2. The medieval cadence

Late-medieval cadences can be defined as a strong step-wise arrival at a stable sonority using a semitone in one direction and a whole tone in the other. In monophonic works, this dictates the available pitches surrounding points of arrival. In a polyphonic context this translates into minor thirds collapsing into a unison and major sixth opening into an octave. Both arrivals are often ornamented by combining the note of the ascending voice with the adjacent note below it, arriving at the final sonority via a melodic jump of a third. In a monophonic context it is not essential to reach both sides of the main note to create a cadence. In a polyphonic context, a full, complete cadence has the tenor descending towards the final and the cantus ascending towards the octave above. If a contratenor is present, it would ascend (stepwise) towards the fifth in the middle, and a triplum would usually recreate the contratenor progression an octave higher to the fifth above the cantus. There are other techniques of arrival at a perfection (unison, octave, fifth, or a combination of some or both), some of which requiring ficta, but those can be extrapolated from the main formula.

There are two possibilities for placing cadential arrivals: authentic and plagal. Authentic arrivals have the ascending voices move by a semitone and the descending one by a whole tone. Plagal cadences use the opposite combination, with the rising voices moving a tone and the falling one a semitone. By the late fourteenth century, it is very common for final, clos cadences to be authentic, and for intermediate, ouvert cadences to be arrived at using plagal progressions. On top of the structural differentiation, this may suggest that even though both types were considered full cadences, the authentic version was considered stronger than the plagal one. Cadences, though, do not have to be complete or full. Weakened cadences can be constructed in a number of ways, including the displacement of arrival sonority by a rest, introduction of unexpected sonorities, shortened leading sonorities or lack of preparation. Here, only the non-fulfilment of the ficta expectation will be discussed further (see discussion below).


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."