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FA-57922-14
Concept and Virtuality in 15th-Century Music
Emily Zazulia, University of Pittsburgh

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FA-57922-14

Composing in Theory: Busnoys, Tinctoris, and the L'homme armé Tradition (Article)
Title: Composing in Theory: Busnoys, Tinctoris, and the L'homme armé Tradition
Author: Emily Zazulia
Abstract: Antoine Busnoys's Missa L'homme armé commits one notational error after another—at least according to Johannes Tinctoris. As several scathing passages in his Proportionale musices attest, Tinctoris abhors Busnoys's mensural innovations. And yet Busnoys's notational choices, while certainly idiosyncratic, are also arguably justifiable: the composer was merely finding ways of recording novel musical ideas that had no agreed-upon notational solutions. In this article I argue that Tinctoris's response to Busnoys is not limited to the criticisms in his theoretical treatises. Tinctoris the composer responds far more comprehensively, and at times with far greater sympathy for Busnoys's practice, in his own Missa L'homme armé. He echoes Busnoys's mass notationally, in that he treats it as an example of what not to do; his response is also deeply musical, in that he tackles similar technical problems as a means of achieving analogous contrapuntal effects. Tinctoris's and Busnoys's settings need to be understood in the context of fifteenth-century masses, one in which composers were not necessarily content to work within the system but invented new ways of writing in order to create new sounds. In doing so, mere “composers” could sometimes achieve significance as “theorists.” Taken together, the L'homme armé masses of Busnoys and Tinctoris raise a range of historiographical issues that invite us to reassess the figure of the “theorist-composer.” This article thus not only contributes to the discourse on musical borrowing but also opens out to a broader framework, asking what it means for a late medieval musician to theorize—in music as well as in prose.
Year: 2018
Primary URL: http://jams.ucpress.edu/content/71/1/1
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Journal of the American Musicological Society

Out of Proportion: Nuper rosarum flores, Cathedralism, and the Danger of False Exceptionalism (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Out of Proportion: Nuper rosarum flores, Cathedralism, and the Danger of False Exceptionalism
Author: Emily Zazulia
Abstract: Guillaume Du Fay’s Nuper rosarum flores has been ground zero for symbolic interpretation in musicology ever since Charles Warren suggested that the structure of the motet reflects the architectural proportions of the cathedral of Florence. More recent analyses have continued to begin from the premise that the motet’s form has extramusical significance—in particular, that mensural and architectural proportions can be directly analogized. And of course the very text of the motet makes clear that Du Fay wrote this music in conjunction with the 1436 dedication of Santa Maria del Fiore, possibly even for performance as part of the elaborate consecration rite. These tantalizing connections have caused scholars to canonize this motet, which has become a mainstay of music history textbooks. Indeed the extent and specificity of the extramusical associations Nuper rosarum flores enjoys—an occasion, place, patron, even an unquestioned attribution—is rare in the fifteenth century. This in itself makes the piece seem special. This wealth of information makes it hard to read Nuper rosarum flores in any context other than the consecration ceremony. Nevertheless, it is just one of many motets Du Fay composed for specific occasions. In this paper I return to first principles, reading Nuper rosarum flores against the norms of genre and notation and against the grain of the work’s modern historiography. I suggest that it is not all that special—or, at least, that it is no more special than Du Fay’s other ceremonial motets. This, in turn, leads me to ask what Nuper rosarum flores and pieces like it can tell us about text, form, and notation, and about how fifteenth-century music constructs meaning.
Date: 11/09/2017
Conference Name: American Musicological Society, Annual Meeting, Rochester, NY

The Shape of Song: Late-Medieval Conceptualizations of Rhythm (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Shape of Song: Late-Medieval Conceptualizations of Rhythm
Author: Emily Zazulia
Abstract: We moderns conceive of rhythm in terms of note shapes that contain stable numbers of beats, but in the 14th and early 15th centuries rhythm was conceptually based in the flexible and context-dependent symbols of the mensural system. The modern notion that rhythm is rooted in absolute durations has no real equivalent in late-medieval thought. Instead theorists talked about rhythm exclusively using the names for note shapes, which were meaningless when taken out of context. For late-medieval thinkers rhythm was inseparable from notation. This paper asks: what would it be like to inhabit a musical world in which rhythm’s very essence was contextual, with each note gaining meaning from a governing mensuration sign and the note shapes around it? I address this question with reference to pieces hitherto considered “isorhythmic,” in which melodic and rhythmic repetitions proceed in tandem. In motets such as Egidius de Pusiex’s Ida capillorum/Portio nature, tenors that are notated only once must be read in different mensurations and diminished. These transformations are indicated exclusively by means of a verbal instruction to the performer. Indeed in this period tenors governed by these instructions are never provided with written-out resolutions. All of this raises an intriguing possibility: that a late-medieval singer might have understood these four renditions to be essentially the same, even though he would have known them to sound very different. This alternative notion of rhythmic “sameness” grounded in notation stands to reform current thinking about the repetition and transformation of motet tenors, a practice that stretches from the start of the ars nova through Du Fay’s Nuper rosarum flores and sets the stage for the masses of the following century.
Date: 04/24/2015
Conference Name: Colloquium at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand

