Saturday, January 13, 8300

Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377)

Guillaume de Machaut (Machault, c. 1300, c. Reims – April 1377) -- by far the most celebrated French Ars Nova composer-poet, whose enormous output, in a wide range of styles and forms, was greatly admired and imitated into the 1400's by later artists such as Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 - c. 1400)

-- was probably educated in Reims (of cathedral and champagne fame),

though his surname no doubt derives from the nearby town of Machault, 30 km to the east in the Ardennes.

He was employed as secretary to John I (Count of Luxemburg and King of Bohemia, 1296-1346)

from 1323 to 1346, becoming a priest during this time, and probably accompanying his employer on many trips some military.

The vast majority of Machaut's works were secular, with lyrics almost always dealing with courtly love.

Machaut mostly composed in five genres:

Ballade, such as Dame se vous m'estes
(Performed on David Munrow's Instruments of the Medieval and Renaissance on
Bagpipe - Conical Chanter and Drone)




Virelai, such as "Comment qu'a moy" (IMR Bowed Lyre),

and a second, performed on Lute,

as well as the instrumental work, Hoquetus David
(as performed on David Munrow's Music of the Gothic Era).

[Studio der Fruhen Muski]

[Sincronie Ensemble, Bali]

[Transcription by Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934)]

In the received genres, Machaut retained the basic formes fixees, but often utilized creative text setting and cadences.

Machaut was named as the canon of Verdun in 1330, Arras in 1332 and Reims in 1333 -- by 1340 living in the latter city, and having relinquished his other canonic posts at the request of Pope Benedict XII.
In 1346, King John was killed fighting at the Battle of Crécy (one of the more important battles of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453, fought primarily over claims by the English kings to the French throne),

and Machaut, by now famous and much in demand, entered the service of various other aristocrats and rulers, including King John's daughter Bonne, who died in 1349 of the Black Death, which began its brutal reign two years earlier, in 1347.

Machaut survived the plague, here pictured at right roughly the next year at c. age 50 (c. 1350), metaphorically receiving Nature and three of her children, from an illuminated Parisian manuscript.

This was about the time of his mirror-composition, Ma fin est mon commencement (My End Is My Beginning, c. 1350)

Another of Machaut's employers was Charles, Duke of Normandy, who would become King Charles V ("The Wise") (1338-1380) in 1364.

Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame (Mass of Our Lady) (c. 1364) was probably indeed composed for Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, although now not likely for Charles's coronation.

While Machaut's mass was the first setting by a single composer to be conceived as a unit, he was probably familiar with the first cyclic Tournai Mass, since his work shares many of the latter's features, including textless interludes.

As to whether Machaut's mass is cyclic is still debated, since aspects of cliche and style may be difficult to parse.

Messe de Nostre Dame is a four-voiced work, whose vocal lines (possibly doubled by instruments) are given (and correspond to)

Triplum (Soprano)
Motetus (Alto)
Tenor (Tenor)
Contra Tenor (Bass)

no doubt sung by boys and men.

It uses expanded D Melodic Dorian (D E F G A B C D [Do Re Me Fa Sol La Te Do), with alterations possibly including F# [Mi], G# [Fi] , and C#[Ti]) for the Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy),


[Marcel Pérès / Ensemble Organum]

[Kronos Quartet]

which has an isorhythmic (same rhythmic ostinato, or riff, repeated) talea (measured section or tailored cutting of music) in the Tenor (literally, "to hold") part that can be notated as in 3/2 as

Dotted-Whole Note / Half Note, Whole Note / Dotted Whole Note / Dotted Whole Rest

and a color (series of pitches) cantus firmus (fixed song, borrowed melody or motiv) of the Gregorian Chant Kyrie IV.

Machaut's Kyrie is in the traditional three lyrical parts, through-composed as ABC, all sections featuring hockets (fast rhythmic syncopated hiccoughs) and musica ficta (chromatic inflections used by convention but not necessarily written in the notation), with double leading-tone Landini cadences (upper voices Ti-Do and Fi-Sol, with a descending lower line of Re-Do).

Kyrie eleison (Lord Have Mercy) (A)

Christe eleison (Christ Have Mercy) (B)

Kyrie eleison (Lord Have Mercy) (C)

The Gloria (Glory)


Credo (Creed),

both through-composed, are also in expanded Dorian, whereas the expanded F Lydian is the tonality of the

Sanctus (Holy) and

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God),

this latter lyrically AAA' and structurally ABA' (ternary form) as.

Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis. (A)
Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis. (B)
Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis pacem. (A)

(Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: grant us peace.)

The inclusion of the Ite Missa Est, also in expanded F Lydian, is a departure from what will become the standard five-movement Mass form.

Machaut continued his later years in Rheims composing and supervising the creation of his complete-works manuscripts.

His poem Le Voir Dit (c. 1361-1365) could be autobiographical, as a late love affair with a 19-year-old girl, Péronne d'Armentières.

Upon his death 1377, Machaut became the subject of an elegy by François Andrieu, which survived in the Chantilly Codex, along with the heart-shaped rondeau Belle, Bonne, Sage, by Baude Cordier (b. c. 1370).

[8319 Flagellants / 8300 Guillaume de Machaut /8300 Kashmir Shenai]