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Johannes de Grocheio De musica

1. 3 debated words: subtilitas, vulgaris, litterati (c. 1300)

2. Much-cited statement regarding difficulty of motets:

"Cantus autem iste non debet coram vulgaribus propinari eo quod eius subtilitatem non advertunt nee in eius auditu delectantur sed coram litteratis et illis qui subtilitates artium sunt quaerentes"

3. Grocheio’s views are anomalous in talking about secular and instrumental music: bias against seeing things through sacred lens

4. Categorisation of motet under Musica composite vel regularis vel canonica quam appellant musicam mensuratam

 Regularis: regulated (precisely measured metre through musica mensurabili treatises)

 Canonica = for the clergy, as opposed to for the laity (Page’s reinterpretation)

 Litterati means clergy rather than learned/intellectual elite


Page on Grocheio

1. "This kind of music should not be set before a lay public [rather than "the vulgar,"] because they are not alert to its refinement [subtilitas] nor are they delighted by hearing it, but [it should be performed] before the clergy [again, not "the learned"] and those who look for the refinements of skills."

2. ‘those who look for refinements of skills’ corresponds to Jacobus’s laici sapientes

3. Traditionally taken to imply they were preserve of an elite of cognoscenti/intellectuals


Dillon on Grocheio

Lettered audience and well versed in subtleties


Jacobus Speculum Musicae

1. c. 1330 polemic against ars nova in favour of ars antiqua

2. ‘I saw in a great gathering of discerning people (laici sapientes), when motets were sung according to the modern manner, that it was asked which language the singers were using: Hebrew, Greek, or Latin’ (Page translation)


Page (1993) on Jacobus

Jacobus exaggerates erudition of audience to highlight the difficulty of understanding the new motet, as part of his critique


Pesce on Jacobus

Hinges on translation of laici sapientes as ‘discerning lay persons’ rather than ‘connoisseurs’


Zayaruznaya (2015) on Jacobus

Accepts Page’s ‘discerning’ translation but argues Jacobus’ statement ‘reveals that the ideal was in fact audience comprehension’


Page 1993

1. Discarding Images: subtilitas of motets are only palpable in performance, in ‘the timing of the texts’ and sonic effects rather than semantic meaning

2. Polytextual performance creates ‘Exhilarating impression of words leaving sense behind’

3. The ‘aesthetic of the motet is one which allows verbal communication to decline as metrical, musical, and structural ambitions mount’

4. [Present tense shows influence of teleology towards ars nova]

5. Predicated on assumption that polytextual performance minimizes intelligibility but maximises phonic contrast

6. Jacobus/Grocheio misinterpreted to form view of motet as demanding genre requiring elite specialized listener motet

7. Has led to misreadings of subtilitas

7.1 Hyper-intellectual/architectonic view of motet inherited from 1950s

7.2 ‘an enterprising critic, armed with a misconstrued version of Grocheio’s remarks about the motet and an audience of ‘litterati’, can construct a relationship between almost any motet poems’

8. Reductionist view of motet poetry: mostly light courtly love songs of similar tone/diction
o [Huot 1997 disproves this]

9. Evidence is mock analysis, finding relationships between random motets that are in fact ‘entirely fortuitous’ [weak]
o [Sheer number of motets receptive to intertextual reading shows this to be weak]

10. Page’s sound view based on broadened motet audience:

10.1 Texts of 13thC motets ‘more lyrical and recreative than intellectual’, in light courtly manner of trouveres and lacking scholastic arguments: can’t just be for elite

10.2 Revisionist translations of Grocheio/Jacobus
• Grocheio’s litterati incorporated included all clerics undertaking extra-devotional study: broad from canons to physicians

10.3 Robert of Courson’s Summa (1208-13) quote supports idea motet was performed at carnivals/fairs (57-64)
• Illiterate, carnivalesque low culture

11. Conclusion: to enjoy motets in 13thC was to indulge in purely sonic pleasures open to modern listener
o Opposes prioritisation of reading (scholarly temptation) in genre he sees as being primarily performed
o [Aim is discarding images: HIP trend]


Bent on Page (1993)

1. [Page critique]: rejects textual meaning due to expertise as modern performer

2. Elevates performance experience to level of scholarly evidence, therefore conceives of ‘a listening audience to whom music is communicated rather than also of a small participating group with whom it is shared’

3. Bent: Page’s broadened audience should include ‘inner circle’ of expert/prepared composers/performers

4. Fails to distinguish between instant and prepared comprehensibility
o Confines motet’s aesthetic content to what can be recovered by a listener in real time, from surface sound alone

