Melanie Spiller and Coloratura Consulting

Escapades in Early Music, Writing, and Editing

Posts Tagged ‘Plague

Geisslerlieder and Flagellant Music

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During my research about music during the Black Plague in the 14th century, I’ve tripped over quite a few interesting tangents. Probably the most intriguing is that several groups thought that they could either cure the plague or prevent it by publicly self-flagellating. Crazy, eh?

Part of the reason for this movement was a superstitious and extreme belief in the Catholic religion. And the other part was that it was generally felt that the Catholic Church wasn’t doing enough to help believers. Pre-science, there was no way to know what was causing the plague, and evil spirits were just as likely an explanation as tiny organisms that destroy people’s innards.

Different strokes, eh? (See what I did there?)

A Little Flagellation History

Before you get all huffy that the Catholic Church was horribly cruel, they didn’t come up with the idea of flagellation, whether imposed as a punishment or as an act of personal worship. The Romans used flagellation as a prelude to crucifixion and the ancient Greeks used it as a test for manhood in Sparta. Whipping was a severe form of punishment for the ancient Jews, with only the death penalty more severe. Whipping as a punishment has slowly been outlawed around the globe; Saudi Arabia only made it illegal in 2020 and it’s still legal in a few places, such as Singapore and Syria. I’ll just leave that right there.

In Ancient Rome during the festival of Lupercalia, young men ran through the town wielding thongs of goat skin and women who wished to conceive took blows on their hands. Eunuch priests of Cybele in ancient Rome self-flagellated during certain festivals. Greco-Roman mystery cults employed ritual flagellation.

So it wasn’t a leap when, in the 13th century, Roman Catholic flagellants went from town to town, beating themselves and each other while preaching repentance. It’s a hobby that’s carried on to the present day.

Pope Clement VI approved self-flagellation as a method for preventing or curing the Black Plague in 1348. Later authorities often tried to suppress these demonstrations, but they kept popping up until the 16th century.

This is going to come as a surprise: Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, was a self-flagellant. So was Congregationalist writer Sarah Osborn (1714-1796), as were members of the Tractarian (or Oxford) movement within the Anglican Church in the 19th century. St. Therese of Lisieux practiced self-flagellation in the 19th century, while preaching that God smiled on people who fostered loving relationships and showed patience during difficult times.

Opus Dei, that cultish lay organization within Catholicism made famous by Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” were self-flagellants. Pope John Paul II (late 20th century) was a self-flagellant, and there are still some communities in Colombia, the Philippines, Mexico, Spain, and Peru where it’s common practice.

In Shi’a Islam, it’s no longer allowed to cut the body with knives or chains as a form of self-flagellation, so some adherents use blood donation and flailing to satisfy this urge. In some communities in the west, the rituals are coordinated with the Red Cross, so the blood doesn’t go to waste.

We can’t ignore the BDSM community. This sexual practice seems to date back (documented, anyway) to the 14th century. There’s art depicting sexual flagellation from the 1600s, and of course, there it is in fiction, starting with John Cleland’s “Fanny Hill,” in 1749, which set off a whole flurry of documents, both frivolous and academic. Ladies who offered this service advertised in the 18th century in London. Movies have contained scenes of flagellation (seldom self-flagellation) since 1905, although some of the earlier of these involve children being spanked, including kids from the Little Rascals series. By the 1940s, the violence is much less moderate. Even Star Trek had Captain Kirk receiving lashes from Nazis in S2:Ep21, in 1967. Of course, to switch back to the whole music theme (you thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you), there’s Monty Python’s “Holy Grail” These guys are singing from the Requiem and clubbing themselves with a plank: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4q6eaLn2mY. They’re singing the words on a psalm tone, which makes a nice rhythmic way to stay together, and they carry a blank banner.

I had a hard time finding specific groups that practiced self-flagellation—most reports seem to be about individuals. The few I found were Tractarians (Anglicans), White Penitents (Catholics), Benedictines (Catholics), the colonial Spanish Hermanos Penitentes (Catholics) in the Americas, Brothers of the Cross (Germany and the Low Countries), and a group of Roman Catholics just called Flagellants. Initially, the Catholic Church tolerated them, but the tide began to turn in the 12th and 13th century, and by the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, they were against it all together and made futile efforts to suppress it; it’s still being practiced today. There were Jews and Muslims doing this too, don’t forget. (I didn’t find evidence of eastern communities doing this. Perhaps it’s a One God phenomenon.)

Tools of the Trade

The main instrument of self-torture is a cattail whip, called a discipline. It’s a collection of knotted cords that the participant flings over his or her own shoulder. Fancy ones have little diamond-shaped metal or leather bits attached at the ends.

