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Title: 'Aptlie framed for the dittie' : a study of setting sacred Latin texts to music in sixteenth-century England
Author: Ku, Christopher Jun-Sheng
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Although considerable attention has been paid to the texting practices of specific composers and certain repertoires, a comprehensive study of the practice of texting in the sacred Latin‐texted vocal works of sixteenth‐century England remains to be undertaken. How did English composers, scribes, and singers of the sixteenth century set words to music? Today, the general impression that emerges from critical apparatuses of modern performing editions, where manuscripts of vocal music copied by sixteenth-century English copyists are concerned, is negative: they are regarded as casual, often‐contradictory transmissions, replete with idiosyncrasies and arbitrary placement of text. But the detail in five hundred‐year‐old primary sources cannot and should not be so easily dismissed. Through a series of case studies drawn from the largest and most complete music manuscripts of English provenance that date from approximately 1500–90 — the Eton Choirbook, the Lambeth Choirbook, the Caius Choirbook, the ‘Forrest‐Heather’ Partbooks, the Peterhouse Partbooks (Henrician Set), the Sadler Partbooks, the Baldwin Partbooks, and the Dow Partbooks — this dissertation offers a fresh perspective on the many texting variants present in the sources, subjecting them to critical analysis to ascertain what prompted a scribe to copy a passage of music and its text in a particular way. Occasionally, a variant was indeed no more than a result of scribal error or inattention. More often than not, however, a scribe was either resolving an ambiguity that he perceived in his exemplar or deliberately infusing the copy with his own concepts of ideal texting. Three specific areas of interest are traced in the dissertation: the texting of long‐note cantus firmi, the treatment of melismata, and the relationship between music, prosody, and textual syntax. At the outset of the century, cantus firmus lines, as scribes copied them, required a certain amount of interpretation before they could be realised; melismata were an integral part of the compositional style that functioned as punctuation for the music; and textual coherence was unnecessary if it could not be achieved within the constraints of the music. By the close of the century, cantus firmus lines were copied literally with no additional interpretation required on the part of the performer; melismata were reduced to a purely decorative function; and textual integrity and correct prosody had become defining factors in how a piece of music was composed and formally organised. The specifics of what carried musicians from one extreme to the other in the interim is at the heart of this study. This dissertation is part of the growing body of research on the music of sixteenth‐century England. In enquiring into the minutiae of setting Latin text to music during this period, an area that heretofore has been relatively unexplored, it is hoped that this project will contribute to the total knowledge in the wider field of studies in text‐music relations.
Supervisor: Rees, Owen L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: 16th Century music ; Tudor Music ; underlay ; scribal transmission ; text-music relationships