Essays on the Origins of Western Music



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Essays on the Origins of Western Music
by
David Whitwell

Essay Nr. 99: Machaut on Music


The name of Guillaume de Machaut is written on the blackboard of every music history class following the chalk line which symbolizes the beginning of the Renaissance, in part, no doubt, because he was born on the chalk line, in 1300 (and died in 1377).1 He was not only the most famous musician of 14th century France, but also the most famous poet. Machaut’s name was sufficiently well-known that even a century later, the author of a 15th century hunting book in Portugal praised the noise of the hounds by stating that not even Guillaume de Machaut made such beautiful concordance of melody.

Guilherme de Machado nom fez tam fermosa concordanca de melodia, nem que tam bem pareca como a fazem os ca–es quando bem correm.2
However, we are reasonably confident that Machaut would be quite astonished if he were brought back to life today to discover that his name was known primarily for a handful of compositions for the Church. That reputation is due not to the generosity, but to the narrowness of vision of 19th century musicology.

We believe it much more appropriate to think of Machaut as the last troubadour. Much of his poetry praising nobles and their ladies is entirely in the tradition of the 13th century. In his love songs, however, the new themes of the Renaissance are present, in particular a greater emphasis on feeling. And it is clear that these songs in the tradition of the troubadour were very important to Machaut. He collected this music and carefully indexed it under the heading, “This is the order which G. de Machaut wishes his book to have.”

Vesci l’ordenance que .G. de Machau wet quil ait en son livre.3
We see another expression of this concern when, late in life, he sends a copy of a poem to his lover, Peronnelle. He pleas that she take good care of it, since he has no copy and would be distressed if it were lost, and were not “in the book where I put all my things.”

Before considering Machaut’s views on music we should like first to provide some perspective on where he was positioned with respect to general philosophical questions of the 14th century. During the Middle Ages a frequent observation by philosophers was that we share our senses with lower animals, but not intellect. From this observation it followed that the senses must be a lower animal function, while intellect must be a special gift of God. When the first signs of humanism appear in the late Middle Ages, especially through the efforts of the troubadours who focused on the beauty of nature and love, the role of the senses began to be appreciated more. It is one of the hallmarks of the 14th century, and the Renaissance, that it was beginning to be understood that the senses have a role in the formation of intelligence itself. Thus, even that old representative of the ars antiqua, Jacques de Liege, could admit, “What is in the intellect was in the senses beforehand.”4 Machaut symbolizes this nicely in a passage in which he points to the contribution of the senses to speech itself, which by its very nature is rational and not sensory.

I summoned up all my senses together and then forced myself to speak....

My dear and revered lady, worthy of praise and honor, perfect in every quality heart can imagine, eyes see, ears hear, hand draw, mouth say...taste savor, touch feel, desire or will or heart sense....”5


On the other hand, Machaut acknowledges the central belief of earlier philosophers in stating that of our various faculties, Reason must rule. In his “Remede de Fortune,” for example, the character Hope contends that Reason must still rule, even over states like happiness.6 Happiness here perhaps is meant in the context of the result of moral behavior, for in another poem Machaut defines the determination of good and bad as the chief concern of Reason, who says,

For goodness I give my reward,

But badness earns severe reproof

For I am judge of everything....7
Similarly, in “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” where Machaut, himself is a character in the poem, there are introduced a number of allegorical characters including Temperance, Peace, Harmony, Faith (escorted by Constancy), Charity, Honesty, Prudence (who carried Wisdom in her heart), Generosity (who sees nothing) and Sufficiency. Here Machaut points out again that Reason must also rule over the senses,

Just then Reason took charge of me

So that afterward in her keeping she had

My heart, my senses, and my thoughts,

And thus they could resist

And struggle against false ideas…8
In Machaut’s “Le Jugement du roy de Behaigne,” a similar group of allegorical figures appear in the castle of the king of Bohemia, including Sincerity, Honor, Courtesy, Beauty, Desire, Cheerful Happiness, Bravery, Valor, Love, Loyalty, Generosity, Will, Thought, Wealth, and Youth, followed by the observation, “and then Reason who was mistress over all.”