Italian Confraternities

Starting in the 10th century, lay people gathered together for religious reasons into groups called confraternities. They weren’t directly affiliated with the Church (the Catholic Church was pretty much the going concern—there were followers of other faiths living in the same towns, like Jews and Muslims, but they were the minority)—and offered a faith-based community for people who couldn’t afford to or weren’t interested in becoming monks, priests, or nuns. In fact, they were often very much the pillars of their communities and had busy and productive lives as part of the town’s economy.

Some confraternities were based on doing good acts (specifically the Seven Acts of Corporal Mercy that are listed in the New Testament—Matthew 25: 31-46). In some communities, such as Bergamo, they collected money for dowries and to ransom captured soldiers, and they helped those affected by natural disasters. Others emphasized personal mortification of the flesh as a way to salvation, beating themselves bloody thinking that they or others would be saved because of it. These folks, called battuti or disciplinati in Italian, flagellated themselves at public gatherings or during religious processions.

As I mentioned, this started in the 10th century, but during the height of the plague years, convinced that the Catholic God was punishing His followers, they thought that mortifying their flesh would appease a grumpy God despite their personal failures. You’ve got to remember that the Church was selling indulgences and (sometimes fake) saints’ relics to forgive sins, and it was pretty commonly thought that virtue was transactional: Be bad, buy an indulgence, be forgiven.

Frankly, the fear brought to the population by the seeming randomness of the Black Plague caused them to turn to just about anything as a possible remedy. Flagellation was as likely a cure as anything else, and the church sanctioned this “work,” at least during the plague years.

I found scholars who think that the flagellation practice originated in Italy, spread through Switzerland to Germany and France, to Poland, Britain, and on to Scandinavia (although it’s hard to follow the trail anthropologically). Self-flagellation was particularly common in the 14th century, as mentioned, as a possible cure for the plague. And the Geisslerlieder were written down by clerics who found the practice both inspirational and terrifying. There’s the music at last!

On to the Music

Someone self-flagellating in private worship might punctuate the words of a prayer with a strike, but it was desirable for public groups to stay together. Thus arose the need for a whole new species of music.

Remember that during the 13th and 14th century, sacred music didn’t have rhythm—it was basically Gregorian chant. Although polyphony was starting to welcome some sort of regular beat (a tactus), it wasn’t really essential until the middle and end of the 15th century, and even then, it was performed by music specialists, not lay people or ordinary monks and nuns.

Geisslerlieder (the German for Flagellant Songs) were simple pieces, sung in the vernacular, not Latin. In this way, they were closer to secular music than to sacred. They were often call-and-response (like an antiphon). They were always sung, with instrumental accompaniment strictly prohibited. Remember that last bit when you’re listening to the examples below.

Some flagellant songs survived into the 17th century as folk songs, probably through the Minnesinger tradition, but I have some more research to do on this particular topic.

The first recorded Geisslerlieder are from 1258, when the breakdown of civil order resulting from wars, famine, and plague in Northern Italy sent the superstitious scurrying after some cure for their ills. In general, the songs pled with God for relief. Initially, it was nobility and merchants who participated, but as the movement spread outside of Italy, everyone got into the act. You could even sponsor someone to flagellate for your benefit. There’s transactional virtue again.

Very few songs have survived intact from that 13th century movement. There are several collections that include lyrics, but few melodies were preserved, possibly only one. Music notation wasn’t really a thing lots of people knew.

During the Black Death outbreak of 1349, there was a resurgence of interest in self-flagellation and the music that went with it. This time, more of it was preserved. Hugo Spechtshart of Reutlingen (1285-1360) transcribed a bunch of it, and his work is one of the earliest examples of collecting folk songs. His treatise was the Chronicon Hugonis sacerdotis de Flutelinga (1349). It contains largely monophonic verse and refrain, call-and-response-style. Interestingly, Hugo wrote variations among the verses sung by the leader, which was not at all common in sacred music but was common in secular music. This lends credence to the melodies being more like secular music than sacred. This 1349 resurgence of flagellants spread even further, reaching England, Poland, and Scandinavia.

Eventually, the movement was suppressed by the church. Imitators, such as those in Switzerland, used different texts with the familiar melodies to make bawdy drinking songs. They probably thumped their tankards on the table instead of swatting themselves with a switch, though.

In some flagellant songs the leader sang “kyrie-eleis” (not a typo) and the flagellants responded by repeating it. Here’s one of the ones with more interesting words:

The words mean (my translation): “Now the final journey is here, Christ enters Jerusalem. He leads from the cross in His hand, now the savior helps us.” I think it’s from the story of Christ carrying his cross through the town.

Here’s another:

This one means (according to Hoppen): “Now approaches the deluge of evil. Let us flee from burning Hell. Lucifer is an evil companion. Whomever he seizes, he besmears with pitch. Therefore, we want to shun him.” It’s thought that the flagellants prostrated themselves in the shape of the cross during the refrain. Rhymed couplets form the words and the music repeats (AABB) or alternating (ABAB).

