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M’a vostre cueur mis en oubli 3v · Busnoys, Antoine

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Copenhagen ff. 11v-13 »M’a vostre cueur mis en oubli« 3v PDF - Facsimile

*Dijon ff. 101v-103 »M’a vostre cueur mis en oubli« 3v PDFFacsimile (Phot. 206-209)

*Laborde ff. 95v-97 »M’a vostre cueur mis en oubli« 3v PDF - Facsimile

- the three different versions in a convenient PDF package.

Other musical sources:

Bologna Q16 ff. 40v-42 »Terribile fortuna« 3v Facsimile
Florence 229 ff. 245v-247 »M’a vestre cueur« 3v
Florence 2794 ff. 36v-38 »M’a vostre cueur mis en oubli« 3v
Rome 2856 ff. 71v-73 »Ma doulce ceur« 3v Busnois
Sevilla 5-1-43 ff. 55v-56 »M’a vostre cuer mis en oubli« 3v

Edition: Jeppesen 1927 no. 10 (Copenhagen).

Text: Bergerette; full text in Copenhagen, Dijon, Laborde, and Florence 2794; also in Paris 1719 f. 113v (no. 359) After Copenhagen:

M’a vostre cueur mis en oubli,
dont tant il me souvient? Helas!
Je croy que de moi il est las,
le plus de tous biens ennobli.

Se vostre doux cueur me renonce,
que je dis mon dieu terrien,

mort suis, et ma mort vous anonce,
car plus je l’aime qu'aultre rien.

Par lui souloie estre embely
d’espoir d’avoir joye et soulas;
et ores me tient en ses las
Desespoir, et crie anver lui: (1)

M’a vostre cueur mis en oubli,
dont tant il me souvient? Helas!
Je croy que de moi il est las,
le plus de tous biens ennobli.

Has your heart forgotten me,
while I remember it so? Alas!
I believe that it, the most noble
in all virtues, is tired of me.

If your sweet heart, which I call
my earthly god, renounces me,

I shall die, and I announce my death to you,
for I love your heart more than anything else.

Because of it I used to brighten up
by the hope of having joy and solace;
and now Despair holds me in its bonds,
and I cry out to him:

Has your heart forgotten me,
while I remember it so? Alas!
I believe that it, the most noble
in all virtues, is tired of me.

1) Copenhagen and Labord, line 12 “… crie aver …”; changed in accordance with Dijon.
Some minor differences in spelling occur.

Evaluation of the sources:

»M’a vostre cueur« offers an instructive example of how difficult it could be for a meticulous music scribe to present the sounding reality of music in writing, of how the flexibility of the notation in changing configurations could collaborate with the performers’ routines and expectations of the notation. Especially in an extended song in Dorian where a varied contrapuntal development needs flattened as well as natural Bs there can be several ways of putting the music in writing as regards key signatures. The sources for this chanson show the complete range of possibilities. In the slightly later Italian and French MSS it appears without any key signatures at all (Florence 229 and Rome 2856) and with a one flat signature in the contratenor only (Bologna Q16, Florence 2794 (only in the first two staves in the refrain, bb. 1-25, and in the first staff of the couplets, bb. 50-62), and Sevilla 5-I-43). The Dijon scribe has used different configurations of key signatures in the two section of the bergerette in his three copies: Dijon, - (b in the first staff, bb. 1-11), b, b / b, -, b; Laborde, -, -, b / -, b, b; and Copenhagen, b, -, b / -, b, b.

These sources evidently transmit two different interpretations of the tonal development and contrasts in the bergerette. In the sources without any flats quite a lot of B-flats will have to be performed in the contratenor to correct fifths and because the part for long stretches is written in a transposed scale reaching down to the low F, but B-flats will not be needed in the three-part imitative opening of the second section, the couplets, – the contratenor opens the imitation – and in this way a contrast between the two sections involving this variable scale degree will probably be established (cf. the edition after Florence 229 in Brown 1983, Vol. II, pp. 536-539). In all the other sources with at least a flat in the contratenor this tonal contrast will be eradicated in a performance, and the contrasts reduced to what occurs inside each section.

