1. Early, Non-standardised Versions

It is possible to interpret some variants as the result of a process of revision between subsequent sources. This, of course, is easier to perceive when new voices were added to the setting, and as with the discussion of that topic, most of these cases occur in the transition from the early manuscript MS C to the other collections. Such revisions are by no means universal. For example, Ballade 30, written after this breakpoint, is copied with the same mistake in its tenor voice in all four of its concordances. When revisions do occur, their reasoning does not always seem corrective.

The B-part of B12 can be taken as an example here.

MS C:     Sound and Score (MS C)     ¦     Facsimile

MS A:     Sound and Score (MS A)     ¦     Facsimile

It is possible that the prime reason for revising this section was the disposal of the parallel octaves between measures 51 and 52 of the older MS C version. Such progressions, though, appear elsewhere in Machaut’s two-part compositions where they did not cause revision, and the new reading only displaces the skeletal parallels by inserting a dissonance here rather than ‘improving’ the counterpoint. Indeed, the more remarkable changes, appearing at the beginning of the form-part, subvert the more standard counterpoint of the old version, inserting strong and protracted dissonances in b. 30-32. It is hard to believe contrapuntal probity was the reason for the changes here.

The new beginning of this form part is also a measure longer than its predecessor. Technically, one has to apply perfect Modus in order to read this song correctly. The longer reading, though, forces the tenor to contradict the perfection rules and keep the first longa in this section perfect, even though it is followed by a string of four breves. Editorially, modus grouping can be represented as follows:

MS C:     Score     ¦     Facsimile

MS A:     Score     ¦     Facsimile

The barring here makes it clear that the extra measure inserted in the later versions does not resolve a deficiency in the rhythmic behaviour of original, but destabilizes the regularity of the Modus groupings. To make the section work, b. 19 becomes too long. It is, of course, possible to interpret some rests as separation lines and force the music into regular Modus measures, but this requires inconsistent interpretation. When maintaining a regular interpretation of these lines as rests (for this song, if not for the entire oeuvre), the addition occurs at a cadence point, making it easy to incorporate the resulting irregularity in performance. Other problems in the later MS A score – an omitted note in b. 21 of the cantus and too long a rest (not represented in the edition) in b. 22 of the tenor – appear only in this MS and are unique errors of its scribe. They cannot be seen as an outcome of the revision process.

This example suggests that while some revisions may have occurred due to problems in the older version, many others are aesthetic rather than corrective, often replacing one usable version with another. Indeed, the alterations in B12 offer the analyst (if not the performer or audience) more rather than fewer difficulties.


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."