4. Text, Meter, Mensuration Choice and Un-notated Upbeats

A number of discussions highlighted the possibility of un-notated upbeats. This arose in the contexts of complicated variants between sources, un-notated mensuration changes, and irregular Tempus groupings. The latter discussion presented different ideas about the relationship between Tempus groupings and meter. This question can arise also when there is no notational problem to solve, especially when the notation itself does not specify Tempus groupings. The much commented upon V33 is a good example. There is no problem transcribing it in imperfect Tempus, perfect Prolation (i.e., 6/8) adhering to the strict notational rules.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

Notationally, though, the reader does not have to take the Tempus level into consideration at all, and can transcribe the song thinking only on the Prolatio level. This would result in a 3/8 barring, avoiding the question of the regularity or otherwise of the larger sentence structure.

Sound and Score

If one considers the concept of Tempus to be too strong to ignore, perfect groupings are also a possible choice, accepting a need to standardize final cadences and start new form-parts on a downbeat.

Sound and Score

The metric implications of this choice are obvious. They are particularly important here, as this song is presented as part of Fortune’s Remedy, which specifically describes it as a dance song. The very fact that the notation does not help us in this choice and that we are forced to look at other musical parameters for guidance weakens the notion of menusration as the sole, overriding identifier of meter. A few other musical parameters are on hand: structural, rhythmic, melodic and textual. It is clear that the functionality of the dance overrides any and all of these considerations, and it is unlikely that either active dancers or spectators were listening out for such parameters in real time. Still, it is not unreasonable to expect that the combination that works best with as many of them as possible was most likely the intended reading as adherence to such expectations make the song flow better, be easier to follow and become more memorable.

Structurally, the adaptation of the 6/8 and 3/8 meters align more lyrical line beginnings with beginnings of metric units. As the adoption of the 3/8 meter does not add to the alignment score (both align 6 out of the 10 lines used to underlay the first presentation of the entire music of this song), the longer grouping is more attractive in demonstrating this characteristic. The 9/8 reading, by contrast, aligns Tempus and lyrical line beginnings only at the openings on each form-part, where such an alignment is taken for granted. Conversely, the 3/8 grouping marks all the ends of lyric lines with a metric point, but as there are 10 line-endings and 32 bar-beginnings in this version, this is not a very impressive alignment rate. The 9/8 grouping marks 6 line endings (out of 12 bar beginnings), and the 6/8 groupings marks none (16 bar beginnings), not even the end of the two form-parts. Furthermore, the markings of the 9/8 version form a structural logic, marking the end of lines 1, 3, 5 and 7 of the 7-line refrain and lines 1 and 3 of each 3-line couplet.

Rhythmically, three elements can be defined for comparison, namely, longer points of arrival, end-points of protracted rhythmic acceleration, and repeated use of rhythmic combinations. Longer arrival points appear in the form of a perfect semibrevis (dotted quarter-note) or a semibrevis followed by a minima rest (quarter note followed by an eighth-note rest). These appear four times in the music: at the end of the 1st, 3rd, 7th and 10th lines of the text. As explored above, the last two of these points mark the end of the two form-parts. While the 3/8 and 9/8 options have a bar-beginning at all four points, the 6/8 has none. Long chains of minimae (eighth-notes) lead to the end of line 1 of the text, the beginning of line 6, and the end of line 8. While the Prolatio-only version marks all these spots, the perfect Tempus reading marks only the first and the last location (this being its first gesture in each one of the form-parts), and the imperfect Tempus option marks only the middle location. As far as rhythmic patterning goes, the quick movement at the beginning of the two form-parts fit well with the bar pattern of the 9/8 version. For the most part, though, it is perhaps the 6/8 option that is most useful. This manifests itself in the repetition of the rhythmic formulae in bars 3-6, the fitting in of the quick movement into two of its bars, and the rhythmic repetition in bars 9-10 and 14-15. The other two quick sections go against this barring. All these effects are diminished in both the 3/8 and 9/8 groupings.

Melodically, bar beginnings present the following outlines:     Score

While it is clear that the same importance isn’t given to every bar beginning, this is the first port of call in reconstructing a presumed skeletal modal map unto which the decorated surface is imposed. The reduction following 3/8 groupings does not help much, as it is very similar to the song’s surface. As there are often only two notes per bar, it is also easier to argue that the longer of the two should be taken into account, rather than the first. This would result in the following, smoother line, but which is still rather extended:     Score

When looking at the other two versions, it is perhaps surprising that the more selective option (9/8) presents a smoother line. The 6/8 version shows an outline that is unlikely to have been at the back of Machaut’s mind when composing the work. The fact that it does not align metric beginnings with the major cadences point further undermines the link between such an outline and modal feeling.

Textual considerations are perhaps the most natural and least abstract, as the text itself offers a natural grid with which the music can interact. While acknowledging the interpretative nature of this act, I highlight in green 20 places where a purely textual recitation of the song calls for some kind of metric impulse:

 

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pene, desir,
Corps, et amour,
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

 

Apart from the stressed end-rhymes, the distribution is far from even or regular. The following table copies the text three times colouring the syllables which appears at bar beginnings according to the three mensural arrangements discussed. Coloured green are stresses that match those of the natural speech-pattern and red represents stresses that go against it.

