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Pairings

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[Theme music begins]

Welcome to Harmonia . . . I’m Angela Mariani. Our program this hour digs into two pairs of complex expressive, substantial pieces of music. One is a pair of ballades about a mythical serpent: the first by Guillaume de Machaut, the second by Magister Franciscus. The other two pieces are motets by Antoine Busnois and Johannes Ockeghem, the former a tribute to Ockeghem, the latter a motet without words. We’ll explore the relationship between the pieces. Plus, our featured release suggests a “pairing” of a different sort – serious and drinking songs, on a 2021 release by Les Arts Florissants, directed by William Christie. 

[Fade out theme music]

 

MUSIC TRACK
N’espérez plus mes yeux: Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3
Les Arts Florissant, William Christie
Harmonia Mundi, 2021 / B08YL9NM9S
Antoine Boesset
Tr. 6 N'esperez plus (4:23)

Les Arts Florissant gave us that performance of Antoine Boesset’s “N’esperez plus mes yeux.” It’s the title track to our featured release, N’espérez plus mes yeux: Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3, ["Wait no more, my eyes", Serious and Drinking Airs vol.3]. This is one of the serious songs, whose refrain translates, [quote] “Jealous of my happiness, heaven in its cruelty has stolen my Aurora just as she appeared.” We’ll hear more from this recording later in the hour.

We’ve titled this week’s episode “Pairings” …because we’re listening to two pairs of closely related French songs—one from the C14, the other from the C15. The first is a pair of ballades, one by Guillaume de Machaut and the other by the mysterious Magister Franciscus; and the second is a pair of motets composed, though we’re not sure in which order, by Antoine Busnois and Johannes Ockeghem.

Let’s begin with our renaissance pairing.

 

Antoine Busnois wrote both the words and the music of In hydraulis, a tribute to Johannes Ockeghem in which Busnois also mentions himself. The poet discourses at length on Pythagoras, regarded at the time as the discoverer of music, citing the apocryphal legend of his discovery of the mathematical basis of musical intervals at the blacksmith’s forge, and dedicates the poem to [quote:] “You, Ockeghem, who sing these harmonies before all." Busnois then goes on to demonstrate his skill and understanding of Pythagorean principles by illustrating them in the composition in a way that reflects Pythagorean ratios representing music in time and space:

He composes a slow-moving tenor line with 3 notes [me singing a fifth and an octave] repeated backwards [me again] to create a palindrome [me again]. The melody repeats three times at three different speeds.

 

MUSIC TRACK
In hydraulis & other works / Antoine Busnoys
Pomerium, Blachly
Dorian, 1993 / B000001Q9W
Antoine Busnois
Tr. 1 In hydraulis (7:11) 

Very complex music, with a haunting effect - Pomerium, directed by Alexander Blachly, sang Antoine Busnois’ In hydraulis, a tribute to Johannes Ockeghem. Ockeghem was himself a master of complicated music - witness his Mass to be sung “in any mode,” or his Missa Prolationum, where 2 lines of music turn into simultaneous canons at varying intervals. But Ockeghem’s  untexted Ut heremita [ER-eh-mee-ta] solus takes complexity to a whole new level. And it begins with the very melody that Busnois' quotes in the second section of In hydraulis, at the text, "You, Ockeghem." Let’s listen to Busnois again.

MUSIC TRACK
In hydraulis & other works / Antoine Busnoys
Pomerium, Blachly
Dorian, 1993 / B000001Q9W
Antoine Busnois
Tr. 1 In hydraulis (Excerpt: play 3:11 and fade at 3:20) [:10]

And now let’s listen to the opening of Ockeghem’s Ut heremita solus.

(play just the opening 8 seconds or so and fade)

MUSIC TRACK
Sit Fast
Fretwork
Virgin Classics, 2006 / B000006DD1
Johannes Ockeghem
Tr. 13 – 14 Ut heremita solus (Excerpt: play opening 8 seconds or so and fade)

Cool, isn’t it?  Busnois and Ockeghem almost certainly met in Tours, where Ockeghem spent most of his prime. Antoine Busnois’ patron saint was St. Anthony - a hermit; “HER-e-mi-ta” in Latin - and each section of Ockeghem’s Ut heremita solus contains 108 semibreves, which equals the letters of "Busnoys," according to numerological principles, another possible connection.

The three outer voices of the Ockeghem are syncopated and ornamental, often in very close imitation. And then there’s the tenor part, one of the most mysterious canons in all of music, an elaborate assortment of syllables, symbols, and notes on the musical staff; a quotation from the Book of Job as "text;" and a series of cryptic Latin puzzles. But what on earth is the listener to make of all this? Let yourself just sink into the piece, played here by Fretwork.

