Chapter 11 Lessons

Lessons: Chapter 11

Negotiating DIAMM

One of the most useful website for the study of later medieval polyphony is DIAMM: The Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music:

You should register for your own free membership, and then you can use many more of the features, including being able to see images of the scores when available.

So often when working with a piece one wonders what the source was like in which it was found. How many folios? What kinds of other works? What is its date? Where was it copied? And many other questions. DIAMM is the source for the quick answers to questions such as these.

The first work in the Anthology for Chapter 11 is the Latin double motet by the theorist Marchetto of Padua. The piece spells his name in the opening letter of every verse of the text, a signature. It was not possible to find a commercial recording of the work, and we wanted a new transcription to sing from, so this was one of the most difficult works to corral for the Anthology, but it seemed important to have a piece actually composed by a music theorist, and the circumstances of its commission and performance are fabulously interesting, with references to  architecture and paintings embodied within the piece itself. Yes, we had to have it.

Where was such a piece copied? We turn to DIAMM to find out. We click on MS database, and as we have the siglum from the Anthology, we scroll down to GB (Great Britain), then Oxford, and then to MS. Canon. Class. Lat. 112, and hit the link.

You get this:

Source: GB-Ob MS. Canon. Class. Lat. 112

non-music MS with interpolated music , 14th century; provenance: Italy

So Marchetto’s motet was found in an Italian MS, but not a music manuscript. Then there are notes from RILM, in German and in English and bibliography. Even though I am logged in, the images supposedly at the bottom of the page don’t show up, but by clicking a small icon beside the link, I am taken to another page. There I find four tabs: “Information,” “Incipits,” “Text” and “Image list.” I click on Text, and there is the motet text. Look at the tenor and see if you can find Marcettus’ name. Hint: M A R C V M…..etc. You would have to do a codicological study of the MS to figure out how and when these pages became a part of the book.

Click on “image list” and then hit full screen, and you will have the first page of the motet, with Ave as the first word. Notice how faint the ink is and then look what happen when you blow up the image. It works like a kind of microscope, and now you can compare the music to the transcription in the Anthology. Take special note of the ficta, what is in the MS and what the editor added.

A Cantilena: English notation in the 14th century

Now for something completely different. Use DIAMM to find New York, Pierpont Morgan M. 978 and see what kind of manuscript this piece was contained in, comparing to Marchetto’s piece and its situation. As you can tell from the description, the source was originally a single gathering of music and may have been part of a larger collection. The details about the dating of the source and its connection with an establishment of King Edward III are in line with further details supplied in the textbook and Anthology. When you click on images, the situation is disappointing: they have the images but not permission to publish them on the site.

In July, 2015 I wrote to the Pierpont Morgan to see if they might post the images or give DIAMM permission. When you are working on a topic, it is often a good idea to correspond with the librarian. We are all partners in the work of medieval musicology. If you want to visit a library and see a manuscript, you can write ahead and see if viewing is possible and what documents you need to actually view the source. You should only do this if you really need to see the book for your work, and not just as a cavalier tourist. Precious MSS should not be handled unless it is necessary, and that’s why digitized images are so important.

One of the features of DIAMM is a free course on 14th-century French notation, taught by Professor Liz Leach of Oxford University. Here’s what she says about it:

This course is designed for musicians who can read modern notation but have no knowledge of medieval notation. It is offered openly to researchers, teachers, students, and the general public to further the promotion of the subject. Anyone is entitled to use the material for Educational Purposes (means for the purpose of education, teaching, distance learning, private study and/or research) but not for Commercial Purposes (i.e. selling or reselling the material or using it for any commercial gain) under the Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-NC-SA. In effect you may: copy items and save them; print the items; excerpt, annotate, aggregate and modify the items; use the items in virtual learning environments, managed learning environments and in any material to be used in the course of instruction. Course and study packs in non-electronic non-print perceptible form, such as Braille, may also be created; distribute, communicate and make available the items, to the public in any form and in any media whether now known or hereafter created as long as it is for educational non-commercial purposes; publicly display or publicly perform parts of the Licensed Work as part of a presentation at a seminar, conference, or workshop, or other such similar activity; deposit the items or parts in any kind or type of repository. At all times you must include the statement ‘This item is from DIAMM, University of Oxford’ (; Every effort has been made to clear copyright on all the material used. Should anyone know of any oversight please contact the site maintainers immediately.

Another great feature of DIAMM for those who love medieval English music is:

Sources of British Song, c.1150-1300



The Sources of British Song, c.1150-1300 is an online resource for the study of manuscripts of medieval song, in particular those written in Britain in the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It makes available to scholars, students and performers high-quality digital images of the original manuscripts of song, accompanied by up-to-date source descriptions and specialised analyses of their musical notations. Many of the manuscripts remain little known, and over half the surviving songs have never before been published.

This online resource forms a companion to an edition of the songs, Songs in British Sources, c.1150-1300, edited by Helen Deeming and published in Musica Britannica, vol.95 (London, 2013), which makes the edited repertoire available as a whole for the first time. This project was made possible with financial support from the British Academy, the Music & Letters Trust, and Royal Holloway, University of London.

It would be a great exercise to edit a song as a class or as an individual and compare with the work of Helen Deeming after you finish.