A fragmentary parchment rotulus, now housed at the Wrocław university library, but probably copied in France around the middle of the fourteenth century, is one of nine manuscript sources for Philippe de Vitry’s popular motet Colla/Bona. The notation in the rotulus is mostly ars nova, as it is in all the other manuscript copies of this motet, yet the Wrocław has a curious series of dots, highlighted here in the beginning of the triplum in the image above. The dots offer a tantalising clue indicating that the motet may have been copied from an exemplar in an older style of notation, not dissimilar to that found in Roman de Fauvel manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, f. fr. 146), where groups of semibreves that comprise a breve are separated by dots.
The Wrocław rotulus is not the only fourteenth-century rotulus that shows evidence of notational updating. In my newest article published online today in Early Music I analyse this example, and the evidence for notational updatings in two other mid-century rotuli that transmit ars nova motets (Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Ms. 19606 and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Collection de Picardie, 67).
Does the fact that the motets I identify were not originally copied in ars nova notation mean that they are not actually ars nova motets? This article begins to address this question, outlining some criteria by which we might begin to identify motets that must have been composed subsequent to the systematization of the ars nova notation system by Jean des Murs, Vitry and others during the 1330s. The ars nova then encompasses a variety of activities: scribes updating older motets into the new notation (as we find in these three rotuli), composers writing motets that fully exploited all the possibilities of ars nova notation, and theorists documenting (or in Jacobus’s case criticising) the theoretical underpinnings of the new system.
My article abstract follows, and, by kind permission of Oxford University Press, a free-access link to the online article (click here). Once you click the link, you can read the online HTML version, or click ‘PDF’ to download a PDF. OUP asks that this link not be distributed on social media, though you may link to my personal blog post with the link.
The 14th-century music theorist Jacobus devoted a complete chapter of his Speculum musicae (SM vii.37) to a critique of what he termed ‘solitary’ semibreves (semibreves solitarias). He listed several arguments against the moderns’ use of solitary semibreves. The present essay considers what this motet repertory that used solitary semibreves might be. The emergence of the Ars Nova is often identified with the newer motets copied in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France fr. 146 manuscript of the Roman de Fauvel, but solitary semibreves are not found in the motets of Fauvel. In this article, I examine some ambiguities of the semibreve notation in BnF fr. 146. I then consider the evidence of another group of motets classified as Ars Nova motets by music historians since they are explicitly notated in Ars Nova notation in manuscript sources copied later than BnF fr. 146. These motets contain clues indicating that they were originally copied in a notation similar to that used in the Roman de Fauvel. That is, these motets too (originally) had no solitary semibreves. To find the solitary semibreves of Jacobus’s complaint then, and per consequens, the music of Jacobus’s ‘ars nova’, we must identify compositions that appear to have been originally conceived in Ars Nova notation. This article closes with a brief consideration of some of these motets.
My first monograph, which I am currently researching and writing, is concerned with the concept of novelty, and how newness is characterized, defined, and considered as an aesthetic within the music of the later Middle Ages. Also, through my research on music theory of the Middle ages I attempt to connect theoretical treatises to particular individuals: the authors, the scribes who transmitted or communicated these texts, but also the textual communities who used these texts (see Brian Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983, on “textual communities”), recognising all of their presences in the material object that survives in our time. I also consider the impact of the particular technology of the ‘critical printed edition’ – i.e., our modern presentations of a medieval texts – on our understandings of the “works” these texts contain, and how we might use new digital technologies to in some way “reanimate” the persons who interacted with these texts, or “recreate” for ourselves new ways that we can interact and live with these texts.
We primarily use digital technologies are used in medieval studies in two ways: 1) access and dissemination through the large-scale digitization of medieval manuscripts (Gallica, BVMM (Bibliothèque Virtuelle des Manuscrits Médiévaux, Vatican Library, etc.); and 2) analysis of the digitized object(s), that may draw attention to aspects of form, structure, style, or comparisons, that were previously unnoticed because of the particular technology in which they were previously stored (whether manuscript, or printed edition). The metaphor of “bringing texts to life” may be apt, if cliché (“this book/TV programme/film/website will bring history to life”!). Turn the phrase around, and it is a key term in medieval textual studies, describing a key characteristic of medieval texts that is embodied in their variance, mutability, and non-fixity, that is most often described with a french phrase “textes vivants” or living texts.
When we make a critical edition we create an idealized version of a text that never existed (lived) in reality. Direct access to the manuscript tells of the other lives of these texts and each manuscript version represents a particular instantiation resulting from the experiences of the scribe, illuminator, author, reader or performer. This is a dynamic, rather than a static process and renders a text that scholars have described as moving or mobile – Paul Zumthor famously termed this phenomenon the mouvance of medieval texts.
