Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music


Michael Scott Cuthbert, Trecento Fragments and Polyphony Beyond the Codex (PhD, Harvard University, 2006)
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This thesis seeks to understand how music sounded and functioned in the Italian
trecento based on an examination of all the surviving sources, rather than only
the most complete. A majority of surviving sources of Italian polyphonic music
from the period 1330– 1420 are fragments; most, the remnants of lost manuscripts.
Despite their numerical dominance, music scholarship has viewed these sources
as secondary (and often neglected them altogether) focusing instead on the few
large, retrospective, and predominantly secular codices which mainly
originated in the Florentine orbit. Connections among manuscripts have been
incompletely explored in the literature, and the omission is acute where
relationships among fragments and among other small collections of polyphony are
concerned. These small collections vary in their construction and contents—some
are not really fragments at all, but single polyphonic works in liturgical and
other manuscripts. Individually and through their very numbers, they present a
wider view of Italian musical life in the fourteenth century than could be gained
from even the most careful scrutiny of the intact manuscripts. Examining the
fragments emboldens us to ask questions about musical style, popularity, scribal
practice, and manuscript transmission: questions best answered through a study
of many different sources rather than the intense scrutiny of a few large
sources. Our view of the trecento is transformed by moving the margins into the
center. Many cities emerge as producers of “high-art” polyphony. French-texted
music abounds in the fragments (at least fifteen sources mingle Italian and
French repertories). The Francophilia of the next century has long been viewed
as a discontinuity with the past, but it should now be considered an extension
of trecento practice. The space for sacred music in the trecento also increases
dramatically. The dissertation reports the discovery of a new Paduan fragment,
along with a radical reassessment of the Paduan sources. It includes 51
transcriptions, nearly all of unpublished works previously considered too
fragmentary or difficult to transcribe. Twelve new identifications of pieces
are made, including new sources for Esperance, Je voy mon cuer, Fuyés de moy,
and Mass movements by Engardus, Zachara, and Ciconia.

Table of Contents

Please go to Michael Scott Cuthbert’s own
to view his table of contents.