Session 40 (Free Papers): Historiae

Thursday, 8 July 2021, 14.30-16.30, Room A224 | Chair: Emma Hornby

That sticky riff: Gesture and mode in medieval office chants | Kate Helsen (The University of Western Ontario) & Mark Daley (The University of Western Ontario)

Twenty years ago, the database was all the rage in chant scholarship. Collecting textual and melodic data via computer, both on- and offline, achieved an overview of the repertoire spread over various places and centuries. Andrew Hughes’ Late Medieval Liturgical Offices was one of the first projects to present scholars with this vast array of information, and projects like Cantus and the Portuguese Early Music database continued to develop methods of categorizing and recombining chant data in new international networks. Typically, researchers use these resources to look at macro-trends: melodic or textual tendencies based on local tradition or period in time. But when we consider the melodies themselves, collected in their thousands now, what can we learn about how they are constructed, and what kind of melodic ‘grammar’ they might follow, apart from the famous ‘formulaic’ tendencies of some of the repertoire? New research presented here, using n-gram analysis, networks, and Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN) looks to the construction of the melodies in Hughes’ LMLO, (augmented by the addition of several hundred more late medieval historiae chants.) Across mode, genre, and era, we have begun this task by looking at small melodic gestures, or ‘riffs’, by isolating the notes preceding, and proceeding from, semitones that occur in the given mode. We have found significant recurrence of particular phrases, or riffs, which we propose could have been used to help ‘build modes’ from smaller musical gestures at first, to the larger and more regularized distribution of tones and semitones along a scale. Special care needed to be brought to the question of assumed b-flats that were not given explicitly in the manuscripts. Understanding modes not as ‘scales’ but as a collection of associated smaller musical gestures, allows us to identify a set of recurring riffs as aural ‘flags’ that are characteristic of their larger modal contexts.

The Historia Sancti Gordiani et Epimachi of Hermannus Contractus rediscovered | Stefan Morent (Universität Tübingen)

Recently I could identify an until now unknown Historia for Saints Gordianus and Epimachus in a 12th century manuscript coming from the former abbey of Zwiefalten. The office is not complete but comprises most of the chants for the night office. The texts are unknown to the major databases (CANTUS, Analecta Hymnica, Acta Sanctorum, Patrologia Latina) but closely follow the Passio of the saints. The manuscript is dated 1160/1170 and is made up in its major parts by texts for prophecy, computus, eschatology and a chronicle. It is clearly not a liturgical manuscript in a stricter sense. The chants notated in German neumes on staves reveal a very close resemblance to the known office compositions of Hermannus Contractus of Reichenau (1013-54). It is therefore highly probable that these chants make up the until now lost Historia on Saints Gordianus and Epimachus which Hermann’s biographer Berthold lists among his works. The Hirsau reform context of the manuscript, the notation and the typical “earmarks” of Hermann’s musical style strengthen this conclusion. Thus after the offices of Wolfgang, Afra, and Magnus, a fourth office of Hermannus has been rediscovered. Meanwhile a 14th century breviary from Kempten, a place of veneration for Gordianus and Epimachus, has emerged which contains the almost identical texts of the office and completes the missing parts was well as the lessons and hymns.

The paper will present the new finding and discuss the stylistic features of the office in the course of preparing an edition for the Historiae series.

Responding to criticism: The Office of the Visitation | Rhianydd Hallas (Masaryk Institute and Archives of the CAS)

Discussions on the quality of newly composed texts for use in liturgy are rarely documented. The liturgical and theological importance of a feast for the Visitation was accepted by Pope Urban VI in 1389 but the original office composed for it (Exurgens autem Maria, written by Jan of Jenštejn) was criticised. Jenštejn’s office was criticised by two investigative panels (the first in 1386-1388 and the second in 1390), on the grounds of metrical and rhyming faults, the use of ‘rough passages’ and unknown words. This criticism is documented in Ms PL-WRu I F 777, by Jenštejn’s assistant at the Papal Curia, Nicholas Rakovník. A number of alternative offices were submitted, including Accedunt laudes virginis written by Adam Easton, one of the critics, which was later chosen for official promulgation throughout the Roman Church.

This paper focuses on the evaluation process for the office and discusses aspects of Jenštejn’s and Easton’s offices through the prism of the criticism that Jenštejn received. Was the criticism valid, or was it motivated by political or personal motivations; did Easton’s knowledge of the criticisms influence his composition of Accedunt laudes virginis; and what were the wider implications of the criticism and its affect on later transmission of both offices?

The Office of Saint Elizabeth in the court of Alfonso X “the Learned”: Study of the manuscript F-Pn Nal 868 | Ana Ruiz (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) & Carmen J. Gutiérrez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

The manuscript F-Pn Nal 868, called Vie et office de sainte Élizabeth de Thuringe, ou de Hongrie (Officium et vita S. Elisabeth landgravivae Thuringisae), located in the National Library of France (BNF), remains mostly unstudied from the point of view of musicology despite its interest, since it contains the Office of the Saints with musical notation and a rich decoration. The aim of this work is to examine thoroughly both its content and its physical characteristics, which are closely related to manuscripts that were made in the scriptorium of the court of Alfonso X of Castile (Toledo, 1221-Seville, 1284), such as the Cantigas de Santa María (1280- 1284) or Libro de Ajedrez y Dados (1283). Thus, this work seeks completing the descriptions previously made by authors such as Gabriel, Avril or Blume and Joneitis, to provide a global and updated view of the manuscript.

This work delimits the dating of the codex, provides novel information on its relation with the Alfonsí scriptorium by comparing its content with other similar sources and seeks answers to the following questions: why was it realized? whom was it made for? and where was its music interpreted? By answering them, we will be one step closer to the reconstruction of the musical library of Alfonso X ‘the Learned’.