Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Bradley, Catherine A. “Choosing a Thirteenth-Century Motet Tenor: From the Magnus Liber Organi to Adam de La Halle.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 72 (Summer 2019): 431-92.

While the musical implications of plainchant tenor quotation have been extensively explored for fourteenth-century Ars nova motets, the same level of attention has not been paid to how composers choose tenors for thirteenth-century Ars antiqua motets. In the conventional historical narrative, motets transformed from a sacred Latin genre to borrowing tenors from vernacular songs by the end of the thirteenth century. However, tenor selection motivated by vernacular song idioms appears even in the earliest thirteenth-century polyphonic manuscripts. Certain tenors were selected for their musical simplicity, which allowed vernacular song practices to be incorporated while preserving the plainchant tradition. Unlike later practices, thirteenth-century motets frequently reworked a small number of short and simple tenors. The differences between the treatment of the Iustus tenor in the Magnus liber organi manuscripts (particularly manuscript W1) and in early motets based on the Iustus tenor (A grant joie/Iustus found in manuscripts W2, N, and as untexted organum in F, and Ja n’ert nus/Iustus found in N) show how composers adjusted plainchant tenors to accommodate song forms. The existence of motets using vernacular models as early as the 1240s (in F) demonstrates an earlier relationship between motets and vernacular models than is typically acknowledged. The many motets based on the Omnes tenor (found in Mo and Ba) further demonstrate the flexibility of simple and repetitive tenors in creating motets with overlying song forms, such as the rondeau form of Ci m’i tient/Haro/Omnes. The popularity of the chant Aptatur as a motet tenor even though it is not present in the Magnus liber organi manuscripts also suggests that tenors were selected for musical reasons over strictly textual reasons. By understanding the blending of motet tenors and vernacular song idioms as a practice common throughout the thirteenth century, the chronological questions present in later motets that quote both polyphonic vernacular songs and plainchant tenors can be resolved. Acknowledging the compositional practice of replacing the bottom voice of a polyphonic vernacular song with a similar-sounding plainchant tenor presents a compelling new hypothesis for the origins of motets like Dame bele/Fi, mari/Nus n’iert ja jolis that blend both traditions. The stylistic and modal similarities of motet tenors commonly used in the thirteenth century illuminate a motet tradition that valued the inclusion of vernacular song forms over developing complex tenor melodies. This adoption of vernacular music in motets contemporary to the Magnus liber organi manuscripts rather than a generation later uncovers a previously unrecognized sophistication in early motet composers.

Works: Anonymous: Magnus liber organi (437-41, 453-54); Anonymous: A grant joie/Iustus (441-44); Anonymous: Ja n’ert nus/Iustus (444-46); Anonymous: Ja pour longue demouree/Hodie (446-49); Anonymous: Ci m’i tient/Haro/Omnes (455-58); Anonymous: Amoureusement mi tient/He amours/Omnes (459); Anonymous: Je ne chant/Talens/Aptatur/Omnes (459-62); Anonymous: Psallat chorus/Eximie pater/Aptatur (463); Anonymous: Aucun se sont loe/A Dieu commant/Super te (466-75); Anonymous: Dame bele/Fi, mari/Nus n’iert ja jolis (475-83); Adam de la Halle: De ma dame vient/Diex, comment porroie/Omnes (453), Entre Adan et Hanikel/Chief bien seantz/Apatur (465), De ma dame vient/Diex, comment porroie/Omnes (471-75)

Sources: Plainchant tenors: Iustus (437-46), Hodie (446¬-49), Omnes (from Viderunt omnes) (452-62, 471-75), Aptatur (459-65), Super te (466-71); Anonymous: Nus n’iert ja jolis (475-83); Anonymous: De ma dame (472-75); Adam de la Halle: A Dieu commant (466-71), Diex, comment porroie (471-75), Fi, mari (475-83)

Index Classifications: Polyphony to 1300

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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