Hugo Spechtshart of Reutlingen documented six songs: three processional or traveling songs, and three for a flagellation ceremony. One of the processional songs is 57 stanzas long!

Here’s ONE stanza of that long one:

According to Hoppin, this one means: “Mary, our Lady, Kyrie eleison. Who [is] in godly sight, Alleluia. Praise be to thee, Maria.”

I found some music and verses for the song that appears three times in the Listening Posts section in Reese, if you want to research that on your own.

The songs slightly followed the form of laudes (or lauda, as the plural should be), which were songs of worship that followed the call-and-response and vernacular hymn rules. Of course, they were monophonic (no harmonies), until polyphony became more popular in the 15th century. Melodically and structurally, they somewhat anticipate the Lutheran Chorale form, you know, the one Bach made so famous.

Listening Posts:

My French barely even qualifies as minimal, so I may have misunderstood what I read, but it’s possible that the only surviving piece is the “Maria Muoter reinu mait” from 1349. Someone with better French than me, please read a book by Claude Abromont and tell me about it.

If you go searching for music on YouTube, be forewarned. There’s a lot of heavy metal and doom band music out there (some by a band called Flagellant), including videos with disturbing content. I have only provided links to less disturbing videos. They might still bother you though—they’re about people beating themselves.

I’ve ordered another book (in German), so there may be a follow-up post.

Sources:

“The New Grove Dictionary of Music,” ed. Stanley Sadie. Online.

“Medieval Music” by Richard Hoppin. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1978.

“The Black Death; The Great Mortality of 1348.” By John Aberth. St. Martin’s, New York, 2005.

“Music from the Earliest Notation to the Sixteenth Century,” by Richard Taruskin. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010.

“Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music,” by Don Michael Randel. The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, 1978.

“Early Medieval Music up to 1300,” by Dom Anselm Hughes. Oxford University Press, London, 1954.

“Music in the Middle Ages,” by Gustave Reese. W.W. Norton, New York, 1940.

Written by Melanie Spiller

September 21, 2020 at 8:56 am

Music During Times of Plague, Part I

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This topic turned out to be HUGE so I’ve broken into (at least) two sections:

  • Part I: General history of the plague, composers from England, Italy, and Belgium/Flanders
  • Part II: Composers from Germany/Austria, France, Russia/Poland, Czech Republic/Bohemia, and what was happening in other arts at the time. (I might break this down further if it gets out of hand once I start researching and writing it.)

As we face the seventh month of lockdown due to COVID-19, my thoughts rather naturally turn to the plague (which COVID-19 is not). A little research on the Internet turned out to be a whole other kind of rabbit hole, so before I get down to the interesting bits (the music), I need to give you a brief run-down.

Bubonic Plague (or the Black Death) has been around for a LOT longer than you probably think. The first DNA-proven incident was between 3500-3000 BCE (that’s right—5000 years ago), from a Swedish tomb that was excavated in 2018. In one form or another, it has circulated from China, Asia, Africa, Europe, back to China, back to India, the Middle East, and Europe, and through the New World and China, Europe, etc. Just round and round for 5000 years until the invention of antibiotics in the mid-20th century.

There were three major waves in “modern” times: The first wave was from 541-750 CE, spreading from Egypt to the Mediterranean (starting with the Plague of Justinian in Northwestern Europe); the second wave was from 1346-1840, spreading from China, through the Mediterranean and Europe (the Black Plague of 1346-1665 is considered unparalleled in human history, killing more than a billion people in Europe); and the third wave was between 1566 and the 1960s, again originating in China and spreading to India, killing 22.5 million people under British rule alone. Yes, the latter two waves do overlap.

In the 1890s, dead plague cells were used to create a vaccine, dramatically reducing the number of people who got sick, and in the 1940s, antibiotics were invented, reducing the number of deaths. Nonetheless, outbreaks continued to occur in developing countries: Roughly 40,000 cases were reported by WHO between 1987 and 2001, including 2850 deaths in 38 countries. Most deaths today are due to lack of treatment, around 200 people per year, mostly in remote African villages.

A Little Plague History

Between 1334 and 1403, plague was reported in China, all over Eurasia including Southern Russia, and in India, Constantinople (now in Turkey), and Italy.

Black Death arrived in England in 1348, reaching Scotland by 1350. The estimated death toll for the British Isles was 3.2 million. The rest of Europe went crazy. They began killing Jews in pogroms, burning homes and murdering the people as they ran out with clubs and axes, accusing Jews of having brought the plague to specifically kill Christians. (Funny, isn’t it, how the majority always thinks they’re the put-upon ones?) Burning Jewish communities alive in their own communities became the rage—it happened in Toulon, Savoy, Basel, and Freiburg, and in the Strasbourg massacre, 900 Jews were locked up and burned alive. Those who were willing to be baptized were given a reprieve, so it clearly wasn’t really about the plague.

