The Creation of Parisian Organum Purum: Office Organa Dupla in the MLO Sources

Change log
Allison, Chloe Nicola 

This study explores how late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century musicians working in Paris created organum purum. Organum purum is a way of singing chant in two voices that involves the notes of the chant melody being sustained for many times their usual length underneath long and elaborate melismas sung in a newly-fashioned upper voice. Previous scholars have considered the creation of organum purum through the lenses of the medieval ars memoriae and Vatican Organum Treatise (VOT). In this study, detailed analysis of the purum melodies recorded for the extant repertory of thirty-six organa dupla on chants for the office collected in W1 (Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Guelf. 628 Helmst.), F (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1) and W2 (Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Guelf. 1099 Helmst.) provides the basis for a new assessment of creative processes. The first half of this dissertation present the results of a wide-ranging comparison of the creative procedures evident in all of these upper-voice melodies. They were mostly made in similar ways, indicating that Parisian musicians shared a creative idiom that supported many different aspects of this polyphonic practice. This idiom included, among other things, shared ways of using large intervals and repeated notes, techniques for beginning and ending sections and a set of strategies for developing melodies. Having outlined this basic creative idiom, I then compare different transmissions of organal settings of individual chants in order to determine what the similarities and differences between them might reveal about how musicians created organum purum. Edward Roesner is the only previous scholar to have compared different settings to these ends. In Chapter 4, I engage closely with his suggestion that musicians transmitted models which were not complete, and might sometimes have comprised only consonances and outlined only elements of melodic shape. Singers would then have ‘realised’ these models in different ways, leading to the recording of what might be regarded as the ‘same organum’ in different ways in the extant manuscripts. I propose an alternative hypothesis: that there were two processes that led to the same organum being recorded in different ways. First, musicians deliberately varied melodies, sometimes singing what was originally the same melody in substantially different ways. Second, sometimes they sang different and unrelated settings of individual passages or whole sections within an organum. Any sharing of consonances or melodic detail between such passages is more likely to have been the result of their creation having been supported by the same creative idiom, rather than the two sharing a skeleton model. Passages that are entirely different settings of the same portion of chant are considered in Chapter 5, where the melodies in the W1, F and W2 collections are compared stylistically. The majority of these melodies were created in similar ways, but there are a significant number of melodies in F and W2 that were formulated differently. This means that, even though the W1 office dupla contain the most unica material, that unica material is not stylistically idiosyncratic. Instead, it is the F and W2 repertories that contain more idiosyncratic elements: melodies made up of reusable building blocks shared across different organa and which involve considerably less repetition and development than the majority of purum melodies. This suggests that, despite W1 having been made at St Andrews in Scotland, its repertory of organa dupla for the office was for the most part Parisian, at least from a stylistic point of view. The last chapter considers the possibility of further distinct creative styles. These are evident in the remaining office dupla that are recorded only in W1 or F. These pieces include two sets of three organa, which may have been copied from different exemplars from the other pieces in the collections. They contain melodies unlike those found elsewhere in the extant repertory. It is possible that these give a glimpse of creative styles that were developed by singers at others institutions from those whose practice was recorded in the rest of the office dupla collections. The different analyses and detailed comparisons carried out in this dissertation allow fixed, notated organa dupla to act as records of creative practices. They make it possible to understand not just how those organa which happen to have survived were created but also how various different communities of musicians created organum purum more widely. By the time the extant manuscripts were copied, probably at least fifty years after organum purum was first sung in Paris, there were most likely particular versions of some of the office organa that were sung frequently. Comparing large numbers of the extant organa and considering the creative processes to which they bear witness, however, can give a glimpse of all the polyphony that was sung and never notated, or that was notated but which did not survive.

Rankin, Susan
Parisian Polyphony, Organum purum, Medieval Music, Historical Musicology, Orality, Musical Creation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
AHRC (1952549)