Implied accidentals

The theory behind implied accidentals was already explained above, and involves the understanding of inflections as part of a complete hexachord rather than the manipulation of a single pitch. Most commonly, this involves the mi-re relationship when sharps are added and the fa-ut relationship with flats, but other possibilities exist. In other words, hexachordal thinking would suggest a sharpened note to be approached from below by a whole tone (and not an augmented tone), and a flattened note should be supported by a pure fourth below it (rather than a diminished one).

In practical terms, such occasions appear when a written in inflection is at odds with the key signature, or when the sign clearly applies to a more distant note in the cycle of fifths (which, in the medieval theoretical and tuning system, is not a cycle at all but an open-ended spiral). Thus an ascending stepwise progression with an indicated C-sharp is likely to call for a B-natural, regardless of the key signature, and a G-sharp in a cadential progression to A is likely to call also for the raising of any F that appear as part of it. An example for the latter procedure can be found in the third bar of the cantus of B4 in its MS E version.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

The case with flattening is a bit more ambiguous. Hexachordally, a signed E-flat calls for a B-flat below it. The one above it exceeds the limits of the hexachord, and falls, therefore, under a different category (most likely, melodic correction). Here, modal context should also be taken into consideration. When the phrase is directed towards C, a diminished fourth between E-flat and a leading B-natural is not so problematic, perhaps even expected. When the progression leads to D, G or indeed B, it is more likely B-flat will work better.

A case of a likely diminished fourth progression can be seen in the opening gesture of the B-part of the cantus of B22. The melodic leading to C is so strong here that it is likely to keep a B-natural also in the monophonic version of this song, where the cadential support of the other voices is not available.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

For an occasion where a signified E-flat was deemed enough to indicate the final cadence should be placed on B-flat rather than on B-natural can be found in the end of the tenor of B42, even though the melodic progression from one to another is not entirely direct or very quick, and it was felt necessary to specify both high and low B-flat on previous appearances.

Sound and Score     ¦     Facsimile

While the hexachordal view is tempting, other readers would consider the same corrections to be pure melodic adjustment. Here the interpretation is both musical and of medieval theory. For more on melodic corrections, see here.


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."