Some of the murderous rage had to do with a change in power in the guilds from the master tradesmen to the patrician bourgeoisie—the uprising was a combination of fear of the illness and anger over social ills. (Sound familiar?) It took two papal bulls from Pope Clement VI to stop the violence against the Jews, claiming that the plague was the result of “an angry God striking at the Christian people for their sins,” not the Jews poisoning the wells or some such.

In 1351, the Black Death reached Russia, but the harsh Russian winter seems to have suppressed it a little. For ten years, it only showed up here and there in Europe, but by 1361, it was back, raging away until efforts to cure it started having an effect in 1374.

They tried all kinds of creative extreme remedies, such as eating cooked onions (!), ten-year-old treacle, arsenic, or crushed emeralds. They sat in the sewers and in very warm rooms, and they tried fumigating the house with smoldering herbs. Flagellants went on processions whipping themselves, thinking to save the innocent from punishment for their sins. It must have been a fun time, eh? In the 1360s, doctors discovered that popping the buboes (the inflammation of the lymph nodes) helped some patients recover.

In 1374, the Black Death re-emerged in Europe. In Sicily and Venice, they began to force ships to wait at sea for 30 days before coming ashore, to make sure that the plague was not with the men or their goods. By 1403, they began to think that 30 days was not enough, and they made them wait for 40 days—that’s where the word comes from: “quaranta giorni” or “quarantena.”

Through all of this strife and terror, they made music. What were they listening to, you ask? Let’s find out.

I’ll provide links to YouTube when they exist. If I can find CDs with recordings, I’ll name them, but I can’t copy tracks because I don’t want to violate copyright AND I think musicians should get paid for their work. There are some composers that I couldn’t find much at all on, whether it be their story or their music. I listed them anyway. Even so, it’s not a complete list.

England 1334-1403

Johannes Alanus (14th c, died c1373) (possibly also Johannes Aleyn or J. Alani and J. Alani Minimus) was possibly Edward III of England’s chaplain and a favorite of Queen Philippa of Hainault. His works in the Old Hall Manuscript include the motet Sub Arturo plebs/Fons citharizancium/In omnem terram, the lieds “Min frow, min frow” and “Min herze wil all zit frowen pflegen,” and a virelai called “S’en vos por moy pitie ne truis.”

  • CD:“Beneath the Northern Star” (Orlando Consort) includes Alleluia: Christo iubelemus, Sub Arturo plebs/fons citharizanium/In omnem terram
  • CD: “Music for the 100 Years War” (Binchois Consort) includes Sub Arturo plebs/fons citharizanium/In omnem terram

(Thomas) Byttering (fl. c1400-1420)has only six surviving compositions, all in the Old Hall Manuscript. Not much is known about him, although there was a canon at Hastings Castle between 1405 and 1408 and a rector in London in 1414 named Byteryng, and he could have been either or neither of them. His is the only offering of a Mass with the canon in all four voices in the Old Hall Manuscript.

John Dunstable (c1390-1453) (Dunstaple)was, with Leonel Power, one of the most prolific composers of his time—about 60 of his works survive. An epigraph after his death shows that he was also a mathematician and astronomer. He challenged and changed continental musical styles with new and unusual treatments of consonance and dissonance, and is largely responsible (so think some experts) for the new movement in polyphonic music to make every interval harmonic and every voice consonant with all the others. He used dissonance only as an ornament. This made a fundamental change from the Medieval style to the Renaissance: Medieval music emphasized the independence of superimposed individual melodies in each voice, and Renaissance shifted the emphasis to the “vertical” aspects of polyphony, dependent on melodic consonance rather than incidental consonance, which would all, one day, lead to the invention of chords and chordal composition. (Several VERY different interpretations of the same pieces follow.)

John Forest (1471-1538) was an English Franciscan friar and martyr, confessor to Queen Catherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife). While imprisoned for refusing to accept Henry VIII as the head of the church and awaiting a death sentence, Forest wrote a tract denouncing Henry VIII. He refused to swear the oath of loyalty demanded by Cromwell, so Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer worked to have him condemned for treason and heresy. Latimer preached a final sermon at the place of execution that urged Forest to recant, but he still didn’t. Forest was the only Catholic martyr to be burned at the stake during the English Reformation. Fuel for the pyre was said to have come from a statue of St. Derfel that had been prophesied to “one day set a forest on fire.” Oh, the irony.

