Saint Martial school
The Saint Martial School was a medieval school of music composition centered in the Abbey of Saint Martial, Limoges, France. It is known for the composition of tropes, sequences, and early organum. In this respect, it was an important precursor to the Notre Dame School.
History of the Abbey Saint Martial de Limoges
Many of the modern musicological studies concerning a "Saint Martial School," focus on four manuscripts with remarkably innovative compositions for the 12th century. It is often assumed that these fragments derived from different Southern French monasteries, despite the lack of cantor attributions in the rubrics. However, Sarah Fuller has suggested that this may not be the case, discussing the "myth of a Saint Martial school", where she suggests that the fragments are rather a collective activity of the Abbey's librarians than a didactic activity of the Abbey's cantors. These manuscripts (Pn 1139, 3549, 3719, and Lo Add. 36881) were, it would seem, more likely collected and bound together by the librarian Bernard Itier, than composed or compiled at St Martial itself. Despite the concordances between these manuscripts, the collection includes many variants. The repertory combines modern forms of poetry with modern forms of musical compositions, consisting of settings of proses, tropes, sequences, liturgical dramas, and organa. Even a polyphonic setting of an epistle recitation survives as florid organum. Other modern musicological studies have attempted to identify unifying centre for these sources, such as Cluny rather than Limoges, and with reference to the Cluniac Monastic Association, Fleury and Paris (especially the Notre-Dame School), the Abbey of Saint Denis, and the Abbey Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. Questions about periphery and centre (Arlt 1975) may be answered by the research of political and church history relative to Cluny (Huglo 1982, Gillingham 2006). In contrast to Fuller's study, James Grier's recent examination of some monophonic Proser-Sequentiaries, suggests that these monophonic manuscripts were created in the scriptorium of the Abbey Saint-Martial 100 years earlier (than the above fragments), explicitly for liturgical use at Limoges, by Roger and Adémar de Chabannes. The concept of a local school of cantors who documented their innovations in newly designed liturgical books with the libellum structure—later imitated elsewhere (even in the Parisian Magnus liber organi)—is therefore still credible; at least for the 11th century.
Roger and Adémar de Chabannes and the troper-sequentiary
Adémar de Chabannes was educated as a cantor and poet by his uncle Roger de Chabannes. The manuscripts written or revised by Roger de Chabannes together with his nephew, were created in the form of troper-prosers and sequentiaries with a new diastematic form of neume notation (Pa 1240, 1120, 1121, 909), which became soon much more popular than the letter notation of William of Volpiano. They belonged to a new type of chant book which was no longer simply a liturgical book, but rather collected new poetry based on liturgical forms (in music as well as in poetry). This new form of chant book consisted of several books ("libelli") - the "proser" or "troper" for verses and tropes, the "sequentiary" for prosulae and sequences (troped elaborated alleluia refrains), the processional with processional antiphons, the offertorial for offertories etc. and the tonary. This new structural form soon spread beyond Aquitaine becoming popular in France and Normandy, due in part to the Cluniac Monastic Order, which was expanding its influence and adopted the work of the school of cantors at the Abbey of Saint-Martial for liturgical use. Cluny Abbey was founded by William I and already in Adémar's time its laic association had gained it power over more and more abbeys, their cantors and their scriptoriums. Adémar's fruitless efforts to become an abbot at Saint Cybard of Angoulême was a personal disappointment, but his ambitions were quite symptomatic for monasteries under Cluniac influence.
According to James Grier, Adémar de Chabannes also contributed within two troper-sequentiaries (Pa 1121, 909) which have the finest tonaries of the region. He regards this late activity as a craftship which he learnt from his uncle, while he was revising older manuscripts, often by adding modal signatures to earlier manuscripts. But the intonation formulas of the tonaries had as well an explicit creative function, which can be demonstrated by an earlier manuscript already written in diastematic neumes (Pa 1118, fol. 114r). Some composed sequences of this earlier troper-proser-sequentiary are nothing else than a simple repetition of a more and more elaborated intonation, but the verse units cut the melodic motive into different parts, often against its modal structure. These early permutation technique already anticipated later isorhythmic composition techniques.
Early polyphony and the Cluniac influence on liturgical reforms
The scriptorium of Limoges continued its activities after Adémars death in 1034, but it was no longer the only scriptorium of the Limousin diocese. William Sherill made the hypothesis, that the Gradual of St Yrieix with Gallican preces in its appendix (Pa 903) has not been written at Limoges, but by the cantors of the Abbey itself which was possible since it promoted as canon chapter during the second half of the 11th century and depended directly of the Monastery of St Martin at Tours. He even went so far to assume that this gradual has copied from Beneventan graduals, because the included Cassinese chants for the patronal feast of St Benedict, and might have served to copy for the gradual of Gaillac, while the latter could have served to write the later gradual for Toulouse. In this comparison the liturgy of the Saint-Martial Gradual (Pa 1132) is rather dependent on Cluniac reforms and especially the one of Narbonne, written by the end of the 11th century at er resembles to many others written with the same notation in Spain after the conquest of Northern Andalusia, and after Aquitanian aristocrats had been related with the Castilian family by marriage.
