Unusual signs and Angevin politics

In early 2006 I sent a draft piece examining some unusual examples of notation in some polyphonic songs from around 1400 to colleagues Yolanda Plumley and Anne Stone. To my pleasant surprise, Plumley and Stone invited me to contribute to their collection of essays on the famous Chantilly Codex. Most of the chapters in this collection originated at a conference held in mid September 2001 at Tours, France. It was much to my disappointment that I wasn’t able to attend this conference. On the other hand, a three-month sojourn earlier in the year researching in various European libraries had consumed most of my energy, resources and the patience of those I had to leave behind in Australia.

The full reference for the chapter is:

Jason Stoessel, ‘The Interpretation of Unusual Mensuration Signs in the Ars subtilior’, A Late Medieval Songbook and its Context: New Perspectives on the Chantilly Codex (Bibliothèque du Château de Chantilly, Ms. 564), eds. Yolanda Plumley and Anne Stone, 179–202 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009).


Departing from Anne Stone’s recent reading of intertextual processes in the Paduan transmission of Johannes Ciconia’s Sus une fontayne, the meaning of unusual mensuration signs in Ciconia’s virelai and several other compositions from ca. 1400 is reconsidered. At the end of the 14th c. music scribes sometimes used a type of “tempus-only” mensuration sign in which prolation (the division of the semibreve) was indicated not by the sign itself – as was commonly the case with more widely used mensuration signs – but by the appearance of the notes following it. Also examined for their use of these unusual signs are Matheus de Sancto Johannes’s Inclite flos orti gebennensis and Philipoctus de Caserta’s Par le grant senz d’Adriane le sage. A close historical reading of these works’ texts provides the basis for dating both to the period 1378–80. The presence of these unusual signs in notated compositions associated with the Avignon papacy, the houses of Berry, Foix, and Aragón, as well as their presence in Italian sources, suggests a wider currency for these signs than has hitherto been understood.

NB. This abstract doesn’t appear in the book, but is the one I wrote for Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM).

An online copy of this chapter (along with other chapters from the book) can be found at http://brepols.metapress.com/content/t8rw146213667771/. Brepols charges a small, once-only fee for accessing and downloading this article.

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