Medieval Music Theory

Florentius on Music

My review of Florentius de Faxolis: Book on Music, edited by Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), will appear in the November issue of Early Music. It is available now online through advance access on the Early Music site. Copyright belongs to Oxford University Press, and it is now their policy to allow authors to include links on their personal websites to free access versions of their work. So, by kind permission of Oxford University Press, here is the Full text version and the PDF version of my review. The first paragraph reads:

This elegant volume—issued as part of the I Tatti Renaissance Library series—offers the Latin text and an English translation of a 15th-century treatise on music written by the musician and priest Florentius de Faxolis (1461–96). The editors, Bonnie J. Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, also provide detailed notes to both the text and translation, an opening chapter that serves to introduce Florentius the man and his cultural context, a chapter on Florentius’s Latin, and a textual commentary that elaborates on some of the more significant or interesting points of theory contained in his Liber musices.

Digital Humanities Manuscripts Medieval Music Theory

My 2012 AMS Paper: The Ars nova and its hypertexts

I’m experimenting with a new presentation style (à la Lawrence Lessig), and I used it for my AMS paper this year (AMS New Orleans 2012 was terrific, btw, lots of medieval papers AND many digital tools/humanities papers). I’ve made a web-optimized (i.e., tiny and a little blurry but optimized for web delivery) QuickTime movie of my presentation, included below. I probably should have made a ‘live’ recording of the paper, as the audience was well-engaged (and there are very different issues of timing and response time when delivered in front of real live people), unfortunately I did not have the forethought to do so. Although I distributed a handout with the paper at AMS, the version I’ve recorded here does not require the handout. For reference purposes I’m including a ‘Works Cited’ list below. A more expansive version of this research will be forthcoming as an article in the 2012 volume of Musica disciplina.

Karen Desmond, “Texts in Play: The Ars nova and its Hypertexts (Including a Digital Edition of the Music Treatise Omni desideranti notitiam),” Musica disciplina 57 (forthcoming, 2012).

Further research plans for this project include a fuller consideration of all texts within the Ars nova tradition, and exactly how all of this relates to the Libellus texts (major and minor), and to other transmissions of these theories, such as found in the Quatuor principalia, the Sweeney anonymous treatise, and in the Berkeley manuscript transmission (e.g., the mysterious Dr. Goschalcus of Paris, etc.).


Early Ars nova theory sources present a complex web of interdependencies. Apart from the more substantial texts of Jehan des Murs and Marchetto da Padova, there are a number of sources containing short texts that appear to emanate from the orbit of Philippe de Vitry. Vitry’s role as the author of a definitive written text, however, is now regarded as doubtful, with the hypothesis favored that the extant sources are but remnants of an oral teaching tradition possibly originating with Vitry. We can study these ‘Vitrian’ texts today through editions published in various edited volumes, in journal articles dating from 1908, 1929 and 1958, and in the nineteenth-century Scriptores edition of Edmond de Coussemaker. The differing presentation formats, and specific editorial policies and accessibility issues, however, have served to obfuscate attempts at the analysis and interpretation of these texts.

While HTML versions of many medieval theory texts are available online (TML, Lexicon musicum Latinum), technologies available today could better present the relationships between these texts. In this paper, I demonstrate how these technologies might realize the potential of truly ‘hyper-textual’ editions that would reflect the fluidity and variance that characterize medieval texts. As a proof of concept, I have prepared a digital edition, following the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), of one important early Ars nova text (incipit ‘Omni desideranti notitiam’). This is the first modern edition of this text, which is extant in three Italian sources dating from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. My analysis of Omni desideranti notitiam demonstrates that Jacobus de Montibus used it, in his Speculum musicae, as a primary authority for the Vitrian tradition (in a written version), as did other fourteenth-century theorists. I reconsider the importance of this text within the early Ars nova, and I extrapolate on the advantages of presenting all the Ars nova texts online. Modern readers of a digital editions, using hypertext, could mimic the intertextual and indeed hypertextual experience existent within the medieval work (whether text or music), whose web of reference and allusion becomes apparent those in on the ‘game.’

Works Cited

[Anonymous]. De musica mensurabili. [Anonymous] De semibrevibus caudatis. Edited by C. Sweeney and A. Gilles. Vol. 13, Corpus scriptorum de musica. [Dallas, Texas]: American Institute of Musicology, 1971.

Aluas, Luminita Florea. ‘The ‘Quatuor principalia musicae’: an Introduction, Critical Text, and English Translation with Commentary’. Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1996.

Anglès, Higini. “De cantu organico: tratado de un autor catalán del siglo XIV.” Anuario musical, 13 (1958), pp. 18-24.

