Textual links and variety

On a few occasions already, different solutions were offered for a single passage. There is no obligation to choose one option and commit to it in every performance and every repetition. In some circumstances, variety can be valued for its own sake, allowing performer to change between (considered) solutions within a single performance or between them. There are many occasions where written out repetitions carry different accidentals, and while this doesn’t necessarily mean the intention was for the same line to sound differently, one cannot rule this out. As editors though, we are obliged to raise awareness of such difference, and suggest (at least in parentheses) standardization.

Perhaps the best justification for change between repetitions is the possibility to look for a new text/music relationship in each one. As was discussed with regards to an extract from L22-16, different ficta choices can follow differences in syntactical groupings when the music is repeated with a different text. Strength of cadences can also be affected by the need to give more or less importance to the word or phrase which underlays it; important words can at times be signalled out by one-off inflections, and mood can be created by manipulating the modal clarity or changing its characteristics. Without specific relevance to the text this kind of use of ficta can quickly descend towards the gimmicky. With it, it can sensitively enhance expression.

While planning these changes, it is once more essential not to fall into the trap of anachronism. For example, it is worth keeping in mind that word-painting is not a common concept in medieval musical expression. While some songs with naturalistic imitation were evidently very popular, this is not the all encompassing characteristic of style we are used to from later periods. Another important element is the modern tendency towards a reflexive association of flats with sadness and sharps with happiness. This is often then carried forward into the interpretation of ‘major’ and ‘minor’ sonorities. This, again, is not part of the medieval thought-pattern, and should not be taken as stylistic and expressive shorthand. It is more common to attract attention to words or lines through unusual phenomena or the degree of understandability of the text. The former technique is more relevant for the use of ficta, as both an unexpected inflection and a heightened sense of resolution after less surprising additions draw attention to these locations within a larger context.

The opposite procedure, of explaining unusual origianl ficta through a consideration of the text which is appended to the notes it affects, is considered further in some of the discussions of motets. With their coupling of a single text with a through-composed melody, this genre can perhaps be seen as a natural home for such interpretations. See discussion of M1 here, or of M3, M18 and M5 here.

Another instance from L16-22 is discussed immediately below as text amplification is used to work through an intentionally difficult passage.


Uri Smilansky


Fortune's Child

Out now on the Hyperion websiteFortune's Child is the most recent recording of Machaut's works from the Orlando Consort. As Fabrice Fitch of Gramophone notes, "five volumes in, Hyperion’s Machaut series shows no sign of running out of puff." Complimenting their performance, Fitch says "the Orlandos project and enunciate Machaut’s French so well that one rarely reaches for the printed text" and he is particularly impressed by Angus Smith's interpretation of 'Dou mal qui m'a longuement'. He further remarks, "as with previous volumes, the programming of this series is deeply impressive."

A Burning Heart

CD Cover Image for "Machaut: A Burning Heart" by the Orlando Consort

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.