Session 47 (Free Papers): Secular music in its linguistic diversity I

Thursday, July 8, 17.00-19.00, Room 219 | Chair: Rebecca Maloy (University of Colorado Boulder)

Songs materializing as music: Medieval monophony in music manuscripts | Oliver Huck (Universität Hamburg)

In Medieval manuscripts musical notation at its beginnings is only an addition to texts. From the 13th century onwards such manuscripts with music compete with music manuscripts, books in which entire pages have been ruled prior to the writing of text and music. Monophonic songs appear already in the Notre Dame Manuscript F, one of the very first music manuscripts, but large collections like the troubadour and trouvère manuscripts as well as e.g. the manuscripts with the Cantigas de Santa Maria are still manuscripts with music. The paper examines the manuscript evidence of Western European Medieval song in various languages (Latin, French, Provencal, Gallego-Portuguese, Italian, English, German, Dutch, Czech) from the 13th to the early 15th century. The question whether the music is regarded as a “vestimento” (Dante) of the lyrics or as their “intonazione” (Sacchetti) in the respective corpora is going to be answered by the material evidence of the respective manuscripts relating it to the contemporary terminologies used to indicate the musical of a song. Moreover, the manuscripts with medieval monophonic song will be classified within the framework of formatting content in the manuscript cultures of the Western European Middle ages.

Alfonso X and the idea of measuring the rhythms of sung words | Warwick Edwards

The 400 or so songs that comprise Alfonso X’s great Cantigas de Santa Maria project need to be understood first and foremost in the context of the various deeply embedded living song traditions that will have surrounded him over a lifetime. The meticulous attention he gives to recording cantiga rhythms, however, must be assessed in the light of the thirteenth century’s new-found intoxication with measuring things, not least the measurement of time. As he embarks on the first phase of his project, apparently in the 1260s, Alfonso’s awareness of the entirely novel idea emanating from Paris at the time, that certain kinds of music are measurable, need not be doubted. But what possible use could he have for the extremely limited range of specific patterns of measurement associated with melismatic discant organum and its offshoot, the motet, that Parisian teachers draw on exclusively to illustrate and develop their concepts of ‘measurable music’? And why is he almost alone in Europe in attempting to capture in notation the sounding rhythms of monophonic songs of various kinds with such fastidiousness? I would like to invite discussion of the proposition that it is not Parisian rhythmic practices that inform the manner in which Alfonso executes his project, but rather the development of the idea of musical measurement they engender through its application to song traditions in which words and their melodies are inseparable. And that it is Alfonso’s famed intellectual curiosity that makes this aspect of his initiative unique.

En la duché de Normendie: Melodic and textual peculiarities of the Chansonnier de Bayeux | Carlo Bosi

A chansonnier is much more than just a repository of songs reflecting the tastes of its sponsor(s). In fact, it may also be regarded as a kind of snapshot capturing the circulation of a given poetic-musical repertory in the context of a specific cultural milieu. Particularly revealing in this respect are distinctive variants. These involve not just unmistakably different melodic profiles, but also, for instance, the use of idiosyncratic end-of-verse melismas, which in a monophonic song collection like the Chansonnier de Bayeux recur over and over again in many different songs and which in these forms are almost totally absent in the other partly related monophonic song manuscript, ParisBNF 12744. However, these melismas and other notational and textual peculiarities also occur in polyphonic arrangements of the songs in the near contemporary or, probably, slightly earlier Parisian chansonniers LonBLH 5242 and CambriP 1760. This suggests a line of transmission going well beyond specific geographic localities and involving instead a common ‘cultural’ background.

Moreover, the systematic recurrence in many Bayeux songs of specific melodic and textual variants and melismatic formulas invites us to regard this source not just as a loose collection of monophonic songs, but as an ‘organically’ conceived and carefully planned music and poetry book. Indeed, the high degree of codification and internal cogency of Bayeux, highlighting a definite aspiration to preserve a distinct, in some cases even outdated repertory arranged according to a specific practice, merits a much closer investigation of this manuscript, not just because of its polyphonic concordances but also for its own characteristic individuality.

The Portuguese language of the cancioneiros: Recreating 16th century pronunciation (concert-lecture, 40 mins.) | Sofia Pedro

As a performer aware of the relevance of Historically Informed Practice, I seek to perform the repertoire of the past as historically accurately as the available knowledge and our collective interpretation of the original sources allows. Language is a fundamental part of music making and interpretation for a singer. The practice of historically informed pronunciation is already widely applied to European languages such as French and English. However, this concern seems not to be shared by most performers interested in historical repertoire in the Portuguese vernacular. With this in mind, I will present some findings from my MA research, which focused on gathering and comparing sources and secondary literature on the historical pronunciation of 16th century Portuguese. My research objects included the sixteenth century grammars of Fernão de Oliveira (1539) and João de Barros (1540), and later twentieth century studies on the subject by Paul Teyssier, T. R. Hart Jr. and I. S. Révah. Through this comparative reading I arrive at an informed personal approach to Portuguese historical pronunciation, applied to my own performance of the 16th century Cancioneiros repertoire. Such an approach is possible and relevant to an artist, opening an important alternative performance perspective, by combining different academic viewpoints into a coherent interpretation.

The format of my presentation is a lecture-recital, with live musical examples accompanied by Jonatan Alvarado and Ariel Abramovich. These include a selection of pieces from the Cancioneiros of Lisboa, Belém, Elvas, and Paris, previously showing how I arrived at my decisions of pronunciation.