The International Machaut Society sponsored three sessions and a business meeting at the 2010 meeting of the International Congress on Medieval Studies:
The Ivrea Codex contains one of the most important collections of fourteenth-century polyphony. The document mixes three of Guillaume de Machaut’s motets with thirty-four others from the period; the group of thirty-seven represents the largest motet collection in any extant Ars Nova manuscript. As a whole, the motets exhibit a wide range of compositional styles and subject matter. The Ivrea Codex thus provides an interesting snapshot of Ars Nova composition, an especially appropriate lens through which to compare Machaut’s compositional style with that of his contemporaries, even though most of them remain anonymous. With the Ivrea Codex as a backdrop, this paper raises several questions concerning Machaut as “influencor” and “influencee.”
To date, connections between various pairs and groups of motets have been drawn based primarily upon isorhythmic and textual similarities. In this paper, in addition to considering isorhythm, I compare three pairs of motets by focusing on recurring melodic patterns, voice crossing, sonority usage and syntax. A close reading of each motet’s musical subtleties in turn suggests strong connections between a few Machaut and Ivrea motets.
This paper presents an interpretive theory developed in response to what I conceive of as a contrapuntal power struggle in the motets of Guillaume de Machaut. An uneasy balance seems struck between the tenor voice, which conventionally provides the compositional foundation in the genre, and its supposed contrapuntal investiture, the upper-voice pair, which occasionally usurps control. I propose that this turbulent musical relationship may be correlated to those amorous ones of the texts which the medieval motet genre simultaneously counterpoints. If even the most faithful subservience of the chivalric Amant to his Lady and, by analogy, the spiritual Pilgrim to the path of Christ is met with great hardship, so too may the upper-voice pair be oppressed by conformance with the demands of an external tenor. Although the subordination of new polyphony to a revered model is customary in late medieval composition, I will show that Machaut’s is hardly complacent to domineering.
The Voir Dit treats the apprenticeship proposed by Toute Belle in the art of poetry as Machaut practices it. But that is not the literal context of the Dit. How then may we contextualize the Voir Dit or any other Dit by Machaut as an art of poetry? Toute Belle is an advanced apprentice since she already knows how to write the standard lyric pieces of late medieval poetics. Therefore she enters that category of pupils who learn not from treatises but from exemplary works. Taking Machaut as mentor, the paper deals with the ways that apprentice poets might read, imitate, and emulate poetic masterpieces, especially when using examples, debate, and topical modes like autobiography.
Toute Belle, the heroine of Machaut’s Voir Dit, has excited critical interest and historical speculation because of the literary talents that the text attributes to her. However, re-placing Toute Belle within Machaut’s literary context indicates that she may not be as unusual as we have supposed. An examination of the trope of the poet-heroine before Machaut indicates that poetic composition is an activity practiced by several heroines of romance and epic: Nicolette, Fresne, Josiane, Odée and Clarmondine, to name a few of the most prominent. Furthermore, the works of some of these heroines are portrayed as being at the origins of the texts in which they appear; to the extent that author figures exist in these earlier narrative texts, they are women.
paper will argue that, in light of the French narrative works that
preceded Machaut, it is the Voir Dit’s poet-hero rather than its
poet-heroine who is
and around whose uncertain status the text’s interrogation of gender and writing revolves. It is well known that one of Machaut’s major innovations is his placement of the figure of
the clerk at the center of his narratives: in the Voir Dit, he engages that figure in dialogue with the more traditional figure of the poet-heroine, finally exposing his clerkly narrator
as resembling a woman. The resulting portrayal of a feminized redactor figure opposite a poet-heroine seems to have influenced the use of the poet-heroine trope in at least one
later romance, Ysaÿe le Triste. Thus, an examination of the Voir Dit’s context allows us, not only a new perspective on this remarkable text’s examination of gender and writing,
but a glimpse at its dialogue with some of the narrative texts that influenced and were influenced by it.
This paper uses reception history to generate questions for the scholarly research of medieval music. I focus on a moment around 1950, when the repertory commonly known as the “isorhythmic motet” found a new resonance. The argument turns on an article by Craig Ayrey, “Nomos/Nomos: Law, Melody and the Deconstructive in Webern's ‘Leichteste Bürden der Bäume,’ Cantata II Op. 31,” published in Music Analysis 21 (2002): 259-305. Concerned with aesthetic issues of compositional pre-planning in Webern, the article proved extraordinarily suggestive not only for the late medieval motet, but also for Machaut as author, inasmuch as not just structural issues, but also aesthetic issues actively discussed in the mid-twentieth century mesh astonishingly well with the world of Machaut. Drawing upon Ayrey, Webern, Barthes, Boulez, and Adorno, I find aspects of Machaut that demonstrate a static aesthetic, in which a plethora of signs reciprocally reinforce a single central meaning. The paper addresses motets as well as literary works, especially the Voir Dit.
famous image of
Guillaume de Machaut shows him reading aloud to a group of listeners (
poets establish what seems to be a coherent ideology of love
comportment, but with the end goal of dismantling it and replacing it
with something better, usually drawing on both the didactic methods and
philosophical doctrines of Boethius’ Consolatio
in the process. I side with those
commentators who see Jean de Meun’s continuation of the Roman
de la Rose as an essentially moral
text which exposes, in scurrilous detail, the base acts to which its
protagonist is driven
by his desires. In the Confessio
John Gower invests 30,000 lines of verse in the idea
that erotic love fosters, and demands, virtuous conduct, only to
conclude that it does no
such thing, and that youth and virility are the only ‘virtues’ that can
in love. As I read them, both these authors, though approaching the
subject from different
angles, conclude on a rather severe and, as it were, immoderate note,
overwhelmed by a sense of the carnality and/or futility of erotic love.
In between Jean and Gower, temperamentally as well as chronologically, stands Machaut, whose approach is characterised by moderation and a more sincere investment in the positive aspects of love than we find in the Rose or the Confessio. Above all, he tells us, love is complicated; perhaps it is a worthy activity for the young; certainly it can be a spur to virtue, and in that respect may be considered a true and lasting ‘good’; but eventually, upon mature reflection, the lover must recognise that he has enslaved himself to Fortune, and remedy his situation with the help of God. By comparing Machaut’s handling of this theme with those of other love poets, and by taking the morality of these texts more seriously than scholars have so far tended to do, we can learn a great deal about the way in which Boethian and Neoplatonic concepts informed the writing of poetry in the Middle Ages.
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