion.”

In different contexts, music historiography has already proven the decision on compositions’ authorship attribution based on stylistic aspects to generally be an unreliable and risky analytical endeavour. Therefore, this presentation aims at opening up the transmission of multiple attribution to new lines of arguments and alternative interpretations: By tracing traditions in the Munich mass repertory regarding text underlay, choice of mode or model as well as mensuration, a genre profile of Lasso՚s compositional contributions can be outlined. It tends to mediate between conventionality and reorganization and frames both stereotypes as well as possible variations thereof. Hence, the Bavarian court chapel’s organisational mechanisms come to the fore of a system-oriented investigation. As the staffing of the Munich chapel and the repertory genesis are comparable to the productive conditions in the numerous Renaissance painting workshops, they open up new perspectives on composition processes in the 16th century.

De-attributing the Missa Et ecce terraemotus? | Sam Bradley (Boston University)

In terms of sheer scale, the twelve-voice Missa Et ecce terraemotus stands out, not only from the sacred output of Antoine Brumel, but from all other music by composers of Brumel’s generation. The only source for the mass, however, MunBS 1, has been shown by Birgit Lodes to be more likely from after 1523, which moves the terminus ante quem for the mass well past Brumel’s death. Even when considered as an exceptional work, there are many aspects of this piece that would be more at home with a later dating: constant cross-relations, even in sections with reduced scoring, as well as discrete cells of counterpoint, passed between voices in endless repetition. Barton Hudson even says that the mass “foreshadows polychoral writing,” which should give us pause. Did Brumel really write in this style so presciently, and in only this single, peerless work?

Perhaps most damning is the situation regarding the Agnus. It has only one section, (again, something common in the 1520s and ‘30s but not in Brumel). A different six-voice Agnus, composed over a longer version of the same chant appears in CopKB 1872. This too bears Brumel’s name, but it’s highly unlikely that it’s from the larger mass, given the different clefs, scoring, and chant models. Most importantly, both bear stylistic signs suggesting each was intended to be a final Agnus section, which suggests another Missa Et ecce terraemotus by Brumel, now mostly lost, that was conflated with the twelve-voice mass. Is it time to rethink this attribution?

Dresden’s deception: A new Pater noster? | Daniel Trocmé-Latter (University of Cambridge)

Maistre Jhan’s five-voice Pater noster (2a: Ave Maria) comes down to us in a handful of sources. Aside from a single printed source – Cantiones quinque vocum selectissimae (Strasbourg: Peter Schöffer, 1539) – the manuscript sources listed on DIAMM are Bologna Q.27 (I) (superius only), Treviso 36 (all voices), Valladolid 15 (tenor only), and Dresden Mus.1-D-3 (all voices; prima pars only). The Dresden manuscript comprises a set of six partbooks copied in Wittenberg in the middle of the sixteenth century; it contains 60 works in German and Latin. However, despite containing a Pater noster setting ascribed to ‘M Ian’, this work is not in fact the same as Maistre Jhan’s five-voice setting: the piece in question is clearly marked ‘sex vocum’, and does indeed appear in all of the partbooks. The opening of the motet has certain similarities with Josquin’s six-voice setting, but does not match any other contemporary six-voice Pater noster setting that I have been able to consult.

One consequence is that it can now be confirmed that Jhan’s five-voice Pater noster has only a single extant manuscript source to its name (Treviso 36). In addition, it remains to be seen whether the six-voice Dresden setting – which has been almost completely overlooked in the scholarship – is really by Maistre Jhan. The question of who may have composed it, among other uncertainties, will be addressed in my paper.