Polyphony was neither invented at Limoges nor did it appear the first time in the notation of its scriptorium. An oral tradition of a polyphonic performance can be traced back to the time, when the Musica enchiriadis had been written, and Adémar was a contemporary of Guido of Arezzo, who described in his treatise Micrologus a similar practice as "diaphonia" (discant), which already allowed to sing more than one note against the cantus during cadences ("occursus"). Notated evidence of alternative practices, where the organal voice changes between different strategies of heterophony (parallel and counter movement) and holding notes which support the modal colour of the cantus, can be found as later added exemplification in monophonic manuscripts of the Abbeys in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, Fleury, and Chartres. The only exception was Winchester Cathedral, where a systematic collection of organa can be found in the troper part—the so-called "Winchester Troper". The earliest polyphony developed in a rather secular context and Cluny played a prominent role in it.
What was exactly the role of the Abbey of Saint Martial for a school of anonymous cantors associated with Aquitanian polyphony?
The earliest evidence can be found in an older troper-proser with libellum structure (Pa 1120). In some late additions cantors made exemplifications of a polyphonic performance of organum similar to those additions in the Gradual of the Abbey of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés (Pa 12584, fol. 306). Under Cluniac influence the latter abbey developed an extravagant liturgy since 1006, when it was ruled by a new Abbot, who was sent from Cluny, where he had served as a cantor. The polyphony can be easily recognized, because the notator used a method similar to a modern partition. But there had been other methods as well. Some additions in Pa 1120 on folio 73v and on 77v look monophonic on the first sight, but the melody is organized in pairs and each verse of it has to be sung together by an organal voice which sings the first verse with the melody of the second and vice versa. On folio 81r and 103r we have three examples of florid organum. This notation technique had already developed in the manuscripts notated in parts by Adémar, in cases where the scribe of the text did not leave enough space for the neumes, so the notator used vertical strokes, which have to indicate how the melismas have be coordinated with the syllables. Here, a Benedicamus domino was notated separately from the florid organum. The both techniques of polyphonic performance, the punctum contra punctum (discant) and florid organum as puncta contra punctum have been once discussed in a 15th-century treatise from Italy, which had been obviously associated with the treatise "Ad organum faciendum".
The manuscripts of Aquitanian polyphony
In comparison with the few late traces of a polyphonic singing in the earlier manuscripts, the four main manuscripts and a lot of similar manuscripts of Aquitaine are so full of later developments, that their manifold forms, the calligraphy, the illuminations, and the poetry have not lost their attraction for philologues and musicians.
A well-known example is "Stirps iesse", which is nothing else than a florid organum over a "Benedicamus domino" cantus which was widespread within the Cluniac Monastic Association including the Magnus liber organi of the Notre-Dame school. As "Benedicamus domino" verses nearly concluded every divine service, Cluniac cantors were supposed to know a great variety of them. Many of them had been new compositions and became favored subjects for new experiments in poetry and musical composition. Florid organum itself like any tropus can be regarded in two ways, as a useful exercise to memorize a certain cantus precisely note by note on the one hand or, as a very refined and embellished performance by a well-skilled soloist or precantor. "Stirps iesse" was actually a combination of both, as a Benedicamus performed "cum organo" it was rather a longer performance during an important liturgical feast, but the troped organal voice added a certain Marianic poem to it, which fixed it within the week between Christmas and New Year:
The manuscripts "Saint-Martial C" und "D" even were nothing more than additional quaternia within a homiletic collection of sermons. Most of the manuscripts with polyphonic compositions are not just from the Abbey of Saint-Martial at Limoges, but as well from other places of Aquitaine. It is unknown to what extent these manuscripts reflect the products of Saint Martial in particular, it rather seems that there were prosar collections from various places in Southern France.
During the 12th century, only a very few composers of the school are known by name, and the new poetic experiments were not only in Latin, they obviously inspired as well courtly poetry of the Troubadours. However, all St-Martial poetry (versus, tropes and sequences) is in Latin. Before the collections of the chansonniers, there is only Old Occitan song with musical notation for all stanzas which has been written at the scriptory of Saint-Martial Abbey: O Maria, Deu maire.
- See Alejandro Enrique Planchart's and Sarah Fuller's article "St Martial" (New Grove Dictionary).
- Sarah Fuller (1979)
- Already Marion Gushee (1964) emphasized the fragmentary nature of these sources. They employ a "libellum" structure, often bound together from quaternios of different ages (Pa 1139), unlike other sources during this period where polyphonic pieces are most often found added, by a later hand, at the end of quaternios of older monophonic manuscripts.
- James Grier (1995).
- James Grier (2006).
- See Helmut Spanke (1930-1933) who studied the poetic innovations of the manuscripts of the Abbey of Saint Martial.
- Bryan Gillingham (2006), Susan Boynton (2006).
- Sister Anthony Marie Herzo (PhD thesis, 1966) has already made a comparison of 5 Aquitanian graduals and found two groups—the one of St Martial of Limoges (Pa 1132) and the Cathedral of Narbonne (Pa 780) and the other between the Cathedral of Toulouse (British Library, Harley 4951), Saint Michel-de-Gaillac (Pa 776), and Saint Yrieix (Pa 903).