‘downbeats’ in 3/8  

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pene, desir,
Corps, et amour,
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,  

‘downbeats’ in 6/8

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pensée, desir,
Corps, et amour,  
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir, 
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

‘downbeats’ in 9/8

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pensée, desir,
Corps, et amour,
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

The 3/8 reading results in 32 bar beginnings as potential stress-locations. Still, it only matches 15 of the 20 natural stress-points, adding a further 17 counterintuitive stresses. The 6/8 version only has 16 potential stress-points, but their alignment with the natural speech rhythm is particularly poor. Only two syllables coincide, leaving 18 lyrical stresses un-marked and adding 14 ‘wrong’ word-stresses. The 9/8 version is perhaps the most convincing. While only 12 bar beginning appear, 8 match the natural stress-points. Six of the 8 were already discussed above as important structuring locations, ending lines 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10 of the text. While a further 12 textual stresses are subsumed, only 4 unnatural ones appear. It is, of course, clear that a singer is not obliged to stress every bar beginning or that he or she cannot stress syllables which appear at other positions. Still, as explained above, a greater match between the two parameters eases the task, and makes the reading more natural, especially in a dance movement where the physicality of the steps are likely to suggest greater importance to bar beginnings as stress-points.

In order to see how these various parameters come together, let us take the 3/8 version as a basis and be more selective about its stressing patterns according to the different criteria explored. Melodic considerations are most interpretative, and therefore are downplayed in this example. Taken into consideration were long rhythmic arrivals, ends of quick movement, word-stresses, and the first and last syllables of each poetic line. Ticks were used when there was no real reason to stress a bar-beginning, dashed bar lines appear where one parameter only suggests stressing a particular location, and full lines mark bar beginnings where more than one parameter suggests highlighting the next note:     Score

The result is not entirely regular, which, after all, was the point of not deciding on a constraining Tempus grouping in the first place. Still, a pattern emerges, by which many stresses appear tow bars apart, but in the middle of the bars of the normal 6/8 reading.

Finally we come to the possibility of un-notated upbeats. A strict 6/8 barring with half a bar upbeat looks like this:     Sound and Score

A quick revision of the parameters discussed above is needed in order to check whether this is in any way preferable to the versions already presented.

Structurally, the upbeat version marks no line beginnings but compensates for this by stressing all 10 line endings (doing so with only 16 available bar-beginnings in comparison with the 32 of the 3/8 version). The consistent masculine rhyme used in this text makes this structural choice appealing.

Rhythmically, this version joins the 9/8 and 3/8 barrings in highlighting all four long arrivals in the song, and the 9/8 version in aligning bar-beginning with the end of the first and third chain of eighth notes (and the rhythmic pattern this creates), but not the middle one. It matches the other 6/8 version in its highlighting of rhythmic patterns, most notably present in the rhythmic repetitions of bars 3-5, 9-10 and 14-15.

The last two rhythmic repetitions also involve a melodic patterning, ending each form part with a double cadential figure which is aborted in the first attempt but completed in the second. Adding the melodic outline to those of the other versions still incorporates a surprise at the end of the A-part, but is generally smoother and incorporates more stepwise motion:     Score

As a potential melodic backdrop this makes the most sense.

Also the textual consideration is the most supportive here.

‘lyrical’ stress pattern 
 

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pene, desir,
Corps, et amour,
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir 
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

‘downbeats’ in 3/8
 

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pene, desir,
Corps, et amour,
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

‘downbeats’ in 6/8
 

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pensée, desir,
Corps, et amour, 
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

‘downbeats’ in 9/8
 

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pensée, desir,
Corps, et amour,
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

‘downbeats’ in 6/8
(upbeat)

Dame, a vous sans retollir
Dong cuer, pensée, desir,
Corps, et amour,
Comme a toute la millour
Qu'on puist choisir,
Ne qui vivre ne morir
Puist a ce jour.

Si ne me doit a folour
Tourner, se je vous äour,
Car sans mentir,

It has by far the best alignment rate with 13 of its 16 bar beginnings highlighting a naturally stresses syllable. It misses out on only four lyrical stresses and adds but three ‘wrong’ ones, making it easy to adjust this basic structure for an even better match in performance.

Only the protracted minimae movement in bars 6-8 stand out as less natural in this reading. That only one such place appears allows a reader to consider it of special importance rather than force him or her to abandon the reading technique.

There are, of course, other musical parameters according to which the success or otherwise of a musical setting can be judged. According to all the parameters considered here, though, the reading which makes most sense of the musical setting is the only one which has no technical, notational justification. Is this a problem? I would suggest that there is no problem reading or consuming this song in any one of these versions. The careful listener would have already noticed that the same recording was used to illustrate all four barring techniques. One can easily listen to it while imagining a short meter, an imperfect meter both with and without an upbeat, a perfect meter, or an irregular meter. It is clear that a performer with an agenda can force one reading or the other, and that some readings can be destabilised by the choice of how long to wait between the form-parts. Still, the flexibility explored in analysing, consuming and performing this song may well suggest a similar approach also to its notational and theoretical conceptualisation.

 

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.