S'il advient que mon deuil me tue 3v · Michelet
Appearance in the five chansonniers:
- The four versions in a convenient PDF package
Other musical sources:
Florence 176 ff. 85v-86 »S’il advient que mon deul me tue« 3v Michelet
Editions: Droz 1927 no. 4 (Dijon); Jeppesen 1927 no. 26 (Dijon + Copenhagen); Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 37 (Wolfenbüttel); Goldberg 1997, p. 421 (Laborde).
Text: Rondeau cinquain, full text in Dijon, Laborde, NIvelle and Wolfenbúttel, also in Berlin 78.B.17 ff. 78-78v (no.118), ed.: Löpelmann 1923 p. 110, Jardin 1501 f. 81 (no. 208); after Nivelle:
S’il advient que mon dueil me tue
Helas! or estes vous tenue
s’il advient que mon deul me tue
Se ma cause est bien debatue
pour vous, ma seule chere tenue,
je tiens qu’Amours sera d'acord
que je vous charge de ma mort
affin que vous soiez cognue.
If it happens that my grief kills me
Alas! Now you are renowned
if it happens that my grief kills me
If my case is well argued
because of you, my sole beloved,
I think that Amour will accord
that I charge you with my death
so that you shall be notorious.
Many differences in spelling can be found in the sources. The most important textual variants are the following:
1) Laborde v. 3-4 “je tien qu’Amour sera decort / et si vous prometz fus ma mort”;
2) Dijon v. 7 “le chef d’onneur dessoubz la nue”;
3) Laborde v. 8 “mais vostre loz sera perdu”;
4) Wolfenbüttel v. 12-14 “devant le dieu d’Amours et veue / pensez vous que n’ayez pas tort / si avez et si vient au fort”.
Evaluation of the sources:
»S’il advient que mon dueil me tue« is present in all five chansonniers, and no one among the four scribes has cared to mention the composer of this apparently very well known song. Only the slightly later Italian MS Florence 176 gives the composer’s name as “Michelet”, an elusive musician (cf. Fallows 1999 p. 708). That the chanson had a wide circulation is attested by the fact that the four versions (Dijon and the mutilated copy in Copenhagen were presumably identical and count as one) show quite many differences in their poetic texts (see above) and in details of the music (see the transcriptions).
One trait divides them into two groups, namely the introductory brevis rest, which is found in the two copies by the Dijon scribe (Copenhagen and Dijon), in Nivelle – added to the MS by the later hand B – and in Florence 176, and which does not appear in Laborde and Wolfenbüttel (this produces different bar-numbers in the transcriptions, therefore the double references in the following). Laborde and Wolfenbüttel also diverge by connecting lines 2 and 3 with a stepwise figure in the contratenor (b. 20/19).
Dijon (and Copenhagen) differs from the other sources by signalling a flat in the first staff of superius. This conforms to the omission of the natural in the tenor in bar 21/20, which otherwise seems like an integral part of the chanson’s expression and is found in Nivelle, Laborde and Wolfenbüttel – but not in Florence 176! In addition Dijon/Copenhagen has a far more elegant connecting figure between lines 1-2 in the contratenor (bb. 8-9/7-8). Instead of rising from an octave below the preceding cadence tone to the third in the next concord (c-f-c’), it reverses the movement and introduces a bit of tonal colouring by beginning on the third below and ending in an octave leap (a-f-c-c’). This procedure and maybe also the restricted use of B-natural can be results of the tendency to revise his exemplars, which we have met several times in the work of the Dijon scribe. But then why did he like the Wolfenbüttel chansonnier end the setting with a cadence involving an octave leap in the contratenor? Nivelle, Laborde and Florence 176 all has modernized this trait.
The flickering picture drawn by the sources may indicate that the chanson had been in circulation for an extended period of time before it reached this group of sources, which happened to be the earliest to survive the dangers of musical use. And that the limits on what were acceptable in its performance and notation had become quite loose.
Comments on text and music:
The rondeau cinquain expresses a cry of despair from the rejected lover who warns the lady that her renown will suffer badly: “Ma fin vous sera chere vendue”. The musical setting was quite conventional and old-fashioned when the sources were copied – probably the poem was the strongest argument for the song’s popularity.
Superius and tenor carries the words in a self-sufficient duet, starting every line but the last in homorhythmic declamation in a fixed pattern (involving a brevis, two semibreves, and a brevis again) with lots of parallel thirds and sixths. The contratenor fills out above and below the tenor and in between phrases. In three of the sources (Nivelle, Laborde and Wolfenbüttel) the most important element of contrast is fluctuation between B flat and B natural. The natural sign in the tenor in bar 21/20 decisively influences the sound of the 3rd line, and in the 5th line, which clearly is meant to be dissimilar from the other lines – it also carries the punch lines of the poem –, the contrapuntally necessary use of B-flat in the superius (a notated flat in Laborde) also colours the sound (bb. 40/39 ff). Moreover this line is very extended (covering a third of the setting), very syncopated (also involving the contratenor), and ends in a freely formed three-part imitation of a standard motive, the improvisatory pattern upon the final note C: the safe concords of 5-6-5-3-(4-3-)1. The last line is typically designed to counterbalance the three phrases of the first section in the rondeau
The meaning of the poem imposes a shortening of the refrain in the 2nd couplet, which has to stop after the second line. This clearly seems to have been to intention of the composer and anticipated in the setting’s layout: The setting of text line 3 leads into a cadence on C (b. 29/28), which at once is extended and comes to rest on G with the major third as the highest sounding note, and line 2 ends fittingly in a straight cadence on G (b. 19/18). In this way the couplets with a shortened refrain form a rounded whole with the tonally contrasting 3rd line (which the Dijon scribe disagreed on) in the middle.
The introductory brevis rest in all voices (in Dijon/Copenhagen, Nivelle and Florence 176) seems not to have any practical function in a performance. In a way it connects the song to two songs by Busnoys, which is placed just before it in the Copenhagen chansonnier, »Soudainement mon cueur a pris« and »Quant vous me ferez plus de bien« (nos. 23-24 in Copenhagen), and which show similar rests. It is thinkable that the rest in this case just signals the homorhythmical start of the song; see further my note ‘On chansons starting with a general pause’.
PWCH May 2009