  • CD: “Music for the 100 Years War” (Binchois Consort) includes Ascendit Christus super celos/Alma redemptoris mater and Guade martyr/Collandemus venerantes/Celestium contemplator

John Hanboys (c1320-c1380) may also be J. de Alto Bosco (fl. C1370) and was a music theorist and the author of a treatise on music notation called the Summa super musicum continuam et discretum. The only known source of the treatise is an early 15th century copy, but because of inconsistencies in the spelling of his name, it might not even have been the same person. It’s said that he wrote a volume of music, but it’s lost.

Roy Henry (fl. c1410) (also King Henry IV or V of England) wrote works that can be found in the Old Hall Manuscript. The music was most likely written between 1399 and 1413, when Henry IV would have been in his early 40s. By 1410, Henry IV was suffering from a disfiguring skin disease and struggling to retain his royal power, so some pieces were either written earlier or perhaps were falsely attributed to him. Henry V is thought to have been quite fond of music, taking his chapel choir with him on campaigns. Henry V reigned from 1413 to 1422. Only two pieces, a Gloria and a Sanctus from the Mass Ordinaries remain, both in three voices. Unusually, neither seems to be based on a chant—or perhaps the underlying chant was lost. I didn’t find any recordings.

Leonel Power (c1370/1385-1445), rather unusually, used intertwined (not independent) voices as descant. The cantus firmus is somewhat freer than other composers’, leaving out some notes or making skips to accommodate melodies in other lines. His work is strongly within the Ars subtilior style, enjoying a variety of meters and notational symbols.

Pycard (fl.c1410) has nine works in the Old Hall Manuscript, all strongly in the English style, although he may have been French. He uses the “usual” four-part style in his Gloria 26, but the text appears only in three voices, with an instrumental tenor. There’s an eight-minute introduction before the contratenor begins the canon, followed by the duplum a fourth above. Only the triplum has the complete text. In Gloria 27, Pycard wrote what might be the earliest example of simultaneous two-part canons (one in the tenor and countertenor and the other in the top two voices), with a free duplum producing the fifth voice. Pycard’s Gloria 35 is partly like Gloria 27, except the tenor and countertenor are now free, with only the two highest voices in canon. His works are in the Ars nova style and are particularly difficult to perform.

Queldryk (fl.c1400-15th c) has a Gloria in the Old Hall Manuscript that’s paired with John Tyes’ Credo (I found nothing on Tyes—or Dyes—beyond mentions that he’s in the Old Hall). It’s written in four voices—not pairs, but independent voices, with wildly varying isometric (matching rhythmic) organization; some are strictly isometric in all four voices, and others only match in the tenor and countertenor parts. Only two bits seem to come from known chants—the rest is freshly composed.

W. de Wycombe (fl.c1275-1279) (perhaps also de Wyc, Wicumbe, or Whichbury, or Willelmus de Winchecumbe, Willelmo de Wincheviumbe, William of Winchcomb) was a secular scribe employed briefly at a Herefordshire priory. Despite the fact that little is known about him, he left a collectarium (a book of introits), a precentor’s (layman who led the congregation in singing) workbook, two scrolls of music, a summary and treatise on music, a history that he added musical examples to, and other books, not to mention 40 settings of various pieces found in fragments here and there. Only one piece (from the Worcester Fragments—the Alleluia) is complete. It’s in four-part polyphony alternating with solo respond and verse sections. There’s another lengthy fragment in the Montpellier Codex. Occasionally, Sumer is acumen in, the earliest known English-language secular song to be written down, is attributed to Wycombe.

Italy 1334-1403

Bartolomeo da Bologna (fl1405-after 1427) wasn’t a prolific composer (only seven pieces survive), but he’s famous for inventing the parody as a type of music. Rather than a silly thing based on a serious one as it is in theater, a musical parody takes a secular piece and sets sacred texts to it. He wrote in the Ars subtilior style, which can be quite complex, but you can hear the influence of the more melodious Franco-Flemish style in his work, too.

Jacopo da Bologna (fl.1340-1360) has 29 pieces in the Squarcialupi Codex, placing him firmly in the very beginning of the Italian Ars nova period. He wrote a short music theory treatise called “Queste a l’arte del biscanto misurate,” which is largely about the music notation being developed in France. His “Non al suo amante piu Diana piacque” madrigal (featured in the links) was written in about 1350, one of the only known contemporaneous settings of Petrarch’s poetry.

Giovanni da Cascia (fl.1340) (also Jovannes de Cascia, or Giovanni da Firenze) is the earliest known composer of the Italian Ars nova. He was active in the Mastino Il della Scala courts (with Jacopo da Bologna, also in this list) in Verona and the Visconti court in Milan. He mostly wrote madrigals, cacce, and ballades (numbering 28 in all), which can be found in several sources in England and France. His portrait in the Squarcialupi Codex shows him in layman’s clothes, so he probably wasn’t a priest or cleric. He was fond of the hoquet device, which sounds like musical hiccups, and it’s clear that he wanted performers to improvise a fair bit. It’s possible that he and Maestro Piero, one of his great friends and also in this list, died of the Black Death.

