Finding the Fingering

[The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature is arguably the earliest extant source for lute music in Western Europe and, even though it survives merely as a fragment, the only known specimen of the tablature system described in the Kassel Lautenkragen. For more information on the source see the introductory entry to this blog series.]

In contrast to other known lute tablatures the Wolfenbüttel-Kassel system seems to be the only one that does not provide definite instructions for the left hand fingering. Lute tablatures usually work like coordinate systems, where the strings (or rather: the courses) are represented by a range of parallel, horizontal lines while the intended fretting is indicated on said lines by letters or numbers. German lute tablature admittedly looks very different but employs the same system, in essence, combining both the information for the horizontal (which string) and vertical position (which fret) into one symbol that represents both. These systems do not tell us which finger should be put there, but they convey information on where on the fingerboard the intabulator intended a certain note to be fretted. Continue reading

Clefs and Tuning

[The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature is arguably the earliest extant source for lute music in Western Europe and, even though it survives merely as a fragment, the only known specimen of the tablature system described in the Kassel Lautenkragen. For more information on the source see the introductory entry to this blog series.]

The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature features an array of 5 keys at the beginning of each system of notation (g-c-f-cc-gg):

D-Wa cod. VII B Hs Nr. 264 (Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature), fol. Av—clefs.

Wolf: clefs

The clef to the lowest line is slightly misleading in that it is a lowercase “g” instead of a capital “G” or better even: a “Γ” (“Gamut”). Continue reading

Dotted Rhythms and all the Rests

[The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature is arguably the earliest extant source for lute music in Western Europe and, even though it survives merely as a fragment, the only known specimen of the tablature system described in the Kassel Lautenkragen. For more information on the source see the introductory entry to this blog series.]

Even though the organ tablatures of the time customarily feature dotted rhythms on all mensural levels, the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature does not seem to use them. When having a closer look, however (see the blog entries to the individual intabulations: Wolf 1, Wolf 2, Wolf 3, Wolf 4, Wolf 5), dotted rhythms do occur. Continue reading

Open Heads and Chromatics

[The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature is arguably the earliest extant source for lute music in Western Europe and, even though it survives merely as a fragment, the only known specimen of the tablature system described in the Kassel Lautenkragen. For more information on the source see the introductory entry to this blog series.]

One of the eye-catching features of the Wolfenbüttel Tablature is the striking shape of the note heads, which appears in a very similar fashion in the Kassel Lautenkragen. The note heads seem to only consist of two almost parallel lines—one of which will also constitute the stem when applicable—, thus leaving the top and bottom of the head open. Continue reading

An Assessment of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature

[The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature is arguably the earliest extant source for lute music in Western Europe and, even though it survives merely as a fragment, the only known specimen of the tablature system described in the Kassel Lautenkragen. In his article "Norddeutsche Fragmente mit Lautenmusik um 1460 in Wolfenbüttel" from 2011 Martin Staehelin presented this tablature and concluded that it was intended for the lute.[1] The fragment, which Staehelin dated to c1460, survived as a pastedown on a host codex from St. Cyriacus in Brunswick and is now at the Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel under the shelfmark cod. VII B Hs Nr. 264. For more information on the source see the introductory entry to this blog series.]

In his article presenting the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature Staehelin showed that this fragmentary source is currently the only notated example of a tablature system, which was already known in theory since Christian Meyer presented the Kassel Lautenkragen in 1994.[2] In their publication from 2003 Crawford Young and Martin Kirnbauer[3] gave a full reproduction and thorough analysis of this Lautenkragen, which explains the tablature system but does not give any practical example. The Wolfenbüttel Tablature exemplifies a lot of features presented in the Lautenkragen but which up to then could only be deduced to a certain degree from the description, while it clearly differs in other respects. Continue reading

Wolf 5: “Ellende du hest vmb vanghen mich”

[The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature is arguably the earliest extant source for lute music in Western Europe and, even though it survives merely as a fragment, the only known specimen of the tablature system described in the Kassel Lautenkragen. In his article "Norddeutsche Fragmente mit Lautenmusik um 1460 in Wolfenbüttel" from 2011 Martin Staehelin presented this tablature and concluded that it was intended for the lute.[1] The fragment, which Staehelin dated to c1460, survived as a pastedown on a host codex from St. Cyriacus in Brunswick and is now at the Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel under the shelfmark cod. VII B Hs Nr. 264. For more information on the source see the introductory entry to this blog series.]

Alongside a complete version of “Ich fare do hyn wen eß muß syn”, fol. Bv of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature also features the beginning of another arrangement: “Ellende du hest vmb vanghen mich”. The title to this piece is very well-known and Fallows’ “Catalogue” lists a fair number of concordances, most of which are instrumental arrangements in the Buxheim Organ Book and in the instrumental part of the Locham Song Book.[2] Continue reading

Wolf 4 – “Ich fare do hyn wen eß muß syn”

[The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature is arguably the earliest extant source for lute music in Western Europe and, even though it survives merely as a fragment, the only known specimen of the tablature system described in the Kassel Lautenkragen. In his article "Norddeutsche Fragmente mit Lautenmusik um 1460 in Wolfenbüttel" from 2011 Martin Staehelin presented this tablature and concluded that it was intended for the lute.[1] The fragment, which Staehelin dated to c1460, survived as a pastedown on a host codex from St. Cyriacus in Brunswick and is now at the Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel under the shelfmark cod. VII B Hs Nr. 264. For more information on the source see the introductory entry to this blog series.]

The second piece of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature to survive complete is the simple setting of the secular song “Ich fare do hin wen eß muß syn”, which must have been widely known, since it is quoted several times in different sources and inspired a number of contrafactures.[2] The only other complete musical source of this piece is in the Locham Song Book (Loch 8; D-Bsb Mus. ms. 40613, p. 9), however, it is monophonic and presents a number of questions concerning its rhythm and—more significantly—its modality. This new concordance helps to answer those questions. Continue reading