Polyphonic Music in Performance

  • Elizabeth Randell Upton
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In chapter 2, I showed how evidence for the historical singers and ensembles survives in the notes on the page. In this chapter, I will explore how the notes on the page can preserve historical evidence of the performance experience. Such evidence reflects composers’ knowledge about the real-world conditions that served as constraints for their work. A composer was likely to have known in advance which singers would be available to perform his music, and so could accommodate those singers’ voices when writing a particular piece of music. Similarly, a composer was likely to have known the conditions under which a piece of music would be performed, and could respond to those expected performance conditions as well. Recognizing such details as historical evidence allows informed speculation as to the social settings for these performances.


Final Word Fourteenth Century Musical Note Solus Tenor Final Syllable 
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  1. 1.
    Historical documents tend to mention that singers or instrumentalists were present on some occasion, but rarely give any useful details about their performances. For a survey of historical documentation of music-making at English and French courts in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, see Nigel Wilkins, “Music and Poetry at Court: England and France in the Late Middle Ages,” in English Court Culture in the Later Middle Ages, edited by V. J. Scattergood and J. W. Sherborne ( London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1983 ), 183–204.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Page, “The Performance of Songs in Late Medieval France,” 441–450. Gaston Zink, ed. Clériadus et Méliadice: roman en prose du XVe siècle (Geneva: Droz, 1984 ).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See David Fuller, “Organ point,” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, 2001, andGoogle Scholar
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  5. 7.
    Johannes Tinctoris, Dictionary of Musical Terms (Terminorum Musicae Diffinitorium), translated and annotated by Carl Parrish (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe; and London: Collier-Macmillan Ltd., 1963 ).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Machaut’s Mass: An Introduction ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000 ), 35.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    To correct Reaney’s transcription, listed in the Ox213 facsimile, see Robert D. Reynolds, “‘Tres Douchement’ by Grossin,” Musica Disciplina, vol. 35 (1981), 199–201.Google Scholar
  8. 24.
    Deschamps is identified as Machaut’s nephew in the anonymous Régles de la seconde rhétorique, but current literary scholarship throws doubt on any blood relationship between the two men. See I. S. Laurie, “Eustache Deschamps: 1340(?)–1404,” in Eustache Deschamps, French Courtier Poet: His Works and His World, edited by Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi (New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1998), 2–3. “Nephew” could be understood as meaning “heir,” generalized from the many childless men in religious orders whose heirs would have been their sister’s sons. See also Christopher Page on the relationship betweenGoogle Scholar
  9. Deschamps and Machaut, “Machaut’s ‘Pupil’ Deschamps on the Performance of Music,” Early Music, vol. 5 (1977), 484–491. The first stanza of this poem is discussed in Catherine A. Jewers, “L’Art de musique et le gai sentement: Guillaume de Machaut, Eustache Deschamps and the Medieval Poetic Tradition,” in Sinnreich-Levi, ed., Eustache Deschamps, 163–179, especially 165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 25.
    See Agostino Ziino, ed., Il codice T. III. 2, Torino, Biblioteca nazionale universitaria: studio introduttivo ed edizione in facsimile (Ars Nova, 3. Lucca: Libreria musicale italiana, 1994), 111. The leaf in question is folio 5v, reproduced on page 146 of the facsimile.Google Scholar
  11. 29.
    See Ursula Günther, “Eine Ballade auf Mathieu de Foix,” Musica Disciplina, vol. 19 (1965), 69–81.Google Scholar
  12. 31.
    Nigel Wilkins, “Some Notes on Philipoctus De Caserta (C1360?–C1435) with the Ballade Texts and An Edition of the Regule Contrapuncti,” Nottingham Medieval Studies, vol. 8 (1964), 118–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 36.
    Reinhard Strohm, “Filippotto da Caserta ovvero i Francesi in Lombardia,” In Cantu et in Sermone: For Nino Pirrotta on his 80th Birthday (Italian Medieval and Renaissance Studies [The University of Western Australia], 2), edited by Fabrizio Della Seta and Franco Piperno (Firenze: Leo S. Olschki), 198, 65–74. See also Strohm, “‘La Harpe de Melodie,’ oder das Kunstwerk als Akt der Zueignung,” Festschrift Carl Dahlhaus zum 60. Geburtstag, edited by H. Danuser ( Laaber: Laaber-Verlag, 1988 ), 305–316.Google Scholar
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  15. 41.
    Eric Jager attests that the Chantilly heart is the earliest known example of a written text in the form of a heart. See Jager, The Book of the Heart (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 82. Elizabeth Eva Leech discusses all four pictures as “visual music,” and includes clear black-andwhite photographs of them: Leech, Sung Birds, 114–119.Google Scholar
  16. 47.
    The identity of this “Cathelline” has been the subject of a great deal of scholarly speculation. Gilbert Reaney identified her with Jeanne of Boulogne, the second wife of Jean, Duke of Berry, because Solage also wrote S âincy estoit, discussed above, which includes Jean’s name and title. Ursula Günther agreed with the Berry connection, but suggested that the acrostic’s Cathelline was instead Catherine of France, the sister of King Charles VI, who in 1386 was married to a son of the Duke of Berry. Maria-Carmen Gomez has proposed the identification of Cathelline with Yolande de Bar, and Yolanda Plumley adds another Catherine, this one the granddaughter of Philip, Duke of Burgundy, to the list of candidates. Reaney, “The Manuscript Chantilly,” 76; Ursula Günther, “Die Musiker des Herzogs von Berry,” Musica Disciplina, vol. 17 (1963), 87;Google Scholar
  17. Maria del Carmen Gomez Muntane, “La musique a la maison royale de Navarre a la fin du moyen-âge et le chantre Jehan Robert,” Musica Disciplina, vol. 41 (1987), 109–151;Google Scholar
  18. Yolanda Plumley, “Solage,” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, 2001, rev. 2009.Google Scholar

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© Elizabeth Randell Upton 2013

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  • Elizabeth Randell Upton

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