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CHAPTER 13. AVIGNON, SYMBOLIC SCORES, AND THE ARS SUBTILIOR. PAPAL AVIGNON.

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chapter 13
CHAPTER 13

AVIGNON, SYMBOLIC SCORES,

AND THE ARS SUBTILIOR

papal avignon
PAPAL AVIGNON

For much of the Middle Ages the papacy did not reside in Rome but moved from city to city. During most of the fourteenth century it was resident in Avignon, a city in southern France, which swelled, after the arrival of the papacy, from roughly 5,000 to 120,000 souls. The period in which the popes resided in Avignon (1309-1403) is called the Babylonian Captivity, for the streets of Avignon were deemed as sinful as those of ancient Babylon. In 1378 two popes were elected, one French the other Italian, one choosing to reside in Avginon, the other in Rome. This division in church authority is called the Great Western Schism (1378-1417).

the palace of the popes
The Palace of the Popes

The Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France, which contemporaries called “the most beautiful and most fortified house in the world.” Its fortress-like façade correctly suggests that the medieval papacy was often under siege.

the chapel built between 1345 and 1352 by pope clement vi and thus called the clementine chapel
The chapel built between 1345 and 1352 by Pope Clement VI and thus called the Clementine Chapel

During this time the word cappella (chapel), came to mean not only a building consecrated for religious worship, but also the organized group of highly trained musicians who sang at these services.

baude cordier and symbolic scores
BAUDE CORDIER AND SYMBOLIC SCORES
  • “Cordier” in French means “String Man,” and it apparently served as the professional nickname of Baude Fresnel (c1365-1398), a harper employed by Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy. In 1391 and 1395 Cordier traveled with Duke Philip to Avignon. His three-voice rondeau Tout par compas suy composés (All with a compass am I composed) is a symbolic score because the layout of the notation suggests the meaning of the piece—that this is a circular canon that can go around endlessly, or at least through all four stanzas of the text. Finally, Cordier’s rondeau is full of proportions (time signatures written as fractions) that, when applied to a single voice create complex polymeter (two or more meters sounding simultaneously).
philippus de caserta the ars subtilior
PHILIPPUS DE CASERTA: THE ARS SUBTILIOR
  • Philipppus de Caserta was an Italian composer working in Avignon during the reign of Pope Clement VII (1378-1394). His music, too, makes use of the sincopa (syncopation), as well as proportions and polymeters, and it is accordingly very complex rhythmically. This sort of rhythmically difficult music has been dubbed the Ars subtilior (the more subtle art)—a style of music radiating out from Avignon to other parts of southern France and into northern Italy during the late fourteenth century.
slide8
A portion of Caserta’s Par les bon Gedeons (By the Good Gideon) showing complex syncopation that extends over many bars.
passages from an ars subtilior composition showing the use of sincopa syncopation and proportions
Passages from an Ars subtilior composition showing the use of sincopa (syncopation) and proportions