Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Zazulia, Emily. “Composing in Theory: Busnoys, Tinctoris, and the L’homme armé Tradition.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 71 (Spring 2018): 1-73.

The Confiteor in Johannes Tinctoris’s Missa L’homme armé bears a striking resemblance to the Confiteor in Antoine Busnoys’s Missa L’homme armé in sound but not in notation. Both passages contain an unusual triple-duple metric struggle, but Tinctoris’s notation “corrects” what he perceives in his theoretical writings as incorrect mensural notation used by Busnoys. To only read Tinctoris’s Missa as a theoretical exercise is to miss the complexities of Tinctoris’s work as a theorist-composer. The evidence that Tinctoris was familiar with Busnoys’s Missa L’homme armé is—unusual for a case of musical borrowing—air-tight with the exact passage from Busnoys’s Missa extensively critiqued in Tinctoris’s Proportionale musices. While Busnoys’s notation preserved the visual appearance of the L’homme armé cantus firmus on the page, Tinctoris was more concerned with correctly recording how a performance would sound. Accounts of musical borrowing in this period often look for close written correspondence, but Tinctoris borrows less tactile sonic elements from Busnoy’s Confiteor instead and apparently fixes its notational problems. There is a history to the notational practices of L’homme armé masses as well; Busnoys borrows several conventions from Ockeghem’s mass, and Obrecht borrows from Busnoys. In the L’homme armé tradition, mensural notation mattered as a way to connect to a compositional tradition, not just to preserve the sound accurately. Tinctoris receives this tradition both as a theorist and as a composer. The principle of varietas is praised by Tinctoris in his theory and executed by Tinctoris in his music. His borrowing of the Confiteor device from Busnoys can therefore be understood as Tinctoris the composer writing interesting and memorable music, not just music to prove a theoretical point. It is important to avoid reading Tinctoris’s music with modern conceptions of the relationship between notation and composition. By viewing Tinctoris and Busnoys as composers-theorists actively developing the technology of notation, we can adopt a broader perspective on the complexity of fifteenth-century music.

Works: Tinctoris: Missa L’homme armé (1-11, 18-24, 55-64); Busnoys: Missa L’homme armé (26-31, 47-54); Obrecht: Missa L’homme armé (38-42); Unattributed (possibly Obrecht): Missa de Sancto Johanne Baptista (42-47)

Sources: Busnoys: Missa L’homme armé (1-11, 18-24, 38-42, 42-47, 55-64); Du Fay: Missa L’homme armé (22-23); Johannes Regis: Missa L’homme armé (22-23); Guillaume Faugues: Missa L’homme armé (22-23); Ockeghem: Missa L’homme armé (26-31); Domarto: Missa Spiritus almus (47-54)

Index Classifications: 1400s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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