MUSIC TRACK
Sit Fast
Fretwork
Virgin Classics, 2006 / B000006DD1
Johannes Ockeghem
Tr. 13 – 14 Ut heremita solus (8:22)

We heard Johannes Ockeghem’s incredibly complex and strangely beautiful Ut heremita solus performed by Fretwork on their 2006 recording, Sit Fast.

[Begin theme music]

(Theme Music Bed: Ensemble Alcatraz, Danse Royale, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 / B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal)

You can hear highlights from recent and archival concert recordings of early music on ​Harmonia Uncut ​-- our biweekly podcast, curated and hosted by Wendy Gillespie. Listen online at harmonia early music dot org and through iTunes.

You’re listening to Harmonia . . .  I’m Angela Mariani.

[Theme music fades out]

 

 

Mid Break: 

MUSIC TRACK: Sit Fast, Fretwork, Virgin Classics, 2006 / B000006DD1, Heinrich Isaac, Tr 3 O decus ecclesiae_2 (:59 excerpt)

[Music fades]

Welcome back. We’re listening to two pairs of closely related French songs this hour.

Our second pair of pieces is in the medieval French poetic form of the ballade, which has three verses and a particular scheme for both textual and musical rhyme. The first ballade is by Guillaume de Machaut, and its title translates to “Python, the marvellous serpent.” Machaut had read Ovid, whose Metamorphoses recounts the birth of the serpent Python and his death by a thousand arrows of Phoebus Apollo. Machaut uses the story to create an allegory in which he compares the serpent’s cruelty with that of the elusive lover.

Let’s hear the Orlando Consort’s version of the Machaut ballade - see whether you can hear three verses, each one about two minutes, thirty seconds.

MUSIC TRACK
The Dart of Love        
Orlando Consort        
Hyperion, 2015 / B00QKYTS58                      
Guillaume de Machaut          
Tr. 5 Phyton, Le merveilleuse (7:42)

The Orlando Consort sang Guillaume de Machaut’s Phyton le merveilleuse serpent, Python, the marvellous serpent.

(play and fade just the first 8 seconds of the next track)

MUSIC TRACK
The Dart of Love        
Orlando Consort        
Hyperion, 2015 / B00QKYTS58                      
Guillaume de Machaut          
Tr. 5 Phyton, Le merveilleuse (Excerpt: first 8 seconds)

 . . . And now let’s listen to the opening of a ballade by Magister Franciscus.

(play and fade just the first 8 seconds of the next track)

MUSIC TRACK
Codex Chantilly. Vol. 2           
Tetraktys        
Olive Music, Etcetera, 2011 / B01KB119Q6  
Magister Franciscus   
Tr. 8 Phiton (Excerpt: first 8 seconds)

We’re not sure exactly which of several musicians named Franciscus composed this ballade, but he certainly knew the work of Machaut well, since most of his compositions, like this one, quote Machaut in either text or music. Franciscus takes the story of the Python in a different direction, associating the serpent’s death at the hands of Phoebus Apollo with a battle in which Gaston III, the Count of Foix who was known as “Febus” for his golden hair, defeated an enemy, possibly Jean D’Armegnac.

Let’s hear the rest of Franciscus’ composition, which is performed here with a voice on one part and instruments on the others.

MUSIC TRACK
Codex Chantilly. Vol. 2
Tetraktys
Olive Music, Etcetera, 2011 / B01KB119Q6
Magister Franciscus
Tr. 8 Phiton (9:05)                                                                                                                        

Haunting, don’t you think? This performance of Magister Franciscus’ ballade Phiton Phiton comes from the ensemble Tetraktys on their 2011 Etcetera CD Codex Chantilly, Vol 2.

We’ll move now to the pairing of serious and drinking songs in our featured release, the third volume of Airs sérieux et à boire, (serious and drinking songs), released in 2021 on the Harmonia Mundi label, by Les Arts Florissant, directed by William Christie.

Let’s begin with a French courtly song. Did you know that some airs de cour are actually in Italian? Etienne Moulinié’s O que [che] gioia ne sento - from a collection that includes accompaniment for lute and guitar, is one example, and this is a song about requited love for a change - the lady delights that her lover’s heart has been touched by Cupid’s arrow, too!

MUSIC TRACK
N’espérez plus mes yeux… Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3
["Wait no more, my eyes", Serious and Drinking Airs vol.3]
Les Arts Florissant, William Christie
Harmonia Mundi, 2021 / B08YL9NM9S
Etienne Moulinié:
Tr. 4 O che gioia (1:41)

O che gioia, by Etienne Moulinié, performed by Les Arts Florissant.