___. “Dos tractats medievals de música figurada.” In Musikwissenschaftliche Beiträge: Festschrift für Johannes Wolf zu seinem sechzigsten Geburtstag, edited by H. O. W. Lott, and W. Wolffheim, pp. 6-10. Berlin: Breslauer, 1929.

Anonymous. De valore notularum tam veteris quam novae artis (Ms. Paris, Bibl. Nat., lat. 15128). Anonymus, Compendium musicae mensurabilis tam veteris quam novae artis (Ms. Paris, Bibl. Nat., lat. 15128). Anonymus, De diversis maneriebus in musica mensurabili (Ms. Saint-Dié, Bibl. Municipale 42). Edited by G. Reaney. Vol. 30, Corpus scriptorum de musica. Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hänssler-Verlag, American Institute of Musicology, 1982.

Coussemaker, Edmond de. Scriptorum de musica medii aevi. Novam seriem a Gerbertina alteram collegit nuncque primum edidit E. de Coussemaker. 4 vols. 1876, facsimile edition; G. Olms: Hildesheim, 1963.

Cuthbert, Michael Scott. “Palimpsests, Sketches and Extracts: The Organization and Compositions of Seville 5-2-25.” In Ars Nova Italiana del Trecento VII, edited by F. Zimei, pp. 57-78. Certaldo: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2009.

Duhamel, Pascale. “L’enseignement de la musique à l’Université de Paris d’après le manuscrit BnF lat.7378A.” Acta Musicologica, 79 (2007), pp. 263-89.

Fischer, Kurt von. “Eine wiederaufgefundene Theoretikerhandschrift des späten 14. Jahrhunderts (Chicago, Newberry Library, MS 54.1-olim Codex cujusdam ognoti bibliophili Vindobonensis).” Schweizer Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft, 1 (1972), pp. 23-33.

Franco de Colonia. Ars cantus mensurabilis. Edited by G. Reaney and A. Gilles. Vol. 18, Corpus scriptorum de musica. [Dallas, Texas]: American Institute of Musicology, 1974.

Fuller, Sarah. “A Phantom Treatise of the Fourteenth Century?  The Ars nova.” Journal of Musicology, 4 (1985), pp. 23-50.

Gervais, Bertrand. “The Broken Line: Hypertexts as Labyrinths.” Sources. Revue d’études anglophones (1998), pp. 26-36.

Gilles, Andrè. “Un témoignage inédit de l’enseignement de Philippe de Vitry.” Musica Disciplina, 10 (1956), pp. 35-54.

Gilles, André, Jean Maillard, and Gilbert Reaney. “Philippe de Vitry, Ars nova (French translation).” Musica Disciplina, 11 (1957), pp. 12-30.

Gilles, André, and Gilbert Reaney. “A New Source for the Ars nova of Philippe de Vitry.” Musica Disciplina, 12 (1958), pp. 59-66.

Jacobi Leodiensis Speculum musicae. Edited by R. Bragard. Vol. 3, Corpus scriptorum musicae. Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1955-73.

Johannes de Muris Notitia artis musicae et Compendium musicae.  Petrus de Sancto Dionysio Tractatus de musica. Edited by U. Michels. Vol. 17, Corpus scriptorum de musica. [Dallas, Texas]: American Institute of Musicology, 1972.

Klaper, Michael. “‘Verbindliches kirchenmusikalisches Gesetz’ oder belanglose Augenblickseingebung? Zur Constitutio Docta sanctorum patrum Papst Johannes’ XXII.” Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, 60 (2003), pp. 69-95.

Kügle, Karl. “Vitry, Philippe de.” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik, edited by L. Finscher, cols. 58-67. Kassel, New York: Bärenreiter, 1994-2008.

Leech-Wilkinson, Daniel. “The Emergence of Ars Nova.” Journal of Musicology, 13 (1995), pp. 285–317.

Marchi, Lucia. “Music and university culture in late fourteenth-century Pavia: The manuscript Chicago, Newberry Library, Case ms 54.1.” Acta musicologica, 80 (2008), pp. 143-64.

Michels, Ulrich. Die Musiktraktate des Johannes de Muris. Vol. 8, Beihefte zum Archiv für Musikwissenschaft. Wiesbaden: F. Steiner, 1970.

Ms. Oxford, Bodley 842 (Willelmus), Breviarium regulare musicae.  Ms. British Museum, Royal 12. C. VI., Tractatus de figuris sive de notis.  Johannes Torkesey, Declaratio trianguli et scuti. Edited by G. Reaney. Vol. 12, Corpus scriptorum de musica. Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1966.

Muris, Johannes de. Ars practica mensurabilis cantus secundum Iohannem de Muris: Die Recensio maior des sogenannten “Libellus practice cantus mensurabilis, edited by Christian Berktold. Edited by C. Berktold. Vol. 14, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission. München: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften; C. H. Beck, 1999.

