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  • Ars musica septentrionalis: De l’interprétation du patrimoine musical à l’historiographie
  • Karen Desmond
Ars musica septentrionalis: De l’interprétation du patrimoine musical à l’historiographie. Edited by Barbara Haggh and Frédéric Billiet. (Musiques, écritures. Série études.) Paris: Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne, 2011. [262 p. ISBN 9782840506003. €22.] Music examples, illustrations, facsimiles, bibliography, index.

This collection of essays was prompted by the bicentennial birth anniversary of Charles-Edmond-Henri de Coussemaker (1805–76). The volume celebrates the music of northern France (“ars musica septentrionalis”) from ninth-century chant to the polyphony of the fifteenth century, and had its first incarnation as a conference held in Cambrai and Douai in 2005, directed by Barbara Haggh and Frédéric Billiet. The conference was held concurrently with an exhibition of manuscripts held in Douai, Cambrai, and Bailleul (the birthplace of Coussemaker). The exhibition inspired the publication of a separate book that included a catalog and discussion of Coussemaker’s library (Bruno Bouckaert, Mémoires du chant. Le livre de musique d’Isidore de Séville à Edmond de Coussemaker [Neerpelt: Alamire; Lille: Ad fugam, 2007]); the byproduct of the scholarly conference is the book of essays under review here. An overarching theme of these essays is a concentration, for the most part, on primary source research, including both manuscript studies and archival research. [End Page 811] Questions of repertory transmission and interpretation, liturgical issues, and historiography are broached via the examination of certain northern French manuscripts, some of the most beautiful examples of which were owned by Coussemaker, as noted by Billiet in his introduction to the volume (p. 8). Although an amateur musicologist (by profession he was a lawyer and eventually a judge) Coussemaker produced a prodigious amount of influential scholarship on the Middle Ages, and is especially known for his four-volume edition of medieval music theory (Edmond de Coussemaker, Scriptorum de musica medii aevi. Novam seriem a Gerbertina alteram collegit nuncque primum edidit E. de Coussemaker, 4 vols. [Paris: Durand, 1864–76; facsimile edition, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1963]). The collection of essays under review is securely situated within a rigorous primary source studies approach (or “positivistic” approach, as it is now fashionably derided), although some reflection on Coussemaker’s role in the creation of the “canon” of medieval music history is also apparent, most notably in the essays of Ronald Woodley and Nils Holger Petersen. Their contributions are indicative of the self-reflective trend in medieval musicology that has begun to examine the cultural agenda set forth by such canon-makers as Friedrich Ludwig (Anna Maria Busse Berger, Medieval Music and the Art of Memory [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005]; Annette Kreutziger-Herr, Ein Traum vom Mittelalter: Die Wiederentdeckung der mittelalterlicher Musik in der Neuzeit [Cologne: Böhlau, 2003]) (discussed by Petersen, pp. 60–61).

The book has four sections that address the following topics: the musical inheritance of northern France (“Le patrimoine musical du Nord de la France”); the legacy of Coussemaker (“L’héritage musical d’Edmond de Coussemaker”); polyphony and composers of polyphony (“Polyphonies et polyphonistes”); and an interdisciplinary approach to the chansonniers of the thirteenth century (“Le chansonnier: approche interdisciplinaire”).

The first essay, co-authored by Haggh and Michel Huglo, analyzes the lists of music books inventoried in the libraries of northern France, by both monks and canons, from the ninth century up to the time of Guillaume Du Fay. The authors review the books listed in the library catalogues of the grand abbeys of the North, such as Saint-Amand, Corbie and Anchin (mostly books on musica speculativa); those of the cathedrals and large collegiate churches such as Cambrai that flourished later on (where liturgical books and books on musica pratica dominate); and they end with a discussion of the libraries of some important individuals: of particular interest, of course, is the booklist belonging to Du Fay. The next essay, authored by Huglo, is on the processionals of the diocese of Cambrai. The fifteen processionals of Cambrai outnumber those preserved in any diocese (with the exception of those at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, p. 34). The processionals, with the richness of their rubrics, provide the...


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