[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. 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 Collum Lutine. 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. Some heads of individual notes have a slightly tilted left line and one (in the centre of the example below) even (accidentally?) has a closed top:
Many sources of the 15th century (especially the chansonniers) seem prefer a simplified form of the originally rhomboid shape of all notes below the value of the breve. This almost triangular shape appears to have been the basis for the font used in the Kassel-Wolfenbüttel system. Both, the triangular and the “open head” form may have developed because they were quick to draw. The latter is also slightly reminiscent of some note shapes in the Schedel [Sche] and Lochamer-Liederbuch—interestingly not in the tablature section, but in the song section—, both of which have the most concordances with Wolf.
In a search for a cause, which might have triggered the simplified shape of the note heads, the “concordancie” (as the Kassel Collum Lutine and the Buxheimer Orgelbuch put it) come into focus: Notes, which are bound in chords or dyads, are joined by a common stem and it might have been considered too time-consuming to lead the stem from tip to tip of a string of rhombuses, which would have resulted in multiple quill strokes. The Kassel-Wolfenbüttel system, however, reduces the number of strokes to an absolute minimum.
At the same time, this pragmatic way of writing concordancie provides an easy method to notate musica ficta by using the space to the right of the stem for a “second note head”, which consists of another, simple stroke of the quill. This feature is not explained in the Kassel Collum Lutine but is completely obvious from the context of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature:
However, the Kassel Collum Lutine explains a symbol designating musica ficta for notes, which are not bound in concordancie, in and it is very similar to the practice in German organ tablatures of the time, such as in Bux. It consists of an added downward tail to the note head:
The Wolfenbüttel Tablature adopts this sign, but amplifies the simple, elongated downward stem by a crossing stroke, such as it is used in the tablatures from Loch.
On a final note: Just as in Bux and Loch necessary musica ficta is not always notated in Wolf. While the slower moving lower voices usually (but not always) feature all the ficta, it is often missing in the upper part, especially in extensive fusa-runs.
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 Kirnbauer, Martin: “IV. The Earliest German Sources of Lute Tablature: The Kassel “Lautenkragen” (D-Kl, 2° Ms. Math. 31), the “Königstein Songbook” (D-Bsb, Ms. germ. qu. 719) and the Regensburg Drawing (D-Rp, Ms. Th. 98 4°), p. 180, in: Young, Crawford & Kirnbauer, Martin (eds.): Frühe Lautentabulaturen im Faksimile / Early LuteTablatures in Facsimile (= Pratica Musicale, vol. 6), Winterthur (Amadeus) 2003.