Figuring Sound: Notions of Rhythm in the Late Middle Ages (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Figuring Sound: Notions of Rhythm in the Late Middle Ages
Author: Emily Zazulia
Abstract: We moderns conceive of rhythm in terms of note shapes that contain stable numbers of beats, but in the 14th and early 15th centuries rhythm was conceptually based in the flexible and context-dependent symbols of the mensural system. The modern notion that rhythm is rooted in absolute durations has no real equivalent in late-medieval thought. Instead theorists talked about rhythm exclusively using the names for note shapes, which were meaningless when taken out of context. For late-medieval thinkers rhythm was inseparable from notation. This paper asks: what would it be like to inhabit a musical world in which rhythm’s very essence was contextual, with each note gaining meaning from a governing mensuration sign and the note shapes around it? I address this question with reference to pieces hitherto considered “isorhythmic,” in which melodic and rhythmic repetitions proceed in tandem. In motets such as Egidius de Pusiex’s Ida capillorum/Portio nature, tenors that are notated only once must be read in different mensurations and diminished. These transformations are indicated exclusively by means of a verbal instruction to the performer. Indeed in this period tenors governed by these instructions are never provided with written-out resolutions. All of this raises an intriguing possibility: that a late-medieval singer might have understood these four renditions to be essentially the same, even though he would have known them to sound very different. This alternative notion of rhythmic “sameness” grounded in notation stands to reform current thinking about the repetition and transformation of motet tenors, a practice that stretches from the start of the ars nova through Du Fay’s Nuper rosarum flores and sets the stage for the masses of the following century.
Date: 1/15/2016
Conference Name: Colloquium at Case Western University

The Shape of Song: Late-Medieval Conceptualizations of Rhythm (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Shape of Song: Late-Medieval Conceptualizations of Rhythm
Author: Emily Zazulia
Abstract: We moderns conceive of rhythm in terms of note shapes that contain stable numbers of beats, but in the 14th and early 15th centuries rhythm was conceptually based in the flexible and context-dependent symbols of the mensural system. The modern notion that rhythm is rooted in absolute durations has no real equivalent in late-medieval thought. Instead theorists talked about rhythm exclusively using the names for note shapes, which were meaningless when taken out of context. For late-medieval thinkers rhythm was inseparable from notation. This paper asks: what would it be like to inhabit a musical world in which rhythm’s very essence was contextual, with each note gaining meaning from a governing mensuration sign and the note shapes around it? I address this question with reference to pieces hitherto considered “isorhythmic,” in which melodic and rhythmic repetitions proceed in tandem. In motets such as Egidius de Pusiex’s Ida capillorum/Portio nature, tenors that are notated only once must be read in different mensurations and diminished. These transformations are indicated exclusively by means of a verbal instruction to the performer. Indeed in this period tenors governed by these instructions are never provided with written-out resolutions. All of this raises an intriguing possibility: that a late-medieval singer might have understood these four renditions to be essentially the same, even though he would have known them to sound very different. This alternative notion of rhythmic “sameness” grounded in notation stands to reform current thinking about the repetition and transformation of motet tenors, a practice that stretches from the start of the ars nova through Du Fay’s Nuper rosarum flores and sets the stage for the masses of the following century.
Date: 2/2/2015
Conference Name: Colloquium at the University of California, Berkeley

Out of Proportion: Nuper rosarum flores, Cathedralism, and the Danger of False Exceptionalism (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Out of Proportion: Nuper rosarum flores, Cathedralism, and the Danger of False Exceptionalism
Author: Emily Zazulia
Abstract: Guillaume Du Fay’s Nuper rosarum flores has been ground zero for symbolic interpretation in musicology ever since Charles Warren suggested that the structure of the motet reflects the architectural proportions of the cathedral of Florence. More recent analyses have continued to begin from the premise that the motet’s form has extramusical significance—in particular, that mensural and architectural proportions can be directly analogized. And of course the very text of the motet makes clear that Du Fay wrote this music in conjunction with the 1436 dedication of Santa Maria del Fiore, possibly even for performance as part of the elaborate consecration rite. These tantalizing connections have caused scholars to canonize the motet, which has become a mainstay of music-history textbooks. Indeed the extent and specificity of the extramusical associations Nuper rosarum flores enjoys—an occasion, place, patron, even an unquestioned attribution—is rare in the fifteenth-century. This itself makes the piece seem special. With this wealth of information it can be hard to see Nuper rosarum flores in any context except the consecration ceremony, but it remains just one of many motets Du Fay wrote for specific occasions. In this paper I return to first principles, reading Nuper rosarum flores against the norms of genre and notation and against the grain of the work’s modern historiography, concluding that it isn’t all that special—or at least no more special than Du Fay’s other ceremonial motets. This, in turn, leads me to ask what Nuper rosarum flores and works like it can tell us about text, form, and notation, and about how fifteenth-century music constructs meaning.
Date: 11/8/2017
Conference Name: Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society

Resolving Problems in the Missa Gross Senen (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Resolving Problems in the Missa Gross Senen
Author: Emily Zazulia
Abstract: The only surviving source for the Missa Gross senen transmits the tenor in both canonic and resolved versions. The resolutions fit with the non-canonic voices, but don’t clearly derive from the canonic tenor. To reconcile this apparent contradiction, I propose a reading of the canonic notation that is unorthodox but theoretically grounded. In a period when augmentation was new and subject to different interpretations, it is no surprise that composers found diverse solutions. Viewing this mass’s notation as still coalescing invites us to reflect on the nature of augmentation and, by extension, the relationship between notation and musical ideas.
Date: 7/8/2015
Conference Name: Annual Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, Brussels


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