The period from 1300 to 1450 saw the highly complex polyphony of the late Middle Ages give way to the new, simpler styles of the early Renaissance. In this project, we explore the polyphonic music of the 14th and early 15th century, focusing especially on the sacred genres of mass and motet but also covering secular songs. We will examine the social, liturgical and historical contexts in which that music was used. We begin with Machaut and Vitry, move onto the ars subtilior, then look at the music of the English composers Dunstable and Power and finally examine some works by Dufay. The project involves musical analysis, examination of relevant historical documents, singing some of the music being studied, the transcription of mensural notation, participation in discussions and presentations, and some preparation for class seminars. No prior knowledge is assumed, but don’t sign up for this project unless you are prepared to sing!
From clausula to isorhythmic motet: Vitry’s Vos qui admirimini. Secular song: the formes fixes. Mass ordinaries of the 14th century. Machaut’s Mass. The ars subtilior. The Old Hall manuscript. Masses and motets by Power and Dunstable. The ‘Contenance Angloise’. Early cantus firmus masses. Guillaume Dufay: Ecclesie militantes; Missa Se la face est pale. Black and white mensural notation (tempus perfectum, prolatio major; tempus imperfectum, prolatio major and minor).
Assessment is by four weekly exercises (10% of the project mark each, therefore 40% in total) and by a larger submission (60%) which may be a transcription, a performance, or an essay.
There will be a project website nearer the time with direct links to recordings, etc.
By the end of the taught part of the project all students should:
First years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcomes A1-A6, A8, A9, A12
Second years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcomes B1-B6, B8, B9, B12
Third years: On completion of the module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate Learning Outcomes C1-C6, C8, C9, C12