Donato da Cascia (fl.c1350-1370) (also da Firenze and da Florentia) can be found in the Squarcialupi Codex in strictly secular works, even though he was a Benedictine priest. He wrote only for two voices (or rather, that’s all that’s been found and attributed to him), which was very much the epitome of the Italian Ars nova style. Usually, the upper part is the fancier of the two, and there’s occasional imitation (where the second voice repeats the melody, perhaps with different notes), and he’s somewhat humorous in his choice of texts.

Antonello da Caserta (late 14th-early 15th c)(also Anthonello de Casette, Antonellus Marot) is a bit of mystery. He was a monk, but it isn’t known to which order he belonged. He set his texts in both French and Italian, which makes scholars think that he was from northern Italy, and one of his texts was set to music by the great Guillaume Machaut. He used unusual mensuration signs that are found in few other manuscripts although he also used proportional rhythms in some ballades, which was more popular after his lifetime (perhaps he was an early adopter?). His works tend to be about courtly love.

Philippus de Caserta (also Philipoctu, Filipotto, or Filipoctus) fl.c1370-c1400) was an Ars subtilior composer and may have worked at for the antipope Clement VII, although he didn’t follow Clement to Avignon. Two of his pieces include fragments of text from Guillaume Machaut, and two of his own were borrowed by Johannes Ciconia. It’s possible that he wrote as many as five musical treatises (although it’s also possible that one was written by or co-written with Egidius de Francia) and there’s a piece (En remirant vo douce pourtraiture) in the Chantilly Codex.

Antonio da Cividale (Antonius de Civitate Austrie) (fl.c1392-1421) straddled the end of the Medieval period and the beginning of the Renaissance—there are very few surviving pieces from the early 15th century from Italy, so it’s wonderful to have them. He was a friar and wrote both sacred and secular music. Four Mass movements and six motets survive, and there are seven secular pieces, mostly in French. He was fond of musical tricks, such as writing a phrase to be sung first forward and then backward.

Andrea da Firenze (fl.c1375-c1415) (Andreas de Florentia, Andrea de’ Servi, Andrea degli Organi, Andrea di Giovanni, and Horghanista de Florentia) was a composer and organist working in the Italian Ars nova style. He was a Servite prior who built organs and hired Francesco Landini to consult on his first project, which was in his own monastery. The two of them took three days and copious amounts of wine to tune the instrument. <heh> Andrea got another commission to build organs for the Florence Cathedral, one in Rieti, and another (possibly) in Rome. All of the surviving pieces are ballatas (secular pieces)—there are 30 of them, mostly in the Squarcialupe Codex. He didn’t like a Benedictine monk named Gianni from L’Aquila because apparently, Gianni liked wine and money too much, so Andrea mocked him in a ballade it’s first in the list).

Ghirardello da Firenza (fl.c1375) (Gherardellus de Florentia, Ser Gherardello, and occasionally, Niccolo di Francesco) was an early composer in the Italian Ars nova style. He was a chaplain in Florence between 1345 and 1361, which was the worst of the Black Death period, and later he was a monk in San Remigio. His secular work can be found in the Squarcialupe Codex (16 pieces), and elsewhere, there are two Mass movements.

Lorenzo da Firenze (died 1372/1373) (Lorenzo Masini, Lorenzo Masi, Magister Laurentius de Florentia) was another member of the Ars nova movement, and he drew on the important poets of the day for texts, including Giovanni Boccaccio (The Decameron). He was a canon at San Lorenzo and probably studied with Landini there. He wrote 16 secular pieces that appear in the Squarcialupe Codex plus two Mass movements using the great innovations of the day such as melismas, imitation, part crossing, and ficta—including chromatic sections—heterophony, parallel fourths, and isorhythms. He was also one of the first Italians to use the new French music notation (neumes—for more on this, see my book or my blog).

Paolo da Firenze (c1355-c1436) (Paulo Tenorista, Magister Dominus Paulas Abbas de Florentia) was a composer and music theorist with quite a few attributed pieces. His portrait in the Squarcialupe Codex (which he supervised the compilation of) shows him to be a Benedictine monk, and later, he became an abbot in San Martin al Pino near Florence. All of his music seems to be vocal—13 madrigals and more than 40 ballate, along with two liturgical pieces—and at least one musical treatise, all in the Ars subtilior style. He used the Italian notation, rather than the new French style, although he borrowed from the French when it suited him.

Ugolino da Forli (c1380-1457) ( Ugolino da Orvieto or Urbevatano) was an Italian composer and music theorist (his Declaratio musicae disciplinae filled five books). Sadly, I didn’t find any music on recordings or YouTube, nor much about him in my usual sources.