Et puiz Raison, qui de tous fu maistresse.9
We are relieved when Machaut allows one allegorical character to disagree. When the debate is over love and its consequences, Loyalty stipulates, “A lover would be a fool to listen to you, Reason.”10 This no doubt reflects a common observation: no matter how much you want to believe that Reason rules our actions, the ordinary experience of love proves otherwise. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than speech. In complimenting good speech, Machaut describes it as “moderate, well-chosen, and appropriate, based wholly on Reason....”11 But, what happens to Reason-dominated speech when Love is present? It can, Machaut observes, force one,

to cut short his words and interrupt them with sighs, drawn from the depths of his being, that render him mute and silent, and he has no choice but to remain speechless....
In fact, concludes Machaut, when it comes to expressing love, speech seems to be beside the point.

Do you think that an esteemed, intelligent, loyal and prudent lady would care for someone who implores her love with polished, deceitful words and who, in begging her, colors his speech to play the sage?12
Machaut also observed that strong emotions can also interfere with the senses and cause them to behave “irrationally.” He introduces this idea in the context of a large group of singing birds, which is important because bird song is a frequent metaphor in early literature for the most beautiful music.

And in more than thirty thousand places the birds, wide-throated, were trying to out-sing one another, as if it were a contest, making the whole orchard ring; and it’s no lie that prior to Hope’s visiting me in my need, my senses had been so distorted that I’d not noticed the birds or their music, or how merry they all were. But this should not be held against me, because there are two things that falsify the senses and cause them to react irrationally: these are great joy and great sadness.13
Today, hopefully, we have learned to give both the rational and experiential sides of ourselves equal merit and we might simply say that the emotions speak for a different side of us. Machaut, in another poem, seems to reflect this in a passage which reminds us of an old popular song, “Your lips say “No,” but your eyes say “Yes.”

Thus she subjects him to reproach

That she speaks to him with her mouth:

Yet when she utters this aloud,

A sweet glance says the opposite....14
One of the by-products of the societal pressures which brought an end to the “Dark Ages,” was the birth of the modern universities. By the Renaissance they, and no longer the church, were rapidly becoming the center for debate. It followed that secular education began to have new recognition during the Renaissance. In this regard, we think the most interesting discussion of education by Machaut is his description of the ideal student, in particular the skills and attitudes the student must have. It is especially interesting that he observes that education must begin at an early age, before the student acquires too much experience. And when he speaks of the importance of honoring and serving one’s profession, and that learning is easily forgotten if not put into practice, we can not help but feel that some of these thoughts were with the music student in mind.

He who wishes to learn any skill must take heed of twelve things: first, he must choose something to which his heart most leads him and for which he has a natural inclination, because a person does not willingly finish what he seeks to do contrary to his will, since Nature stands against him. He should love his master and his profession above everything; and he must honor, obey, and serve them; and he must not feel he is enslaving himself, for if he loves them, they will love him; and if he hates them, they will hate him; he can gain nothing otherwise. He must receive instruction meekly; and he must be careful to follow it, for learning is difficult to retain and easily forgotten when it is not put into practice. He should be diligent, assiduous, and eager for knowledge, for thus can he attain wisdom. And he should seek it at an early age, before his heart turns to wickedness through too much experience; for the true state of innocence is like the white and polished tablet that is ready to receive the exact image of whatever one wishes to portray or paint upon it. And it is also like wax that can be written upon, and which retains the form and imprint exactly as one has imprinted it. Truly it is the same with human understanding, which is ready to receive whatever one wishes and can apprehend whatever one sets it to: arms, love, other art [autre art] or letter. For there is nothing so difficult that it cannot master it if it so chooses, providing it is willing to work and toil in accordance with what I have said above.15
The medieval writers, concerned with mortal sin, wrote at length on the definitions of pleasure and pain. The 13th and 14th century writers seem more inclined to assume the definitions are self-evident and generally confine themselves to focusing on their function as opposite states. Mauchaut does this in the most vivid language. First a lady speaks of the joy of love,

In him were my hope and my joy, my pleasure, my heart, my love, my thoughts and my desires. My heart could enjoy every good simply by seeing and hearing him. He was my every consolation; he was my every pleasure, my every solace, my joy, my treasure....16
He then paints an equally vivid picture of the pain which can follow joy.