The Dijon scribe apparently struggled with these internal contrasts and the question of how best to communicate them in musical notation. His three versions was most probable created on basis of the same exemplar. We shall return to this question in a moment, but first a special feature, which cannot be used to identify a common exemplar, must shortly be discussed:

The song’s first section has an incision in bar 22 with a final longa in the tenor followed by rests, and it is moreover marked with signa in most voices (in Dijon, Laborde, Copenhagen, Bologna Q16) or fermatas (Florence 2794 and Rome 2856) without being a cadence from which to start a repeat of the section as in a rondeau. Here the signs must be interpreted as fermatas which prolong the final notes (or designate undefined note lengths and thus creating a caesura) in order to start the next musical phrase (b. 24.2) with an upbeat; if not, every musical accent in the rest of the song will be displaced in relation to the dominant brevis mensura of tempus imperfectum diminutum (this is probably a fictive and irrelevant problem when performing from the parts in mensural notation). Only one source, Florence 229, has consequently inserted semibrevis rests in all voices in bar 24.1. A somewhat comparable use of a signum can be found in the tenor bar 44 in the Copenhagen version of »Soudainement mon cueur a pris« by Busnoys.

An error common to the Dijon scribe’s three copies probably reaches back to an ancestor shared by two other sources. It is extremely common for a contratenor in middle decades of the 15th century to end with a leap of an octave inserting its final note as fifth in the concord. That is how the refrain section of »M’a vostre cueur« ends, but this ending is absolutely not possible in the second couplet as superius and tenor come together on a unison d’. A scribe overlooked the difference between the first and second section and routinely wrote the octave leap, and thereby turned the final concord into an unsupported fourth. This was repeated by the Dijon scribe three times, while the MSS Bologna Q16, Florence 229, Florence 2794 have the correct note d, the chansonnier Sevilla 5-I-43 also has the octave leap but with d as an alternative or supportive note, and in Rome 2856 the scribe or an editor recomposed the ending by the adding a descent in the tenor line and in this way was able to retain the octave leap in the contratenor (cf. the example in Brown 1983, Vol. II, p. 519). This problem may go back to a very early copy of the chanson.

As mentioned above it is most probable that the Dijon scribe used the same exemplar for all his copies. If we to begin with disregard the differences in key signatures, the differences between the MSS all belong to the sort of changes, which copyists might execute while working on the music. In Laborde most differences in relation to Dijon concern the omission of ligatures (S bb. 17.2-18.1, and 32; T b. 56) and changing minor color into a dotted figure (S bb. 20.2-21.1, 22, bb. 59.2-60.1, b. 61.1, and 76; C bb. 24.2-25.1, 62, and 68). In the very small format MS he on the one hand furthermore made some writing errors (S bb. 10.2 and 74-75; C b. 4), the most important being the omission of nearly two bars of the superius in bb. 74-75, which also made him omit the repetitions signs for the couplets’ ouvert and clos endings, on the other hand he showed great care in getting the song’s quite extended moments of canonic imitation right: In bars 68-69 he revised the superius, which was not exactly like the tenor in bars 66-67 in Dijon and in his exemplar (probably owing to a change of staff).

When he copied the chanson into the Copenhagen chansonnier, he had forgot about most of this revision as he retained a tone repetition in the superius bar 68 like in Dijon. Else he continued the exchange of minor color by dotted figures, so that in Copenhagen only one single coloration is left on the pages (C bb. 24.2-25.1), but also here he made some mistakes (S bb. 44-45; T b. 3).

We can only guess what the Dijon scribe’s exemplar looked like, but it probably had a key signature of one flat in the contratenor like the majority of other sources – and in this reading of the music a natural is never necessary in this voice –, and it had no signatures in the tenor and superius voices. Here the scribe had to struggle to convey the changing quality of B’s (natural or soft) to the performers. It never occurred to him to put some unambiguous accidentals in their parts.

Working on the Dijon chansonnier he observed that a B-flat was required in the opening three-part imitation and maybe for this reason put a flat signature in all three voices. He soon realized that the b-flat in the superius’ bar 4 is the only one, which is required in the whole first section, and accordingly dropped the key signature for the remainder of the section. The tenor is forced to sing natural Bs in bars 15-22 and again from bar 32 to the end of the first section, leaving only one possible b-flat to perform after the initial imitation. In the second part he dropped the flat in the tenor, but introduced it again in the superius. This section’s opening three-part imitation on a short cadential figure, again started by the contratenor, requires a flat – tenor and superius cannot help singing it having heard the contratenor, but soon naturals take over as they advance to the cadence on A in bar 61. Just before the repeat of the couplet the flat is needed again. The dilemma of the scribe is quite understandable.