Francesco Landini (c1325/1335-1397) (Franciscus caecus, Francesvo il Cieco, Francesco degli organi, and Ferancesco da Firenze) was the Big Cheese of the 14th century in Italy and beyond. He was so prolific (and well documented), that his works provide nearly a quarter of all Italian music that survives from that time. Landini was a blind musician and a scholar. He learned the organ from Jacopo da Bologna (earlier in this list) and was involved in politics and religious controversies as well as creating new music. He was buddies with the poets Francesco Petrarch and Franco Sacchetti, even featuring in Giovanni da Prato’s poem about Florence. Landini is often the link that connects other musicians from the period, so he must have been a likeable fellow. More importantly, he was a fine composer. I’m not going to make too deep a dive here, because you can read more about him in my blog and my book, and elsewhere on the Internet and in printed books. His music is easy to find on YouTube and Amazon.

Giovanni Mazzuoli (1360-1426) (Giovanni degli Organi) was an organist and composer, although many of his pieces are missing. The Squarcialupe Codex blocks out a whole section for him, but he either never delivered, or they never got around to drafting them in.

Bartolino da Padova (fl.c1365-c1405) wrote in the Italian Ars nova style. His work appears in the Squarcialupe Codex—37 pieces! There are a handful of pieces, including 11 madrigals, found in other places too. His work doesn’t seem to reflect French music that was so popular, but it occasionally (like in his La Fiera Testa) employs three languages: Italian, Latin, and French.

Grazioso da Padova (fl.c1391-15th c) (Gratiosus de Padua) didn’t leave a lot of work behind—only three fragments remain. There are three-voice Gloria and Sanctus (Mass) settings and a single ballata (Alta regina de virtutue ornate).

Matteo da Perugia (fl. 1400-1416) was the first magister cappellae of the Milan Cathedral. He seems to have written third lines to existing pieces, which caused some works to be erroneously attributed to him.

Niccolo da Perugia (c1370-1412) (Niccolo del Proposto) wrote in the style of the Italian Ars nova and was probably friends with poet Franco Sacchetti. Forty-one of his pieces have survived, all secular and all vocal, and mostly in the Squarcialupe Codex. One of his pieces, La fiera testa (in the list below), was probably written against the Visconti family during the war between Milan and Florence.

Maestro Piero (c1300-after 1350) (Magister Piero or just Piero) was one of the first trecento composers known by name. He was mostly known for his six madrigals, but he also wrote two cacce. He hung out with Giovanni da Cascia and Jacopo da Bologna (both on this list), and the three composed somewhat competitively, each setting the same madrigal text. It’s possible that he and Giovanni da Cascia died of the Black Death. Two of his works are in the Rossi Codex. His are probably the earliest canonic madrigals.

Nicolaus Ricci de Nuculla Campli (fl.1401-1425, d. after 1438) (also Ricci de Nucella Campli, Niccolo Ricci and Nucella). Some sources say that there’s only one known piece by Nucella, “De bon parole,” and others list “Un Fior Gentile” as well. He was part of the papal choir for Popes Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII, and also a priest and a scribe for Pope Innocent VII (during a schism, no less). His father lived to be 100 years old, which was pretty unusual at the time. It’s still unusual! He was part of the Ars subtilior movement

  • CD: Un fior Gentile (Micrologus) includes “Un Fior Gentile” and, according to Amazon, costs the ridiculous price of $902.81.
  • CD: Menando gli anni (Aquila Altera) contains “De bon parole.”

Vincenzo da Rimini (c1332-1373) (Magister Dominus Abess de Arimino, L’abate Vincencio da Imola, Prate Vincenco) appears in the Squarcialupe Codex six times. His madrigals are all in two voices, and his cacce are in three, which was representative of the time.

  • CD: SVSO in Italia Bella: Musique Dans les Cours et Cloitres de l’Italie du Nord (La Reverdie)

Andrea Stefani (fl.c1399-15th c) has works in the Lucca Codex including two ballate (Con tutta gentilezza and I senti’ matutino) and a madrigal (Morte m’a sciolt). He’s thought to have written five lauds, but the melodies are lost and only the text remains. There’s a will dated 1460 for him, and he no doubt lived longer than that. He lived in the Bianchi Gesuati monastery for 54 years and left his inheritance to them.

  • CD: Rose e Orticha: Music of the Trecento (Ensemble Syntagma) includes “Con tutto gentilezza”
  • CD: Ballate e Madrigali al tempo della Signoria di Paolo Guinigi (Cantilena Antigua/Concentus Lucensus) includes “Con tutto gentilezza” and “I senti’ matutina.”
  • CD: Tracce della tradizione orale in manoscritti Italiani del XIV, XV sec. (Pantrizia Bovi/Gilberte Casabianca) includes “I senti’ matutina.”
  • CD: Medieval and Renaissance Music (A Ricolta Bubu, Pavana publishers) includes “I senti’ matutina.”
  • CD: Canzoni e melodie (Toti Dal Monte, Rivoalto publishers) includes “I senti’ matutina.”