The recording also offers instrumental music from mid C17 France—for example, this anonymous and juicy chromatic Allemande with its prelude from a 1665 publication of 4-part music.

MUSIC TRACK
N’espérez plus mes yeux… Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3
["Wait no more, my eyes", Serious and Drinking Airs vol.3]
Les Arts Florissant, William Christie
Harmonia Mundi, 2021 / B08YL9NM9S
Anonymous:
Tr. 15 Prelude and Allemande cromatique (2:59)

An anonymous prelude and allemande cromatique for 3 violins and continuo, performed by Les Arts Florissant, on their third volume of French Airs sérieux & à boire, or serious and drinking music.

Moving to the “a boire,” or the drinking end of the spectrum, let’s hear Les Arts Florissant’s take on Pierre Guedron’s “Que dit-on au village?” - “What are they saying in the village?” It turns out they are saying that young Margot has lost her chastity and is out in the woods looking for it!

MUSIC TRACK
N’espérez plus mes yeux… Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3
["Wait no more, my eyes", Serious and Drinking Airs vol.3]
Les Arts Florissant, William Christie
Harmonia Mundi, 2021 / B08YL9NM9S
Pierre Guédron:
Tr. 19 Que dit-on au village? (3:21)

Pierre Guédron’s song “Que dit-on au village?” was performed by members of Les Arts Florissants on their third volume of airs de cour, titled N’espérez plus mes yeux… Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3, ["Wait no more, my eyes", Serious and Drinking Airs vol.3], the 2021 Harmonia Mundi release starring Les Arts Florissants, directed by William Christie.

[Fade in theme music]​

Harmonia is a production of WFIU. Support comes from Early Music America: a national organization that advocates and supports the historical performance of music of the past, the community of artists who create it, and the listeners whose lives are enriched by it. On the web at EarlyMusicAmerica-dot-org. 

Additional resources come from the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. 

We welcome your thoughts about any part of this program, or about early music in general. Contact us at harmonia early music dot org. And, you can follow our Facebook page by searching for Harmonia Early Music.

The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Wendy Gillespie.​

Thanks to our studio engineer Michael Paskash, and our production team: LuAnn Johnson, Wendy Gillespie, Aaron Cain, and John Bailey. I’m Angela Mariani, inviting you to join us again for the next edition of Harmonia.

[Theme music concludes]​

Pair of pythons

We’ll compare a pair of “phythons/phitons” in the second half of the hour. (Arno Meintjes, flickr)

This week's program digs into two pairs of complex expressive, substantial pieces of music. One is a pair of ballades about a mythical serpent: the first by Guillaume de Machaut, the second by Magister Franciscus. The other two pieces are motets by Antoine Busnois and Johannes Ockeghem, the former a tribute to Ockeghem, the latter a motet without words. We’ll explore the relationship between the pieces. Plus, our featured release suggests a “pairing” of a different sort – serious and drinking songs, on a 2021 release by Les Arts Florissants, directed by William Christie.

PLAYLIST

N’espérez plus mes yeux: Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3
Les Arts Florissant, William Christie
Harmonia Mundi, 2021 / B08YL9NM9S
Antoine Boesset
Tr. 6 N'esperez plus (4:23)

Segment A:

In hydraulis & other works / Antoine Busnoys
Pomerium, Blachly
Dorian, 1993 / B000001Q9W
Antoine Busnois
Tr. 1 In hydraulis (7:11)

Sit Fast
Fretwork
Virgin Classics, 2006 / B000006DD1
Johannes Ockeghem
Tr. 13 – 14 Ut heremita solus (8:22)

Theme Music Bed: Ensemble Alcatraz, Danse Royale, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 / B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal

:59 Midpoint Break Music Bed: Sit Fast, Fretwork, Virgin Classics, 2006 / B000006DD1, Heinrich Isaac, Tr 3 O decus ecclesiae_2 (:59 excerpt)

Segment B:

The Dart of Love
Orlando Consort
Hyperion, 2015 / B00QKYTS58
Guillaume de Machaut
Tr. 5 Phyton, Le merveilleuse (7:42)

Codex Chantilly. Vol. 2
Tetraktys
Olive Music, Etcetera, 2011 / B01KB119Q6
Magister Franciscus
Tr. 8 Phiton (9:05)

Featured Release:

N’espérez plus mes yeux… Airs sérieux & à boire Vol.3
["Wait no more, my eyes", Serious and Drinking Airs vol.3]
Les Arts Florissant, William Christie
Harmonia Mundi, 2021 / B08YL9NM9S
Etienne Moulinié:
Tr. 4 O che gioia (1:41)
Anonymous:
Tr. 15 Prelude and Allemande cromatique (2:59)
Pierre Guédron:
Tr. 19 Que dit-on au village? (3:21)

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