5. Page: ‘The primary inspiration for these chapters has been provided by performance’

o Danger of drawing circular conclusions from particular styles of music that emphasise some rather than other features of the music:

 Tempo, male/female, blend/contrast, homogeneity/colour, popular/elite tone

 Page’s ensemble Gothic Voices: matched tones/careful balance/pervasive blend

6. Goes too far in focusing aural experience on sonority in an effort to counterbalance perceived overemphasis on learned responses

7. My critique

o In the face of the sheer quantity of motets that are receptive to the model of reading best exemplified in Huot’s Allegorical Play, it is hard to dispute that complex literary messages were a vital part of the experience.

o Page treats Grocheio like gospel


Page (2000)

1. Less extreme viewpoint. Examines Par un matinet / Hé sire / Hé bergier / EIUS, focusing on issues of performance

2. Context:
o 3 poems in pastourelle manner
o Survives as triple motet in 2 sources and double motet in 2 other sources

3. Synopsis:
o Quadruplum (courtly): lyric persona condemns shepherd’s coarseness/folly for boasting of sexual exploits in contrast to his own steadfastness: accepts his lady’s love without needing physical gratification
o Duplum (courtly): acknowledges shepherd represents actualization of lyric persona’s fantasies (bound by code of courtesy)
o Triplum (shepherd’s reply, added in triple motet): aristocratic claims of ‘refined’ courtly love constitute fool-hardy boasting: the force of his desire shows he does in fact serve love
o Tenor: HER

4. Huot’s reading:
o Conflict between two ideas of successful lover: adherence to courtly ideals vs sexual conquest
o Parallel themes to another pastourelle L’autre jour par un matinet / Hier matinet / ITE MISSA EST, which presents unsuccessful (courtly) and successful (shepherd) seduction

5. Comprehension:
o ‘I confess that I cannot follow it’ in performance
o ‘Tangle of sound’
o ‘Disintegrate into a rush of vowels and consonants’•

6. Performance ideal as sonic blend:

o Aesthetic ideal – idea of ‘voices that blend’ into an attractive ‘wall of sound’

 Based on translation of Jacobus’ ideal of voces concordantes as ‘voices that blend’

 ‘the sonority of a motet, and especially the quality of dissonance, is strongly affected by the sounds of the syllables being sung’

7. Argues the refinement of the motet lay as much in planned sonorities of vowel colour as in the ‘intertextual play’ within the poems which has received so much attention in recent years’

8. Sound as structural marker – Page argues consonances/dissonances ‘give structure to the music’

 B17
• Accented harmonic dissonance (2nd) as quadruplum cadences on g while tripulum simultaneously begins a phrase on f

• Harmonic dissonance mirrored by vowel dissonance – pure (‘nus’) and nasalised ‘Nun-ques’ u sung simultaneously

 Duplum’s Voi et juxtaposed with Triplum/Quadruplum’s Loi-al
• Vowel assonance means harmonics reinforce each other, giving ‘a special brilliance to the dissonances of the bar’

9. Cites Jacobus passage supporting notion that motets were sung individually at feasts, and suggests possibility of individual vocal production


Ardis Butterfield (April 1993)

1. Music aids sense

2. Prefigures Clark. No citation of Page 1993.

3. Matthew: similar project to Clark. Clark places herself historiographically as solving conundrum: vowel-matching, refrain

4. Page portrays himself as now but people had spoken about this before:

5. Polytextuality appears puzzling
• Carefully chosen texts, but simultaneous performance renders them unintelligible
• Practice of contrafacta undermines notion that text and music have specific semantic relation
• Seems to present language as pure sound: texts reduced to succession of syllabic vocalizations
o Supported by Grocheio in his definition of a motet as 'a music assembled from numerous elements, having numerous poetic texts or a multifarious structure of syllables, according together at every point'

6. Argues music aids sense (prefigures Clark)
• Notes ‘extraordinary structural interdependence’ of text and music in motets
• Questions the view that the words are secondary to the music, and proposes that not only does the music support the meaning of the words, but also that it contributes to the process of meaning.
• Far from obliterating the sense of the words, the music actually creates new semantic possibilities for the texts, by enabling them to make meaning through the timing of their melodic conjunction

7. Examines refrains
• Elaborate patterning in words and music both emerge from a recomposition of refrain material, creating a complex pattern of cross-references
• Refrains as identifiable by melodies as texts


Sylvia Huot views on textual sense

Allegorical play (1997):

Focus on literary intertextuality and interaction of sacred and profane traditions through ‘textual polyphony’

Barely references Page.