A lot of the work I’ve been doing recently is with a music theory treatise that we called the Ars nova – a text that has been privileged in our music histories as announcing and articulating the concepts of new musical style evident in the music of the early fourteenth century, and until recently considered to have been written by the important medieval composer Philippe de Vitry c1320 (Fuller 1985). This historical narrative resulted partly due to the processes required for presenting this text in a printed book format. The source situation tells a different story, for there is in fact no one definitive text of the Ars nova, but many different versions, transmitted in many different manuscripts. Being able to access these manuscripts directly and individually, and reading them as particular instantiations of this work of theory brings us into more direct contact with the performative life of particular manuscripts.
The media or technology through which texts can be presented, whether manuscript, printed book, or webpage provides different – pardon the modern term – user experiences. The manuscript book – written on the skin of a dead animal, whose hair and flesh side we can still feel when we interact with these books – was a technology often used in quite different ways to the ways in which a printed book came to be used: for example, communal reading was common, particularly when performing music. The narrative of many medieval works, as accessed through both text and image, is often less linear than that which is presented in later printed works – for example, as found in the Roman de Fauvel (as pointed out by many modern scholars, including Nancy Freeman Regalado) and the Roman de la rose.
Once digitized, we can use digital technologies to manipulate and analyse the digitized data. Bruce Holsinger flags for us the digital archive project of Joanna Swafford at UVa, which allows the the viewer/listener to hear and see this archive of Victorian songs simultaneously while reading the scores online, integrating audio files with high-resolution images of first edition scores. We talk about websites going “live” –this website is almost alive – the experience watching it is like watching a player piano.
The Josquin Research Project, led by Jesse Rodin at Stanford University works, offers digital tools for accessing and analyzing music from c.1420-c1520, including Josquin’s music. This video describes how this digitized data was used to present visualizations of the musical analysis of motets as they were performed live at a concert in the Spring of 2013. Professor Ge Wang, a composer and collaborator for this event, comments on the video that the essence of the visualizations “preserve the life, the soul of the music, while also carefully, perhaps experimentally, provide a different place through which to experience this music.’
In his blog, Burnable Books, Bruce Holsinger invited Machaut scholar Deborah McGrady to write a guest blog to discuss her experiences of working with digital texts. McGrady taught a course in Spring 2012 at UVa titled “Textual Bodies: The Making of Books, Authors and Readers in the Middle Ages,” which used as its primary source material the huge collection of digitized versions of Machaut’s manuscripts (in libraries all over the world, many at bibliotheque nationale). Some of the questions she asked of her students were:
Do weight, texture, and shape of books embody meaning?
Can we restrict reading to an intellectual activity removed from sensual encounters with the objects we hold in our hands, scroll over on our screens, violate or embellish with our marginal comments?
Once the course was finished, McGrady remarks:
I ended it with an unprecedented personal need that far surpassed intellectual justification and that was only satiated when I arrived at the BN and had a codex in hand. When big data creates a need to touch, feel, and smell the codex to satisfy a research agenda, it introduces just the kind of radical change (still) needed in Medieval Studies.
Many us became medievalists because of the particular objects that we get to work with, i.e., medieval manuscripts that are fascinating and often gorgeous physical objects. The way in which we used to research involved traveling to wonderful libraries and archives and physically touching these books, which were once touched by the scribes of the manuscripts, who knew much more about their contents than us, but with whom we attempt to closer to through the physical study of these manuscripts, and the tactile experience of their work. We’re left an intriguing dilemma: these digital technologies which provide access and offer new and dynamic ways of interacting with medieval texts at the same time radically subvert the intimate and resonant experience of interacting with a ‘Real Live Book’.
My review of Emma Dillon’s new book The Sense of Sound: Musical Meaning in France, 1260-1330 published last year (2012) by Oxford University Press, is now available online at The Medieval Review (publication date: January 4, 2013). The link to the review follows as does the first paragraph of my review: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/15235/13.01.04.html
The urban landscape of France at the turn of fourteenth century vibrated–just as it does today–with sound. This medieval soundscape is the subject of Emma Dillon’s new book, which invites the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the variety of contexts and activities in which sound assumed a central role. What is left to us today of this world is exclusively visual: we may still gaze on the art and architecture of that time–but we must recreate and reimagine its sound world from the scant evidence that is preserved in visual media. We “hear” their poets by reading words transcribed on manuscript pages, and we “hear” their music through our recreation of their music notation systems, which necessarily involves interpretation even with respect to the most fundamental elements as pitch and rhythm. Other details of how their music sounded and resounded (timbres, dynamics, vocal and instrumental forces employed, and so on) are even more difficult to ascertain. But Dillon goes beyond summoning music manuscripts in her examination of sound and meaning in medieval life, tapping into a rich variety of source materials that includes literary accounts, manuscript illuminations, and prayer books.
I’m experimenting with a new presentation style (à laLawrence 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.’
[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.
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).
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]).
 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).
 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.