Alas! Unhappy me! Now all’s reversed, for my pleasures have become grief-filled toils and my joys are bitter grief; my thoughts, which once brought consolation to my heart and comforted it sweetly in its sorrows, are and will always be painful, sad, and bitter.
Machaut joins in the opinion of much ancient literature in observing that when it comes to love, its very definition is a blending of pleasure and pain.

Thus I felt many wounds, at one moment sweet, at another bitter, at one pleasant, at another disagreeable, at one sad, at another joyful. For the heart that feels Love’s wound is not always in one mood, nor sure of joy or tribulation; rather, it is subject to the whims of the fortune of Love. But with head hung like a bear, I accepted her sweet biddings, whether for joy or for sorrow, meekly like a perfect lover, loyal in word and in deed.17
In another place he points out that the lessons love teaches man are not of the nature of “discipline, rules, order or Reason.”18 Rather, he says, he has learned from his own experience, and not otherwise, that,

the heart of a lover who loves deeply is now joyful, now mournful, now laughing, now crying, now singing, now lamenting, now happy in its plaint, now trembling, now sweating, now hot, now cold....

On the Aesthetics of Music
Nothing is more characteristic of 14th century thought than a new emphasis on the importance of feeling in music, therefore it is no surprise to find, as a purpose of music, the very modern idea that music can express what nothing else can.

So I decided that I would compose, according to my feelings towards you and in praise of you, a lai, a complainte, or original song; for I did not dare or know how to tell you otherwise how I felt, and it seemed to be better to tell in my new song what was oppressing and wringing my heart than to try by some other method.19
For the composer of art music, this feeling is inseparable from the inspiration to compose. Thus Machaut confides, “you alone who inspired my song, rhyme, and joyful subject.”20 Similarly when Machaut is “on trial” in “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” for his writings against women, the Lady says of his poetry,

You know if you did good therein or wrong,

Since you put your heart into them.21
And where such feelings are genuine, music becomes a form of Truth, Truth, moreover, which cannot be hidden.

And if it please you, my dear lady, to consider the last little song I sang, of which I composed both words and music, you can easily tell whether I’m lying or speaking the truth.22
This is a very fundamental aesthetic principle, for in general the right hemisphere of the brain, which contains our feelings and all of music (except for notation, which we do not regard as music), cannot lie, in the normal sense of the word -- because it cannot write or speak. The left hemisphere, the intellectual, speaking and writing side of us, as everyone knows can, and does, lie!

Indeed my replies were very far from what I was thinking, for I constantly made white black....23
Machaut returns to this idea in “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,”

The words you’ve uttered here

Are nothing but frivolity.

They are pretty to mouth in private,

But they contain no substance....24
Machaut also mentions one of the most traditional purposes of music, to express joy.

and for the joy I felt I composed this rondelet as I went along.25
Similarly,

So I went along singing and so happy in my song....26
This, and the closely related purpose, to solace the listener, were obviously among the most important purposes of music for Machaut. In the Prologue to his collected works which he made at the end of his life, Machaut dwells on this at length. First, he promises the allegorical figure of Love not to write anything sad or difficult to understand, but only pleasant and sweet works which will soften and nourish hardened hearts.27 He says he can bear witness to this from his own experience, for when he is in this joyous state, his only thought is the making of an appropriate poem or song.28 Even if his subject is sad, the poet’s manner must be gay, for a heart full of sadness cannot sing gaily. The melancholy man, on the other hand, is to be censured, nor could he possibly create anything so pretty. The very nature of music, says Machaut, requires the artist-lover to be joyful. “Music is a science which asks that one laugh, and sing, and dance. It does not care for melancholy, nor for the man who is melancholy”

Et Musique est une science

qui vuet qu’on rie et chante et dance.

