Sunday, January 7, 8283

Gervaise du Bus (b. c. 1283) - Roman de Fauvel

Gervais du Bus (b. c. 1283) - Roman de Fauvel (c. 1313)

Fauvel Nous a Fait Present

(Florilegium Musicum - Music at the Time of the Crusades)

Motet: Quant ie le voi - Bon vin doit - cis chans veult boir (Drinking Song) (1316)

(Florilegium Musicum - Music at the Time of the Crusades)

(David Munrow - Instruments of the Medieval and Renaissance, including tromba marina)


A tromba marina, or marine trumpet (Fr. trompette marine; Ger. Marientrompete, Trompetengeige, Nonnengeige or Trumscheit, Pol. tubmaryna) is a triangular bowed string instrument used in Medieval and Renaissance Europe that was highly popular in the 13th and 14th centuries and survived into the 18th century. The tromba marina consists of a body and neck in the shape of a truncated cone resting on a triangular base. It is usually four to seven feet long, and is a monochord (although some versions have sympathetically-vibrating strings). It is played without stopping the string, but playing natural harmonics by lightly touching the string with the thumb at nodal points. Its name comes from its trumpetlike sound due to the unusual construction of the bridge, and the resemblance of its contour to the marine speaking-trumpet of the Middle Ages.

The body of the trumpet marine is generally either three slats of wood joined in an elongated pyramid shape with a pegbox at the apex; or a body of three to six ribs, a frontal soundboard, and a distinguishable neck. In most cases the bottom end of the instrument is open; some historical models use sound-holes. The single string, generally the D string of a cello, most often is tuned to the C three octaves below middle C. It attaches at the soundboard and passes over one foot of the bridge, leaving the other foot to vibrate freely on a plate of ivory or glass set into the soundboard, creating a brassy buzz. From its curiously irregular shape, the bridge was also known as the shoe; it was thick and high at the one side on which rested the string, and low and narrow at the other which was left loose so that it vibrated against the belly with every movement of the bow. A string called a guidon is tied around the playing string below the bridge and runs up to the pegbox where it is wrapped around a peg. The guidon adjusts the balance of the bridge by pulling the playing string.

The measurements of the tromba marina varied considerably, as did also the shape of the body and the number of strings. An octave string, half the length of the melody string, and even two more, respectively the twelfth and the double octave, not resting on the bridge but acting as sympathetic strings, were sometimes added to improve the timbre by strengthening the pure harmonic tones without increasing the blare due to the action of the bridge.

In the days of Michael Praetorius (1618), the length of the Trummscheit was 7' 3" and the three sides at the base measured 7", tapering to 2" at the neck. There was at first only one string, generally a D cello string. The heavy bow, similar to that of the cello, is used between the highest positions of the left hand at the nodal points and the nut of the head. In a Trummscheit in the collection of the Kgl. Hochschule, at Charlottenburg (No. 772 in catalogue) the frets are lettered A, D, F, A, D, F, G, A, B, C, D.

In Germany, at the time when the trumpet was extensively used in the churches, nuns often substituted the tromba marina because women were not allowed to play trumpets -- whence the name Nonnengeige (literally, nuns' violin). In France, the Grande Ecurie du Roi comprised five trumpets-marine and cromornes among the band in 1662, when the charge was mentioned for the first time in the accounts; and in 1666 the number was increased to six. The instrument fell into disuse during the first half of the 18th century, and was only to be seen in the hands of itinerant and street musicians.


La Mesnie Fauveline

(Daivd Munrow - Music of the Gothic Era)

The Roman de Fauvel -- translated as The Story of the Fawn-Colored Beast, or better, The Ass's Tail -- is a 14th-century French poem accredited to French royal clerk Gervais du Bus, though probably best known for its musical arrangement by Philippe de Vitry in the Ars Nova style. First published in Paris in 1314, the piece serves as an allegorical criticism of church and state, using the metaphor of a donkey becoming the ruler of his master's house upon a kind whim from Dame Fortune. The poem, though banned at the time for being seditious and heretical, was wildly successful and still copied into the 15th century. Twelve manuscripts have survived, many of which are in remarkably good condition, because they were stowed away securely due to their illegality.

Following in the literary tradition of the 1200's, the Roman de Fauvel is often compared with the Roman de la Rose.

The Roman de Fauvel is laden with allegories and political satire. The donkey's name, which when broken down forms fau-vel, or "veiled lie", also forms an acrostic in which each letter stands for one of the seven deadly sins: Flaterie (Flattery), Avarice (Greed), Vilanie (Guile), Variété (Inconstancy), Envie (Envy), and Lacheté (Cowardice).

