2. Towards an Established Tradition

The most extreme case of both voice-addition and planned but unused space is B22, which transited from a minimal (but with space left for two more voices) to a maximal setting.

MS C:     Sound and Score     ¦      Facsimile

MS A:     Sound and Score     ¦      Facsimile

As can clearly be heard in the recordings, the two settings give rise to strikingly different results. The four-part version changes the expressive quality of the original melody: it gives the line a different harmonic colour, as can be seen in the very beginning where the cantus is harmonized as the fifth of the chord. Onther example is the beginning of the B-part. Here, the monophonic version highlights the importnace of the shortened line of the poem which opens this form-part by introducing the new sound E-flat in the setting of the important word of the line. It is made to inhabit a strong mensural point and fit with the natural stresses of the words. All this comes together to suggest it as an important contrasting sonority to the C and F of the first part. The polyphonic versions, though, undermines this reading through the use of F-sharp in the tenor and triplum, B-natural in the contratenor and E-natural in the triplum in the immediate surrounding of the cantus' E-flat. It does no longer feel like a shift in the  modal centre of the passage, but as demarkation through the use of dissonance and diminished intervals. The polyphonic version also emphasises different locations through the creation or avoidance of harmonic cadences, or the positioning of perfect and imperfect sonorities. In addition to the many points of emphasis suggested by the cantus melody, cadential progressions of different strengths (often combined with perfect sonorities) direct the ear towards bb. 5, 7, 12, 34, 36, 40, and 48. Some moments when the cantus line might by itself raise a cadential expectation are weakened through the avoidance of standard cadential counterpoint (for this, see here) or the insertion of imperfect sonorities. This occurs at bb. 13, 35, 38 and 46, as well as both ouvert and clos endings. Taken together, the musical moments of emphasis or de-emphasis created by the polyphonic structure work directly against the clear sentence structure of the monophonic version. This has the effect of an unresolved oscillation of emphasis between the polyphonic structure and the textual structure, making it impossible for both performer and listener to reach a resting point throughout the duration of any given strophe. There is one full cadence that matches the poetic line structure, appearing at the end of the B-part and before the refrain. While this cadence highlights the expected architecture of the ballade, the sonority arrived at is so clearly an ouvert sound that it cannot be taken as a resting point either. Finally, by highlighting, pre-empting or echoing rhythmic and melodic patterns, the new voices, which were added to create the four-part version, elevate such motifs from generic devices into structuring elements that characterise the song. Thus the basic melodic gesture of the cantus in b. 23 is used to open both the A- and B-parts of the triplum (b. 1 and 32), and appears also in b. 9, 10, 28, 37, 41, 48 and 49, thus pervading and unifying the whole song. The motif heralding the musical rhyme in the cantus (b. 29, 50) has its structural importance bolstered by opening both the start and refrain section of the contratenor (b. 1, 43).


Uri Smilansky


***********************STOP PRESS!!!!!!!!************************

The Complete Poetry and Music of Guillaume de Machaut Volume 1 is out now!!!!

Volume 1: The Debate Poems is now available in print.

You can also enjoy the entire volume online via the Middle English Texts Website.

Edited and translated by R. Barton Palmer, with art historical commentary by Domenic Leo, and musical commentary by Uri Smilansky, the volume contains  Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, Le Jugement dou Roy de Navarre, and Le Lay de Plour.




The Ferrell-Vogüé Machaut Manuscript

Full colour facsimile with introductory study by Lawrence Earp, Domenic Leo and Carla Shapreau. Preface by Christopher de Hamel

"It is a vast manuscript of royal luxury, 390 leaves of parchment, 314 mm. by 220 mm., illustrated with 118 enchanting miniatures by a workshop of court illuminators led by the Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy.They include pictures of gothic chivalry and romance, with mythology and natural history. Music is included on 235 pages of the manuscript, with almost the entire corpus of the ballades, lais and motets of Machaut, as well as his great polyphonic setting of the Mass, the four-part Messe de Nostre-Dame.The manuscript has never before been photographed in its entirety or reproduced in colour."

"Vol. 1 introductory study (225 pages colour/mono), vol. 2 facsimile (789 full colour pages) on 150gsm matt art paper. Full size reproduction, hard bound in buckram, presented in hard slipcover."

Available now from DIAMM Publications.

The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut by Yolanda Plumley

Available now from Oxford University Press

"Presents the first detailed exploration of citational practices in the song-writing tradition of fourteenth-century France. The first monograph-length study on the Ars nova chanson with new evidence about the emergence of the new polyphonic chanson. Provides new evidence about the circle of poets and composers who engaged with Machaut and created a new style of poetry and song. Explores little studied collections of lyrics and songs of the period and provides fresh insights and perspectives on Machaut's works."