Cure n’a de merencolie

Ne d’homme qui merencolie.29
Again, in “The Tale of the Alerion,” Machaut observes that “melancholy is a condition of no value.”30

Wherever Music is, she makes men rejoice.” In the closing section of the Prologue, Machaut says this is his mission: music and poetry are meant to enlighten and soothe troubled mankind, as one can see in the example of David and his harp and Orpheus. We find the same philosophy mentioned in a letter to his lover, Peronnelle, where Machaut tells her, “Singing is born of a cheerful heart, and tears come from sadness.” And in the “Remede de Fortune,”



I’ll sing you a balladelle in my limpid voice, with new words and music, which you’ll carry off with you, singing it to cheer up your heart as you go along, if it’s troubled by any concern.31
In only one place, does Machaut admit that music fails to solace. Although he is speaking of the music of birds, he echoes the 13th century troubadours who often voiced the thought that even music cannot cheer the sad lover.

I went there this morning to listen to their beautiful service and their merry singing, although my heart, which nothing can console, could take little pleasure in them.32
Machaut’s student, Eustache Deschamps, speaks of the purpose of music renewing the spirit in terms of the poor tired scholar!

Music is the final, and the medicinal science of the seven [liberal] arts; for when the heart and spirit of those applied to the other arts...are wearied and vexed with their labors, Music, by the sweetness of her science and the melodiousness of her voice, sings them her delectable and pleasant melodies with her six notes in thirds, fifths, and octaves. These she performs sometimes with orgues and chalumeaux by blowing with the mouth and touching with the fingers; otherwise with the harpe, rebebe, vielle, douaine, with the noise of tabours, with fleuthes, and other musical instruments, so much so that by her delectable melody the hearts and minds of those who were fatigued, weighed down, and troubled with the said arts by thought, imagination or labor are revived and restored. Thus they are afterwards more able to study and labor with the other six arts.33

On Composition
In the writings of Machaut we find the first composer of the Christian Era who speaks at length of his compositional process. The entire discussion is, at the same time, a statement of his personal philosophy with regard to the aesthetics of music.

In his famous Prologue, Machaut first meets the allegorical figure of Nature. Here he is not only associating his art with Nature in the Greek sense, but he is making the point that Nature supplied his inspiration.

I, Nature, by whom all things take form,

All that there is above and on earth and in the sea,

Have come to you, Guillaume, a man I have formed

For my part, in order for you to create

Some new and pleasant love poems.34
With regard to inspiration, in Machaut’s Voir Dit, his “true story,” he speaks of this subject in several of his letters to his lover, Peronnelle. He tells her his work is often interrupted by the demands of his noble patrons, but more important if he does not hear from her, he stops working for lack of inspiration.35 But if he is inspired he says he can write 100 lines a day.36

But composition requires more than inspiration, it also requires skill. Therefore Nature loans Machaut her three children, Reason [sense], who will make him clever; Rhetoric, who will instruct him in meter and rhyme; and Music, which will give him many, various and pleasing songs.37 “Thus,” Nature says, “you cannot fail at all.”38 Here, in part, is a reference to having skill sufficient for “correctness,” clearly another virtue of aesthetics in music. Nature promises, “your works will be more renowned that those of any other because there will be nothing in them to criticize, and thus they will be loved by everyone.”39 We can see how important the aspect of his technique was to Machaut in a remark he makes in “The Remede de Fortune” regarding a poet and his work.

I dared not refuse her, but rather read it from beginning to end, with trembling heart and bowed head, fearing there might be some mistake, since I had composed it.40
Before leaving the subject of Nature, we should mention that Machaut attributes the power of music in part to the fact that all musical instruments are formed according to her laws, and her works are more perfectly proportioned than any others.

