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Anacruses and Opening Rests in the Leuven Chansonnier

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Most polyphonic compositions of the fifteenth century have at least one voice which begins without rests. The exceptions usually use the rests to create a musical upbeat, potentially motivated by the text. In less straightforward examples, the rests have the potential to cause confusion on the part of performers or scribes. Theorists only rarely addressed this phenomenon directly, but they did discuss rests as indicators of mensuration. As examples from the Leuven Chansonnier (Leuven, Alamire Foundation, Ms. 1) demonstrate, opening semibreve rests can be interpreted as indicating perfect or imperfect tempus, and opening breve rests as indicating imperfect minor modus. In two unusual cases, confusion over opening rests may have been directly responsible for scribal errors. Two further songs show how opening rests may have been a notational fix to issues arising during composition, thus shedding light on the compositional process. By examining the unique challenges that the original notation poses to all of its users, we can reach new insights into composition, transmission, and performance.
Journal: Journal of the Alamire Foundation
ISSN: 2032-5371
Issue: 12
Volume: 2
Pages: 262-277
Number of pages: 15
Publication year:2020
Keywords:Leuven, chansonnier, polyphony, manuscript