Marc’s Milk Carton: A Kutná Hora Ceiling Painting

Štěpán Kafka is a cornucopia of interesting finds in and around Kutná Hora (Kuttenberg, Czech Republic). While we were conversing about the Kuttenberg Fragment, containing a concordance to Agricola’s “Cecus non judicat de coloribus” (check out the link to the “musikleben”-blog site with the announcement of the find) he also informed me of a ceiling painting from c.1500 in Kutná Hora’s St. Barbara cathedral with some musical notation: The ceiling features some angels playing instruments while one of them is holding a scroll and pointing at it with a teaching staff. This scroll seemingly features a line of mensural notation. (More information in Czech can be found on the Kutná Hora website.)

Marc's Milk Carton: A Ceiling Painting in Kutná Hora's St. Barbara Cathedral

Marc’s Milk Carton: A ceiling painting in Kutná Hora’s St. Barbara cathedral

So far I was not able to make any sense of it and we suppose that there is the possibility that the painter merely tried to give the impression of mensural notation without it having to make an musical sense. Another possibility is that restorations of the paintings may have messed up the notation at some point. (The most recent restoration, Kafka was assured, was made very carefully and most certainly did not change anything. The last one before that in 1898, however, left no documentation.) But maybe, just maybe, someone can make more of it and can actually attach this line to an existing piece.

St. Barbara in Kutná Hora: Musical angels with one of them holding a scroll with musical notation.

St. Barbara in Kutná Hora: Musical angels with one of them holding a scroll containing musical notation.

My question, therefore, is: Can anyone make any sense of this line of mensural notation? Can this incipit be linked to any existing piece? Thanks for your help, guys.

Kutná Hora, St. Barbara: A line of mensural notation on a scroll held by an angel.

Kutná Hora, St. Barbara (c.1500): A line of mensural notation on a scroll held by an angel. (Click picture to enlarge.)

Marc Lewon

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Marc’s Milk Carton: The Kuttenberg-Fragment

Marc’s Milk Carton: The Kuttenberg-Fragment

Marc’s Milk Carton: The Kuttenberg-Fragment

Štěpán Kafka had recently found some interesting musical fragments at the Czech Museum of Silver in Kutná Hora, some of which he made available on his website www.cantica.kh.cz. Robert Mitchell was able to identify Alexander Agricola’s textless composition “Cecus non judicat de coloribus” on one of the them. This identification along with a reproduction of the fragment and a transcription was published on the blog site of the research project “Musical Life of the Late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region”: The Kuttenberg-Cecus. The fragments, however, comprise another folio from the same codex with notation on both sides: the tenor and bassus parts of a three-voice composition on its recto side and the cantus and bassus parts of the beginning of another three-voice composition on its verso side. Both pieces are untexted in the surviving notation, feature no incipits or titles and bear generic melodic and contrapuntal characteristics of polyphonic compositions from Agricola’s time (late 15th century). Since these pieces have not yet been identified or attributed, my question is: Can anyone identify the compositions behind these notational fragments?

Folio Cr: Tenor and bassus from the end of a piece

    Fol. Cr of the "Kuttenberg-Fragment": tenor and bassus (reproducion with kind permission of the ©Museum of Silver, Kutná Hora)

Fol. Cr of the “Kuttenberg-Fragment”: tenor and bassus (reproducion with kind permission of the ©Czech Museum of Silver, Kutná Hora)

Folio Bv: Cantus and bassus from the beginning of a piece

Fol. Cv of the "Kuttenberg-Fragment": cantus and bassus (reproducion with kind permission of the ©Museum of Silver, Kutná Hora)

Fol. Cv of the “Kuttenberg-Fragment”: cantus and bassus (reproducion with kind permission of the ©Czech Museum of Silver, Kutná Hora)

Marc Lewon

Marc’s Milk Carton: a new source for “Sans joie avoir”!

Only two hours after I had posted the latest Milk Carton (“A nameless cantus fragment”) the answer came via facebook: Julien Taurand had found that the fragment of mensural notation in the top line of CZ-Pu XI.E.9, fol. 248v is in fact the cantus line of the entire A-part (with the ouvert ending) of the ballade “Sans joie avoir”, for which the only other concordances are to be found in Codex Chantilly (fol. 23) and Pit (P-Bn f.it. 568, fol. 27v-28). I would like to thank Mr. Taurand for sharing his identification. Here is a transcription of the A-part of said ballade with the surviving notation from the fragment in black notation and the emendations taken from Codex Chantilly in grey:

A-part of the anonymous ballade "Sans joie avoir" with the surviving notation from CZ-Pu XI.E.9 (amended by using the transmission of Codex Chantilly—grey notation).

A-part of the anonymous ballade “Sans joie avoir” with the surviving notation from CZ-Pu XI.E.9 (amended by using the transmission of Codex Chantilly—grey notation).

Marc Lewon

Marc’s Milk Carton: A nameless cantus fragment

Marc's Milk Carton: Fragment of an Ars Nova cantus line

Marc’s Milk Carton: Fragment of an Ars Nova cantus line

The famous Strasbourg codex CZ-Pu XI.E.9 (see DIAMM source description), which contains a number of ars nova pieces and German tenor-songs, features on the top line of fol. 248v a nameless fragment of mensural notation. It sounds very familiar to me and everyone I’ve asked thought the same—but no one so far could quite put the finger on it. Therefore my question is: Who knows this bit of cantus and can attach it to a composition? My guess is that it is a piece of a cantus line of a three voice ars nova or ars subtilior composition:

CZ-Pu XI.E.9, fol. 248v—fragment of an Ars Nova cantus line.