Tous ses fais plus a point mesure

Que ne fait nulle autre measure.41
But in addition to inspiration and skill, experience is also necessary to art. This is provided to Machaut by another allegorical figure, Love, who offers her three children, Sweet Thought, Pleasure, and Hope. It should also not escape our attention that Love (experience) is not introduced to Machaut by Nature, but rather she comes independently. Love promises that from her children “you can derive great assistance, and this will help you invent and compose many a pretty poem about them.”42 Machaut responds that Love and her children have “greatly clarified for me the themes I have to treat.”43

Thus it is with the combination of skill and experience that Machaut is promised the necessary ability to compose “tales and songs, double hoquets, pleasant lais, motets, rondeaux and virelais, complaints, ballades, in honor and praise of all ladies.”44

But there is another requirement for composition which was clearly of the greatest importance to Machaut. The composer’s work must come from the most genuine, heart-felt feelings. In a letter to Peronnelle, he explains, “There is nothing so just and true as experience.... He who does not create out of real feeling, counterfeits his words and songs.”

Qui de sentement ne fait, Son dit et son chant contrefait.45
Machaut returns to this stipulation again in his poem “Remede de Fortune.”

And since I was not always in one mood, I learned to compose chansons and lais, ballades, rondeaux, virelais, and songs, according to my feelings, about love and nothing else; because he who does not compose according to his feelings falsifies his work and his song.46
[Et pour ce que n’estoie mie

Tousdis en un point, m’estudie

Mis en faire chansons et lays,

Baladez, rondeaus, virelays,

Et chans, selonc mon sentement,

Amoureus et non autrement;

Car qui de sentement ne fait,

Son oeuvre et son chant contrefait.]
The character in this same poem now composes a lai to express his feelings [fait un lay de son sentement]. Among the words for this song, one finds Machaut once more stressing the acceptance of varied emotions of love.

And if I experience any sorrow

from Desire, I don’t complain,

for her sweet laughing eye

completely soothes

the sorrow born of Desire.47
At the end of the song, Machaut once again returns to feeling.

But I composed it to her praise in accord with the skill I possessed, and as near to my feelings as I well could.48
We gain some insight into what “feeling” meant to Machaut in the following passage. While the 13th century troubadour also mentioned the pain of love, one does not find in that literature the emphasis on the feelings themselves that we read here -- it is a distinction of the Renaissance.

Then, like one accustomed to sighing, I uttered a lament and sigh from the depths of my heart, accompanied by weeping and washed in tears; and with great effort I turned toward her my flushed, pale, sad, sorrowful, and weeping face, full of suffering. But I said nothing to her because I was unable to speak; instead, I gazed fixedly at her.49
Finally, in another letter to Peronnelle, Machaut reveals one more important vital characteristic of the good composer -- one must always double-check one’s work!

My sweetheart, I have composed the rondel which contains your name and I would have sent it by this messenger; but by my soul, I have never listened to it and I am not accustomed to sending off anything I compose before I have listened to it.50

Art Music
In all early literature the most conspicuous hallmark of art music, as compared to functional or entertainment music, is the presence of the contemplative listener, one who is actively listening to the music. When one considers how strongly Machaut emphasizes the importance of genuine, deeply felt feelings on the part of the composer, it is no surprise that we find him concentrating on the receiving end of those feelings -- the listener -- to a degree that is almost entirely missing in Medieval literature. Nowhere in Medieval literature do we find a composer so fervently interested in the reaction of the listener as we do in Machaut’s “Remede de Fortune.”

How do you like it? What do you say?... What do you think of my song?... What do you say?.... Won’t you tell me if I sing well or poorly?51
Later in this same poem a listener is described.

When she had finished her ballade, which was very pleasant and agreeable to my ears and in my heart, since I’d never before heard such sweet harmony, I was overjoyed. But if the sweet music pleased me, the words brought me more joy than anyone could conceive. So I made a great effort to learn it, and memorized it so quickly that before she’d left the place or had even finished singing it, I knew both the words and the music.52
Machaut’s “Le Jugement du roy de Behaigne” begins with an allusion to the “sweet” singing of birds, a topic found in so much literature in the 13th and 14th centuries, but here the observer not only really seems to be listening to one, but takes pleasure as a listener.

