CHAPTER 12 Emblems and Dynasties
The Cyclic Mass Ordinary Setting
THE INTERNATIONALISM OF THE UPPER CRUST
Johannes Tinctoris (ca. 1435-1511), a minor composer but a theorist of encyclopedic ambition, can be our very capable guide to the music of his time, the mid- to late fifteenth century. His twelve treatises, covering the properties and powers of music, the qualities of the modes, notation, counterpoint, form, mensural practice, terminology, and even (in his last work, called De inventione et usu musicae) what might be called musical sociology, attempt collectively to encompass all of contemporary music, its practices and its products alike. They are liberally illustrated with extracts not only from the works of ancient authorities but from the works of the leading composers of Tinctoris’s own generation—the musical literati who staffed the principal courts and churches of Latin Christendom at the time of his writing.
Tinctoris, the theorist’s Latin professional name, means “dyer.” He was born near Nivelles (Nijvel in Flemish), a town in present-day Belgium, and attended the University of Orléans as a member of the “German nation” or non-French constituency there. No one knows today what his native language was or what his original surname may have been: in French it would have been Teinturier, in Dutch or Flemish de Vaerwere, in German Färbers. Around 1472, after a stint teaching the choirboys at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, and singing under Du Fay at the Cathedral of Cambrai, he entered the service of Ferdinand (Ferrante) I, the Aragonese (that is, Spanish) ruler of the kingdom of Naples in southern Italy, and seems to have remained in Naples until his retirement, if not his death.
Tinctoris’s international, polyglot career, and in particular its southward trajectory from the Low Countries to Italy, were characteristic, even paradigmatic, for his time. The old Frankish territories were still the chief seats of musical learning, but the nouveau riche Italian courts, avidly competing with one another for the most brilliant artistic personnel, were becoming the great magnets for musical talent. Even after impregnation by the English, the basic technique of music remained French; but once the northerners began invading the south, it became impossible to tell by style where a piece of written continental music had been composed. Europe, musically, seemed one.
But this apparent musical unity should not be read as an indicator of cultural or social unity. Literate musicians, it is time once again to recall, served a tiny clientele of aristocrats and ecclesiastics. These elite classes did indeed identify with their counterparts throughout the length and breadth of Europe, but at less exalted social levels, Europe, musically and in every other way, was far from one. The minority culture of the literate cannot yet be taken as representative of society as a whole. It was just the surface cream—if a less complimentary analogy is desired, call it an oil slick—that only seems homogenized from our bleary historical distance. Owing to the nature of our sources of evidence, the surface slick tends to hide the rest from view; and unless we are careful to remind ourselves, we can easily forget that the vast majority of Europeans in the fifteenth century lived out their lives in complete ignorance of the music we are about to investigate.
- Citation (MLA):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 12 Emblems and Dynasties." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 25 May. 2015. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-chapter-012.xml>.
- Citation (APA):
- Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 12 Emblems and Dynasties. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 25 May. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-chapter-012.xml
- Citation (Chicago):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 12 Emblems and Dynasties." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 25 May. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-chapter-012.xml