Philippi de Vitriaco Ars nova. Edited by G. Reaney, A. Gilles and J. Maillard. Vol. 8, Corpus scriptorum de musica. [Rome]: American Institute of Musicology, 1964.

Reaney, Gilbert. “A Postscript to Philippe de Vitry’s Ars Nova.” Musica Disciplina, 14 (1960), pp. 29-32.

Reaney, Gilbert, André Gilles, and Jean Maillard. “The ‘Ars nova’ of Philippe de Vitry.” Musica Disciplina, 10 (1956), pp. 5-12.

Reaney, Gilbert, Andrè Gilles, and Jean Maillard. “Ars nova magistri Philippi de Vitriaco.” Musica Disciplina, 10 (1956), pp. 13-34.

Taruskin, Richard. Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, The Oxford History of Western Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Wathey, Andrew, and Margaret Bent. “Vitry, Philippe de.”

Wolf, Johannes. “Ein anonymer Musiktraktat aus der ersten Zeit der ‘Ars Nova’.” Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch, 21 (1908), pp. 33–38.

___. “Ein Beitrag zur Diskantlehre des 14. Jahrhunderts.” Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft, 15 (1913–14), pp. 504–34.

___. “Ein Breslauer Mensuraltraktat des 15. Jahrhunderts.” Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, 1 (1918–19), pp. 329–45.

Liturgical Chant Manuscripts Medieval Music Theory

Review of Ars musicae septentrionalis

I’m a bit late posting this but my review of Ars musica septentrionalis: De l’interprétation du patrimoine musical à l’historiographie, ed. Barbara Haggh and Frédéric Billiet (Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne, 2011) was published in Notes over the summer (Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 68 (2012), pp. 811-814). Here’s the first paragraph:

This collection of essays was prompted by the bicentennial birth anniversary of Charles-Edmond-Henri de Coussemaker (1805–76). The volume celebrates the music of northern France (“ars musica septentrionalis”) from ninth-century chant to the polyphony of the fifteenth century, and had its first incarnation as a conference held in Cambrai and Douai in 2005, directed by Barbara Haggh and Frédéric Billiet. The conference was held concurrently with an exhibition of manuscripts held in Douai, Cambrai, and Bailleul (the birthplace of Coussemaker). The exhibition inspired the publication of a separate book that included a catalog and discussion of Coussemaker’s library (Bruno Bouckaert, Mémoires du chant. Le livre de musique d’Isidore de Séville à Edmond de Coussemaker [Neerpelt: Alamire; Lille: Ad fugam, 2007]); the byproduct of the scholarly conference is the book of essays under review here. An overarching theme of these essays is a concentration, for the most part, on primary source research, including both manuscript studies and archival research. Questions of repertory transmission and interpretation, liturgical issues, and historiography are broached via the examination of certain northern French manuscripts, some of the most beautiful examples of which were owned by Coussemaker, as noted by Billiet in his introduction to the volume (p. 8).

Manuscripts Motet

Montpellier Fascicle 8

The availability of high-quality manuscript images online (hat tips to DIAMM, Gallica, the Stanford Machaut project and Musicologie Médiévale) has forever changed the study of medieval music. For those of us with an interest in the late medieval motet, there are now color images of each folio in the key Montpellier manuscript (H 196, Facultè de Medecine, Montpellier; better-known by its sigla Mo) available online, through the Faculté de Médecine. Previously, images of Mo were only available in black and white via Yvonne Rokseth’s 1936 facsimile edition (Y. Rokseth, Polyphonies du XIIIe Siècle. Le manuscrit H 196 de la Faculté de Médecine de Montpellier, 4 vols. [Paris: Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre, 1935-1948]). The interface to the image collection is not the easiest to navigate, however, as it is a collection of images organized by filename, with three resolutions of images for each folio. The following chart lists the compositions included in fascicle 8 of Mo, with links to the highest resolution images on which these compositions appear. No earth-shattering research here, but hopefully a set of links that will be useful for some.

[Extra bonus! Here’s a link to the illumination discussed by Edward Roesner in his article on the motet Ne m’a pas oublié, Mo 207 (fols. 246r-v) (E. Roesner, ‘Subtilitas and Delectatio: Ne m’a pas oublié,’ in Cultural Performances in Medieval France: Essays in Honor of Nancy Freeman Regaldo, edited by E. Doss-Quinby, R. L. Krueger and E. J. Burns [Cambridge: Brewer, 2007]).


