Les organa a deux voix du manuscrit de Wolfenbuttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 1099 Hemst.
It is difficult to fashion an equitable review of the edition under consideration here, and indeed of the entire series of which it is a part. The subject of late-twelfth-century polyphony is contentious, requiring that one enter a veritable minefield strewn with conflicting theories and interpretations, each stoutly maintained by knowledgeable adherents. Under these circumstances, the satisfaction or irritation that reviewers of this repertory experience will depend greatly on their prior judgments on the subject. I am unable to achieve complete neutrality and cannot write as an unconcerned bystander. The reader having been forewarned, I begin by stating that, apart from certain quibbles, I consider Thomas Payne's edition of the two-voice organa from the manuscript Helmstedt 1099 of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbuttel (commonly known by the siglum [W.sub.2]) to be an excellent and thoughtful contribution to our knowledge of Notre Dame polyphony. Moreover, the edition is ably abetted by the high tradition of bookmaking that we have come to expect of the Editions de L'Oiseau-Lyre. The two handsome volumes are printed on paper of the highest quality, with ample margins and generous use of space. The one unfortunate production error, the misspelling of Herzog as "Hertzog" on the title pages of both volumes and the caption for the frontispiece to volume 6a, is addressed in a corrigenda to the edition issued in April 1997. Even though the volumes are costly, they are indispensable to any music library with a research function. Individual scholars in the field will have to struggle to balance desirability versus price.
Although [W.sub.2] was made readily available to interested scholars by means of an excellent facsimile edition prepared by Luther Dittmer more than forty years ago (Facsimile Reproduction of the Manuscript Wolfenbuttel 1099 (1206), Publications of Mediaeval Musical Manuscripts, 2 [Brooklyn: Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1960]), this source nevertheless remains less well known than its two complementary manuscripts: Herzog August Bibliothek, Helmstedt 677 ([W.sub.1]) and Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Pluteo 29.1 (F), each also available in facsimile ([W.sub.1]: An Old St. Andrews Music Book (Cod. Helmst. 628) Published in Facsimile, ed. J. H. Baxter, St. Andrews University Publications, 30 [London: Published for St. Andrews University by H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1931; reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1973]; Die mittelalterliche Musikhandschrift W1: Vollstandige Reproduktion des "Notre Dame"-Manuskripts der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbuttel Cod. Guelf. 628 Helmst., ed. Martin Staehelin, Wolfen-butteler Mittelalter-Studien, 9 [Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1995]. F: Antiphonarium, seu, Magnus liber organi de gradali et antiphonario: Color Microfiche Edition of the Manuscript, Firenze, Biblioteca medicea laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1, introd. by Edward H. Roesner, Codices Illuminati Medii Aevi, 45 [Munich: H. Lengenfelder, 1996]; Facsimile Reproduction of the Manuscript Firenze, Biblioteca mediceo-laurenziana, Pluteo 29, I, ed. Luther Dittmer, 2 vols., Publications of Mediaeval Musical Manuscripts, 10-11 [Brooklyn: Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1966-67]). As is well known to all persons familiar with these three sources, they present quite varying accounts of the surviving repertory of organa dupla, and include other forms of music prevalent in late-twelfth- and thirteenth-century Paris. The organal repertory contained in [W.sub.1] has been accessible in transcription in William G. Waite's Rhythm of Twelfth-Century Polyphony: Its Theory and Practice (Yale Studies in the History of Music, 2 [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954; reprint, Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1973]), but until now, the organa in [W.sub.2] have not been similarly available. It is possible to piece together Hans Tischler's interpretations in his comparative edition The Parisian Two-Part Organa: The Complete Comparative Edition (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1988), but his main source is F, and it is cumbersome to assemble the readings of the concordant sources. Tischler's work has value for those involved in detailed study, but it does not lend itself to fluent reading.
The new [W.sub.2] edition opens with a general preface by Edward H. Roesner, editor for the full seven-volume set of Le Magnus liber organi de Notre-Dame de Paris (vols. 1, 3-6 are published; vols. 2 and 7 are in preparation), followed by Payne's introduction specific to the two volumes under review; the texts of both are presented in French and then in English. Roesner provides an overview of his views regarding the nature of organal practice in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Paris and the editorial policies to be observed in the set of volumes as a whole. Payne organizes his introduction into four main sections, which address the manuscript and its repertory, the concordant sources, the interpretation of rhythm, and the edition.
