• Looking Back over the 'Missa L'Ardant desir': Double Signatures and Unusual Signs in Sources of Fifteenth-Century Music

    Jason Stoessel (see profile)
    Medieval music, Renaissance music, Music notation
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    A number of unusual signs appear in the notation of west European polyphonic musicin manuscripts from the first seventy-five years of the fifteenth century. Though theyresemble mensuration signs, these signs behave as signatures, and are used to indicateproportions and other tempo relationships in music. Beginning with an examinationof ‘double signatures’ in the Missa L’Ardant desir from Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cappella Sistina 51, this study identifies earlier examples of rareand unusual signs in fifteenth-century sources. While the superficial resemblance of these signs across sources outwardly suggests a coherent andcontinuous history of nota-tional meaning, close empirical observation of notational practice instead presents apicture of semantic discontinuity. Many unusual signs are associated with proportionaleffects in music. It is clear that similar notational devices and proportional effects sym-bolize radically different ideas in the texts of vocal compositions. This suggests thatover time and place these unusual signs differ in their symbolic and therefore culturalassociations. This state of epistemic discontinuity requires scholars to reassess anyargument proposing the continuation of flamboyant musical styles first observed inthe turn of fifteenth-century ars subtilior into the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
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    2 years ago
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