- William Manning Sherill (2011, pp. 158-162). Concerning the tonaries Michel Huglo (NGrove) had so far regarded the tonaries of the cathedral rite around Toulouse as one group together with Pa 1118, but according to James Grier the latter already influenced Adémar's tonaries, because it has later additions from his hand concerning his new liturgy dedicated to Saint Martial.
- Giovanni Varelli (2013) found recently practical examples of this early organum practice which he dated back to the 10th century.
- A systematic discussion of the various treatises and of the examples given in chant manuscripts offers Sarah Fuller (1990).
- See the reconstructions of the Winchester Troper organa by Susan Rankin, and those of the French organa by Wulf Arlt (Rankin 1993).
- Michel Huglo (1982) also discussed hagiographic sources which document, that this change caused several conflicts and that part of the monastic community left the Abbey.
- In a recent critical edition, Christian Meyer (2009) could prove that certain parts of it can be traced back to the 12th century and belong to an abbot and cantor Guy de Cherlieu of the Cistercian reform groupe. In fact, there is no evidence that "discantus" and "organum" have been distincted this way already during the 11th century. Guido of Arezzo's term was "diaphonia", about 1100 the term "organum" became more common for all kind of polyphony without being specified, whether it was florid or simple like in "diaphonia". Concerning Cecily Sweeney's hypothesis that the Cistercian reform prohibited polyphonic performance of liturgical chant, which could not convince Christian Meyer, we cannot exclude the possibility, that Guy de Cherlieu's ideas failed to convince Bernard of Clairvaux and other reformers. Nevertheless, even in that case an implicit prohibition had no real effect on the liturgical tradition of Cistercians, because one of the earliest treatises dedicated to the practice of fauxbourdon and its ornaments has a Cistercian provenance and the Las Huelgas Codex rather prove that Cistercian customs were also here not so far from Cluniac ones.
- The aforementioned folio of the Gradual-Antiphoner of the Abbey Saint-Maur-des-Fossés (Pa 12584) is probably one of the earliest sources for this popular tune, which seemed just be an intonation formula of plagis protus with a final melisma.
- Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 1139, fol. 49r.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 776". Gradual of Saint-Michel-de-Gaillac (Albi, about 1079). Retrieved 20 December 2012.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 780, fol. 123'-130". Gradual and Tonary from the Cathedral of SS Just et Pastor, Narbonne (late 11th century). Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 903". Gradual of the Abbey Saint Yrieix near Limoges (11th century). Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 909". Troper, Sequentiary, and Tonary of St. Martial de Limoges (1028). Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1085". Abridged Antiphonary from the church St. Salvator Mundi, St. Martial Abbey in Limoges, with later modal classifications by Roger & Adémar de Chabannes (late 10th century). Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1118". Troper, Tonary, Sequentiary and Proser from Southwestern France, Région d'Auch (987–96). Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1120". Troper, Proser, Processional of St. Martial de Limoges (late 10th century). Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1121". Troper, Sequentiary, and Tonary of St. Martial de Limoges, Adémar de Chabannes (ca. 1025). Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 1132". Gradual-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (late 11th century). Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 1135". Sequentiary, Offertorial, and Troper of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th century). Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 1139". Troper-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th & 13th century) [St-M A]. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds lat., Ms. 1240". Troper from the church St. Salvator Mundi, St. Martial Abbey in Limoges with neumes added by Adémar de Chabannes (933-936). Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 3549, fol. 149-169". Troper-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th century) [St-M B]. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 3719, fol. 15r-100v". Troper-Proser of the Abbey Saint-Martial at Limoges (12th century) [St-M С]. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fonds latin, Ms. 12584". Gradual, Antiphonary and Processionnal of the Abbey Saint-Maur-des-Fossés near Paris (11th century). Retrieved 24 January 2014.
- London, British Library, Add. 36881. Polyphonic fragment of the region of Apt and South Catalonia, small south French-Catalan square notes on 7 to 9 staves of 4 or 5 dry-point lines (12th and 13th century) [St-M D] (see description at DIAMM).
- "London, British Library, Ms. Harley 4951". Gradual of Saint-Etienne of Toulouse, including a tonary (end of 11th century). Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- Arlt, Wulf (1975). "Peripherie und Zentrum vier Studien zur ein- und mehrstimmigen Musik des hohen Mittelalters". Forum musicologicum — Basler Studien zur Musikgeschichte 1: 169–222.
- Boynton, Susan (2006). Shaping a Monastic Identity: Liturgy & History at the Imperial Abbey of Farfa, 1000-1125. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801443814.
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- Fuller, Sarah Ann (1969). Aquitanian polyphony of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Berkeley: University of California.
- Fuller, Sarah (1979). "The Myth of "Saint Martial" Polyphony – A Study of the Sources". Musica disciplina 33: 5–26. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- Fuller, Sarah (1990). "Early Polyphony". In Richard L. Crocker, David Hiley. The Early Middle Ages to 1300. New Oxford History of Music 2. Oxford: Oxford UP. pp. 485–556. ISBN 0193163292.
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