Beyond Plainsong. Tropes and Polyphiny in the Medieval Church / Pro Arte Singers, Thomas Binkley

Focus 943
marzo de 1994
First Baptist Church–United Church of Christ, Bloomington, Indiana

01 - Te Deum laudamus   [5:19]
Musica Enchiriadis, s.IX - soloists: 4 5

02 - In seculum ~ Quant yver   [0:42]
motet from Montpellier #223

03 - Alleluia. Te martyrum   [2:05]
Winchester repertory, s.XI - Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 473, fol. 455 - soloists: 1 2 4

04 - Tout adès mi troverés ~ IN SECULUM   [0:39]
motet from Montpellier #223, fasc IV

05 - Alleluia. Justus ut Palma   [4:50]
Ad organum faciendum, c. 1100, Milano, Bibl. Ambrosiana Ms. 17 Supp. Fol. 58 - soloists: 2 4

06 - Heleysei manubrio   [1:07]
conductus W1, fol. 139'

07 - Rex omnia tenens   [2:52]
Aquitania, St. Martial - London Add. 36881 fol. 66 - soloists: 6 7

08 - Hé Ha!   [0:34]
motet #227 from Montpellier

09 - Gaude Roma   [5:13]
Paris, f. lat. 7202 fol. 56 - soloists: 1 2 4

10 - Nostrum   [1:13]
clausula from W1 #111

11 - Sanctus   [7:10]
Notre Dame (Leonin) repertory - W 1 fol. 168f - soloist: 2

12 - Le Moulin van Paris   [1:25]
Prag XIE9 fol. 251

13 - Benedicamus   [2:41]
Las Huelgas, s. XIV - soloist: 4

14 - Tres doulz regard   [1:42]
chanson, Modena, bibl. Estense M. 5, 24 fol. 30

15 - Ecce quod natura   [3:13]
English faburdon, s. XV, London, Egerton 3307 fol. 65 - soloists: 1 4 5 6

16 - Ecce nunc benedicte Dominum   [1:20]
psalm in the Ambrosian falsobordone style, s. XV - soloist: 5

Thomas Binkley

1  Elisabeth Honnon - soloist in #3, 9, 15
2  Kelly Landerkin - s. #3, 5, 9 , 11
3  David Meyer
4  Amanda Simmons - s. #1, 3, 5, 9, 13, 15
5  David Stattelman - s. #1, 15, 16
6  Susannah Teegarden - s. #7, 15
7  Jay White - s #7

Thomas Binkley, lute
Wendy Gillespie, vielle

While the primary music of the early middle ages was Gregorian chant, there was an important secondary level of quasi-improvised vocal polyphony, especially from the 11th century forward: a music that could justifiably be called "beyond plainsong". This polyphony resulted from the need or the desire to sing chant combining different voices such as men with boys. The development of this so-called organic (also called diaphony), is described in early treatises including the important ninth- century treatise Musica Enchiriadis (which survives today in some 47 manuscripts!), or Guido d'Arezzo's Micrologus (which is preserved today in some 75 manuscripts!). The earliest polyphony varied from singing in strict parallel intervals, to creating complex cadences, employing contrary motion and other contrapuntal practices. Later treatises described divergent practices, such as the fourteenth-century Jean de Muris' Libellus cantus mensurabilis which was employed into the fifteenth century and exists in over three dozen manuscript copies. The initial simple polyphonic practice sprouted many tributaries, some quite complicated, leading to a professional level of solistic organic in addition to the readily learned choral practices.

In spite of the relatively large number of manuscripts describing these practices, there is very little actual music that has come down to us reflecting the practices contained in these treatises. This is a performer's music rather than a composer's music. It resides on the very horizon of the written practice. Much of the polyphony was sung at sight, while other examples were too idiosyncratic and personal to be written down at all, reflecting special skills of a particular professional singer. Only a few examples of the music are contained within the treatises themselves although there are a few manuscripts containing music which follows the theories of the treatises, for example the repertories of Santiago de Compostela, Chartres, the eleventh-century "Winchester tropers," (in which the organa are not preserved together with their chants but separately as a soloists book), the Acquitanian (St. Martial of Limoges) repertory and the Parisian Notre Dame School of Leonin and Perotin, which is discussed in all the important musical treatises of the fourteenth-century.


A few two-part clausulae, conductus, motets and chansons performed on lute and vielle are placed on this recording as separators between the vocal pieces. These are not instrumental compositions (if they were they would be highly florid) but are simply vocal music played without the text. While this is not a performance practice reflecting the mission of these compositions - in the Middle Ages the texts were a very high priority - the focus of this recording is counterpoint, for which medieval musicians too thought instruments were eminently capable. (For motets performed as motets, look for FOCUS #951,"Medieval Lyric"). The sole function of these short pieces here is to provide a momentary diversion for the ears, to ready them for the next example of vocal polyphony.