Module B2: European polyphonic sacred music (c.1100-1620)

This module provides a survey of European polyphonic sacred music from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. It is selective in its approach with emphasis on the ‘Notre Dame’ repertory of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Franco-Flemish composers of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries, and five major composers of the late sixteenth century. Though these are typical topics in a survey of this kind, and may be found in many outline histories of music of this period, their selectivity needs to be underlined: significant and important liturgical music was written throughout Europe, and many more composers might be represented.


Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module you will have acquired an overview of the changing emphases in the use of polyphony in the liturgy, and of the styles and formal procedures of polyphonic composition.


Background reading

If you are not familiar with the general chronology then you would do well to read text-book outlines. The most straightforward summary history is Donald Grout’s History of Western Music: use the most recent edition by Claude Palisca. Another useful overview is found in Frederick Sternfeld, ed., Music from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. ‘Period’ text-book histories are found in Jeremy Yudkin, Music in Medieval Europe or Richard Hoppin, Medieval Music, Howard Mayer Brown, Renaissance Music. For the period up to 1300 there is also The New Oxford History of Music, revised edition.

For a series which emphasises the context of the music, there are excellent case studies in James McKinnon, ed., Man and Music: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and Iain Fenlon, ed., Man and Music: The Renaissance.


Study order

Study area 1 is in some ways the toughest and least clearly defined, though perhaps the most interesting because of the issues it raises across the whole period. It may well be best to return to this area when you are settled in to the studies.


Study areas

1 Polyphony and liturgy (c.1100-1620)
1.1 Music and ceremonial
1.2 The polyphonic embellishment of liturgical chant
1.3 Functional polyphony: improvisation and alternatim performance
1.4 Choral institutions and their use of polyphony
1.5 Sprituality, devotion and polyphony
1.6 Musical unity and the Ordinary of the Mass

Essay questions related to study area 1:

Write an essay which addresses one of the six issues identified in this study area:

B2.1.1 Music and ceremonial. To what extent does music reflect the status of an occasion, and is that affected by political and/or social factors as well as/rather than liturgical factors? Consider Notre Dame, Paris; the princely chapels (especially that of Burgundy); St Mark’s, Venice; St Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel, Rome.
B2.1.2 The polyphonic embellishment of liturgical chant. Discant, organum, cantus firmus and ‘paraphrase’.
B2.1.3 Functional polyphony: improvisation and alternatim performance. Descant, faburden, fauxbourdon, falsobordone, English descant. Evidence of and contemporary instructions on improvisation. Alternatim performance using choral polyphony and organ polyphony.
B2.1.4 Choral institutions and their use of polyphony. Cathedrals, monasteries, collegiate churches, princely and royal chapels. The nature of the worshipping body differed in size and purpose, as did their use of polyphony. Professional singers took over parts of the liturgy (e.g. the ordinary of the Mass) which might otherwise have been sung by the whole community. In other situations polyphony was used selectively as the music of the soloists.
B2.1.5 Spirituality, devotion and polyphony. How and why does the selection and treatment of items and texts to be set polyphonically change over the period? Was medieval polyphony part of a general embellishment of and commentary on the liturgy? Were later antiphon and motet texts selected more for their spiritual and devotional import rather than for their liturgical significance?
B2.1.6 Musical unity and the Ordinary of the Mass. On the face of it the Ordinary of the Mass is not an obvious subject for cyclic treatment: its texts vary in nature and purpose, and were assimilated into the Mass at different periods. Not all were included in every Mass, depending on day and season. Yet composers from the 14th century set these texts as a cohesive group, and later composers generally linked them as a cycle by compositional procedures. To what extent does this reflect the Eucharistic theology and spirituality of Aquinas and the Dominicans? To what extent does it reflect an artistic tendency to cyclic unity?

This is an ‘issues’ based study area, rather than ‘period’ based. There is therefore no convenient reading list which addresses the issues listed. Rather these are questions for you to consider as you read widely across the whole period. You may find the books by Craig Wright on Notre Dame and Reinhard Strohm particularly useful.

2 The old art (c.1100-1300)
2.1 Chant and polyphony: organum and discant
2.2 The repertory of ‘Notre Dame’
2.3 Thirteenth-century polyphony: conductus and motet
2.4 The insular British repertory

Suggested reading for study area 2:
Craig Wright, Music and Ceremony at Notre Dame of Paris, 500-1500, especially chapter 7

Frederick Sternfeld (ed.), Music from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, chapter 3 and the early part of chapter 6.1

The New Oxford History of Music, II: the Middle Ages to 1300, part 4

Examples in medieval anthologies linked to Yudkin and Hoppin, also Marocco and Sandon, Anthology of Medieval Music

If you can reach a university or major public library, the editions of Magnus Liber Organi and of Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century should be accessible.

Recordings by Gothic Voices, Orlando Consort et al.

