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Je le scay bien ce qui m’avint 3v · Basiron, Philippe

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Laborde ff. 16v-17 »Je le scay bien ce qui m’avint« 3v P Baziron PDF · Facsimile

*Wolfenbüttel ff. 20v-22 »Je le scay bien ce qui m’avint« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Edition: Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 18 (Wolfenbüttel)

Text: Rondeau quatrain; full text in both sources. After Wolfenbüttel:

Je le scay bien ce qui m’avint;
dernier jour que vous vy, madame, (1)
je eu tant de dueil que, par mon ame,
je ne sceus que mon cueur devint.

De joye onc puis ne me souvint
et n’ay pas tort, par Nostre Dame:

Je le scay bien ce qui m’avint
dernier jour que vous vy, madame.

Oncques puis a moy ne revint
se ne l’avez, Dieu en ait l’ame,
car il est mort soubz la lame, (2)
il estoit bon des ans a vingt.

Je le scay bien ce qui m’avint;
dernier jour que vous vy, madame,
je eu tant de dueil que, par mon ame,
je ne sceus que mon cueur devint.

I know well what happened to me;
the last day I saw you, my lady,
I had such pain that I, by my soul,
did not know what became of my heart.

Never hereafter could I recall any joy,
and I am not in the wrong, by Our Lady,

I know well what happened to me
the last day I saw you, my lady.

It will never again come back to me,
if you do not catch it, God help the soul,
for it lies dead under the tombstone;
it had twenty good years.

I know well what happened to me;
the last day I saw you, my lady,
I had such pain that I, by my soul,
did not know what became of my heart.

1) Wolfenbüttel, line 2, “dernier que ...”
2) Line 11, a syllable is missing in both sources.
In addition there are some small differences in spelling.

Evaluation of the source:

Entered in Laborde by the main scribe without any errors in music and text. The Wolfenbüttel scribe used a clearly different, but still related, exemplar for his copy. The poetic texts are nearly identical, as they both are one syllable short in line 11 (to make the song performable, I have inserted a filler word in the editions). In the music we find many differences in the use of ligatures, coloration (Wolfenbüttel has only a single instance of coloration in the tenor bar 51) and cadential decoration (S b. 61.2). A note repetition in the tenor bar 9 in Wolfenbüttel may stem from a writing error like the one in the contratenor bar 15, but it could be an intended device for a more distinct pronunciation of the postponed 2nd half of the line.

The important difference between the two versions is their use of key signatures. Laborde prescribes one flat in tenor and contratenor, while Wolfenbüttel has none. On the other hand, Wolfenbüttel supplies some needed accidentals in the lower voices (B-flats in T b. 17, and in C bb. 37 and 45; and E-flats in C bb. 46 and 51), and a one flat signature is introduced in the last two staves of the contratenor (bb. 48 ff). The solution of Laborde is the easy one, and it works smoothly in performance. Wolfenbüttel shows an awareness of the passages in “fauxbourdon”-style, which in passing produce augmented fourths in bars 21.1 and 22.2 between superius and contratenor. This awareness may well reflect the notation used by the composer, but in performance it probably did not cause much differences in the sounding result, as the B-flats introduced in bars 15-17 would have determined the execution of the subsequent descending lines.

The existence of the two closely related, but distinctly different sources attests that the song had some circulation before it entered the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers.

Comments on text and music:

The sad poem, a rondeau quatrain, in which the young man’s heart is buried beneath the tombstone, is clearly written by the composer as a companion piece to and modelled on the rondeau cinquain “Tant fort me tarde ta venue” as demonstrated by Paula Higgins. (1) The poem “Tant fort me tarde” was with great probability written by the composer Gilles Mureau and set by him for three voices (see the edition of Mureau’s song). The intimate, female voice of Mureau’s poem is here replaced by a male, conventionally courtly, exercise of the same themes using the same or related rimes équivoques.

The setting is placed within a ‘normal’ tessitura (Bb-d”) with an extensive use of imitation at the octave between superius and tenor, and with a contratenor, which much of the time sings above the tenor, but also participating in the imitations (bb. 11-14, a fifth above the tenor, and 40-43, in unison with the tenor). The sound of the setting is affected by extensive passages in fauxbourdon-style (bb. 21-28 and 59-62, the final cadence). The second section of the rondeau is emphasised by the recitation in the superius of the 3rd text line on c”, “je eu tant de dueil que, par mon ame”, which forms the song’s highpoint in pitch and emotional tension. The last line is a straight octave canon between tenor and superius, in which the last words are drawn out exceedingly (bb. 40-62) – a similar extension happens in the 2nd line (bb. 11-31). An ear-catching feature of the last section is the staggered play with brevis-values in triadic formations (bb. 40-48), which then is elaborated with the help of stepwise motion and shorter and longer note values, getting chopped up in shorter segments (bb. 48-58).

Some of the same traits can be found again in Basiron’s own setting of »Tant fort me tarde ta venue«, which seems like a more mature development of the same ideas.

In the Laborde chansonnier the song was ascribed to “P. Baziron” by a slightly later scribe (the so-called Index-Scribe II; cf. Alden 1999 p. 80) who also wrote similar ascriptions above two other chansons in Laborde: »Nul ne l’a telle, sa maistresse« (no. 5) and »De m’esjouir plus n’ay puissance« (no. 13) – both are also found in Wolfenbüttel. Philippe Basiron was between 1458 and 1474 associated the Sainte Chapelle of the royal palace in Bourges, as a boy chorister at first, and he ended up as magister puerum. (2)

See also the article ‘The chansons of Basiron’s youth and the dating of the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers’.

PWCH July 2012

1) Paula Higgins, ‘Tracing the Careers of Late Medieval Composers. The Case of Philippe Basiron of Bourges’, Acta musicologica 62 (1990) pp. 1-28 at pp. 17-21; see also the more detailed discussion in ‘The chansons of Basiron’s youth ...’.

2) Cf. Jeffrey Dean, ‘Basiron, Philippe’ in Grove Music Online (accessed November 2009).