3. Tension through counterpoint

Exemplary as it is in structure and mensuration, M1 also contains an exemplary contrapuntal problem. In the tenor melisma tension exists between the notes F and G, the basic notes of the soft and hard hexachords.

Sound and Score    ¦    Facsimile

They form a polarity which is played out in the course of the motet. Machaut may well have manipulated the melisma a little in order to enhance this opposition since no existing chant source has a melody which is identical to the color of the motet; especially in the middle part, notes 11-20 (talea II), Machaut’s version is rather different and shows more opposition between the soft and the hard hexachord.

Sound and Score    ¦    Facsimile

In the undiminished taleae the emphasis on F and G is more or less in balance (F is the final of taleae I and III, G of talea II) but in the diminution section the tension between the two poles becomes stronger by a preference for cadences on G, first in bars 110-4 in the motetus, then in the triplum in bars 118-21. In bar 119 where the tenor cadences on F the triplum even sings a dissonant f-sharp leading to g in the next bar. As a general rule tenors, and especially liturgical tenors, are not to be inflected, so the tenor’s F must stand, against the f-sharp in the triplum. The conclusion is that Machaut deliberately steered the music into a clash at this point, perhaps as a parallel of the word folettement (‘foolishly’) in the text; the word is also highlighted by its ‘wrong’ accentuation ‘fòlettèment’ whereas elsewhere in this motet the text declamation follows the natural accents. The growing tension in the counterpoint between G and F has a meaning for the text but also purely musically it can be explained as a play with two poles of contrapuntal attraction in order to create musical tension. In bars 133-4 the two even succeed each other in parallel octaves. Towards the end of the piece the attraction of G becomes still stronger and from bar 140 the listener expects a final cadence on G, so that the following real cadence on F has the effect of a surprise. Thus in this work there is not, as has been shown for several other of his motets, a gradual reinforcement of the final towards the piece’s ending.On the contrary: the closure on F comes as a surprise. Interpreting the opposition of the soft and hard hexachords as a parallel with the pun amer-amer in the texts, this surprise may well have meant as: in the end the sweet (soft) tastes bitter (hard).


Jacques Boogaart


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.