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Review Article A NEW INTRODUCTION TO THE MUSIC AND POETRY OF THE CANTIGAS DE SANTA MARIA1 Israel J. Katz Teaneck, New Jersey For almost six decades Higinió Anglés's musical transcription of the entire corpus of the thirteenth-century Cantigas de Santa Maria [CSM], 413 songs in total, has served as the performance guide (excluding tempo designations) for every conceivable combination ofsingers and instrumentalists, both amateur and professional. How these songs were actually composed and notated, and how their texts were set to the music and rendered has enticed numerous scholars to venture into this archeo-musicological arena. Yet one aspect that has continued to perplex performers is the rhythmic unevenness caused by the rhythmic irregularities (Cunningham's phrases, vii) in Anglés's transcriptions which beg an even closer scrutiny of the notational practices that were utilized in three of the four extant Cantigas codices (described on 6-7). One such performer-musicologist, Martin G. Cunningham, known to this reviewer for his contribution to the entry "Spain: Folk Music" in the 1980 edition of The New Grove Dictionary ofMusic, presents, in this study, a more elaborate and convincing argument -than the singular instances of previous scholars- for the revision ofAnglés's transcriptions . In Cunningham's words: 1 Martin G. Cunningham. Alfonso X El Sabio: Cantigas de Loor. Dublin: U College Press / Duf'our Editions, 2000. [Musical examples, bibliography.] viii + 280 pp. ISBN 1-900621-32-2 La corónica 30.1 (Fall, 2001): 267-78 268IsraelJ. KatzLa corónica 30.1, 2001 To reach an understanding ofAlfonsine notation, we must place it at some intermediate point on the line of development, seeing it neither in simply modal terms, nor in fully mensural terms (in any Franconian sense). The Cantigas exist somewhere between [these] two certainties (25). Seeing that Anglés's transcriptions "fall very often into recognisable patterns, and that a different way of looking at the notation might alleviate the rhythmic unevenness in a systematic way," Cunningham decided "to concentrate on a sub-corpus of the Cantigas^ the praise songs [directed to the Virgin Mary] or Cantigas de loor, and to edit them in a way which allows the very real problems of rhythmic interpretation to be appreciated" ( vii). Coherent only from a textual standpoint by their subject matter, they represent "in every other respect a most heterogeneous group, presenting every conceivable variety ofform and rhythm, and probably most of the possible difficulties of notation too"(loc cit.). Thus Cunningham offers his revision ofAnglés's Cantigas de loor—comprising the 42 decadal songs (nos. 1 through 400), including the Prólogo, plus the Pitiçon (no. 402, in which Alfonso begs forgiveness for his sins), with the hope that it will serve "to fuel the debate on the question of rhythmic interpretation." In his first chapter entitled "Alfonso and the Cantigas" (1-18), Cunningham provides a succinct historical overview ofAlfonso the X's reign (1252-1284) and of the learned king's political ambitions and struggles, together with his role as the patron of important historical, literary, scientific, and recreational works which were written in the Castilian vernacular. For poetry, however, Alfonso turned to Galician, whose lyrics coincided "with the later phases of troubadour composition [in their blend of] Provençal influence and local Galician elements" ( 4) and which enjoyed high esteem in the royal household. In the CSM, "Alfonso extended the generic diversity ofverse in Galician by adding a new strand, a genre of religious lyric ofwhich there was no previous tradition" (5). Oddly enough, the CSM comprises the largest song repertoire in a European vernacular (Galician), which has survived with a musical notation dating prior to 1300. While the extent ofAlfonso's personal intervention in this monumental collection has been ventured by numerous scholars, it appears more likely that his role was organizational, and more textually than musically oriented, as seen particularly in the first-person narrative texts which exhibit a most personal tone. As to its format and presentation of the miracles and songs of praise, as well as the distribution of A New Introduction to the Cantigas de Santa Maria269 workload among the scribes, versifiers, artists, and musicians who were enlisted...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 267-278
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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