A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B, fol. 1b

[In the course of the cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Musical Sources (9th-15th Century) in the Austrian National Library), conducted by Alexander Rausch and Robert Klugseder at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Klugseder has discovered a startling number of hitherto unknown fragments at the Austrian National library and made these “Vienna Fragments” available online in high-resolution images. All links to the source and the catalogue entries go to the homepage of this project. The image rights lie with Robert Klugseder who took the photos.]

Je languis d’amere mort

At the lower end of the verso side of A-Wn Mus.Hs. 1953.B (fol. 1b) it is possible to see some note-heads and stems belonging to a musical line that fell victim to the cropping of the page.

Fragments of a line of music at the lower end of Mus.Hs.1953.B, fol. 1b (photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The grouping and sequential behaviour of the notes that can be identified, as well as the general “skyline” of the phrase strongly reminded me of an Ars Nova chanson that I was currently studying. A direct comparison between this fragment and the transmission of the chanson in CZ-Pu XI.E.9, fol. 248v, shows that the “fingerprints” exactly match. They conclusively prove, I believe, that the notes belong to the first line of the cantus voice of the chanson “Je languis d’amere mort”. Not only do the visible traces provide a perfect match, but so do the lacunas, where no musical notation is visible. This is either because the melody goes down too low for any traces of the notation to appear or because stemless notes occur. This first line would have comprised almost the entire cantus line of the chanson, as illustrated in the transcription below.

Comparing “Je languis” in CZ-Pu XI.E.9, fol. 248v with the remnants on Mus.Hs.1953.B, fol. 1b (photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The Prague manuscript (CZ-Pu XI.E.9) also contains—only two pages after “Je languis”—a two-voice version of “Soit tart tempre”, which is found just above in the same Vienna fragment.

Not only does this concordance cement the popularity of the chanson at hand by providing it with another (although extremely fragmentary) concordance: it also puts it into a transmission context with “Soyt tart tempre” (found on fol. 250 in the Prague source) and with an English song (on fol. 1a of the Vienna fragment).

The notational characteristics and the presence of a competently copied English song suggest an English origin for this fragment (as David Fallows has also pointed out), placing “Soit tart tempre” and “Je languis” in the repertoire of English scribes around 1400.

Marc Lewon

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