CHAPTER 16. MUSIC IN ENGLAND. England during the early Renaissance.
CHAPTER 16 MUSIC IN ENGLAND
England during the early Renaissance Showing London and Oxford. Oxford University was greatly influenced by the University of Paris and so were English musical forms influenced by those from France. At this time England was very much a rural society. Among English cities only London, with a population of about 75,000 in 1300, could boast more than 10,000 inhabitants.
RONDELLUS • Despite the influence of French music on the English, several distinctive musical styles originated in England. One was called rondellus. In rondellus, two or three voices engage in voice exchange or, more correctly, phrase exchange. J.S. Bach later, coincidentally, used the same procedure in some of his fugues. Voice 1 a b c d e f Voice 2 b c a e f d Voice 3 c a b f d e
ROTA AND THE SUMMER CANON • The English historically have had a fondness for glees and catches (canons, or rounds). The most famous of all medieval English compositions makes use of rondellus technique as well as canon. It is entitled Sumer is icumen in (Summer is coming in), or simply the Summer Canon. It involves four upper voices which sing a canon that continually circles back to the beginning (the English call this a rota, Latin for wheel). Beneath the four-voice rota are two bottom voices (the English call a supporting voice a pes, Latin for foot). Here the two pes voices sing a rondellus, continually exchanging the same two phrases.
ENGLISH FABURDEN • The English had a fondness for faburden, a type of singing that arose when singers improvised around a given chant; one voice sang above the plainsong at the interval of a fourth, and another sang below it at a third; at the beginnings and ends of phrases the bottom voice would drop down to form an octave with the top one. Faburden was just one specific type of a general class of vocal music called English discant, an improvised homorhythmic style making abundant use of parallel 6/3 chords.
CONTINENTAL FAUXBOURDON • English faburden apparently influenced musical practices on the Continent because soon, around 1420, a similar style emerged in France and Italy called fauxbourdon. The only essential differences between fauxbourdon and faburden were 1) that in fauxbourdon the pre-existing chant was placed in the highest voice, and 2) composers tended to write out the top and bottom voices and leave only the middle voice to be improvised
A portion of Guillaume Dufay’s setting in fauxbourdon of the hymn Conditor alma with the chant (x) lightly ornamented in the upper voice and the middle voice following it, improvising at the interval f a fourth below.
KING HENRY V • Henry V (r. 1413-1422) was a dashing English king who ruled brilliantly and died young. He was also a composer of sorts, or at least a Gloria and a Sanctus is ascribed to “Roy Henry,” in the Old Hall Manuscript
THE OLD HALL MANUSCRIPT A polyphonic Gloria ascribed to King Henry in the Old Hall Manuscript, now preserved in the British Library. The Old Hall Manuscript is a collection of 147 English compositions, mostly Mass movements and motets, serving the English royal chapel. Several motets in honor of the warrior St. George may link the book to the chapel of St. George on the grounds of Windsor Castle, near London.
THE CAROL • King Henry’s stunning victory at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) was soon celebrated in music in Agincourt Carol. The English carol, related to the French carole (see Chapter 11), was a strophic song for one to three voices, all of which were newly composed. The carol begins with a refrain, called the burden, which was also repeated at the end of each new stanza. What results is a the musical form of strophe plus refrain, one frequently encountered in “Country” Music today. The first and second burden and the first stanza of the Agincourt Carol are as follows:
Burden I and II and first stanza of the Agincourt Carol in honor of Henry V. • Burden I (two voices): Deo gratias, Anglia, redde pro Victoria! (England, give thanks to God for the victory) • Stanza I: Our king went forth to Normandy With grace and might of chivalry; There God for him wrought marv’lously Wherefore England may call and cry. Deo gratias. • Burden II (three voices): Deo gratias, Anglia, redde pro Victoria!
JOHN DUNSTAPLE AND THE CONTENANCE ANGLOISE • John Dunstaple (c1390-1453) was a mathematician, astronomer, and musician who has left us approximately sixty polyphonic compositions. His style was said at the time to represent the contenance angloise (English manner), though it is uncertain precisely what this was. One element encountered in Dunstaple’s music is pan-consonance, a style in which almost every note is a consonant interval couched within a triad or a triadic inversion. Dunstaple’s often dissonance-free style can be seen in his three-voice motet Quam pulcra es (How beautiful thou art), the text of which is drawn from the Song of Songs, a particularly lyrical book of the Old Testament.
The beginning of John Dunstaple’s motet Quam pulcra es There is no dissonant note between the top voice and the bass or between the middle voice and the bass—a dissonance free environment.