Notes 60.1 (2003) 148-151
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Théorie et analyse musicales 1450-1650, Actes du colloque international, Louvain-la-Neuve, 23-25 septembre 1999. Music Theory and Analysis 1450-1650, Proceedings of the International Conference, Louvain-la-Neuve, 23-25 September 1999. Edited by Anne-Emmanuelle Ceulemans and Bonnie J. Blackburn. (Publications d'histoire de l'art et d'archéologie [End Page 148] de l'UCL, Série générale, C. Musicologica Neolovaniensia, Studia 9.) Louvain-la-Neuve: Département d'histoire de l'art et d'archéologie, Collège Érasme, 2001. [vii, 440 p. ISBN 2-930314-01-X.]
Although early music theory and analysis is alive and well, relatively few collections of essays devoted to the disciplines have appeared in the last dozen years. Recently joining an essential volume of wide-ranging analytical articles, Models of Musical Analysis: Music Before 1600, edited by Mark Everist (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), are the more pitch-focused essays found in Modality in the Music of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries,edited by Ursula Gunther, Ludwig Finscher, and Jeffrey Dean (Neuhausen-Stuttgart: American Institute of Musicology; Hänssler Verlag, 1996) and those in Tonal Structures in Early Music, edited by Cristle Collins Judd (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), the latter marking the auspicious inauguration of the Garland/ Routledge series Criticism and Analysis of Early Music. A welcome addition to these publications, Music Theory and Analysis 1450-1650 differs from previous collections in offering articles less topically focused, addressing instead selected critical issues that nonetheless reflect how the major scholarly concerns of the last quarter of a century continue to captivate the field.
Like both Modality and Tonal Structures, Music Theory and Analysis 1450-1650 emerges as the result of a scholarly conference. The volume brings together thirteen articles in French and English, six of which are largely devoted to music theory and seven to analyses of early music. The sequence of essays is broadly organized by the date of the compositions or theoretical statements being discussed, the six essays addressing issues of theory dividing into two groups of three by this chronological scheme. The longest article by far, also the most challenging and outwardly polemical, is from the opening group of essays on theory, Margaret Bent's "On False Concords in Late Fifteenth-Century Music: Yet Another Look at Tinctoris." Bent aims to draw attention to neglected passages on false concords from book 2 of Tinctoris's Liber de arte contrapuncti (1477) in order "to rescue him both from contradiction and the use of his treatise for inappropriate short-circuiting between different categories" (p. 118). In pointing to fine distinctions between "different sizes of false concords and the different contexts in which they are or are not acceptable, are tolerated with reluctance or are forbidden" (p. 118), Bent emphasizes that scholars need to be prepared to distinguish between compositional and performative faults. The argument is, in part, conversant with and responsive to previous writings of Peter Urquhart and Karol Berger, further developing familiar issues.
In contrast, polemics over frequently debated ideas concerning early music theory (the definition and concept of counterpoint and res facta or the conception of the compositional process, to give two examples) are mostly hidden in Bonnie J. Blackburn's opening contribution on "The Dispute about Harmony c. 1500 and the Creation of a New Style." Blackburn revisits a topic that occupied her mainly from a theoretical point of view fifteen years ago (p. 1) but now gives attention to the music itself, only footnoting the bulk of the arguments from her important 1987 salvo against the view of Renaissance music as "purely intervallic counterpoint founded on a superius-tenor framework" ("On Compositional Process in the Fifteenth Century," Journal of the American Musicological Society 40 : 283). In the present "Dispute about Harmony," Blackburn only briefly reviews theoretical evidence suggesting that the conceptofharmony did exist, even if the terminology for chords did not. She then examines "compositions that appear to be based exclusively on chords" (p. 13), looking at fermata...