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Terrible dame, que vous fault 4v · Busnoys, Antoine


*Paris 15123 ff. 159v-160 »Terrible dame, que vous fault« 4v busnoys  PDF · Facsimile

Editions: Goldberg 1994, p. 381; Busnoys 2018 no. 51.

Text: Cinquain – one stanza; the first two lines depict a dialoque between a lover and his lady:

“Terrible dame”, “Que vous fault?”,
“je meurs”, “de quoy?” “C’est par deffault
que l’on ne peult merci trouver
et me convient le temps passer
martir tot vif ou autant vault.”

“Terrible lady”, “What is the matter?”
“I die”, “what for?” “It is because of deprivation,
which one cannot find mercy for,
and which forces me to pass the time
as good as a martyr still alive.

Evaluation of the sources:

Full text in superius, tenor and contratenor bassus. Above the first two phrases of the superius is written as separate syllables: “faulx bor don” in such a way that it precisely delineate the passages, which are to be performed with an ‘improvised’ faulxbourdon-voice. As the song’s opening is a dialogue, and the lower pair of voices is formed in strict parallel sixths just like the upper pair, it is of course also possible to perform them in fauxbourdon-style. However, this would destroy some of the contrast in sound between the pairs and presumably be against the MS’ precise instructions.

Comments on text and music:

A four-part setting of a cinquain-stanza. If more text existed, it probably was not a forme fixe poem, but rather a strophic song. The opening is formed as a theatrical dialogue between a lover and his lady in two-part exchanges – with the lady singing i fauxbourdon-style (see above). The high upper part was meant for boys (range e’-g”), which could split up and perform the improvised middle part a fourth below the notated part, just like they were used to do in hymns or short antiphons (see also »Grace actendant ou la mort pour tous mes« 4v by Gilles Mureau and »A la longue j’ay bien cognu« 3v by Fede). Another song featuring the boys of the maîtrise by Busnoys preserved as a unicum is the three-part bergerette »Au gré de mes jeulx« in the Dijon chansonnier (see the edition).

After this unusual opening the song proceeds as a four-part setting of a popular tune – having many traits in common with, for example, Busnoys’ setting of the Dutch tune »In mijnen sijn« 4v, but as signalled by the opening dialogue in a tone of comedy. The answer to the lady’s question begins after a general rest for reflection as an extremely schematic cantus firmus-setting of a tenor tune – the other voices following it mostly in slightly disguised parallel chords (bb. 18-24). The remaining three lines is set in flexible octave canon between tenor and superius using clear-cut syllabic melody not unlike a popular song extended by melismas. The tenor begins the canon and is followed by the superius after three breves (bb. 25-34); then the superius leads followed by the tenor after two breves (bb. 35-42), and finally the canon is speeded up to a distance of one brevis (b. 43 ff) ending in ostinato effects and a drawn-out final cadence. A masterpiece of comic song setting.

PWCH June 2013