Zacara da Teramo (c1350-c1415) (Antonio “Zacara” da Teramo, Anonius Zacharius of Teramo, Antonius Berardi Andre de Teramo, Antonio Zacar, Zacar, Zaccara, Zacharie, Zachara, and Cacharius) is probably the Zacharias in the Old Hall Manuscript. He was most active around 1400, bridging the periods of Ars subtilior to the beginnings of the Renaissance. He must have been terribly short, as his nickname (Zacara) means a small thing of little value, and he produced nine ballate and a caccia, plus several Mass movements, plus a madrigal. He signed his own name as Antonio, and he appears in the Squarcialupe Codex and the Mancini Codex, and seems to be missing a few fingers and toes. He served at the anti-pope’s court during the Western Schism (1378-1417). His pieces occasionally had very dark –even satanic—texts.

Belgium 1334-1403

Johannes Ciconia (c1370-1412) changed Italian music from soloistic polyphony to polyphony for multiple voices—like choruses and consorts. This smoothed some edges and simplified things, so that less lithe or trained voices could manage it. He wrote at least two theoretical treatises and much of his music is lost. Even so, there are 11 Mass sections, 11 motets, and 20 secular pieces in both French and Italian. It’s super easy to find music from him, so I’ll just make a short list.

Egardus (fl.c1370-after 1400) (Engardus or Johannes Echgaerd) was part of the Ars nova movement, and only three of his works have been identified. Of the three works (a canon and two Glorias), two were found in Northern Italian sources, and the third has strong Italian connections. I only found the one recording listed below, but I found a reference to his music from Kurt von Fischer and F. Alberto Gallo, called “Italian Sacred and Ceremonial Music: Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century” (published in 1976 and 1987). I couldn’t find it online, but I suspect that it’s a discussion and not sheet music.

Thomas Fabri (c1380-1420) was probably choir master in Bruges. Only four of his works have been preserved: two are vocal parts in three voices; one is a Gloria; and the fourth is a ballade, probably for solo voice or solo instrument. Of the three offerings below, the “Ach” piece, a rondeau, is secular, and the “Sinceram” piece is an antiphon, meant for a church service.

Johannes de Limburgia (fl.140801431) (also Lymburgia also called Johannes Vinandi) worked in Liege and in Italy (possibly Venice, Vicenza, or Padua), and wrote motets about those cities. About 50 of his works survive as well as the Ordinaries of the Mass in the Trent Codices.

Guillaume de Machaut (c1300-1377) wrote poetry that was as stunning as the music he wrote. His style marks the end of the Medieval age, as composers turned away from monody (one melodic line) to polyphony (multiple melodic lines). His subject matter also marked the coming change from bible stories to romance, metaphors, and allegories. He was a master of the Ars nova style, again, the beginning of change from sacred modal music to secular and scalar music. Check out his book “Roman de Fauvel,” an allegorical work of fiction (before the idea of “novels” existed) meant to reveal the vices of mankind in stories, poetry, and song. There are six books of his works (collected by Machaut himself) and many more in various manuscripts.

Next time, I’ll look at other art forms and some more countries.

Don’t forget to buy my book, “Musical Innovators” from https://www.amazon.com/Musical-Innovators-Melanie-Spiller/dp/B088XQGVDM/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=musical+Innovators+Melanie&qid=1597687772&sr=8-1

Sources:

“Medieval Music,” by Richard H. Hoppin. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1978.

“The Pelican History of Music, Volume 1: Ancient Forms to Polyphony,” by Denis Stevens and Alec Robertson. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1960.

“Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music,” by Manfred F. Bukofzer. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1950.

“Music from the Earliest Notation to the Sixteenth Century,” by Richard Taruskin. Oxford University Press, Oxfort, 2010.

“The Concise Oxford History of Music,” by Gerald Abraham. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985.

The Norton/Grove Encyclopedia of Music,” edited by Stanley Sadie. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1994.

“Music in the Renaissance,” by Gustave Reese. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1959.

“Music in the Medieval World, by Albert Seay. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1965.

“A History of Western Music,” by J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claud V. Palisca. W.W. Norton, New York, 2010.

**Grove Music Online** Alanus (England), Jacopo da Bologna (Italy)

**Progeny of Old Hall **Margaret Bent**

**“Un leggiadretto celo’ ed alter cose petrarchesche” Rivista Italiana de Musicologia **Pierluigi Petrobelli**

Written by Melanie Spiller

August 17, 2020 at 11:25 am