3. Differences in Written Out Repetitions

A special case of inflection discrepancy can occur within a single copy and a single piece, that is, differences between written out musical repetitions. This is especially relevant in the Lais where many half-strophes incorporate their own ouvert / clos structure resulting in extended repeated sections, and in the monophonic Virelais, where most commonly the refrain and versicle are presented separately even though they both use the same music. The same issue, though, can also affect the musical rhyme of the Ballades which use this device. In these cases the given music is repeated as part of the structure, regardless of whether differences appear or not in the written out repetitions. This can lead the reader in two distinct directions. One would be to understand the music as non-text-specific, leading to a standardisation of the reading into a single, repeating version used for all relevant texts of a song. The other would cling to these differences as a sign of text-specific adaptation, present them in full, and recommend the insertion of further changes when new texts reuse the music in order to show the performers’ understanding of their meaning.

Most differences found in the sources tend to be small, and do not lend much information as to which concept is more appropriate. Still, on occasion the reading seems more explicit, and, if taken seriously, suggests the latter attitude should be given more weight than the former.

While some mistakes can still be found, the transmission of V10’s A-part is much more stable than that of its B-part. Nonetheless, the versicle copy of all sources but MS C lack some, if not all, the fa-sign indications which appear in the musically identical refrain. The Vg, B and E manuscript group even specify a mi-sign before the ‘b’ of this section’s sixth bar. A summary of these differences is shown here. The basic reading presents the version in MS C, with alternatives from other sources presented above. ‘(-)’ indicates the lack of an inflection in the sources specified, be that a specific inflection of a note, or the non-inclusion of key-signature accidentals. No editorial suggestions were added. 

Score     ¦     Facsimile:     MS C   ¦   Vg   ¦   MS B   ¦   MS A   ¦   MS G   ¦   MS E

The version in MS B is most consistent in the avoidance of B-flat. Following are the refrain and versicle from this source (appended by the beginning of the refrain again), demonstrating the different musical colour this variant creates, and the emphasis it receives due to the song’s structure.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile 

While not adopted in the example, an adventurous reader could strengthen the differences further and create authentic cadences to A by inserting G-sharp in bars 20, 26 and perhaps even 23.  

Was this an accident due to problems with the circulation of exemplars, or a specific choice to increase variety? If the latter is the case, is this a one-off occurrence or a rare surviving example of an un-notated but more or less common practice?

It is clear that similar differences in rhythm, melody or underlay patterns raise the same questions also in regards to other musical parameters. Even within the realm of pitch-inflection, the potential for insertion of interpretative editorial ficta discussed here complicates matters further.


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."