I dropped gently to the ground and hid myself as best I could beneath the trees, so it could not see me there, to listen to the very sweet melody of its delightful song. And I took more pleasure in listening to its sweet singing that ever I could tell.53
Since contemplative listening to the music is one of the essential aspects of what we mean by “concert” music, we have often pointed out in these essays that the brief concert after the dinner, as opposed to dinner music, is one of the earliest forms of concerts in the modern use of the word. And there is no reason to doubt that these nobles were informed listeners. Christine de Pisan wrote of the 14th century French King Charles V,

The King understood so well every aspect of music, which is the science of harmonizing sounds by slow and fast notes....that no discord could pass unperceived by him.54

Machaut, in his “Remede de Fortune,” describes one of these after dinner concerts, not only making the point that the musicians appear after the dinner, but he even suggests that they arrive dressed for a concert, as it were. We should also mention here that, just as it was an artistic challenge for painters to portray one of each possible instrument in similar canvases, the poets loved to list one of each instrument. We should not believe such an ensemble really played together.

And after the meal you should have seen the musicians arrive, all combed and comfortably attired. They played various harmonies, for there all in a circle I saw vielle, rebec, guitar, lute, Moorish guitar, small psaltery, cittern, and the psaltery, harp, tabor, trumpets, nakers, portative organs, more than ten pairs of horns, bagpipes, flutes, musettes, douaines, cymbals, bells, timbrels, the Bohemian flute and the large German cornett, willow flutes, a fife, pipe, Alsatian reed pipe, small trumpet, busines, psaltery, a monochord (which has a single string), and a straw pipe all together. And it certainly seemed to me that such a melodious sound had never been perceived or heard; because I heard and perceived each one of them, according to the pitch of his instrument -- vielle, guitar, cittern, harp, trumpet, horn, flute, pipe, bladder pipe, bagpipe, naker, tabor, and whatever could be played with finger, pick or bow -- performing in perfect harmony there in the little park.55
It is also interesting to note that after this post-dinner concert concluded, instruments were made available for the guests to play as part of their own entertainment. And, no doubt as an obvious compliment to the aristocrats, Machaut mentions both their ability to read from the page and to improvise and attributes to them knowledge of both ars antiqua and ars nova styles.

After they had performed an estampie, the ladies and their company went off by twos and threes, holding hands, to a very beautiful room; and there all the men and women alike who wanted to relax, dance, sing, or play at backgammon, chess or parsons found all they needed at hand and ready for games, singing, and music [par notes, ou par sons]. And there were musicians more skilled and knowledgeable in both the new and old styles....56
In another poem, “La Prise d’Alexandrie,” Machaut describes the events surrounding a visit of the King of Cyprus to Prague. The castle there was “paradise on earth. There they had all instruments,” among which Machaut lists no less than 35. The visiting king, listening to this performance, “marveled very much and said that in his life he had never experienced such great melody.”57

One continues to find much poetry and love song in 14th century France which is reminiscent of the troubadour repertoire of the previous century. A poem by Jean Froissart, singing the praises of a lady, is a perfect example.

I will serve my lady always,

For truly I cannot spend

My time or youth

In any better way.

And so with happy heart,

Awaiting her desire,

Most joyously

I will sing both night and day.58
Similarly, in the Prologue to his collected works, Machaut has Love warn him,

But above all else, take care that you are not emboldened

To write anything full of disrespect,

And never slander any of my ladies.

Rather in every case you are to praise and exalt them.

Know well that if you do otherwise,

I will most cruelly take away your standing.

Instead, do everything in honor and thus advance yourself.59
It is in the context of the frequency of this theme that “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” by Machaut, is understood. In his poem, at the end of Machaut’s “trial” for having written unkindly about women, he is given the following sentence.

You must -- the thing is certain --

Compose a lay for the first,

And agreeably, without resisting;

For the second, a song

Of three stanzas and a refrain

-- Listen how I qualify this --

A song which begins with the refrain

Just like the ones sung at a dance;

And for the third, a ballade.

