- Music and Medieval Manuscripts: Paleography and Performance
In a twelfth-century colophon, the pen warns the scribe: "Hold me firmly and put me down gently. If you have not written well, you will have a bad day."(from Arras, Médiathèque 924, fol. 1, as translated by Richard Gameson, The Scribe Speaks? Colophons in Early English Manuscripts, H. M. Chadwick Memorial Lectures, 12 [Cambridge: Department of Anglo Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 2001], 2.) In this collection of essays, edited by a musicologist with profound interests in paleography (John Haines) and a codicologist who is a specialist in the performance of early music (Randall Rosenfeld), a diverse group has "written well," offering a "good day" to scholars and performers alike. The book is dedicated to the distinguished musicologist Andrew Hughes, whose studies in a broad array of repertories have always been well grounded in the sources themselves; it is prefaced by a brief essay introducing his work as teacher as well as scholar. Much of the collection centers on two general topics: the ways in which close source studies yield new understandings of performance; and the re-contextualization of familiar materials in order to challenge or expand upon commonly held ideas. A third group of papers relates to broader studies recently finished or currently in progress, allowing for a detailed look at particular examples.
As to close analysis and performance practice, John Haines' fascinating study of erasure patterns in several major thirteenth-century sources allows him to predict how familiar the scribe was with the music being copied and also the nature of the sources from which the scribe worked, including notational style and arrangement of parts. Haines demonstrates that the study of scribes' working habits across a range of sources testifies to their dependence upon written sources, cautioning that "the stereotype of the extemporizing scribe should not be exaggerated" (p. 88). Randall Rosenfeld too takes us into the world of the medieval scribe, demonstrating how difficult it is to say precisely how they held their pens, and warning against the misinterpretation of visual depictions of scribes at work. Jan Ziolkowski turns to the neuming of women's laments in classical texts and, pointing to "the spirit of experimentation that a woman's lament elicited" (p. 140), uses them as evidence for the culture of the schools and music's role within it, as well as the sometimes thin line between secular and sacred studies. Ziolkowski's engaging presentation makes the reader want to hear these pieces and calls for further exploration. In another paper that combines the study of texts and music, George Dimitri Sawa explores the rhythmic modes in Baghdadi rhythmic theories and practices in twelfth-century Andalusia, showing how the "study of rhythm eventually became one of the most sophisticated arts in Arabic theory" (p. 181). His work leaves the reader wondering if or how these ideas made their ways to the West in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Brian Power opens a musicological can of worms in his study of polyphonic introits in Trent 93 and demonstrates that performers who wish to hear these pieces will need to be creative, interpreting the meaning of missing sections, working around what are clearly mistakes, and deciding whether or not to improvise apparently missing parts.
Close studies abound too in the papers of scholars whose works serve to challenge commonly held ideas. Albert Derolez, a specialist in Gothic and late medieval book hands, here takes on the role of Petrarch in the development of humanistic script and judges that he was not instrumental after all. Timothy McGee looks for the ways in which "techniques of rhetoric" serve as "basic formative principles" for the composition of late medieval music (p. 207). He finds that a supposed "common ground" between music and rhetoric is hard to discern in repertories before the seventeenth century. Margaret Bent rethinks the provocative stanzas found in Martin Le Franc's poem Le Champion des Dames...