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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds At this state, you have already acquired some experience with transcribing ancient music. Most of the aspects we talked about in the past weeks are still valid. We start with a incipit to indicate the original clefts and to make the choice of the note values retraceable. You should add even the original voice indications Tenor and Contra. The cantus is not labelled, but it is the only voice which has text and information that also belongs to the incipit. One central point for the Ars Nova notation is to recognise the mensura. Therefore, we have to look for typical groupings of notes or rests that indicate in which tempus and in which prolatio we are. But take care.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds You can easily be misled, for instance at the beginning of the Cantus. It seems that there are groupings of three minimae indicating a prolatio maior.

Skip to 1 minute and 16 seconds The dot after the first semibrevis could be a punctus divisionis, avoiding an imperfection of the semibrevis by the following minima. Looking further though, we find a group of a minima rest, followed by three minimae, and forming therefore a group of four minimae, which is quite untypical for a prolatio maior. The dot in the beginning must thus be read as a punctus additionis. Determining the tempus in this case is less ambiguous, as we have here a semibrevis with two semibrevis rests, a clear indication for a tempus perfectum. Our mensura is tempus perfectum cum prolatione minori.

Transcribing Ars Nova notation

As we have seen during this week the evolution of Ars Nova notation during the early 14th century enhanced the compositional potentiality of the older system bringing new possibilities for combining rhythm.

Hence transcribing mensural music notated after 1320 bears a few more difficulties. But don’t worry! With the hints you get in this video it will become easily feasible. The technique for decoding the Ars Nova system is shown here analysing the three-voice ballade by the French composer P. de Molins De ce que Foul Pensé. The composition, which is taken here as example for this kind of mensural notation, is preserved in the manuscript London, British Library, Add. 41667 (I), fol. 26r and is performed by the Ensemble Gilles Binchois under the direction of Dominique Vellard. You can find the transcription below in the Downloads section.

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From Ink to Sound: Decoding Musical Manuscripts

University of Basel