Now don’t act like you’re sick about this,

But respond happily,

As we have commanded....60
It is also enlightening that Machaut stipulates these love songs might also appropriately performed as instrument works.

By God, it is a long time since I have made such a good thing to my taste; and the melodies [tenures] are as gentle as fine pap. Whoever performs it on organs, bagpipes, or other instruments, that is its proper nature!61
It is surely another clue to art music, when Machaut says here that he has composed these love song “to my taste.” That others heard this repertoire as art music is reflected by Deschamps’ comment, after the death of Machaut, that his death will be mourned by princes and kings because “his song gave much pleasure to nobles, ladies, and bourgeois.”62 And Deschamps said of Machaut,

O flower of the very flowers of melody itself,

So sweet master of such great talent,

O Guillaume the earthly god of harmony....
As for the value Machaut himself placed on these love songs, we have his comments in letters written to his lover, Peronnelle. He tells her not to circulate copies of what he sends her, for he is thinking of making music for them,63 and he says that some nobles who have learned of their affair have requested copies.64

Functional Music
In view of the fact that Machaut’s education was that which might ordinarily lead to the priesthood, it is somewhat surprising that he so rarely refers to the music of the Church. One passage is particularly interesting, however, where he describes a group of flagellants and their music, a bizarre form of religious piety stemming from the 13th century, but which continued in Bohemia during the 1340’s.

At this time a company arose

At the urging of Hypocrisy, their lady,

Who beat themselves with whips

And crucified themselves flat on the ground,

While singing to an instrument

Some new song or other,

And according to them, they were worth more

Than any saint in Paradise.

But the Church attended to them,

Forbidding them to beat themselves,

And likewise condemned their song,

Which little children were singing,

And excommunicated all of them

By the power God had granted it,

Because their self-abuse

And their song were heresy.65
Dinner music was a common form of functional music and a horn or trumpet signal for the guest to wash their hands was the first announcement for dinner in a castle. Here we read “the horns sounded the call to wash, and the loud trumpets too.”

Et il estoit prez heure de souper.

Et a ce mot on prist l’yaue a corner

Par le chastel, et forment a tromper.66
This signal which calls the guest to dinner is frequently mentioned in literature of the Renaissance and Baroque. But since this literature is nearly always concerned with the aristocracy, we almost never read of what this signal means to the servants. Machaut’s words are so vivid it seems as if we really are standing watching.

When Mass was over, I heard a chamberlain sounding a trumpet loudly. You should have seen all the servants! Each hurried to his station, one toward the pantry, another to the wine cellar, the others to the kitchen, according to what each prepared. Messengers and stable boys set up benches, trestles, and tables. It was quite a sight to see them hurrying to and fro, bringing rushes, spreading rugs, shouting, hollering, and sweeping -- it was bedlam to hear them call to one another in French, Breton, German, Italian, English, Occitan and Norman, and in many other unusual languages. It was a marvel to see elsewhere the carvers arranging, polishing, decorating, and straightening things, readying the water, slicing bread for their masters, preparing the plates, calling for tablecloths, removing cheeseskins with their own hands, one sitting down, the other scurrying along, yet another scrubbing off dirt, others washing and cleaning their hands, one more and the other less, before going to sit down. They were making quite a racket, with everyone shouting and exclaiming: “Hurry up! Mass is ended and they’ve sounded the trumpets for dinner long since!”67



1 Machaut was probably educated at the cathedral school at Rheims and at the University of Paris. While still a young man be became associated with an important noble, John of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia. Machaut’s reputation with other nobles can be seen in the fact that when Charles V visited Rheims a few years before the coronation, he advised the aldermen of the town to meet him “chez maistre Guillyaume de Machault.” [Machaut, Guillaume de, Oeuvres, ed., Ernest Hoepffner (Paris, 1908-21), I, xxv, xxxvff.]