Views on textual sense

1. ‘The polyphonic structure of the motet requires us to read contextually’

2. Motet’s simultaneous performance of multiple texts affords unparalleled opportunity for intertextual play

3. Audience comprehension:

 Concedes impossibility of understanding all the words in double/triple motets during performance during single hearing
 Many motets were two-part
 Clerical audience familiar with liturgy: understand tenor/contrafacta
 Repeated performances
 Composers and performers themselves could follow text
 Pieces may have been performed for singers’ private enjoyment as well as entertainment of larger group

4. See below for separate card on Analysis of textual sonority/phonemes in Adam de le Halle’s Entre Adan et Hanikel / Chief bien seantz /APTATUR

5. Identical beginnings: ‘Viderunt / Viderunt / Viderunt / VIDERUNT (52)
o ‘These parallels are maintained in the musical setting, facilitating comprehension of the key words and phrases’
o Prefigures Bradley
• N.B. Huot is French literary scholar: this shapes her literary focus

6. Huot (1989) supports her study of the motet as a literary form by referring to the idea that it was composed ‘by and for an educated elite’ likely familiar with literary innovations of the time
o Analysis of Joliement (Clark’s example) makes no reference to music
o 1997 accounts for performance (if scarcely): influence of Page?


Clark (2007)

Music clarifies rather than obscures the meaning of the text in performance
Demonstrates this through sophisticated analysis of Joliement en douce desirée / Quant voi florete / Je sui joliete / APTATUR. Virtuosically demonstrates how sound can be an exegetical tool, helping the listener fathom literary meaning through melodic reference/positioning of syllables. This addresses Page’s dichotomy between hearing and reading motet.

Context: Joilement survives in 3 forms

1. 4-voice in Mo34 (fascicle 2 [compiled c. 1280]
2. 3-voice in Bamberg Codex (without quadruplum)
3. Version only including text of duplum


1. Monk(s) (triplum/quadruplum) and young nun (duplum) express romantic longings and restraint

2. Duplum: feels she should be learning of love, but was imprisoned in a convent at a young age
 No-one on whom to focus her pent-up yearning

3. Triplum: in love with woman but unable to pursue her due to monastic constraints

4. Quadruplum: sings of joyful consummation of love

5. Tenor text is ‘Aptatur’ (it is fitting): ironic underpinning (it isn’t fitting for nuns and monks to fall in love!)


(Huot’s 1989 interpretation)

1. ‘the motet as a whole elaborates a psychology of love, dramatizing the fulfilment, the prolongation and the repression of desire’]
o Situates in theme of blending sacred and secular
o Lack of any musical analysis

2. Argues poet-composer(s) devised ways of focusing the listeners’ attention on key passages

3. Fluctuates between synchronised cadences and independent phrase lengths

4. Deliberate organisation of phrase lengths to highlight textual meaning

5. ‘Par ma foi’ (for my faith) and ‘Et enamouré’ (love) coincide
o Overlapping of phrases bearing seemingly divergent views on love and faith: mutual conflict of love vs faith shown through verticalisation

6. Sense of complicity between monk and nun through refrain
o Nun’s opening melodic figure
 Is refrain from ‘Quant ce vient en mai’: secular; nun singing about desire to escape and eventually overheard by her rescuer
 Adopted by monk, musically linking separate voices and pointing to nun as object of monk’s desire
 Nun reprises melodic refrain with additional textual reference at end when lamenting fact she is a nun

7. Monk’s melody uses refrain from clausula (sacred): Je ne vivrai mai longuement (‘I shall not live long’)
o Intra-textual meaning: torment of love means I shall not live long
o Inter-textual meaning implies religion is cause of early death: my love’s conflict with my religious duties means I shall not live long
o Nun: es espoir d’avoir merci
 Sacred refrain takes on new prosaic meaning

8. Melodic repetition: perfections 38-41
o Perfections 38-9: ‘enamoure’ and ‘par me foi’ are juxtaposed
o Triplum’s descending melodic figure for ‘et enamoure’ immediately repeated for duplum’s ‘en religion’
 Highlights conflict between ‘secular desires’ and ‘sacred duties’
 Brings out moment in musical texture

9. Conclusion:
o Music plays key role in ‘medieval zest for intertextual games’ through citation and modification of refrains’
 Refrains carry out ‘intersonic’ duty which enhances intertextual meaning

10. [Evaluation: convincing]
o Text and music as joint entity is comprehensive than Huot (text) and Page (sound)


Dillon (2012)

Polytextual motets replace semantic meaning with sonic meaning through ‘supermusical’
Eschews analysis-based approaches in favour of sonic and contextual focus.