The initial section presents a fairly detailed account of the overall organization of [W.sub.2] that draws upon Mary Wolinski's still unpublished research on [W.sub.2]'s codicology. (On the origin of the manuscript, see Daniel Lievois and Mary Wolinski, "Mout sont vallant cil de Gant: Een motet ter ere van de Gentse erfachtige lieden in het midden van de 13de eeuw," Handelingen der Maatschappij voor Geschiedenis en Oudheid-kunde te Gent," n.s., 56 : 35-51; and Wolinski, "Drinking Motets in Medieval Artois and Flanders," in the proceedings of the 2002 International Musicological Society Congress, ed. Ignace Bossuyt, Eugeen Schreurs, and Bruno Bouckaert, Yearbook of the Alamire Foundation, 6 [Leuven: Alamire], forthcoming.) Following this, Payne offers a useful overview of ten minor sources that are relevant to the medieval organal repertory. These summary descriptions and bibliographic references are of particular value to those who have not followed the discoveries of additional Notre Dame sources made within the past twenty or so years. In the final section of the introduction, Payne outlines the locations where plainsong is required to complete the various organa as liturgical entities in the edition and for possible performance (the sources only include the sections of chant set polyphonically). Payne uses two Parisian chant manuscripts copied in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries owned by the Bibliotheque nationale de France, the gradual MS latin 1337 and antiphonal MS latin 15181/82, as the sources for the chants interpolated into the edition and for the complete chants given in the appendix. Payne also includes the chants for the two instances where Latin 15181/82 supplies a prosa (the texted repetition of the jubilus in the Alleluia) for the relevant responsory. Payne provides a list of suitable Alleluia prosas located in Rene-Jean Hesbert's facsimile edition, Le prosaire de la Sainte-Chapelle: Manuscrit du chapitre de Saint-Nicholas de Bari (vers 1250) (Monumenta Musicae Sacrae, 1 [Macon: Protat Freres, 1952]) for other organa dupla in [W.sub.2].
The third section dealing with the interpretation of rhythm is, of course, central to the edition and dominates the introduction. Here Payne lays out the goals of his transcription, together with his views on the intersection between Notre Dame theory and the implications of the musical sources, including remarks concerning the harmonic coordination of the two voices. He begins--as did this reviewer--by remarking on the contentious nature of the scholarship on the subject, sadly noting lapses of civility that have marred some exchanges. The purpose of this section is to present and clarify the nature of the edition itself, which, with isolated exceptions, is transcribed in measured rhythm. Payne remarks promptly that he "would be deeply disturbed if anyone who consults this edition reacts by baldly asserting that I have presented the polyphony entirely in 'modal rhythm'" (p. lxxx). I can sympathize with his position.
Indeed, I would go further to observe that the label "modal rhythm" has become quite fuzzy in meaning, owing to variable usage on the part of scholars of three generations. I should like to propose that we would be best served if scholars were to define "modal rhythm" as a group of theoretic constructs seeking to codify and describe the rhythmic practices of Parisian polyphony of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These constructs relate to the once living musical practice to the extent that they mirror simple discant clausulas, early motets, and even brief segments of some larger organa. On the other hand, they are incapable of providing descriptions and codifications of the dupla of clausulas with complex rhythmic configurations and of irregularly notated passages of organum purum. As one who has spent the last decade involved with research in chant, I cannot help but draw parallels with efforts by earlier music theorists to codify the admissible pitch vocabulary of chant. I note both the unevenness of their success as well as the deleterious effects of trying to rely too heavily on the presumed accuracy of their edicts. The codification of rhythm is a far more difficult task, and the thirteenth-century theorists merit praise for the degree of success achieved. Nevertheless, their shortcomings need also be kept in mind. While their opinions command respect, I would be wary of abandoning our own direct involvement with the surviving notation in favor of a blind reliance on thirteenth-century authorities.
The disconnect that I advise between theoretical dicta and practical music requires careful verbal formulations when dealing with the latter. Payne states, for example, that "Discant proceeds according to a practice of representation known as modus rectus, a line of long and short values that recur in a series of schematic patterns" (p. lxxx). We can all recognize the underlying truth of this statement. At the same time, it is quite problematic to describe the dupla of two of the discant clausulas based on the tenor "[captivi-]TA-[tem]" on fol. 161r/v of F (nos. 125-26 in Rebecca Baltzer's edition Les clausules a deux voix du manuscript de Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, pluteus 29.1, fascicule V (Magnus liber organi, 5 ; nos. 2126-27 in Rudolf Flotzinger, Der Discantussatz im Magnus liber und seiner Nachfolge, mit Beitragen zur Frage der sogenannten Notre-Dame-Handschriften, Wiener musikwissen-schaftliche Beitrage, 8 [Vienna: Bohlau, 1969]) in terms of a modus rectus. Many other comparable examples could be cited, and Payne's description would benefit from qualification.
