Some Latin Contrafacta of Ars Nova Songs in Central-European Sources from the First Half of the Fifteenth Century
Fifteenth-century musical sources from Central Europe contain a number of “foreign” (in the sense of “not originally of Central European origin”) polyphonic secular songs, many of which survive uniquely in these sources and often not in their original form. The author seeks to understand what happened to this repertoire once it had reached its admirers in a geographically and culturally different context.
The scope of material is narrowed down to “Ars Nova songs”, that is, polyphonic songs which stylistically belong to the fourteenth century and were originally settings of texts in one of the fixed forms common in the Western and Southern European traditions of lyric poetry.
In the Appendix, the author provides a list of Ars Nova songs with Latin contrafactum texts which he was able to locate in Central European sources before about 1450 (expanded by the addition of concordances with non-Latin contrafactum texts, concordances with no text at all, incipits appearing in theoretical treatises, and instrumental intabulations). He finds evidence that French compositions predominate significantly over Italian, as well as a predilection for music which does not exhibit a high degree of rhythmic complexity.
Furthermore, the author analyses various instances in which Latin contrafactum texts were applied to pre-existing music and proposes how such compositions could have functioned in educational and devotional contexts. Lastly, he points out that Ars Nova songs in Central Europe experienced what could be termed their “second life”, in which they were handled with a remarkable degree of freedom.
Keywords: contrafactum; Central Europe; Ars Nova; ballade; rondeau; virelai