1. Offers cultural/sonic paralells for verbal cacophony of polytextuality

2. Focuses on sound of the motets rather than intricate intertextual meaning (Bradley)
2.1 To Dillon, polytextual motets accrue meaning through audible analogy
2.2 The texts themselves often directly/indirectly appeal to auditory

3. ‘Supermusical’
o Phenomenon where verbal sense breaks down in musical performance
o Involves ‘the play on a musical sound wrought through verbal excess’
 Page’s ‘rush of vowels and consonants’ itself carries meaning that sits alongside textual meanings which concern other scholars
o Supermusical ‘moves in to fill the communicative space vacated by semantic comprehension’ in polytextual ‘hubbub’
o Dillon views collapse of textual sense positively – polytextuality allows for more expressive sense than mere words
o Analyses sound through broader cultural context – e.g supermusical mimicking chaos of market
o Dillon views supermusical as creating separate meaning to text, not making text clearer
Motet’s failure to make sense becomes meaningful in its own right

4. Motet is the ‘hallmark genre of the supermusical’ since the ‘sound of words [is] lost in the mêlée of music’


Example: On parole / A Paris / FRESE NOUVELE (Mo)

1. Tenor imitates call of street vendor selling fresh strawberries
 Provocative: vernacular rather than liturgical

2. Places within context of primary sources which invoke city sounds and concept of wordlessness to communicate ‘magnificence’ of city
 City’s abundance/excess reflected economic prosperity

3. Radical incorporation of street-cries into tenor creates hubbub with other two voices that depicts the scene itself
 Lack of semantic clarity affords it meaning through audible analogy with familiar non-musical sounds

4. Majority of examples from Mo

5. Listeners are ‘mediators of a song’s sense’ who ‘did not experience music in a hermeneutic vacuum, but rather in constant and productive dialogue with other forms of sonic experience’

6. [Jonny critique: fails to address Page’s differentiation between hearing and reading the motet, displacing the musicological focus to context]


Bradley (2014)

1. Suggests Dillon’s readings, based on the notion that polytextuality obfuscates semantic meaning, must be complemented by recognition of the ways in which polytextuality aids semantic comprehension. Similar views to Clark but with different examples.

2. Dillon tacitly assumes 13thC norm to be polytextuality, which is problematic
o Only found in motets, and not all motets contain polytextuality
 Just over half of motets catalogued by Friedrich Gennrich are polytextual; a quarter of Montpellier codex works are 2-voice motets

3. Dillon essentialises polytextuality as incomprehensible – Bradley demonstrates how some motets (e.g Quant voi revenir/ Virgo virginum) are clearly structured for ease of textual perception
o Repetitive
o Predictable harmonic palate
o Well-defined cadence points
o Regular alternation of 2 cadence points

4. Bradley disagrees that supermusical creates meaning separate to text
o Dillon’s ‘opposition of sense [analysis/text] and sound [listening/context] in a polytextual motet [is] ultimately an unhelpful, or at least an unnecessary, one’
o Dillon’s rejection of ‘material traces’ [manuscript contents] (Dillon) leaves out the only concrete extant evidence


Bradley example: Riens ne puet / Riens ne puet (Mo)

1. (case study of self-conscious polytextual experiments

2. Motet creator exploits textual repetition between voices
 Aids in comprehension of musical structure and audibility of words
• Unison allows words to emerge clearly
• Imitation gives double hearing
 Additional sonic effect: convergence, divergence, imitation

3. Upper-voice texts
 United by theme of complaints about unrequited love
 Largely independent but share several lines

4. Work framed by textual unison

5. Textual imitation on 3 occasions, always matched by exact musical imitation

6. Repetition of melodies between texts aids comprehension of a specific passage

7. Conclusions:
o Dillon’s opposition of analytic/textual and sound/listening/creative community is unhelpful
o Suggests reconciling supermusical with semantic agenda
o Dillon’s approach could be usefully combined with detailed exploration of interaction between music and text and how motet creators exploit polytextuality to make these interactions audible


Zayaruznaya (2015)

1. example of productive reconciliation of ‘sound’ and ‘sense’

