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Puis que si bien m’est advenu 3v · Anonymous / ?Compere

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Laborde ff. 20v-21 »Puis que si bien m’est advenu« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Other sources:

Bologna Q16 ff. 22v-23 »Aime la plus bella« 3v · Facsimile
Segovia f. 184v »Puisque« 3v Loysette Compere
Uppsala 76a ff. 12v-13 »Puis que si bien m’est advenu« 3v

Edition: Goldberg 1997, p. 408 (Laborde).

Text: Rondeau cinquain; full text in Laborde (ed. Winn 1979 p. 44):

Puis que si bien m’est advenu
que ma dame m’a retenu
pour son bon et loyal servant,
je puis dire dorenavant
que fort suis heureux devenu.

Dieu scay que point ne suis deceu,
veu ce que en elle j’ay ja cognu
dont tant m’en resjouis souvant:

Puis que si bien m’est advenu
que ma dame m’a retenu
pour son bon et loyal servant.

D’elle suis si tresbien pourveu
que toute ma vie seray esmeu
de la servir entierement;
ja n’auray aultre pensement
car certes trop y suis tenu.

Puis que si bien m’est advenu
que ma dame m’a retenu
pour son bon et loyal servant,
je puis dire dorenavant
que fort suis heureux devenu.

As such a blessing has occurred
that my lady has retained me
as her good and loyal servant,
I can say that from now on
I have become exceedingly happy.

God knows that I am not at all disappointed
seeing what I in her by now have found
of which I often rejoice:

As such a blessing has occurred
that my lady has retained me
as her good and loyal servant.

By her I am so richly awarded
that my whole life will be devoted
to serve her wholeheartedly;
I will think of nothing else
for I am indeed too involved with her.

As such a blessing has occurred
that my lady has retained me
as her good and loyal servant,
I can say that from now on
I have become exceedingly happy.

Evaluation of the sources:

Entered in Laborde by the main scribe without any errors in music and text. The text has been written in with special care under the superius and in the first half of the tenor. It seems like the scribe as well as his exemplar had realized that the unusual texting of the ascending sequence in bars 32-38 called for information more precise than normally given.

Laborde has a key signature of one flat in every voice, but when it becomes really needed a second flat is added to the signature in the contratenor. The younger sources, Segovia and Uppsala 76a, restrict themselves to single flat signatures – Uppsala 76a is more generous with accidental E-flats –, while Bologna Q16 has two flats in all voices all the way through, which make the sequences difficult to perform.

Much of the effect of this curious song depends on its play of being off the beat – with offbeat internal cadences in both sections of the rondeau –, which, however, lands firmly on the beat in the medial as well as in final cadences (see below). The scribes of the three younger sources, or their exemplars, have obviously been uneasy about this; all have made some attempt to remedy the flow with quite adverse results for the music – apparently they were not able to perceive the sheer fun of the music:

Bologna Q16, which was copied in Naples in 1487, keeps close to the version of Laborde, except for some often-encountered variants in ligatures and coloration, and the Italian text incipit. However, after the offbeat stop in bar 46.2, this version simply cuts out the first semibrevis in bar 48, deleting the bar’s first note in superius and tenor and shortening the contratenor’s longa. Then the song becomes a semibrevis shorter, and with the final note coming in bar 60.2 – offbeat! Why this change was made is impossible to know, maybe to accommodate the Italian text, or maybe in panic.

The French chansonnier Uppsala 76a dating from the first decade of the 16th century (see further my partial edition of the MS) starts like Laborde, but prolongs bars 12-13 in order to fit the first cadence nicely on the beat (Ex. 1). Subsequently, the medial cadence as well as the final cadence both become offbeat ­– it is difficult to see the rationale behind this change.