Fauvel, an ambitious but foolish donkey, decides that he is unsatisfied with his residence in the stable and moves into the largest room of his master's house. Upon moving there, he changes it to suit his needs and has a custom hayrack built. Dame Fortune, the goddess of Fate, smiles upon Fauvel and appoints him leader of the house. Subsequently, Church and secular leaders from many places make pilgrimages to see him, and bow to him in servitude, symbolizing Church and state rulers quickly bowing to Sin and corruption.

Upon receiving Dame Fortune's smile, Fauvel travels to Macrocosmos and asks for her hand in marriage. She denies him, but in her stead she proposes he wed Lady Vainglory. Fauvel agrees, and the wedding takes place, with such guests present as Flirtation, Adultery, Carnal Lust, and Venus, in a technique similar to that of the Morality plays of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Finally, Dame Fortune reveals that Fauvel's role in the world is to give birth to more iniquitious rulers like himself, and to be the follower of the Antichrist, eventually to bring about the end of the world.

The musical accompaniment to Roman, mostly composed by Philippe de Vitry, is usually cited as the beginning of the Ars Nova movement. Though most of the pieces are based on plainchant, they vary greatly in terms of ornamentation and layering, with some being entirely monophonic, and other, more complex pieces being polyphonic and even sung in multiple languages. However the unifying characteristic of Roman is the use of the Isorhythm, which is a rhythmic pattern present in various voices of the piece at various times, though through the relative length of the isorhythm and its envelopment in the rest of the music, it is usually indiscernable to those not intimately familiar with the music. Literary and music critics have often claimed that the musical interpolations were chosen entirely randomly. However, more recent work has attempted to disprove this hypothesis, showing that the additions contributed by the BN146 (the largest Fauvel copy, with many additional lines and pieces) are part to a larger artistic project with, beyond the political message, a religious purpose. Interestingly, the idea that this manuscript was more than an anthology was proposed back in 1935 by Emilie Dankh who gave us then a complete edition of the text of the BN146.

Although the text of the Roman de Fauvel is not particularly well known, the music has been frequently performed and recorded. The question of how the entire work would have been read or staged in the 1300's is the subject of academic debate. Some have suggested that BN146, the copy with additional 3000 verses and 169 musical pieces, could have been intended as a theatrical performance. This hypothesis is in contradiction with the concurrent opinion that the Roman de Fauvel is mainly an anthology.

The copy designated BN146 is attributed to Chaillou de Pesstain. Its particular value resides in the additional verses and pieces (56 in Latin and 113 in French) which constitute a veritable anthology of 13th- and early 14th-century music (this includes Latin and French liturgical and devotional, sacred and profane, monophonic and polyphonic, chant, old and new music). The BN146 has often been said to mark the beginning of the stylistic period Ars Nova.

The English expression "to curry Fauvel," (now to "curry favor") arose from the scene in which potentates descended so low as to brush down the donkey and clean him off.


Isorhythm (from the Greek for "the same rhythm") is a musical technique that arranges a fixed pattern of pitches with a repeating rhythmic pattern. It consists of an order of durations or rhythms, called a talea ("cutting", plural taleae), which is repeated within a tenor melody whose pitch content or series, called the color (repetition), varied in the number of members from the talea. The term was coined in 1904 by Friedrich Ludwig to describe this practice in 14th and 15th century polyphonic motets but is also used in motets of the middle ages, the music of India, and by modern composers such as Alban Berg, Olivier Messiaen, and John Cage.

It may be used in all voices or only a few voices. In motets, it began in the tenor voice but was then extended to higher ones.

In modern usage, the term "isorhythm" is often associated with the practice of repeating two sets of parameters (such as duration and pitch) at different rates so that the values of one parameter are associated with different values of the other parameter at each repetition.

Ars nova composer Philippe de Vitry has been credited with the invention of the technique, but it "was neither an invention of Philippe de Vitry nor his exclusive property in the early fourteenth century." The isorhythmic construction was often varied through the use of strict or free rhythmic diminution in the repetition of the color.

Isorhythmic techniques were also used by Guillaume Dufay, but his work also marks the extensive use of the more fluid polyphonic styles of the early renaissance.

The talea was often a rhythmic mode. The color of isorhythm may be compared with the tone row of the twelve-tone technique's fixed order of pitches and varied durations. The modern musical innovation of integral serialism in the classes of Olivier Messiaen sprang from a study of the 12-tone compositions of Anton Webern and the isothythmic organization within motets of Guillaume de Machaut.

Coloration also refers to otherwise perfect notes colored red or with an open notehead to indicate the loss of 1/3 their duration, making them imperfect.

[8290 Robertsbridge / 8283 Gervaise du Bus Roman de Fauvel / 8280 Sumer]