2. ‘As a reader, a listener, and an analyst, then, I seek to position myself somewhere between Page’s blithe audience member carried away by the sound of words and the sophisticated [Boethian] musicus evoked by Bent’
o Boethius’s musicus forms ‘judgements according to speculation or reason’
o Fruitfully reveals patterns within/among works at hand

3. ‘the creation of a dense sonic surface is clearly not the only way in which motets signify’
o Cites Grocheio and Jacobus
o Intelligibility relies on visual information (cocktail party effect)

4. Modern recordings are acousmatic (sound heard without visible originating source), denying this: different to experience of medieval listeners

5. ‘While some ars nova audience members may have been interested primarily in the pleasing sound of motets, others surely thought about their texts and the musical settings that fixed the delivery of those texts during performance’
o Scholars have demonstrated that multiple texts can relate to each other, to the chant tenor and to the musical structure of the whole

6. Texts of sacred tenors are assumed meaningful even when vocalized


Bent (2003)

1. suggests listeners may have taken time to familiarise themselves with texts and musical structures before/after performances
o Boetheian musicus

2. Scholars have demonstrated ars nova motets reflect their texts through:
o Mensural/isorhythmic design
o Texture
o Diction
o Symbolic use of number
o Hockets (rapidly exchanged notes/rests in upper voices)
 Clark: most audible moment in motets

3. Intertextuality
o Interrelationship between motets
o Textual/liturgical context of motet tenors

4. Reconciliation of approaches exemplified by analysis of Vitry’s Cum statua / Hugo
o Audible features:
 Hockets/declamation/range
 Placement of word: ‘Hugo’ sounds for 25 seconds in middle voice
• Motet’s text all about Hugo

5. analysis that is too attentive to text– music relations and symbolism can circle around through “too much mean- ing” back to “meaninglessness.” By overwhelming us with its significance, the ars nova motet in this guise may encourage us to shift focus back to deep structure and/or surface sound.



‘striving to follow both texts simultaneously – like following the repetitions of rhythms and phrase-patterns – was part of the intellectual challenge offered by the motet’

o ‘the motet invited a special kind of listening’ (Page)

o Page: intellectual in the ‘exhilaration of knowing that a piece contains more than one can ever hope to hear’


Hans Nathan 1942:

Argued sonority of words chosen to be assonant with tenor, especially to demarcate beginning and end


Pesce 1986

Words often obsured by polyphonic rendition, but in certain instances careful word placement and distinctive musical gestures have a rhetorical impact allowing for ‘individual word projection’


Sylvia Hunt: Analysis of textual sonority/phonemes in Adam de le Halle’s Entre Adan et Hanikel / Chief bien seantz /APTATUR

 Triplum: lively description of 4 youths, including Adan [Adam] singing and dancing
 Motetus: detailed portrait of the lady

Analysis: Adan’s ‘presence as poetic
subject, stamped into the phonetic texture of the piece, serves to unify the voices’

1. Motetus entirely constructed on rhyme -ans, culminating in Adans
• Lady’s portrait rhymes with her lover’s name
o Reflects how he draws his identity as trouvère (lover/singer/poet) from her, and in turn recreates her as object of his love and central image of his songs

2. Triplum phonically intensifies repeated sound of Adan’s name
• Prevalence of a sounds (an, ans, ant) book-end the piece
o Musical setting emphasises this, coinciding Hancart and esbanoi with -ans in motetus
• Middle dominated by contrasting sounds of Gautelot, who takes centre stage as drunken reveller
• Suggests movements of dance, as one performer encircles another

3. Tenor: commentary on piece
 Phonetic correspondence: vowels of Aptatur
 ‘It is fitting’: all parts harmonize, nothing is out of place
• Comments on assonance
• Conjoins private self/public persona, performance/audience, motetus/triplum

4. Adan’s name is second word of triplum and final world of motetus

5. Dillon’s interpretation: sometimes staggered and sometimes simultaneous sound of ‘-ans’ offers ‘soundtrack of drunken revelry’



1. In all ages, rewarding approaches to art require inclination and effort (Strohm)
o Discounts Page

2. No one critical approach can account for multifarious functions of any single motet nor the diversity of the whole repertoire
o Binaries between reading/hearing and meaning/sonority are false, serving more to demarcate disciplinary boundaries than to aid in our understanding of the motet

3. Scholars have shown that motets were heard and read, so able to occupy different roles that emphasised their characteristics in different ways

4. Productive dialogue between methodologies is necessary to study a genre characterised by dialogue between disparate parts