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Modal and Motivic Coherence in the Music of the Fleury Play Book Clyde W. Brockett The Music of the Medieval Church Dramas by the late William L. Smoldon, published in 1980 six years after the author’s death, brought to light scores of melodies from liturgical dramas, including many from the so-called Fleury Play Book, Orléans, Bibliothèque de la Ville, MS. 201.1 Although Smoldon in this publication has transcribed certain melodies, his purpose was not to become too involved with melodic analysis; hence our understanding of this repertory’s musical excellence still requires additional scholarly attention. However, when we direct our energy toward what Walther Lipphardt called “modal unity”2 we can, through modal and motivic analysis, expose these slimly explored facets of the plays’ music, and we can also provide bases for comparing musical effects of other manu­ scripts. Indeed, Lipphardt’s understanding of tonale Einheit is reasonable, since entire series of antiphons maintaining a single mode are to be found in chant repertories.3 John Stevens per­ tinently remarks that in the Fleury Visitatio the mode is retained up to scene changes, while the Très Filiae maintains a single melody throughout.4 How many other modal and motivic con­ tinua are to be found in the remaining St. Nicholas and Temporale tetralogies and biblical miracles associated with St. Paul and Lazarus in the Fleury Play Book? To launch this investigation, some preliminaries relative to the technical and terminological frameworks of medieval music may prove useful. For the transcriptions in the examples which I present, I adopt the system of notation used by F. A. Gevaert in his study of modal melodies in the tenth-century chant catalog, CLYDE BROCKETT teaches music history at Christopher Newport College, where he has directed productions of his editions of Herod and the Interfectio puerorum from the Fleury Playbook. 345 346 Comparative Drama or tonary, of Regino of Priim.5 This system names pitches, as they were known and named in tenth- and eleventh-century theoretical treatises, by the same letters of the alphabet still ap­ plied today, as seen in Diagram 1. The starting pitch lies an eleventh below middle C. DIAGRAM 1 G A B C D E F G A j , (B-flat) l¡ (B-natural) c d e f g a - - ci Wherever there occur two or more notes (neumes) per syllable instead of one, I overscore the affected pitches. If a pitch is repeated, I place a long dash after that pitch, and if a motive is repeated, I indicate the repeat with the symbol '/ .. Pitches within parentheses are variants found in the same passage. Superscript pitches within parentheses are variants found in a parallel passage within the same or a different play. Only vari­ ants tangent to the discussion are registered. By modal coherence I mean the application of mode, which I shall shortly explain, either as a music continuum or as a link between one and an­ other melody. By motivic coherence I refer likewise to the application of a theme or melody, or melodic fragment, for continuity or linkage. Mode, or modality, melodic essence of Gregorian chant, is a twofold proposition. One of its strains is the psalm-tone system, a system of eight short formulas consisting of a rising intonation, a steady reciting or tenor tone, and a falling termin­ ation or cadence. Although the middle element, the tenor tone, suggests minimal melodic interest, the initial and terminal ele­ ments subsist on some variation of pitch. Actually, none of this systematized singing, called psalmody, can be termed actively “melodic.” According to the tenth-century treatise Commemoratio brevis, a standard “modulatio psalmi” may be applied to each of the eight established modes.6 Diagram 2 furnishes the psalmody with the prescribed verse endings per mode from this Commemoratio. Alternative pitches found in the compilation of Catholic church chants, the Liber Usualis (LU), are entered parenthetically. The only major discrepancy occurs in the fourth mode’s tenor, only before and not after the mediant, where the Commemoratio, probably due to the notator’s error, gives G instead of a. The error is not reflected in the diagram. In each Clyde W...


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