Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music


Jason Stoessel The Captive Scribe: The context and culture of scribal and notational process in the music of the ars subtilior (PhD, University of New England, 2002)

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Volume 1 (8.7 MB) | Volume 2 (7 MB)


The extant scribal record of the music of the ars subtilior is considered in
terms of the reception of this musical style within particular cultural
contexts. The first part of this study re-examines the two principal sources
(F-CH!564 and I-MOe5.24) of a partially shared ars subtilior repertoire and
concludes that, despite the presence in part of a repertoire ostensibly composed
north of the Alps (c. 1380-1395), these manuscripts were compiled in or close to
major centres on the Italian peninsula (Florence and Pisa/Bologna/Florence
respectively). These conclusions form the background to the second part of this
study that identifies cultural tendencies/influences in the notation of musical
rhythm in the ars subtilior repertoire. Notational process as a whole is
conceptualised according to neo-Aristotelean ontology present in musical theory
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Notational process in relation to
special note shapes is split into two groups: a northern Italian school
originating in Lombardy and extending at least as far as Tuscany which employed
an arithmetic process in the construction of new note shapes; and a tradition
stemming from proportional processes with origins in France which were
subsequently adopted and modified by scribes and composers from Italian centres.
In relation to mensuration signs, variation in forms and meanings in datable
works suggest the existence of a notational school of thought c. 1380 which
bridges the earlier modes of intrinsic signification with the increasingly
extrinsic modes that emerged at the end of the fourteenth century. A major
revision of the received view concerning the influence of the mathematical
process of algorism upon notational process is argued with the conclusion that
algorithmic concepts were already present in the notation of the ars subtilior
before the end of the fourteenth century. A new edition of pertinent works also
accompanies the study.

Table of Contents


Volume 1: Thesis

  • Contents
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Indices of Tables and Figures
  • Key to Abbreviations
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: What is the ars subtilior
  • Chapter 2: A source in Italy? Observations of scribal process and
    filiation in Codex Chantilly

    • 2.1 Physical and scribal characteristics
    • 2.2 Contents and repertorial considerations
    • 2.3 Evidence of editorial activity
    • 2.4 The index: clues to Codex Chantilly’s early provenance
    • 2.5 Relationships with other sources
    • 2.6 Conclusions
  • Chapter 3: A French legacy in the hands of Italian masters: The manuscript
    Modena, Biblioteca estense, alpha.M.5.24

    • 3.1 Physical and scribal characteristics
    • 3.2 Illumination and rubricae
    • 3.3 Contents and repertorial considerations
    • 3.4 Composers in MOe5.24
    • 3.5 Relationships with other sources
    • 3.6 The provenance and origin of the manuscript
    • 3.7 Conclusions


  • Chapter 4: The notational grammar of the ars subtilior
    • 4.1 Coloration
    • 4.2 Special note shapes
    • 4.3 Conclusions


  • Chapter 5: The use of mensuration signs in French and Italian notational
    systems: Observations concerning theory, practice and semiotic

    • 5.1 Mensuraion signs in French notational theory
    • 5.2 The signa divisions in Italian notation and theory
    • 5.3 The early practical application of mensuration signs in French
    • 5.4 The use of tempus mensuration signs in works in the ars
      subtilior style
    • 5.5 Proportional uses of mensurataion signs in the ars
    • 5.6 Conclusions


  • Chapter 6: Algorism, proportionality and the notation of the ars
    subtilior: Some observations on the dating of the works of Baude Cordier

    • 6.1 The rise of algorism in European culture
    • 6.2 Algorism in theory and practice of mensural music
    • 6.3 Baude Cordier reconsidered
    • 6.4 Conclusions


  • Epilogue
  • Appendum
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Compositions
  • General Index to Volume 1


Volume 2: Appendices

  • Introductory Remarks
  • Appendix A: Edited Compositions
  • Apepndix B: Critical notes to edited works
  • Indices to Volume 2