The Conductus of W1: an investigation into their history and rhythm

Bull, Andrew James Anderson (2017) The Conductus of W1: an investigation into their history and rhythm. MMus(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The manuscript ‘W1’, otherwise known as the St Andrews Music Book, contains 197 folios of music from the 13th century. This music was transmitted to St Andrews from the cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris, which was the centre of European religious music making during the 12th and 13th centuries. The history of W1 is a fiercely debated topic, and this thesis will tackle some of the recent claims made regarding its dating, as well as dealing with some of the issues surrounding the conductus, a certain style of the Notre-Dame polyphonic chant repertoire, which inhabits a unique place in the repertoire of this time. Not evidently liturgical, but not secular, its role in the medieval church is highly debated, and its interpretation under the supposed ‘universal’ approach of Notre-Dame modal rhythm is ripe for enquiry.

This rhythmical theory has been deduced from the interpretation of medieval theorists’ writings, however these writers were not clear and concise in terms of modern expectations. We find ourselves with a body of theoretical treatises written after several of the major manuscript sources were already created, posing a question for modern interpreters: should we apply these theoretical writings to a time before they were created, and were these practices in fact in use before the systemisation represented by the treatises occurred? Whilst much work has been done in applying modal rhythm to music which could predate the codification of modal rhythm, remarkably few editions present the music of this time without rhythmical biases. As this thesis will show, notions of rhythm were far more based around performative interpretations by the musicians, that than by abstract theoretical readings of notation.

The rhythmically-undefined editions of this music that are found at the end of this thesis are an attempt to return this repertoire’s rhythm to its previous interpretational and performative aspect. This was found in the early years of Notre-Dame polyphony, where the notation was primarily meant only as a guide to the music’s shape. The intended use of these scores is a method more akin to a notational pitch guide than a fully metrically-conceived score, allowing for performances closer to the rhythmic freedom that the early Notre-Dame musicians had within this repertoire.

Item Type: Thesis (MMus(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Conductus, W1, Herzog August Bibliothek. Manuscript. Codex Guelf. 628 Helmst, St Andrews Cathedral Scotland, Modal Rhythm, Bishop David Bernham.
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: McGuinness, Dr. David and Butt, Professor John
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Mr Andrew James Anderson Bull
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8105
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 May 2017 11:30
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2019 15:06

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