CZ-Pu XI.E.9, fol. 248v—fragment of an Ars Nova cantus line.

Marc Lewon

PS: The puzzle is already solved! Julien Taurand found the fragment to be the beginning of the ballade “Sans joie avoir” from Codex Chantilly. See next blog for a transcription.

Marc’s Milk Carton: An orphaned contratenor voice

The Vienna Ars Nova Fragment A-Wn Fragm406, found and photographed by Robert Klugseder for the cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Musical Sources (9th-15th Century) in the Austrian National Library), features on its recto side the remains of a lone contratenor voice for which I could not find a concordance so far. Therefore, I would like to dedicate the second edition of the “Milk Carton” to this fragment of a voice, which is now bereft of its counterpoint:

Marc's Milk Carton: "Contratenor"

Marc’s Milk Carton: “Contratenor”

The fragment was already discussed in a post on the “Musikleben” blogsite as one of the “Vienna Fragments”, and given that the surrounding notation on Fragment 406 could be identified as Ars Nova compositions (“Mon tres dous coer” & “Je languis d’amere mort”), as well as taking into account the typical layout and notation, one can safely assume that this contratenor voice once belonged to an Ars Nova composition. The fact that the fragment seems to give the beginning of the voice should facillitate the search, but even though I checked most of PMFC I could not find a concordance. It may of course very well be that this voice is an alternative contratenor, not edited in PMFC or that is a yet unknown, “new” contratenor to a known composition. This is my transcription of the fragmented voice (not much, I have to concede, probably even too little):

Fragment of an unknown contratenor voice.

Fragment of an unknown contratenor voice.

My question is: Have you encountered this voice or do you know a composition to which this voice could have belonged?

Marc Lewon

Marc’s Milk Carton: Who recognises the “tagweiß”?

The first item on Marc’s Milk Carton is Linz Fragment 21 (photographed by Robert Klugseder for the cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Musical Sources (9th-15th Century) in the Austrian National Library). The piece features the incipt “Ein tagweiß” under the discantus voice and “tag weiß” under the tenor line. It was already presented and transcribed in an earlier post on the “Musikleben” blogsite.

Marc's Milk Carton

“Ein tagweiß”

This points to the minnesang genre of the “tagelied” in which the secret lovers have to part at dawn (after a night which they had spent together) in order to avoid detection by other courtiers and backbiters. The version in the Linz fragments is untexted and used to feature four voices. When comparing the surviving voices, however, it becomes obvious that the setting is a polyphonic embellishment of an originally monophonic song. The melody of this song was placed in the tenor line and functions a sort of cantus firmus, much like the polyphonic settings of the possible Oswald monody “Heýa ho nún wie si grollen”, one of which also survives on Linz Fragment 2.

The most striking feature of this setting is the alternating rhythmic pattern of semibreve-minim-semibreve-minim, etc. which is omnipresent in the composition and most prominent in the tenor line. This kind of rhythmic structures seems to be closely connected to the monophonic, syllabic German song repertoire of the late Middle Ages. I like to call it “reference rhythm”, because it appears to depict metrical structures rather than “prescribing” a strict or even “dance-like” rhythm (for more information about the concept of the “reference rhythm” and for a discussion of the fragment including a transcription see the post “Ein tagweiß” on the “Musikleben” blogsite).

My question is: Does anyone recognise either the polyphonic setting of “Ein tagweiß” or—what seems even more likely to me—its tenor line as monophonic song, possibly entirely without a musical rhythm or rhythmised in this fashion?

Ein tagweiß (attempted reconstruction of the rhythmicised monody)

Ein tagweiß (attempted reconstruction of the rhythmised monody)

Marc Lewon

Marc’s Milk Carton – “Have you seen this melody?”

During my research work I tend to come across a number of melodies or fragments of compositions which I cannot identify or link to a concordance. My work for the “Musical Life Project” on the Vienna Ars Nova and Linz Fragments in particular has brought to attention a frustrating number of “nameless” or “tagless” pieces. In many cases the existence of these pieces has long been known.Their identity, however, still remains unresolved. With this new category on my blog site—Marc’s Milk Carton—I would like to select some of those untagged melodies or compositions which I feel are promising candidates for the search for concordances. Maybe someone might recognise a melody, a phrase or a voice and can help to find a missing link in order to put those yet “unknown” pieces on the map.

(Incidentally, I understand very well that people who have identified a new concordance want to publish their identifications themselves. I just want to put these nameless fragments and pieces out there. If, however, you want to share your findings in the comment section below, I would of course be very happy to announce it and credit you duely. But I’ll be just as happy if new findings will be published elsewhere.)

I present to you:

Marc's Milk Carton

Marc’s Milk Carton

Marc Lewon

PS: Just before its release, the idea of the “Milk Carton” was anticipated by an identification of one of the pieces on my list: Linz Fragment 29 was recognised by David Fallows who informed me of the concordance. The tentative transcription of the abbreviated incipit “Domine martine(?)” was identified as the composition “Dung plus amer”, possibly with a corrupted incipit in the source. Check out the original post with the fragmentary transcription and the revisited fragment.