Chapter 7 Lessons

7.2a Finding troubadour repertory in a chansonnier from Provencal

As you know from reading Chapter 7 and the analyses in the Anthology, the twelfth-century troubadour repertory survives, for the most part, in thirteenth and fourteenth-century manuscripts, many of which were copied in the north.  The collections that preserve the music of the troubadours and the later music of the trouvères are called by their French name: chansonniers (song books).  We will find one of them on line, and locate one of the featured pieces within it.

Some lists have been created with links for finding chansonniers online:

Chansonniers of Medieval France:

Rob Wegman’s list of MSS, with live links:

Here is a very useful site for finding recordings of individual songs (each of which has been assigned a number) through the composer’s name:

MSS are described on the FONTI site, but not in English:

You can see from the two lists of manuscripts that chansonniers have been assigned letters which have, over time, become standard.  So, the most important source for the troubadour repertory, Paris, BN fr. 22543, is known as manuscript R (also as the Chansonnier d’Urfé).  This manuscript dates from around 1300, and its state reveals a good deal about the repertory: of its around 1,000 texts, under 700 of were provided with staves for music, and the majority of these were simply left blank.  Only 160 melodies were inscribed.  So immediately when dealing with the repertory in this manuscript we know two things, points made in chapter 7: the notated song repertory only represents a fairly small percentage of what once existed, and what was written down was inscribed long after the fact, at least with 12th century repertory, our subject here.  With this source, copied in Provence, we are in the right region (many sources of the repertory were made in the north).

Paris fr. 22543 is a good manuscript for us to reference.  Not only is it online, but it is the central manuscript for the repertory, and it has been much studied, so we know a great deal about it.  The scholar Elizabeth Aubrey, a major presence in the field today, wrote her dissertation on this one source in 1982 (you can consult it online through ProQuest), and a major book on the subject of the troubadours (1996).

A good project would be to read her manuscript description as found in the dissertation and use the online source to follow her arguments.  She tells us that most of the texts were written by one scribe, but that four scribes entered the music; like most monophonic song repertory, there are no indications of rhythmic values, although a few pieces in this late source may show some tips toward modal notation (see Primer for an introduction to the rhythmic modes, and also discussion in chapter 9).

You can go to Aubrey’s dissertation where there is a table of contents of the manuscript, beginning on p. 192, with vidas and razos, the biographies of the composers. After that, there are several collections of songs, and individual composers are often gatherered within them.  Taking Bernart as an example, we find his vida on fol. 1r, the right side (discussed in the Anthology).  All songs listed in Aubrey’s index have a P.C. number (which does not mean politically correct, something many of the troubadours were not).  The numbers come from the Bibliographie der Troubadours of Pillet and Carstens (1933); it would be great if an index with all the numbers were online, but as far as I know, it is not.  Fol. 20v has two of Bernart’s songs; fols. 56r-59r contains a substantial group; three more are found on fols. 96rv-97.  The state of the manuscripts suggests that the texts were written first and staves supplied for them.  Later musicians were responsible for copying the notes, some of which they had (or knew by heart) and some of which they didn’t.  The manuscript was probably copied from a group of various sources.

“Can vei la lauzeta” is found on vol. 56v, near the opening of a group of songs by Bernart.  You can see his name written in red in the left-hand column, just before the first song in the group begins.  Songs immediately before this group are by the late twelfth-century troubadour Pons de Capduelh, and you can see that two of them found here are missing their notes.

Paris, BN fr. 22543, fol. 56v

You can see how useful the illuminated and flourished capitals are for locating the beginning of a song in the midst of a sea of text; smaller initials guide the eye verse by verse.   Only the first strophe of “Can vei” has notes; the rest must be set to the melody by the singer.  The melody itself is easy to read, as far as pitches are concerned, but the rhythm is another matter.  Compare the pitches to the score in the anthology, and then listen to how the song is usually sung today (the Midi site above will provide a discography).  The notes are not treated equally.  Which ones are sung more quickly and why?


