[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 Collum Lutine. 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. 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 contrafacts. The only other complete musical source of this piece is in the Lochamer-Liederbuch (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. The tablature requires only the first two systems of fol. Bv.
The following diplomatic transcription reveals the places where one would expect dotted rhythms. Since according to the Kassel Collum Lutine the rhythmical values in this tablature notation are half of standard values, one could assume that for this piece a tempus perfectum minor was intended, bringing rules of perfection into effect. In this case, a dot would not be necessary.
Turning to the polyphonic transcription, the cantus line almost seems like a cliché improvisation upon a pre-existing tenor, using the familiar Bux pick-up motif, a standardised cadence figure and almost no ornaments. The arrangement is two-voice in essence with additional notes being added only for every initial and cadential sonority. It is a very formulaic arrangement.
One interesting item is the function of the fermata sign in bar 14: by looking at the synoptic transcription below, we observe that this place falls at the internal caesura in the middle of a verse line. Perhaps the intabulator wanted to mark a rhetorical climax in the song as a point of arrival? It is more likely that the sign was meant to mark the end of the strophe (in bar 17) just before the refrain and merely misplaced by three bars.
The tablature sits very high on the instrument, but is fully playable there. For the synoptic edition, however, I found it helpful to transpose the lute arrangement down by a fourth in order to fit it to the pitch of the song. The transmission of the song in Loch does not have a clef, but a standard c4-clef (the most common for tenor voices in this time) results in exactly the same modality that is presented in the tablature and does not require the use of any musica ficta.
Because of the missing clef in Loch, the modality of this melody was never quite clear: Was it meant to be in the g-dorian mode but missing a b-flat? Was it meant to be in the G-lydian mode but missing an f-sharp? The tablature solves this question once and for all: it is neither. It is in the G-mixolydian mode with the typical plagal minor third in the lower half of the mode and the characteristic major third in the upper half. The impressive but unusual melodic leap of a minor 7th in the first line of Loch has been called into question, especially since the quotation of that line in the quodlibet “O rosa bella / In feuers hitz” (Glog 119) turns that leap into an octave jump (see also the blog The Glogau Songbook “Quodlibets”). The arrangement in the Wolfenbüttel Tablature now confirms the transmission of the song in Loch: the leap of a 7th is indeed intended.
The following transcription into French tablature notation demonstrates that this setting is a prime example of a piece appropriate for performance employing plectrum technique, fitting the instrument perfectly. It is also by far the simplest and shortest of the extant lute arrangements in the Wolfenbüttel Tablature, completely avoiding the use of fusae.
Since the tablature sits very high on the lute, I transposed it down to the apparent original range of the chanson. It turns out that this version is also fully playable in this position and all dyads and chords still fall on neighbouring strings.
The generic and formulaic tone of this lute arrangement, coupled with the observation that no other polyphonic version of the song survives, makes it likely that “Ich fare do hyn” circulated as a monody and was only arranged polyphonically for this lute tablature. The arranger appears to take a somewhat similar approach to the last piece of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature (WolfT 5: “Ellende du hest vmb vanghen mich”, see next blog entry).
A recording of this tablature has already been published as part of the research project “Musical life of the Late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region” as a sound sample for the plectrum lute, and can be accessed on youtube until it is released on the project’s own website: “Ich fare do hyn wen eß muß syn” (youtube). A recording of all five tablatures will be released as part of a CD later this year.
[2014-10-25] PS: The première recording of this tablature (along with the other 4 arrangements from the source) has just been published as part of the CD “Kingdom of Heaven – Heinrich Laufenberg” with Ensemble Dragma (Ramée, 2014). All arrangements from the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature are recorded soloistically on the plectrum lute by Marc Lewon. Missing parts were reconstructed using parallel sources of the model-chansons and arranging them in the style of the surviving parts of the tablature. “Ich fare do hyn wen eß muß syn” can be found on track 15. Check out this blog entry to find out more about the CD.
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 Staehelin, Martin: “Norddeutsche Fragmente mit Lautenmusik um 1460 in Wolfenbüttel”, in “Kleinüberlieferung mehrstimmiger Musik vor 1550 in deutschem Sprachgebiet”, Series IX, “Neue Quellen des Spätmittelalters aus Deutschland und der Schweiz” (= Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Neue Folge, Band 15), Berlin 2012, pp. 67-88 (text and edition) and pp. 141-144 (facsimile).
 Concordances and citations listed in: Fallows, David: A Catalogue of Polyphonic Songs, 1415-1480, New York (Oxford University Press) 1999, p. 449.
 The assumption of a g-hypodorian mode was the most common interpretation for this song, seemingly supported by the quotation of the incipit and refrain in two quodlibets of the Glogauer Liederbuch (for a new insight into the Glogau-quodlibets see this blog entry). However, in face of the new evidence at hand, the editions of the quodlibets Glog 118 and Glog 119 should be reviewed: they traditionally introduce b-flats to the tenor lines—even though the original does not have them—and which at least for the “Ich far dohin”-quotations should be omitted.