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Contents

Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

Chapter:
CHAPTER 8 Business Math, Politics, and Paradise: The Ars Nova
Source:
MUSIC FROM THE EARLIEST NOTATIONS TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
Author(s):
Richard Taruskin

Comparing the notation of this motet as shown in Fig. 8-3, not only with later sources but with subsequent additions to the Fauvel manuscript itself, reveals the way in which Ars Nova notation emerged out of the Petronian style—a fascinating historical moment. The Fauvel manuscript is slightly earlier than the treatise of Jehan des Murs, in which the notation of the minim is introduced. In it, therefore, the level of prolation can be only indistinctly differentiated from that of tempus.

Looking closely at Fig. 8-3, in which the triplum part (Tribum, etc.) begins at the bottom of the third column of the left-hand page, one observes that the group of four notes over the syllable que, and the pair of notes immediately following, are both notated in semibreve-lozenges, even though both groups take the time of a breve. As in the Petronian motet, the breve units are marked off by “division dots” (puncta divisionis), there being no explicit way of showing by their shapes that the lozenges or diamonds in the first group are only half the length of those in the second. Nor can one distinguish the relative lengths of the notes in three-semibreve groups like the one on the triplum’s second staff (over the syllable -bun-), in which (as the transcription reveals) each note has a different length.

In a hand too faint to be discerned in Fig. 8-3, an editor familiar with the new notational principles has gone over both the triplum and the motetus and added the minim-stems that not only distinguish levels of mensuration but distinguish the Ars Nova style from its predecessors. In the four-note groups, the second and fourth are given upward minim-stems, producing lilting trochaic triplet-patterns as shown in the transcription, thus defining the level of prolation as perfect or “major” (that is, triple). The implied time signature is . In the three-note groups, the first note is given a tiny downward stem, showing that it is a perfect (or major) semibreve, while the last is given an upward stem, turning it into a minim, leaving the time of an imperfect semibreve for the stemless note (see Ex. 8-2a). The perfectly practicable alternative, within the Ars Nova system, would have been to place stems on all the notes in the four-note group, and on the second and third in the three-note groups. This would have indicated imperfect or “minor” (that is, duple) prolation, implying the time-signature C (see Ex. 8-2b).

Taking a Closer Look

ex. 8-2 The two alternatives and their equivalents in modern notatation a. Major prolation

Taking a Closer Look

ex. 8-2b Minor prolation

The “French” preference shown here for the lilting “trochaic” subdivision of the semibreve (implying that the four-lozenge groups would have been lilted that way even before the stems were added) seems to resonate both with earlier “modal” practice and with the later French convention of performing pairs of eighth-notes or sixteenth-notes with a similar, and now definitely unwritten, lilt (the so-called notes inégales or “unequal notes”). That practice is documented only for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it perhaps reflects a more widespread custom affecting unwritten repertories as well as written ones (compare the lilt in Viennese waltzes—or in jazz.)

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 8 Business Math, Politics, and Paradise: The Ars Nova." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2016. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-008007.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 8 Business Math, Politics, and Paradise: The Ars Nova. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 29 Apr. 2016, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-008007.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 8 Business Math, Politics, and Paradise: The Ars Nova." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 29 Apr. 2016, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-008007.xml