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

News

CD Cover Image for "Machaut: A Burning Heart" by the Orlando Consort

A Burning Heart

Available now from the Hyperion website, the Orlando Consort's latest CD, A Burning Heart, is already receiving critical acclaim. Blair Sanderson, writing for AllMusic.com, describes the Consort's singing as "wonderfully evocative and full of medieval atmosphere." While Brian Wilson, for MusicWeb International, declares: "I doubt...if either Chaucer or Chrétien could have imagined anything better than the singing on this and the other Orlando Consort Machaut recordings."

 

***********************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 Dart of Love

Available now from the Hyperion website, The Dart of Love is second in a series of recordings by the Orlando Consort of Machaut's music. It has already received critical acclaim:

The Orlando Consort perform these works with matchless purity of tone and clarity of diction. (Limelight, Australia)

The programme is nicely varied in mood and scoring, ranging from four-voice ballades and motets to a single-voice virelai, and every combination in between … a thoughtful essay by Anne Stone makes audible sense of the many connections between the pieces on this valuable, impressive recording. (Gramophone)

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."

 

 

New Voir Dit CD

Available now from the Hyperion website.

This new CD from the acclaimed Orlando Consort showcases songs from Machaut's Livre dou Voir Dit (‘Book of the True Tale’). The recording was inspired by collaborative work between our project team and the Orlando Consort who have been trialling the new edition being produced. You can watch a video of the consort discussing their recording on YouTube.

It has already received critical acclaim: David Fallows for Gramophone writes:

To my ears, this is a dream team, with the enormously experienced Donald Greig and Angus Smith alongside ...Matthew Venner and Mark Dobell, who display the most magnificent articulation of the texts alongside the understanding of the lines gained from their senior colleagues...always dead in tune, always beautifully balanced...the unforgettable track here is Angus Smith performing the 'Lay de Bon Esperance', over 20 minutes of unaccompanied solo singing...He's terrific.