Essay questions related to study area 2:
B2.2.1 Present an outline of one of the following: the early repertories of Western polyphony; the polyphony associated with the ‘school’ of Notre Dame.
B2.2.2 Make a detailed study of one complete work from the Notre Dame repertory of organa. Place it in its liturgical context, and show how chant and different styles of polyphony (often written at different dates) are combined in performance.
B2.2.3 Write a concise account of either the thirteenth-century polyphonic conductus and motet or the thirteenth-century insular British repertory.

3 The new art from Machaut to Dufay (c.1300-1470)
3.1 The motet, c.1300-1470
3.2 Improvised polyphony
3.3 Music for the Office, c.1300-1470
3.4 Music for the Ordinary of the Mass, c.1300-1470

Suggested reading for study area 3:
In addition to the general reading listed on page 1, see

Reinhard Strohm, The Rise of European Music (for the period after 1370)

Frank Harrison, Music in Medieval Britain

Reinhard Strohm, Music in Late Medieval Bruges

Gilbert Reaney, Machaut

Margaret Bent, Dunstaple

David Fallows, Dufay

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Machaut’s Mass

Scores:
Machaut and de Vitry in the series Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century

Machaut’s mass is included in Leech-Wilkinson’s book, and there are several editions

Dunstable in the series Musica Britannica

Dufay in the series Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae

Other English, French and Italian polyphony in Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century

Later polyphony in the series Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae

Essay questions related to study area 3:

B2.3.1 Write a concise survey of the sacred motet from c.1300-1470.
B2.3.2 What evidence is there of the influence of improvised polyphony on written polyphony of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries?
B2.3.3 Write a concise survey of music for either the Office or the Ordinary of the Mass from c.1300-1470.
B2.3.4 Make a brief study of the liturgical music of one of the following, with reference to genre, style and compositional techniques: John Dunstable; Guillaume Dufay; the music of the ‘Old Hall’ Manuscript.

4 Josquin, his contemporaries and successors (c.1470-1540)

4.1 Imitative polyphony
4.2 Josquin and the motet
4.3 Mass composition, c.1470-1540
4.4 Music for the Office, c.1470-1540
4.5 The organ and the liturgy, c.1470-1540

Suggested reading for study area 4:

Reinhard Strohm, The Rise of European Music

Edgar H. Sparks, Cantus Firmus in Mass and Motet, 1420-1520

Reinhard Strohm, Music in Late Medieval Bruges

Rob C. Wegman, Born for the Muses

Frank Ll. Harrison, Music in Medieval Britain

Willi Apel, Keyboard Music before 1700

Peter Williams, A New History of the Organ

Andrew Kirkman and Dennis Slavin (eds.), Binchois Studies

Richard Sherr (ed.), The Josquin Companion

Essay questions related to study area 4:

B2.4.1 Write a concise survey of Josquin’s motets with reference to style, compositional techniques, dating and authenticity.
B2.4.2 What opportunities did the techniques of imitative polyphony offer composers from c.1470-1540, and how did they exploit them?
B2.4.3 Write a concise survey of music for either the Office or the Ordinary of the Mass from c.1470-1540, with reference to style and compositional techniques.
B2.4.4 Outline the nature and use of the organ in the liturgy from c.1470-1540.
B2.4.5 Why was the music of Josquin so influential? Do other composers of liturgical music at that time deserve equal consideration? And if so (or not), why?

5 Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, Giovanni Gabrieli and Byrd (c.1550-1620)

5.1 Motet composition, c.1550-1620
5.2 Music for the Mass, c.1550-1620
5.3 Music for the Office, c.1550-1620
5.4 The performance of church music in Italy, c.1550-1620
5.5 Byrd: a recusant composer in England

Suggested reading for study area 5:

Iain Fenlon (ed.), Man and Music: The Renaissance

Tim Carter, Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy

Jerome Roche, Palestrina

Denis Arnold, Giovanni Gabrieli

Joseph Kerman, The Masses and Motets of William Byrd

Jerome Roche, North Italian Church Music in the age of Monteverdi

Willi Apel, Keyboard Music before 1700

Peter Williams, A New History of the Organ

Eugene Casjen Cramer, Studies in the Music of Tomás Luis de Victoria

Essay questions related to study area 5:

B2.5.1 Write a concise survey of the liturgical music of one of the following, with reference to genre, style, and compositional techniques: Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, Giovanni Gabrieli, Byrd.
B2.5.2 What influence did the Counter Reformation have on liturgical composition during the period c.1550-1620? Were other factors also significant?
B2.5.3 Write a concise survey of motet composition or music for the Office or music for the Ordinary of the Mass from c.1550-1620, with reference to style and compositional techniques.
B2.5.4 Outline the nature and use of either the organ or other instruments in the liturgy from c.1470-1540.
B2.5.5 Why has the music of Palestrina continued to be so influential? Do other composers of liturgical music at that time deserve equal consideration? Justify your answer.
B2.5.6 Make a study of the nature and performance of music in the liturgy any one church or chapel in Italy in the period c.1550-1620.
B2.5.7 Consider the case of William Byrd as a composer of Roman Catholic liturgical music in Protestant England.


