Chapter 5 Lessons

5A: More on the Office: “Ex eius tumba”

The great responsory “Ex eius tumba” from the Office of St. Nicholas offers rich opportunities for continuing on with the lessons of Chapter 4, learning how to understand the many layers of the chant repertory and the regionality of the Divine Office.  For this lesson, we’ll use CANTUS, an on-line source to which you have already been introduced, but look at some of its more sophisticated features.   First of all, do a search for “Ex eius tumbae,” and you will get no hits, as you need to spell eius with a “j”….try again.   You get over 70 hits, not nearly as many as with the omnipresent antiphon “Ecce apparebit” studied in Chapter 3.  Look at the Concordances, supplied near the top of the page.  If you look at the list of manuscripts represented there, you will see that those dating from before the later eleventh century are not represented; but those prepared in the twelfth century and forward are all represented.  This is reflective of the history of the cult of Nicholas, which was established more powerfully than ever before in the late eleventh century when his bones were moved from the East to Bari, in southern Italy and new festive music for his office came roaring into Europe, establishing a cult of great popularity (see MIMW, Chapter 5).

Musically, too, the piece is stable, virtually always sung in mode 1.   In the late eleventh century, many newly composed offices were modally ordered. You can use CANTUS to see if this is the case with the Office for St. Nicholas.  Also you can search out manuscripts which have different sets of pieces for the Office, meaning that they were more localized, and could be interesting for study of how a saint’s cult was localized.   You can also look at some of the images provided for the chant, and see how close they are, that is, if they do or do not have great numbers of variants, another thing scholars look for when studying the ways that music spread in the Middle Ages.

5B: Music and the Saints

The website CANTUS is very useful for finding localized elements and popular saints. To begin a researcher needs to know which feasts were so popular as to be found nearly everywhere, and which feasts were relatively rare, local phenomena.  An online tool that is fun to play around with, and that can very useful in this regard is the Calendoscope, made by the IRHT, a division of the CNRS in Paris, which now exists in an English version:

Although most functions of this tool are for advanced researches only, there is one that is not.  You can look up any saint by date and see how popular he or she was in the later Middle Ages.  So we have met Lucy already, and know her feast day was December 13.  If you click on December on the Calendoscope pull down tab, and click on 13, you will see 173 of the various sources represented have her feast, nearly all: Lucy was celebrated everywhere.  You can test this for accuracy by going to CANTUS and clicking on Feasts, and pulling down December and 13, and then clicking on Lucy.  All the manuscripts have her feast (and also CANTUS translates the names of the other saints you saw in the Calendoscope for Dec. 13 into English).   You can also search saints alphabetically in both of these tools.  Now that we have looked at Lucy, take a peek at Nicholas, Dec. 6 on your own.  Then, on either of these days, try to find a localized saint, one tied to a particular place.

For example, if we look in the CANTUS feast index on St. Lucy’s day, December 13, we find also the feast of Aubertus of Cambrai (a cathedral town in Northern France).  If you click on him, you can see that only three manuscripts contain his feast.  If you then look at the sources mentioned in the CANTUS Sources listing, two of them are from Cambrai, and the other from nearby Arras.  Cambrai 38, which dates from 1300, has the most detailed office for the bishop by far, and so we know his cult was well-established there.  With some work, we could study the chants, and uncover a historical understanding of this place at that time through these chants.

There are yet other ways to link music to the study of cult, and one is through liturgical plays, as in MIMW, chapter 5, and the Nicholas play studied there.  Another is to look at artworks in various media and see how they relate to the narratives developed in the chants for saints found in the Mass and Office (here too, see MIMW, chapter 5).  One of the best ways to do this kind of work is through the INDEX OF CHRISTIAN ART, a tool subscribed to by most major academic libraries.  Through it, with a simple click you can find manuscript illuminations, frescos, sculpture, glass, the wealth of artistic enterprise related to the establishment of cult in the Middle Ages.

5C  In Theory

In chapter 5 of MIMW we meet a polyphonic repertory edited in part through knowledge of theoretical principles, and then encounter several important theorists from the eleventh century, the most famous of whom is Guido of Arezzo, often collected with Boethius and other theoretical works.  If you pull down the “manuscrits” tab on Gatté’s Musicologie Médiévale, and click on “Guido d’Arezzo: les sources en ligne,” many manuscripts will be indicated.  Through these manuscripts, the advanced researcher can investigate the ways that musical thought was visualized through drawings accompanying the treatises, and look at the context of the theory too, that is the kinds of other materials that theoretical treatises were collected with in the Middle Ages.   Click on Paris, lat. 10805.

Paris lat. 10805, from the mid-twelfth century, was prepared in the Norman abbey of St. Evroult, where there was also an important historian at work, Ordericus Vitalis, and at least one very able cantor.   It is fascinating to compare the notation of “Kyrie Cunctipotens” studied in Chapter 4 and in Anthology 8 with the rendering in lat. 10805: here two of the lines are colored as Guido advocated, but the colors are green for F and red for C (see folio 10r).  At the back of this cantor’s book, is a collection of theory treatises, including the writings of Guido, whose ideas are embodied in the notation.  There are many charts and diagrams, some simple, some complex, and you can find the parts of the treatise by using Gatté’s outline.  If you are really adventuresome, you can locate the various texts quite easily within the Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum, the online collection of fully searchable music theory treatises, originating at Indiana University:

This wonderful site also divides treatises by century, as you can see.

One of the most beautifully illustrated twelfth-century theoretical treatises is that now found in the Wellington, New Zealand, at the Alexander Turnbull Library, MSR-05 (see Gatté’s list of manuscripts with Guido’s treatises),   It’s a bit hard to use: first scroll down and click on “see original record” and then on “view archived copy on line.” One of the simplest drawings can be located by clicking 170.tif, a representation of the intervals of a fourth and a fifth (found within Guido’s Micrologus).  Then click on 160.tif for something more complex: a representation of Boethius’ divisions of the interval of a fifth diatonically, chromatically, and enharmonically (see also MIMW, chapter 2).