Ex. 1 Uppsala 76a ff. 12v-13, bars 8-15


While Uppsala 76a keeps quite close to the Laborde version except for this change, the version in the Segovia MS, which probably was made around 1500 in Spain, has more the character of a revision of the song, and it is ascribed to Loyset Compere (ca. 1445-1518).
This version exhibits the same prolongation of bars 12-13 as in Uppsala 76a, but here also the final cadence is prolonged (see Ex. 2), so the songs ends on the beat and is one bar longer than the Laborde version. At the same time the canonic imitation between superius and tenor has been expanded. This operation has a price as the problems accumulate in the contratenor; the dissonance at the beginning of bar 57 can be edited out, but the parallel fifths arising from the attempt to combine canonic imitation with the original contratenor cannot be remedied. The most important other change happens in the memorable ascending sequence just before the medial cadence (see Ex. 3). The contratenor’s line, supplementing the octave canon in the upper voices at the fifth below, has been moved forward by a semibrevis, which multiplies the dissonant incidences of the passage. The refined chanson composer Compere probably would not have been happy about the ascription of this version!

Ex. 2 Segovia MS ff. 184v, bars 55-63


Ex. 3 Segovia MS ff. 184v, bars 31-39


Comments on text and music:

A very happy poem in the courtly tradition, the lover is satisfied by being in the service of his lady. It is set for superius and tenor an octave apart and a low contratenor, and it is very varied with extended use of three-part imitation and passages in canonic imitation. The first line opens in three-part imitation; the 2nd is declamatory, which slides into a canonic imitation at the octave between the upper voices in which the contratenor participates at the fifth below (bb. 19.2-31). The rather mechanical descending sequence is turned into a spectacular ascending sequence in the 3rd line (bb. 31.2-30) keeping the same relations between the voices. Laborde (and Uppsala 76a) clearly indicates that the words “pour son bon et loyal servant” shall be sung on this sequence, one syllable for each short scalar segment, which runs stepwise up a fourth; it produces an exciting patter-like effect. The second section of the rondeau goes directly on in three-part imitation (canonical in the upper voices), then declamatory and ends in a new ascending sequence (bb. 52-54), which isn’t much more than disguised parallel octaves, before the final cadence, which sounds exactly like the displaced first cadence (b. 14.2).

The use of an offbeat cadence in the first line and the corresponding ending of the 4th line with the ensuing ‘warped’ accents in the declamatory passages is clearly an effect intended by the composer. It puts a new light on the happiness of the poem; the impression of the song performed in a brisk tempo becomes rather ironic than happy. And this original idea probably confused later copyists. The song, however, remained in the repertory in the 16th century, its popularity probably founded on its ear-catching sequences.

In his book on the Laborde chansonnier, Clemens Goldberg, who was unaware that it is not unique to this MS, describes the song: “Betrachtet man diese Chanson und die folgende, Basiron zugeschriebene Chanson De m’eiouir, so fallen nicht nur die Ähnlichkeit die beiden Anfänge, die motivische Verwandtschaft der Imitation [...] sowie die häufige Quartsprünge aufwärts in beiden Chansons auf, sondern auch eine solch große stilistische Verwandtschaft, daß auch Puisque si bien von Basiron stammen konnte oder aber unsere Chanson den Stil Basirons imitiert.” (Goldberg 1997, p. 97).

I think that he may be right. “Puis que si bien m’est advenu” has so many similarities to the unhappy love song »De m’esjouir plus n’ay puissance«, which follows it in Laborde, that they must have been copied after the same collection of exemplars and originate from the same composer. “Puis que si bien” may be composed as a lighter counterpart to the heavy “De m’esjouir” by developing the opening motive into a three-part imitation and the third line’s animated motive into an exciting rising sequence.

In Laborde “De m’esjouir” 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. The Segovia scribe may have found reason to ascribe the song to Compere based only on its similarity to his at that time well-known musical profile: e.g. the three-part imitations, the close relationship between text and music and the extended sequences. If we accept that the two songs were composed by the same musician, the credibility of ascription in Laborde must have more weight than the around 30 year younger Segovia MS.

On the other hand, nobody knows what Compere did in his early years, where he worked etc. He was of the same age as Basiron, and his early style may have been like his, original, bold, and occasionally immature in mastering counterpuntal and formal questions. Thus, if Segovia might be proved right, both chansons ought to be ascribed to the young Compere.

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

PWCH July 2012