Musicology: French and Italian Music

The outline that you find below has been a very helpful study guide to assist students using the book A History of Western Music. I strongly recommend this book. With its contents, art work, and media, it's just gorgeous!

Ars Nova

  1. Ars nova background
    1. Ars nova: title of a treatise written ca.1322-23 by French composer Philippe de Vitry, Bishop of Meaux (1291-1361)
    2. Ars nove musice (1321) treatise by Jehan des Murs
    3. Speculum musicae ('The Mirror of Music', ca.1325): treatise by Flemish theorist Jacob of Liege which defended the 'old art' of the 13th c. against the innovations of the moderns.
    4. Important issues:
      1. Acceptance in principle of the modern duple (imperfect division of the long and breve and eventually semibreve).
      2. Use of four or more semibreves as equivalent to a breve and eventually still smaller values.
  2. Ars nova in France
    1. Motet continues to become increasingly secularized.
    2. Roman de Fauvel
      1. Earliest 14th c. French document dated from 1310-14.
      2. Manuscript contains a satirical poem 'Roman de Fauvel' in which 167 pieces of music are interpolated.
      3. Essentially an anthology of 13th and early 14th c. music.
      4. Most pieces are monophonic
        1. Rondeaux
        2. Ballades
        3. Chanson-refrains
        4. Varieties of plainsong
      5. Collection also includes 34 polyphonic motets
        1. These include late-13th c. examples with the duple division of the breve
      6. Composers represented:
        1. Several three-part motets by Philippe de Vitry
  3. Isorhythmic Motet
    1. Tenors composed with two main elements in mind:
      1. Color (pitch element)
      2. Talea (rhythmic element)
    2. Motets possesing repetitions of talea and color are called isorhythmic
    3. Isorhythm provided a means of musical unity, structure to long compositions
  4. Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377)
    1. Leading composer of the ars nova in France
    2. 23 motets:
      1. Based on traditional patter: inst. liturgical tenor and different texts in the upper two voices.
      2. Continued trend towards greater secularity, length and rhythmic complexity.
      3. Isorhythmic structure sometimes involves upper parts as well as the tenor.
      4. Considerable use of hocket
    3. Secular Works: monophonic songs in the trouvere tradition:
      1. 19 lais
        1. 12th c. form similar to the sequence
      2. 25 chansons balladees
        1. This form is more commonly known as virelai
        2. Form: Abba...
        3. 7 two-part and 1 three-part polyphonic virelais
          1. Vocal solo is accomp. by instrumental tenor
    4. Formes fixes: term for the ars nova formsā€¹virelais, rondeaux, ballades
    5. Other stylistic traits:
      1. Use of duple division of time
      2. Still uses parallel fifths, but also uses milder sonorities, 3rds/6ths which distinguish him from ars antiqua
    6. Ballade or 'cantilena' style
      1. As exemplified in his poyphonic virelais and rondeaux
      2. Usually consist of 3-4 stanzas each sung to the same music and ending with a refrain.
      3. Typical form: aabC
    7. Rondeaux
      1. Form: ABaAabAB
      2. Famous rondeaux: Adam de la Halle's Jeu de Robin et de Marion
  5. Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame
    1. Most famous 14th c. composition
    2. 4-part setting of the mass Ordinary along with the dismissal formula 'Ite missa est'
      1. At least four other complete polyphonic mass cycles precede it
      2. Use of 4-voices was unusual at the time
    3. 12th-13th c. composers chiefly interested in Proper texts
      1. Leonin and Perotin's organa for Graduals and Alleluias
    4. No clear unifying prinicple behind Machaut's mass
      1. Some have identified a 'motive' prevalent throughout

Italian Trecento Music

  1. Squarcialupi Codex
    1. Most bountiful source of 14th c. Italian music (few sources date earlier than 1330)
    2. Copied ca. 1420
    3. Contains 352 pieces, mostly for 2-3 voices by 12 composers of the 14th/early 15th c.
    4. 3 Secular genres are represented:
      1. Madrigal
        1. Usually for 2 voices
        2. Texts: idyllic, pastoral, amorous or statirical poems of 2-3 line stanzas
        3. Stanzas were all set to the same music
        4. Ends of stanzas, ritornellos consisted of additional pair of lines set to different music with different meter.
      2. Caccia
        1. May have been inspired by the French chace in which lively, pictorially descriptive words set to a melody of a popular cast were designed to be sung in strict canon.
        2. Caccia flourish from 1345-1370
        3. 2 equal voices in canon at the unison
        4. Unlike French and Spanish models, caccia usually had a free supporting instrumental part in slower movement below
        5. Poetic form was irregular though many had ritornello like madrigals which was not always in canonic style
        6. Subject matter is usualy hunting scene
        7. Hocket used to bring out shouts, bird songs, horn calls, dialogue (echo effects)
        8. Canon was strict, systematic imitation eschewed, free imitation does not become common until the last part of the 15th century.
      3. Ballata
        1. Last form to be developed of the three, most examples date from 1365
        2. Monophonic dance songs with choral refrains
        3. Most closely resembles the French virelai
  2. Francesco Landini (ca.1325-97)
    1. Leading composer of ballate and foremost Italian musican of the 14th c.
    2. Compositional output (no sacred music)
      1. 90 2-part ballate
      2. 42 3-part ballate
      3. 1 caccia
      4. 10 madrigals

French Music of the Late 14th Century

  1. Rhythm
    1. French secular music marked by increased rhythmic flexibility
    2. Voices often move in contrasting meters
    3. High use of syncopation, suspensions blur meter and harmonic elements
  2. Notation
    1. Quite complicated
    2. Examples of elaborate notation/manuscripts: rondeau 'Belle bonne' by Baude Cordier (ca.1400) in the Chantilly manuscript has music in the shape of a heart.
  3. Musica ficta
    1. Use of accidentals in the performance and notation
    2. Often used in causa pulchritudinis (for the sake of beauty)
    3. 14th/early 15th c. manuscripts are well supplied with accidentals
    4. From 1450-1550 accidentals were scorned, perhaps performer supplied them?
    5. Used in cadential formulas (to create a leading tone for example)

Summary of 14th Century Music

  1. Important aspects of 14th c. music:
    1. Continued shirft from sacred to secular composition
    2. Greater diversity of rhythm
    3. Growing sense of harmonic organization
    4. Imperfect consonances: 3rds and 6ths favored on strong as well as weak beats although final sonority was always unison, 8ve or 5th.
    5. Passages of parallel 5ths/8ves become rarer.
    6. Musica ficta makes cadential points more emphatic and the melodic line more flexible
    7. Vocal ranges extend upward
    8. New genres emerge: caccia, madrigal, ballata, etc., motion towards 'popular' models
    9. Formes fixes
    10. French and Italian styles begin to merge

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