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Reframing the Sacred/Secular Divide

  • Elizabeth Randell Upton
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

In the preceding chapters my primary focus has been on late medieval songs and their performance. In this final chapter, I will discuss the conceptual frame that divides sacred and secular music in musicological thought and practice. Finally, I will analyze a work of music categorized as sacred using the analytical tools developed through my investigation of secular songs. In this way, I demonstrate how attention to songs and their evidence concerning performance and the medieval musicking process can further understanding of all surviving music—both secular and sacred—and the people who wrote, performed, and heard them in the early fifteenth century.

Keywords

Musical Work Final Syllable Lower Voice Polyphonic Music Musical Element 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Andrew Kirkman, The Cultural Life of the Early Polyphonic Mass: Medieval Context to Modern Revival (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). See Part I: The Status of the Early Polyphonic Mass, Chapter 1: “Enlightenment and Beyond,” 1–25.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I am thinking especially of the work of the French “Annales school” historians associated with the journal Annales d’Histoire Economique et Sociale founded in 1929 by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre. For an overview of this approach to the study of medieval history, see Peter Burke, The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School, 1929–1989 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2nd edition, 1991). In his Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France (Oxford University Press, 1993), Christopher Page shows how musicologists’ uncritical acceptance of the analytical frameworks of historians and cultural historians has distorted our discussion of surviving musical works.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The shift in attitude can be said to derive from the work of sociologist Norbert Elias (1897–1990), particularly his study The Civilizing Process (first published in German in 1939; translated into English as The Civilizing Process, Vol. I: The History of Manners (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), and The Civilizing Process, Vol. II. State Formation and Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982). Elias’s work has been challenged: see Jeroen Duindam, Myths of Power: Norbert Elias and the Early Modern European Court (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1994 ). For courts in our period see especiallyGoogle Scholar
  4. Malcolm Vale, The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), which focuses specifically on courts of England, the Netherlands, and Northern France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Other recent studies of medieval court life especially useful to musicologists includeGoogle Scholar
  5. Ronald. G. Asch and Adolf M. Burke, eds., Princes, Patronage and the Nobility: The Court at the Beginning of the Modern Age c. 1450–1650 ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991 );Google Scholar
  6. and Gerard Nijsten, In the Shadow of Burgundy: The Court of Guelders in the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). Nijsten’s book is of particular interest for the way he productively and explicitly combines historical, anthropological, and art-historical methodological approaches to his subject.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Steven Gunn and Antheun Janse, “Introduction: New Histories of the Court,” The Court as a Stage: England and the Low Countries in the Later Middle Ages, edited by Gunn and Janse ( Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, 2006 ), 1.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    See Pierre de Tucoo-Chala, Gaston Febus, prince des Pyrenees, 1331–1391 (Pau: Editions Deucalion, 1991). A new biography of Gaston has been published in English:Google Scholar
  9. Richard Vernier, Lord of the Pyrenees: Gaston Febus, Count of Foix (1331–1391) ( Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2008 ).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    On gift-giving in late medieval court society, see Brigitte Buettner, “Past Presents: New Year’s Gifts at the Valois Courts, ca. 1400,” The Art Bulletin, vol. 83, no. 4 (December, 2001), 598–625. As an art historian, Buettner focuses on objects and images as gifts in her analysis of the performative context of gift-giving. The direct parallel may be presentation manuscripts of music, but I think it will be useful to consider songs in this way as well, to see the commissioning, composing, and performance of songs as elements in the exchange of power at courts. The performance of a song can itself be seen as an element of display in Buettner’s terms.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    It could be argued that study of the music of the troubadours and trouvères forms the only real exception to this generalization. See John Haines, Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    The fourth-century merging of the secular authority of empire with the religious authority of Christianity makes this focus inevitable. For the shifting definitions of the “Middle Ages,” see Toby Burrows, “Unmaking ‘The Middle Ages’,” Journal of Medieval History, vol. 7 (1981), 127–134. Burrows demonstrates how people in successive centuries redefined the “Middle Ages” to be the period between themselves and whatever they valued in the past, be it literature, religion, or scientific inquiry.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    On the nineteenth-century revival of Gregorian chant, see Katherine Bergeron, Decadent Enchantments ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998 ).Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Their footnote #1 reads: “Regarding the inconsistency of modern, Western notions of sacred and profane with concepts prevalent in other cultures, see J. R. Goody, ‘Religion and Ritual: The Definitional Problem,’ British Journal of Sociology, 12/2 (1961): 142–64, esp. pp. 150–51 and 155–7.”Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Their footnote #2 reads: “Anthony Cutler, ‘Sacred and Profane: The Locus of the Political in Middle Byzantine Art,’ in Antonio Iacobini and Enrico Zanini (eds), Arte profana e arte sacra a Bisanzio (Rome, 1995), pp. 315–38, esp. p. 317.”Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    Alicia Walker and Amanda Luyster, “Introduction: Mapping the Heavens and Treading the Earth: Negotiating Secular and Sacred in Medieval Art,” Negotiating Secular and Sacred in Medieval Art ( Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2009 ), 2.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    John Caldwell, “Relations between Liturgical and Vernacular Music in Medieval England,” Music in the Medieval English Liturgy: Plainsong & Mediæval Music Society Centennial Essays, edited by Susan Rankin and David Hiley ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993 ), 285–299.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992; second edition 2005).Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    Richard Crocker, An Introduction to Gregorian Chant ( New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002 ), 13.Google Scholar
  20. 28.
    Amadeus (1383–1451) was a great-grandson of King Jean II of France (1319–1364, king from 1350 ). Amadeus VIII’s mother was Bonne of Berry (d.1435), daughter of Jean Duke of Berry (1340–1416) and Joanna of Armagnac (1346–1387); Bonne herself was named for Jean’s mother Bonne of Luxembourg (1315–1349). Bonne is famous to musicologists as a patron of Guillaume de Machaut’s; see Anne Walters Robertson, Guillaume de Machaut and Reims. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 3. Amadeus married his mother’s first cousin, Mary (1386–1422),; Mary, a daughter of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1342–1404) and his wife Margaret III, Countess of Flanders (1350–1405), was through her father a granddaughter of King Jean II of France.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    See Alejandro Enrique Planchart, “Guillaume Du Fay’s Benefices and His Relationship to the Court of Burgundy,” Early Music History vol. 8 (1988), 124–125 and notes 31–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 32.
    On the authorship of Du Fay’s motet texts see Leofranc Holford-Strevens, “Du Fay the Poet? Problems in the Texts of His Motets,” Early Music History, vol. 16 (1997), 97–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 33.
    There is among his songs an unusually high number of May Day and New Year pieces, with texts that because of their calendric references make a conceit of their ephemeral nature, pieces that could be called ‘Hallmark-card songs.’ It is not that other composers wrote no such pieces, but that Du Fay’s surviving canon has a larger number of them than that of any other composer of the 15th century, with texts that draw attention to their function. Alejandro Enrique Planchart, “Du Fay and the Style of Molinet,” Early Music, vol. 37, no. 1 (2009), 61–72, 63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 36.
    The most extensive discussion of the events of March 25, 1436, can be found in Robert Nosow, Ritual Meanings in the Fifteenth-Century Motet ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012 ), 100–104.Google Scholar
  25. 37.
    Craig Wright, “Dufay’s Nuper rosarum flores, King Solomon’s Temple, and the Veneration of the Virgin,” Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 47, no. 3 (1994), 395–441.Google Scholar
  26. 41.
    The prominence of the pope’s name is the most important musical feature to Dale Kent, who writes: “The hymn addressed the Virgin and her people Florence, but only once did the polyphonic harmonies converge in a single line of melody and song, and that was in audible tribute to the name of Eugenius.” In the footnote to this sentence Kent writes: “I thank William F. Prizer for this point and for his advice on music in this period.” Dale Kent, Cosimo de’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000 ), 126; 441 n. 136.Google Scholar
  27. 42.
    See also Robert Nosow, Ritual Meanings in the Fifteenth-Century Motet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), Chapter 4: “The Motet as Ritual Embassy,” 84–104.Google Scholar
  28. 43.
    Craig Wright cites Sabine Zak’s thinking as to the opportunities for performing the motet during the mass of dedication: “Sabine Zak (‘Die Quellenwert,’ 29) suggests that Nuper rosarum flores may have been performed at any one of four moments during the ceremony: (1) at the Introit of the Mass, (2) at the dedication of the high altar, (3) after the Credo, or (4) during the elevation of the Host. The members of the papal chapel, presumably including their magister Guillaume Dufay, were positioned across from Pope Eugenius IV and on the Epistle (north) side of the chancel, according to the account of Vespasiano di Bisticci cited by Zak.” Wright, “Dufay’s Nuper rosarum flores,” 430–431. Sabine Zak, “Die Quellenwert von Giannozzo Manettis Oratio über die Domweihe von Florenz 1436 für die Musikgeschichte,” Die Musikforschung, vol. 40 (1987), 2–32.Google Scholar
  29. 44.
    See Frank d’Accone, The Civic Muse: Music and Musicians in Siena during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 46.
    J. S. Bach famously wrote the initials S. D. G. (for Soli Deo Sit Gloria) at the end of his manuscript scores of the Well-Tempered Clavier Book I and the Inventions. See John Butt, “Bach’s Metaphysics of Music,” The Cambridge Companion to Bach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 46–59, esp. 52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 49.
    The two musical sources of this motet are Trent, Museo provincial d’arte, Catello del Buonconsiglio, 1379 (Trent92), ff. 21v-23; and Modena, Biblioteca estense universitaria, a.X.1.11 (ModB), ff. 67v-68v (new 69v-70v). The Trent codices have been published in facsimile, and color photographs of the pages are available online at http://www1.trentinocultura.net/ (NB: on the website, the pages containing this motet appear labeled 23v–25r). For a plate of the first opening of the Mod B version, see Charles W. Warren, “Brunelleschi’s Dome and Dufay’s Motet,” The Musical Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 1 (January, 1973), 100. There is one further source for the words alone: Florence, Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana, MS Conv. Sop. 388, f. 204v.Google Scholar

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© Elizabeth Randell Upton 2013

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  • Elizabeth Randell Upton

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