In Laborde he decided on a simpler solution and in the first section probably followed his exemplar in having no flats in the upper voices and relying on the contratenor’s example to supply the flats in the opening bars. In the second section he exchanged the superius flat of the Dijon version for a flat in the tenor. Maybe he considered this to be clearer as the tenor only has to raise one important note, the b in bar 60, and the key signature does colour the end of the couplets, maybe preparing the repeats of the couplet and the tierce.

Anyway he kept this solution for his copy in the Copenhagen chansonnier, but working his way though the different combinations he here in the first section wrote a signature of one flat in the superius, leaving the tenor without. This changes the harmonic colour of bars 15-16, but not much else – it might be his final word on this chanson.

The Dijon scribe’s difficulties in deciding how best to communicate the fluidity of the variable scale degree and its influence on the sound of the music clearly demonstrates that to him and to many others in his generation the concept of the key signature had not acquired its modern prescriptive meaning. In many cases it was just an indication of a default position within musica recta, a starting point from which the performer might work out his solution, and a flat signature does not exclude that the alternative position, a semitone higher, has to be preferred where demanded by the context without in any way transgressing the boundaries of musica recta. The reverse is of course just as true: In a voice with no signature it can just as often be necessary to sing the lower alternative.

Peter Urquhart has in his article on ‘False Concords in Busnoys’ reached the same conclusion, but he ascribes the variety of key signatures to “errors or creativity on the part of the scribes”. [1] My interpretation of the work of the Dijon scribe prefers his “creativity” rather than “errors”. He worked conscientiously to notate his pieces as precise as possible within a set of conventions different from those of later periods, and exactly such experimentation with key signatures as we find in his work may have led to new conventions as established around 1500 and much later to the modern concept.

Comments on text and music:

It is a sad love song in bergerette form about a person (male or female) who feels abandoned by the lover’s heart. Its music is ambitious with long carefully balanced lines and a strong sense of musical unity, and it is closely related to Busnoys’ bergerette »Soudainement mon cueur a pris« which is also found in Dijon (no. 100) and Copenhagen (no. 23): the Dorian mode, the range of the voices, the use of tempus imperfectum diminutum in both sections, the dimensions of the music and melodic similarities, and the scribe’s uncertainty about key signatures.

Both sections open with a three-part imitation (compare the cadential imitation motives in the second section here and in »Soudainement«), and canonic imitation at the octave between tenor and superius plays a great role, see for example the final line of both sections (bb. 36.2 ff and 63.2 ff).

A little melodic figure is heard very often in a characteristic rhythm: a upward turn and stepwise descend on a dotted minima and semiminima followed by a minima and two fusae. It contributes to the unity of the setting, and similar figures can be found in »Soudainement« and Busnoys’ related rondeau »Quant vous me ferez plus de bien«.

The strongly marked middle cadence in the first section made Charles Edward Barret propose: “It could be that the composer, if indeed, it is Busnois, may have reworked a rondeau quatrain, his own or that of a friend by using the original refrain, omitting the two-line second strophe and writing himself the new four lines of the couplet and the required new music. This would be considered, in light of the times, as a tour de force.” (Barret 1981, p. 618). One could add that the just as elaborate cadence in the second section (bb. 61-62) could support that the couplets were composed with the refrain as model. However, we find nearly as strongly marked cadences after the second line in the anonymous »Le joly tetin de ma dame« (Copenhagen and Wolfenbüttel no. 17, bb. 24-30) or in Busnoys’ »Soudainement« (bb. 20-21). Maybe it is more productive to speculate that Busnoys (he is certainly the composer of both) was experimenting with the greater dimensions of the bergerette, with a greater unity between the sections and exploitation of canonic imitation.

PWCH August 2009

[1] Peter Urquhart, ‘False Concords in Busnoys’, in Paula Higgins (ed.), Antoine Busnoys. Method, Meaning, and Context in Late Medieval Music. Oxford 1999, pp. 361-387 (Urquhart 1999) has a simplified tabulation of key signatures p. 379 and comments: “The sources of one piece in particular, M’a vostre cueur, transmit quite a variety of signatures …, ranging from no flats in any voice to one flat in all voices. Despite this confusion, there is little question of what mode or what inflections to use in M’a vostre cueur. The variety of flat signatures is probably the result of errors or creativity on the part of the scribes; however, it should warn us that the meaning of the flat signature is far less reliable or specific during this period than we today would like to assume.” – See also my comments in the article and edition ‘The restoration of Antoine Busnoys’ four-part Flemish song “In mijnen sijn”: An experiment in sound, imitation technique, and the setting of a popular tune’.