The Vienna Ars Nova Fragments

The vast 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, not only lists and describes all relevant music manuscripts or parts of manuscripts of this library, but has also unearthed and catalogued a startling number—1771 to be precise—of musical fragments taken from the bindings of other codices. The great majority of these remnants of otherwise lost sources concerns the transmission of chant and has been described by the two colleagues working on the project. One of them, Robert Klugseder, is also the web-administrator for our own new project, Musical Life of the late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region (1340- 1520). Some of the above fragments are relevant for the “Musical Life” project as they comprise material which was written or used in the Austrian region during the time period with which we are concerned.

The Rausch-Klugseder catalogue also contains some items written in mensural notation. The existence of mensurally notated fragments among the large amount of surviving material has already been pointed out by Dominique Gatté on his blog-site on medieval music, Musicologie Médiévale. Some of the larger fragments have previously been identified and announced by the makers of the Musical Sources-catalogue as well as on DIAMM. One of the most notable among them is A-Wn Mus.Hs.1953.B, as it contains the unique transmission of “My ladi my ladi myn happ und all myn hele” and a new concordance for “Soyt tart tempre”. Another quite substantial fragment with music from the Veneto (A-Wn Fragm661)—though not relevant to the Musical Life project but worth mentioning—has been published separately by Robert Klugseder and Margaret Bent (eds), Ein Liber cantus aus dem Veneto (um 1440) / A Veneto Liber cantus (c. 1440); A Veneto ‘Liber cantus’ (c. 1440). Fragmente in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München und der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek Wien / Fragments in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Munich and the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2012.

In April 2012, I undertook a survey of all fragments, which resulted in a short list of interesting and promising items for our Musical Life project. I was able to identify and transcribe a number of new concordances for well-known secular chansons. Other scholars who browsed the collection came to similar conclusions for some sources, such as the identification of “Or sus vous dormez trop” as a bleed-through on a fragment still fixed in a binding (A-Wn Cod. 3917). This and other new findings are discussed by Jason Stoessel on his blog-site.

With the next few blog entries we would like to present the discoveries and transcriptions made earlier this year as part of the work on the Musical Life project.

Marc Lewon