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Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century


CHAPTER 7 Music for an Intellectual and Political Elite
Richard Taruskin

Another motet with semibreves (in all parts this time, even the tenor) is given in Fig. 7-7 (facsimile) and Ex. 7-7 (transcription). Here the element of virtuoso composing (“fitting together”) is most apparent in the motetus part, which is none other than Robins m’aime, the opening virelai from Adam de la Halle’s Jeu de Robin et Marion (Ex. 4-9). The little tenor melisma, “Portare,” clipped originally from an Alleluia verse, was used for many motets, but never, it seems, for a clausula. It goes through a triple cursus here.

The Art of Mélange

fig. 7-7Mout me fu grief/Robin m’aime/PORTARE (Ba, fol. 52v).

Fig. 7-8 (transcribed in Ex. 7-8) displays one more virtuoso act of “combining” that uses material we have encountered before. This one is a real quodlibet—a grab-bag (literally “whatever you want”) of found objects. At last we have an example of a macaronic motet, combining texts in Latin and the vernacular. Both the triplum (a French pastourelle) and the motetus (a Latin sermon) are stuffed with refrains, making the piece doubly a motet enté. The tenor, meanwhile, is drawn from a new source: it is a traditional “Gregorian” or Frankish chant melody, but one unrelated to the polyphonic repertory at Notre Dame. Despite some slight melodic embellishment it is familiar to us as the first acclamation from the Kyrie “Cum jubilo” (Ex. 3-5). It has been cast into a little talea consisting of a single long plus a first mode ordo, with a single cadential long inserted to complete the color after the fifth repetition of the talea. The whole tenor melody goes through a double cursus and starts up again a third time, but gets only as far as the third talea.

The Art of MélangeThe Art of Mélange

ex. 7-7 Transcription of Fig. 7-7

Thanks to the new resources of Franconian notation, the parts are neatly differentiated in rhythm—or, to be more exact, in prosody, the relationship of the text to the music. The triplum carries separate text syllables on semibreves; the motetus contains semibreves but places the text only on longs and breves, while the tenor, as noted, is confined to “modal” patterns of longs and breves.

The Art of Mélange

fig. 7-8El mois de mai./De se debent bigami/KYRIE (Ba, fol. 14v).

This macaronic motet comes from the so-called Montpellier Codex (Mo), the most comprehensive and lavishly appointed motet book to survive from the thirteenth century. It contains more than three hundred motets of every description, ranging in date over the whole century, all gathered in eight fascicles, or separately sewn sections, of which the first six (including the one containing the macaronic motets) seem to have been compiled around 1280. It is best known for its “classic” Franconian motets, in which the voices are rhythmically even more strictly “stratified” according to pitch range (the higher the range the quicker the pace). This, too, is a refinement on the discordia concors idea, and the prosodic contrast is often mirrored at the semantic level. In one famous example from Mo (Pucelete/Je langui/DOMINO), the merry triplum describes the poet’s enjoyment of his loving lassie in breves and semibreves; the droopy motetus complains of lovesickness in longs and breves; and the tenor keeps up an even tread of perfect longs.

The seventh and eighth fascicles of Mo date from the turn of the fourteenth century, Grocheio’s time exactly. By now the fun and games aspect of discordia concors has so burgeoned as to invite free choice of found objects in all parts including the tenor, and the more extravagant the better. The motet in Fig. 7-9/Ex. 7-9 is one of those racy things Grocheio particularly recommends for his “feasts of the learned.” Semibreves permeate all parts. The triplum and motetus texts are descriptions of just such medieval fraternity parties as Grocheio describes, at which young literati gathered to gorge on capons and guzzle wine and nuzzle girls and despise manual labor, and particularly to praise Paris, the fount of the good life for budding intellectuals. And the tenor? It consists of a fourfold repetition, prescribed by an early use of ditto or repeat marks in the notation, of a fruitseller’s cry—“Fresh strawberries, ripe blackberries!”—possibly drawn directly “from life” as lived on the Parisian streets.

A motet like this one, in which both musical and subject matter are entirely urban and entirely secular, no longer has any direct relationship to the courtly and ecclesiastical traditions that historically nourished the genre. Its connection to the clausula or the trouvère chanson can be better demonstrated historically than stylistically. It has become independent of its traditions and ready to nurture the growth of new ones. As the American composer Aaron Copland once observed, when the audience changes, music changes.

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 7 Music for an Intellectual and Political Elite." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2021. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-007008.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 7 Music for an Intellectual and Political Elite. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 10 Apr. 2021, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-007008.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 7 Music for an Intellectual and Political Elite." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 10 Apr. 2021, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-007008.xml