7.2: The Score for the First “Collected Works” of a Western Composer

One of the many “firsts” we can attribute to the theologian/composer/poet Hildegard of Bingen,is her desire to prepare a collection of her works, including her music, in a kind of critical edition.  The first copy of her music we have was in existence by 1173, and is a fragment of a larger collection.  This manuscript is in the library of the Benedictine Abbey of Dendermonde, in Belgium, has been digitized, and will soon appear online through the good offices of the Bibliothèque royale of Belgium.

The only complete surviving copy of Hildegard’s music is found as part of the Riesencodex (giant book) of the Hessische Landesbibliothek in Wiesbaden, Germany.   This elephantine codex, which takes two people to carry, has been digitized and placed online by a team of librarians headed by Herr Dr. Martin Mayer.   You can see a table of contents in the margin of the digitized version of the book, which makes it easy to get to both the songs (Symphonia) and her play, the Ordo Virtutum.[zoom]=min&set[mets]

Ideas about this manuscript have evolved substantially in recent decades.  The entire codex used to be thought to date from after Hildegard’s death in 1179 because it contains her vita or bibliography.  But now it has been shown that the vita is an addition to the manuscript, whereas many of the hands have been identified as scribes working during her lifetime.  It is clear that the manuscript, including the fascicles containing the music, were prepared during her lifetime and in the scriptorium of the Rupertsberg.  Music in the Riesencodex and the earlier Dendermonde codex was laid out in much the same way (Dendermonde is not double ruled, however), showing that there was a scribal practice within the community for the copying of Hildegard’s compositions too, although comparison of ordering and pitches of individual works also proves that the repertory was in flux in the last decades of her life.  In both manuscripts, there are many corrections and revisions.

If you studied the music fascicles of the Riesencodex in context of the larger work, you would see that the hand writing the text for the songs and the play is different from the main hands of the codex (although the music text hand does appear elsewhere).  While not the main hand, these song texts were written by a nun who was well established in the Ruperbsberg scriptorium, and whose copying can be see in other manuscripts as well as well as this one.  If you were to make an alphabet of her letters, your eye would soon be able to distinguish her hand.  As to the scribe of the music, it is not possible to tell if it is the same person who wrote the texts. I have been with the codex and looked carefully at the gatherings of parchment and the letters designating them, and it is the case that they are quite different from the rest of the book, underscoring the idea that the music was produced at a different time and in a different way from the rest of the codex.  Indeed the music may have been bound with it at a later stage.

Looking closely at folio 474r where the sequence for St. Matthias begins (called 474a in the modern numbering on the page), it can be seen that this folio was part of a stack of parchment that was “pricked” by some sort of awl and that the prickings were laid out to provide guides for the ruling.  As you can see some holes in the inner righthand margin, you know that the bifolios were folded, gathered, and then a stack pricked throughout to save time.  The prickings from the outer margin have been trimmed away.  You can see too how the page was double ruled, creating uniform margins to either side of the textblocks and in the center.   Counting up from the bottom, there were 17 lines ruled, one for every 6 pricking holes, and on these ruled lines, the chant texts were written.   As a result of this arrangement, each line of text (which occupied the space of two lines) has four lines above it for the music.  After the text was written a scribe indicated the c line by a small clef, and the f line with a small dot, both of which can be seen here clearly.   It is always easy to see where the fifth between F and C lies, and this too surely helped both in copying and in singing.

The staff lines were then drawn, with a red line for F.  At this point the music was copied, the text scribe having worked from an exemplar and so having left appropriate room for the melismas.  When the music was in a higher range, the clefs could be moved to accommodate this. The last stage in preparing the score was to add the large red capitals, and the titles of the works in red ink.  Fol. 481r (481b) contains that place in the Ordo Virtutum where Victory binds the Devil (see discussion in Chapter 7).  It can be seen that the pages for the play are ruled just as for the chants.  But the work was much harder as spaces had to be left for every character’s name and for rubrics, and sometimes, as can be seen here, things got very crowded.  In fact earlier in the play, one character’s name was left off, and can only be supplied through today through supposition.

A close look at the way Hildegard’s music was produced shows that the scribes were practiced, that they had exemplaria from which they copied, and that they had music they knew well and were willing to work hard to copy, arrange, and preserve.  Hildegard’s music was heard in the course of her “visions,” which involved both sound and sight.  Her community was caring of the music, which she saw as a crucial part of her larger theological program.