1. Source Overview

In a discussion of scoring and the appearance of competing voices within any tradition, three possibilities arise. Some songs follow a process of amplification, with new voices added to older settings. Some are simplified, losing voices in later transmission. Others have alternative voices, with parts of the early setting removed and replaced by new material. When tracing these developments within Machaut’s output, one has to be aware of both the chronology of and relationships between the sources. These are, perhaps, most easily articulated for the extant manuscripts of the the central tradition produced during Machaut’s lifetime and, most likely, with input from the author: MSS CVg and A, with F-G tentatively appended to this group on account of the lack of clarity concerning the date of the copying of its contents (as separate from its decoration) and its apparent use of similar exemplar materials to the main group. There are other sources from within this timeframe, each left out for different reasons. MS W has lost nearly all its musical section over the centuries. The music in MS B is entirely derived from that of VgMS K was copied during Machaut’s lifetime, but contains only two musically notated works, and relied on different source materials for its copying. The contents of La134 and the lost Maggs rotulus do not offer versions substantially different from the main tradition.

The sources that post-date the author can be separated from this main tradition, but they do not together constitute a separate tradition. These include the complete-works source MS E, which is not far removed from the author and his time, but nonetheless offers glimpses of a different transmission tradition, and will be discussed separately. Of musical relevance are also Pm, a fifteenth-century selective copy of MS A that omits the vast majority of the older source’s music, and another later source – Pe – which contains the Remède de Fortune with musical interpolations. Machaut’s music is found also in many of the anthology manuscripts from around 1400, but these versions will only be considered as part of a discussion of his reception.

Following, is a list of large-scale, structural variants within the manuscripts discussed above, separated according to their affiliation to the main groups identified. Sources not specified do not have this kind of variant to report. It is worth noting that both works included in K appear in this table, thus indicating a different circulation pattern. Pm contains four musical settings, two of which mirror the main tradition (B31 and R7), and two do not (B23 and R9), making its direct link with MS A even more intriguing. Unless otherwise indicated (using ‘-’), all the other sources contain all the listed works. Other shortenings include ‘c’ for cantus, ‘t’ for tenor, ‘ct’ for contratenor, and ‘tr’ for triplum.

Work Majority setting MSS C, Vg(B), A, F-G MSS E, K, Pm
B3 c+t   E: adds ct
B4 c+t   E: adds ct
B19 tr+c+t   E: appears twice. 1: omits tr; 2: tr+c+t
B20 c+t   E: adds ct
B21 tr+c+ct+t A: omits tr  
B22 tr+c+ct+t C: c only  
B23 tr+c+t   E: adds ct; Pm: omits tr (c+t)
B27 c+t C: - E: adds ct
B31 c+ct+t C: - E: adds tr
B41 tr+c+ct+t   K: omits tr
B42 tr+c+ct+t C: c+t K: c+t
L1 c   E: has twice as much music (necessary)
R1 tr+c+t A: omits tr  
R7 c+t   E: adds ct
R9 tr+c+ct+t A: appears twice. 1: tr+c+ct+t; 2: c+t Pm: c+t
R10 tr+c+ct+t C: omits tr; adds alternative (later) ct  
R17 c+ct+t C: - E: omits ct
R18 c+ct+t C, Vg(B): - E: different ct
R21 - C, Vg(B), A: -  F-G: c+ct+t E: c+t
V26/29 c+t C: omits t  

Before looking into the patterns emerging from this table and highlighting a few specific cases, it is worth mentioning a relevant side-issue, namely, the presence of prepared space for additional voices which was subsequently left unused. The following table summarises these locations. It does not include instances where space was prepared for an entire song but no music entered at all. 

Work Position of prepared space Manuscripts where it is found
B3 tr C, Vg(B), A
B5 tr C, Vg(B)
B7 tr C, Vg(B), A
B10 ct C
B11 tr C, Vg(B), A
B12 tr C, Vg(B)
B22 t+ct C
B41 tr K
R7 tr C
R10 tr C
V22/27 t E
V24/27 tr Vg(B) [song not in C]
V27/30 t E

Both tables include items which can be explained by means of discrete phenomena. In the first table, all extraneous spaces in MS A were a result of lay-out problems encountered by the scribes or simple mistakes, and, therefore, do not seem to suggest circulation of alternative versions of the three songs in question. The added contratenor mentioned for R10 in MS C is a late addition, apparently unrelated to the initial creation of this source. In the second table, the empty staves added to B10 in MS C may well be an afterthought, filling up space that had been left for the expected - yet never written - strophes 2 and 3. As no voice-names or visual separation was incorporated into the tenor and contratenor of B41 in MS K, it is hard to judge whether the remaining empty staves were intended to house a triplum or not. Furthermore, three of the four mentions of MS C in table one (B22, R10, V26/29) and three of the eight (not counting B10) in table two (B22, R7, R10) refer to works found in its second layer of copying, which was less careful in its planning and execution.

Looking at the two tables with these caveats in mind, a number of patterns begin to emerge. Within the main group of manuscripts, a clear separation can be found between the early MS C and the other sources. Four songs which are later transmitted in a stable fashion gained voices after being copied into this source (B22, B42, R10 and V26/29). Otherwise, large-scale characteristics of the transmission are stable throughout the group, and no simplification process is in evidence. For a group of five older Ballades (B3, B5, B7, B11 and B12) the space left for a triplum generated an expectation that lasted for a number of years, since these Ballades continued to be copied with the additional space throughout the central tradition (except in the case of MS F-G, which decided to dispense with the empty spaces altogether, and, to some extent, in the case of MS A, which did so sporadically). It seems that the final shape of those songs copied late into MS C was revised before they got to be copied into the later sources. An example for this is discussed here.

The sources of the latter Machaut manuscript tradition present a more complex picture. Pm and MS K show a clear tendency towards simplification as both have fewer voice-parts for a number of their musical settings. This tendency is not found in Pe. As each of these three sources contains very few works, it is impossible to use them to delineate coherent trends. MS E presents a more complicated and interesting case. As a complete and impressive presentation manuscript, which was created not long after Machaut’s death and which belonged to an important patron with personal links to the author, it is rightly considered as a valuable Machaut source. As far as numbers of voice-parts is concerned, it presents amplified settings for seven works, in each instance with one new voice added to the more common setting (B3, B4, B20, B23, B27, B31 and R7). It also presents three pieces with a reduced number of voices, again, with one fewer voice each time (B19, R17 and R21, this last work has a concordance only with MS F-G). Additionally, L1 remains monophonic in MS E’s version but, uniquely, it received twice the amount of music than in the other sources. This is due to the structure of the text, where the first half of each strophe uses a masculine rhyme while the second half a feminine rhyme. While not affecting the syllable count, in practice an additional syllable is added to each line in the second half of each strophe, an addition that requires an adjustment in the musical setting. All other sources ignore this problem, leaving the substantial alterations required to the whim of the performer. Finally, the version of R18 in MS E has the same number of voice parts as in MSS A and F-G, but with a different contratenor than the one found in those other sources. A number of these cases are detailed further here. Commentators have identified two factors that may explain the variety in scoring.  Comparisons have been drawn between the MS E readings and those of the early MS C. Due to MS E's links with the author and keeping in mind the discussion of MS C above, it is possible that the ‘simplified’ versions may exemplify the early circulation of some works, rather than a choice to omit later additions. On the other hand, it was suggested that the compilers of MS E privileged the most current available version in circulation, most likely drawn from the world of performance. The differences between MS E’s versions and the ones in the older sources were argued to hint at the mostly lost habits of practical musicianship in the later decades of the century.


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

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The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut by Yolanda Plumley

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