I think also that we ought to distinguish between the efforts of the first singers of florid organa dupla (not having in mind any of the extant examples), the problems of the first notators of this music (preceding the surviving examples by decades), and those of the early compilers of anthologies that preceded the sources that we have. Roesner writes that "The music of Paris was the first body of polyphony to be conceived and disseminated primarily in writing rather than orally" (p. lvii). One can acknowledge a broad factual basis for this statement. I think it applicable in many areas, especially with regard to the organa tripla and quadrupla. The retrograde tenor of the two-voice clausula "Nus-mi-do"--a rather poorly written piece--also argues for a written conception, as do the more complex interactions between tenor repetition and duplum construction among other clausulas. I acknowledge that the scholars contributing to the present L'Oiseau-Lyre project (in addition to Roesner and Payne, Rebecca A. Baltzer and Mark Everist) have been far more deeply involved with the repertory of organum duplum than I, but it remains my sense that that body of works began life as a product of an essentially oral, improvisatory culture, and that the earliest performances were governed by principles akin to those described by Milman Parry and Albert Bates Lord with regard to southern European oral epics (Serbocroatian Heroic Songs [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953-79]). I interpret the formulaic nature of this repertory in this light. I hazard the guess that there was a relatively early move toward recording these improvisatory re-creations in writing as the taste for them grew, as the inefficiency of recalling individual performances at the distance of nearly a year became more apparent, and as the performers may have experienced particular approval of highly successful performances. Isolated sheets and small fascicles would have come into being, none of which have survived. Presumably the compilation of anthologies would have begun after the turn of the thirteenth century--[W.sub.1], [W.sub.2], and F are simply three fortunate survivals of a still later generation. I am wary of overemphasizing the role of the copying process in the creation of these survivals, believing that the improvisatory aspect of the earliest performances never gave way entirely to a desire for fixity from one performance to another. A freedom to revise and alter seems to have been part of the culture, whether expressed in concurrent ceremonies in different locations or in successive occasions a year or more apart. The notation apparently did not function first as a set of rigorous restraints on the performer, but rather as a set of reminders of what had been done in the recent past. It preceded the theoretic constructs, and therefore was governed by instinctive habits rather than rules. It was intended primarily for those who had previous experience in performing this medium. Serving as a reminder, it was not intended for use in actual performance. I, for one, would not wish to try to sight-read from [W.sub.2] if it were placed on a lectern. Our three major sources are all too small to serve such a function--their purpose appears to have been archival rather than for actual performance.
It remains for me to link the foregoing ruminations to an assessment of Payne's edition. It should already be apparent that I applaud the decision to provide mensural interpretations of the notation. I regard the alternative use of stemless note-heads to be untenable. In such a system, all rhythmic values have identical appearance, inviting the conclusion that they are all equal. It does not seem likely that this is the rhythmic interpretation intended by such editors. On the other hand, if all notes are not equal in length, then these editors have failed to provide any sense of rhythmic shape, and readers are allowed to let their imaginations run wild. Unless the edition is intended solely for the use of scholars already well versed in this music, this rhythmless notation is not apt to lead to desirable results. Indeed, I believe that our editions are worthy of a broader readership, including those seeking a guided introduction to the music.
To be sure, Payne's edition does not require the reader to grapple with the possibility of multiple rhythmic interpretations of passages in notation whose meaning is not covered by the theorists. His aim is more limited. He does not imply that there can be only one "correct" solution to the notation and is quite open to the possibility of alternatives to his solutions. By questioning the existence of an "authoritative" text, he alerts the reader to the need for flexibility. In many instances, my impulse is to favor alternative solutions. Indeed, were it possible to gather a group of a half-dozen to a dozen scholars who favor measured interpretations of passages of organum purum, requesting that they transcribe independently a specific work, I doubt that any two transcriptions would be identical throughout. We must be able to live with this state of affairs. The measure of success of a given edition depends on its accuracy and its ability to project a carefully reasoned and consistent approach to the realization of rhythm. In order to assess the nature of Payne's edition, I carefully checked a reasonable group of his transcriptions against the facsimile edition of the manuscript. I am pleased to report a very high level of accuracy. In the test group, the only discrepancy that I noted was the presence of a normal sized note-head for the last eighth note of the second system of Iudea et Iherusalem (p. 1), rather than the small size normally given for a plica tone. The presence of a slur connecting this tone to the previous one shows that Payne intended a plica tone here, a minuscule matter that is scarcely worth mentioning. It is indeed possible to discern Payne's carefully reasoned policies toward the interpretation of irregular notations, and he carries out these policies consistently throughout the edition. I find it stimulating to check my personal interpretations against those offered by Payne and to broaden my own horizons through this comparison. I believe that many readers of similar tastes will find comparable satisfaction. In instances where I choose to cling obstinately to my own impulses, I find no difficulty in mentally overriding Payne's specifications. Those holding opinions that the rhythmic details of organum purum were in a constant state of flux, that the formulaic motives found so frequently were nothing more than abstract pitch series lacking specific rhythmic shapes, should be able to override Payne's rhythmic solutions with equal ease. Given the nature of the repertory covered, I do not think that one could rightfully ask more of this editor. [Note: the publisher sent this volume for review in late October 2002 with regrets that technical difficulties had made it impossible to submit the edition for review at an earlier date.--Ed.]
EDITED BY DARWIN F. SCOTT
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|Title Annotation:||Critical Editions|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2004|
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