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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds In this exercise step, you will learn how to transcribe a composition from the 13th century. For this purpose, I have selected a three-voice Ars Antiqua motet from the Codex Montpellier, H 196. Mediaeval motets are characterised by two simultaneous texts. This work presents some notational difficulties that will be discussed and resolved in this step. The first question that arises is how are the three voices displayed on the manuscript? You find on the bottom of the page the tenor, which is drawn across the pages. [SINGING] On the right side, you see the middle voice, duplum, or motetus. [SINGING] On the left, you see the upper voices, the so-called triplum. [SINGING] The composition ends, then, on the next pages, with the same layout.

Skip to 1 minute and 54 seconds [SINGING] The next crucial aspect we should consider is that this composition follows the so-called pre-Franconian rules. As you may remember, the ligature rules are, in that case, slightly different than the rules Franco of Cologne formulated. Whereas, the perfection and alteration rules are already valid. A table with the pre-Franconian ligature rules can be found in an earlier step of this week.

Skip to 4 minutes and 4 seconds After having settled the three incipits, as here, we should begin with the tenor. Remember that the tenor, in pre-Franconian pieces, is not yet completely mensural. The ligatures, rather, follow modal patterns. Therefore, we need to transcribe the three-note ligatures here

Skip to 4 minutes and 30 seconds as the first mode: long-short-long. You may realise that we decided to avoid bar lines. And therefore, in this transcription, there are no measures.

Skip to 4 minutes and 47 seconds The reason is the following: meter, in mensural music, doesn’t correspond to modern bars, but it rather depends upon the division of the time units. However, in order to help legibility, it is also possible to transcribe this music in a three-quarter time.

Skip to 5 minutes and 15 seconds The following question concerns the upper voices. How should we transcribe them? The basic rhythmic feature is the sequence of longa and brevis. In the motetus voice, we observe some shorter note values that are interposed in this pattern. At the beginning, they appear in form of a plica, in the next segment as a ligature. Please remember that here, the pre-Franconian ligature does not follow the visual logic of the mensural notation, but is derived from the modal notation,

Skip to 6 minutes and 3 seconds and therefore must be transcribed like this: quaver-quaver-crotchet.

Skip to 6 minutes and 13 seconds Please take also note that the short dash after G shouldn’t be read as a rest, but is a breathing pause, the so-called suspirium.

Skip to 6 minutes and 29 seconds The triplum voice finally bears no further difficulties. It should be transcribed like this.

Transcribing mensural notation I (pre-Franconian)

Let’s put into practice what we have learned in this week. In the next two steps we will show you the principal techniques for transcribing Ars Antiqua composition written in pre-Franconian and in Franconian notation.

For this video we have chosen the three voice motet from the Codex Montpellier H 196, fol. 153v–155r Amours mi Font Souffrir/En Mai/Flos Filius. You will have the opportunity to listen beforehand to the whole piece before learning how to transcribe it. Listen to the Ensemble Gilles Binchois under the direction of Dominique Vellard.

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This video is from the free online course:

From Ink to Sound: Decoding Musical Manuscripts

University of Basel