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Fresh Strawberries! And the delights of the 13th century motet

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Fresh Strawberries! And the delights of the 13th century motet

I haven't talked too systematically about the pre-Bach repertoire, but there's a lot of it. I'm re-reading Taruksin's Oxford History of Western Music so I'm reacquainting myself with some music I have nearly forgotten about. Such as the 13th century motet, for example. The development of mensural notation enabled composers to write more complex rhythmic patterns. The motet started out as just a bit of church music in which the melismas, those long melodic decorations, were fitted with texts. Originally all this came from the Notre Dame repertoire dating back centuries. But the new texts were often secular ones modeled after the trouvère poems. In fact, as the motet developed, they often used two different texts for the upper parts such as in the rondeau-motet J'ai les maus d'amours/que ferai/IN SECULUM from the Montpelier manuscript. That odd way of naming the motet is simply the beginning of all three texts.

A lot of ensembles extend the durations of pieces by first playing them on instruments, then with voices and then with repeats. This is just the basic version. Very brief! But as a matter of fact it is rather a tour de force. There are not only three different texts, two in French and one in Latin, but all three of the melodies are from different sources so the composer has fitted them all into one harmonic texture. Better listen again! Here is the beginning of the score:

Click to enlarge

The measure of just how popular or important the 13th century motet was is that Taruskin devotes an entire chapter to it. Also in the Montpelier codex are some pieces attributed to Petrus de Cruce that seems to represent the peak of the style. Here is Aucun/Lonc tans/ANNUNTIANTES. The tenor again comes from a Notre Dame organum. Sorry, Blogger won't embed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_vEpTFox5c

Here is the beginning of the score in the original manuscript:

Click to enlarge

We just don't get illuminated capitals in scores these days!

And finally, as promised, those fresh strawberries. This is a motet that might have been sung at a feast or banquet in Paris as indicated by the two upper texts which begin:

Duplum: Morning and night in Paris, there is good bread to be found, good, clear wine, food, meat and fish...

Triplum: The talk is of threshing and winnowing, of digging and ploughing, Such pastimes are not at all to my liking.

Tenor: Fresh strawberries! Ripe blackberries!

In this performance the tenor is sung alone, then with the duplum and finally with all three parts together. Again, Blogger won't embed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNXsZgH56TM




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