No Folio[1] Gath Triplum Duplum Tenor
303 350 Deus in adiutorium
304 350v 351 351v Alma virgo virginum Benedicta es maria virgo [Tenor]
305 351v 352 352v Mout ai longuement amour Li dous maus damer Portare
306 352v 353 O presul eximie doctor O virtutis speculum Sacerdotum
307 353v 354 354v[2] Dieux comment porrai laissier O regina glorie Nobis concedas [veniam per secula] o benigna
308 355 355v Audi mater generosa Imperatrix potentis Neuma
309 355v 356 356v Par une matinee el moys joli d’avril O clemencie fons et venie D’un joli dart
310 357 357v In sompnis mira dei nuncia monuerunt Amours me commande et prie In sompnis
311 357v 358 358v 359 359v Se je chante ce fait amour qui mon cuer Bien doi amer mon ami autant Et sperabit
312 359v 360 360v361 Au tans nouvel Chele ma tollu ma ioie J’ai fait tout nouveletement
313 361v 362 L’autre jour me chevauchoie L’autrier joiant et joli doi compaignon Vilain lieve sus o
314 362 362v 363 363v Dieux comment puet li cuers durer Vo vair oel m’ont espris Tenor
315 364 364v Porta preminentie carens Porta penitentie per quam sol Portas
316 364v 365 365v Se je sui lies et chantans c’est de raison Jolietement de cuer bonement Omnes
317 366 366v 367 Aucun qui ne sevent servir amour Iure tuis laudibus benivolis [Virgo] Maria
318 367v 368 368v Tout solas et toute joie Bone amour qui les siens doctrine Ne me blasmes mie
319 368v 369 369v On parole de batre et de vanner A paris soir et matin truevon bon pain Frese nouvele muere france muere muere france
320 369v 370 370v En mai quant rosier florist J’ai trouve qui mamera Fiat tenor
321 371 371v De mes amours sui souvent repentis L’Autrier mestuet venue volente De fors Compiegne
322 372 372v 373 Ma, Marie assumptio afficiat Hu, Huius chori suscipe Tenor. iterum
323 373 373v 374 Li savours de mon desir et li delis Li grant desirs qui j’ai de recouvrer Non veul mari
324 374 374v 375 Quant se depart li jolis tans He cuer joli trop maves laissie In seculum
325 375v 376 376v Son me regard Prennes i garde He mi enfant
326 376v 377 377v Benedicta marie virginis sancta Beate virginis fecondat viscera Benedicta. Tenor.
327 377v 378 Per omnia secula seculorum maria gubernas Per omnia seculorum secula virgo regia Per omnia secula [seculorum]
328 378v 379 Amor potest conqueri videns se nunc Ad amorem sequitur et concomitatur Tenor
329 379 379v Ave mundi gaudium fidelium Ave salus hominum stella Aptatur. Tenor.
330 379v 380 380v 381 Virginale decus et presidium Descendi in hortum meum Alma [redemptoris mater]
331 381 381v Descendo dominus in terris humanatur Ascendendo dominus in nubes sublimatur Domino
332 382 382v 383 383v Je cuidoie bien metre jus Se j’ai folement ame Solem
333 383v 384 384v 385 Amours ma pris Bien me maine bone amour a son talent Riens ne vous vaut.
334 385v 386 386v A maistre jehan lardier tibaut et climent Pour la plus jolie qui soit en ce mont Alleluya
335 386v 387 387v 388 Cis a petit de bien en li qui se repent Pluseur dient que j’aim par amours Portare
336 388 388v 389 Puis quen amer loiaument me sui mis Quant li jolis tans doit entrer In seculum
337 389 389v 390 Dame que je nos noumer quant porrai Amis donc est engenree en vo cuer Lonc tans a que ne vi mamie
338 390 390v 391 391v Amours que si me maistrie me fait chant Solem iusticie e leticie Solem
339 392 392v Alle psallite cum luya Al alle psallite cum luya Alleluya
340 392v 393 393v Ba Balam inquit vaticinans Ba Balam inquit vaticinans Ballaam
341 393v 394 394v Huic ut placuit tres magi mistica Hu Huic ut placuit tres magi mistica [Huic magi]
342 394v 395 Qui d’amours na riens gouste mout est dolorous Tant me plaist amour servir que de riens Virga Yesse
343 395v 396 Vir virginis eximie celebrantur Nos nostra salus oritur hodie Cernere
344 396v 397 O castitatis lilium maria Assumpta in gloria es nostra Kyrieleison
345 397 397v La bele estoile de mer qui amer La bele en qui je me fi merci cri Johanne. Tenor.

[1] This foliation is according to Rokseth. The contemporaneous foliation at top center is the one used by Rokseth; the pencil foliation at top right is two numerals behind Rokseth (the pencil foliation appears to be the one the filenames of the Montpellier images follow).

[2] This image is incorrect in the online version; they replicate the image that is for f. 353 v, and so the image for f. 354v is missing.