4. Mistakes and Corrections

As in the case of the dissemination of unintentional variants, it is clear that the availability of sources to compare readings would also be a central issue in the transmission of errors and their influence on practice. While a mistake in the transmission may be clear to us through an examination of all surviving sources, it would not have been so easy for medieval users to identify them (we can better appreciate this when we consider that we are faced with a similar situation when working with compositions transmitted in one source only).

An interestingly layered case of erroneous transmission is the B-part of V10. It is clear that for this song MSS Vg, B and E are directly linked, each source using its closest predecessor as an exemplar. Still, each source presents a markedly different reading.

Vg reproduces the standard and correct reading familiar from all the manuscripts outside this group.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

MS B made a number of copying errors, seemingly conflating the intended melody with that of the B-part of V7 (copied in the same position in the previous opening of Vg). The result is a rather messy hybrid, truncating the longer form part of V7 to fit more or less syllabically above the pre-copied text.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile:     Vg (V10)   ¦   Vg (V7)   ¦   MS B

Perhaps due to this lack of clarity, when the scribe of MS E came to copy his version, a few more changes were inserted, probably unintentionally.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile:     MS B   ¦   MS E

These three versions attest to the degree of variety possible even with direct copying. Interestingly, some reviewing evidently took place of the MS E version, as the second variant between it and MS B was subsequently removed (this involved the crossing out of a stem attached to the fourth note before the end of this section). This resulted in a more symmetrical division of this line into two mirroring rhythmic patterns, even though this does not match the text structure.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

Both error and correction come together to produce a workable version, but one which differs markedly from Machaut’s original intention.

Pages are available with discussion on clear or interpreted errors.


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."