2 Quoted in Machaut, Guillaume de, Musikalische Werke, ed., Friedrich Ludwig (Leipzig, 1926), II, 32.

3 In this index, Mauchat lists separately by incipits each of his lais, motes, balades notes, rondeaulz and virelais in the music section and includes several hundred lyrics for ballades which have no music under the heading,

Les balades ou il n’a point de chant




4 Jacques de Liege, “Speculum Musicae,” quoted in F. Joseph Smith, “Ars Nova -- A Re-Definition?” in Musica Disciplina, XVIII (1964) , 34.

5 Guillaume de Machaut, “Remede de Fortune,” trans., James Wimsatt and William Kibler (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1988), 294.

6 Ibid., 304-306.

7 Guillaume de Machaut, “The Tale of the Alerion,” trans., Minnette Gaudet and Constance Hieatt (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), lines 4403ff.

8 Guillaume de Machaut, “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” trans., Barton Palmer (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988), lines 1155ff.

9 Guillaume de Machaut, “Le Jugement du roy de Behaigne,” trans., James Wimsatt and William Kibler (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1988), 160.

10 Ibid., 154.

11 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 180.

12 Ibid., 262.

13 Ibid., 334.

14 “The Tale of the Alerion,” Op. cit., lines 371ff.

15 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 168ff.

16 “Le Jugement du roy de Behaigne,” Op. cit., 66ff.

17 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 188. Machaut returns to this theme in “The Tale of the Alerion,” lines 1010ff and 1465ff.

18 Ibid., 214ff.

19 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 368.

20 Ibid., 376.

21 “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” Op. cit., lines 875-876.

22 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 374.

23 Ibid., 386.

24 “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” Op. cit., lines 3988ff.

25 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 398.

26 Ibid., 338.

27 Prologue, IV, 21ff.

28 Ibid., IV, 36ff.

29 Ibid., IV, 85ff.

30 “The Tale of the Alerion,” Op. cit., lines 3764.

31 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 326.

32 “Le Jugement du roy de Behaigne,” Op. cit., 136.

33 Eustache Deschamps, “L’Art de Dictier,” quoted in Christopher Page, “Machaut’s ‘Pupil’ Deschamps on the Performance of Music,” in Early Music 5 (1977), 488ff.

34 Prologue, I, 1ff.

35 Quoted in Le Livre du Voir-Dit de Guillaume de Machaut (Paris: Paulin Paris, 1875), 262 and 342.

36 Ibid., 202.

37 Prologue., I, 10ff.

38 Ibid., I, 17.

39 Ibid., I, 19ff.

40 ‘Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 206.

41 Prologue, I, 99ff.

42 Ibid., III, 17ff.

43 Ibid., IV, 13ff.

44 Ibid., II, 12ff.

45 “Le Livre du Voir-Dit,” Op. cit., 61.

46 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 188.

47 Ibid., 196.

48 Ibid., 206.

49 Ibid., 254.

50 “Le Livre du Voir-Dit,” Op. cit., 258.

51 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 280.

52 Ibid., 328ff.

53 “Le Jugement du roy de Behaigne,” Op. cit., 60.

54 Christine de Pisan, Le Livre des Fais et Bonnes Meurs du Sage Roy Charles V, ed., S. Solente (Paris, 1936) II, 34.

55 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 390ff.

56 Ibid., 392.

57 Guillaume de Machaut, La Prise d’Alexandre, ed., L. de Mas Latrie (Geneva, 1877), 69.

58 “Lay 4,” in Kristen Figg, The Short Lyric Poems of Jean Froissart (New York: Garland Publishing, 1994), 59.

59 Prologue, III, 21.

60 “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” Op. cit., lines 4181ff.

61 “Le Livre du Voir-Dit,” Op. cit., 69.

62 Machaut, Guillaume de, Oeuvres, ed., Ernest Hoepffner (Paris, 1908-21), I, iiiff.

63 “Le Livre du Voir-Dit,” Op. cit., Letter VI.

64 Ibid., Letter XXV.

65 “The Judgment of the King of Navarre,” Op. cit., lines 241ff.

66 “Le Jugement du roy de Behaigne,” Op. cit., 160.

67 “Remede de Fortune,” Op. cit., 388.





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