Study

You must study at least four of the areas listed above. If you are also taking module B7, study area 2, you should not select study area 5 in this module.

Although you may choose (or be directed by a supervisor in) your own pattern of study it must include those issues listed in the study areas above, and you are advised to take account of the recommended items listed.

In undertaking the writing of essays you are advised to consult the guidance for presentation of written work in the general study notes.


Assessment and satisfactory completion

At the end of the module you must submit two essays, each of 3,750-4,000 words, for assessment. The subjects of the essays must be selected from topics set. Each essay must relate to a different study area. A bibliography of materials consulted should be appended to the essay.

The assessment of the module will be based on the two essays. You should complete a module log listing materials used for the study, time spent in study, and noting any special factors or difficulties encountered. In each case this may consist either of notes made during study or an essay on a topic related to the area. The examiners will request these materials if they require them.

Two copies of all materials for assessment and establishment of satisfactory completion should be forwarded to the Course Secretary and postmarked not later than 31 January or 30 June in the appropriate study period.


Bibliography: Module B2

Here, as in other subjects, some of the most important recent writings are in articles in journals and Festschriften. What follows is very selective, but ought in most instances to be reasonably accessible. Individual books include more specialised bibliographies and references.

Surveys

Richard H. Hoppin, Medieval Music (London and New York, Norton, [c.1978])

Jeremy Yudkin, Music in Medieval Europe (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1989)

Howard Mayer Brown, Renaissance Music (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1976)

Frederick Sternfeld (ed.), Music from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973)

Reinhard Strohm, The Rise of European Music (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993)

The New Oxford History of Music:

The Early Middle Ages to 1300, 2nd ed., Richard Crocker and David Hiley (eds.), 1990
Ars Nova and Renaissance, 1300-1540, Anselm Hughes and Gerald Abraham (eds.), 1960
The Age of Humanism, 1540-1630, Gerald Abraham (ed.), 1968

James McKinnon, Man and Music: Antiquity to the Middle Ages (Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1990)

Iain Fenlon, Man and Music: The Renaissance (Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1989)

Frank Harrison, Music in Medieval Britain (London, Routledge, 1958; 4th edition, Knuf, Buren, 1980)

Tim Carter, Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy (London, Batsford, 1992)

Composer studies

Gilbert Reaney, Machaut (London, Oxford University Press, 1971)

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Machaut’s Mass (Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1990)

Margaret Bent, Dunstaple (London, Oxford University Press, 1981)

David Fallows, Dufay (London, Dent, 1982)

Rob C. Wegman, Born for the Muses: the Life and Masses of Jacob Obrecht (Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1994)

Jerome Roche, Palestrina (London, Oxford University Press, 1971)

Denis Arnold, Giovanni Gabrieli and the Music of the Venetian High Renaissance (London, Oxford University Press, 1979)

Joseph Kerman, The Masses and Motets of William Byrd (London, Faber, 1981)

Eugene Casjen Cramer, Studies in the Music of Tomás Luis de Victoria (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2001)

Other studies

Willi Apel, History of Keyboard Music before 1700, Engl. ed., Bloomington, 1972

Jerome Roche, North Italian Church Music in the age of Monteverdi (Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1984)

Edgar H. Sparks, Cantus Firmus in Mass and Motet, 1420-1520 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1963)

Reinhard Strohm, Music in Late Medieval Bruges (Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1985)

Peter Williams, A New History of the Organ (London, Faber, 1980)

Craig Wright, Music and Ceremony at Notre Dame of Paris, 500-1500 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989)

Editions

Anthologies of Earlier Music

Thomas Marocco and Nick Sandon, Medieval Music

Richard Hoppin, Anthology of Medieval Music

Major Series

Magnus Liber Organi, L ‘Oiseau Lyre, Monaco, ongoing

Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century, L ‘Oiseau Lyre, Monaco, 20 volumes

Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, American Institute of Musicology, ongoing (includes much of the polyphony not in distinct ‘collected works ‘ of individual composers, as well as editions of sources such as the ‘Old Hall ‘ MS)

Collected Works of ‘Key’ Composers

Josquin, new edition in progress, old edition also in many libraries

Lassus, new edition in progress, old edition complete

Palestrina, one edition by Haberl, another by Casimiri, both quite old now

Victoria, old edition

Giovanni Gabrieli, ongoing edition

Byrd, The Byrd Edition has now replaced Fellowes ‘s earlier edition of the collected works

Other Editions

Some sheet music editions are available, but often of popular works rather than a representative selection.

Mapa Mundi publishes editions of sixteenth-century polyphony, with an emphasis on Iberian composers.