Music 3144: Early Music Literature
CRN 15197--Spring Semester, 2013
3:30-4:45 TTh, Squires 144

This page has been updated for Spring, 2013.

3144 Main Page | Syllabus | Calendar | Writing | Recordings | Instructor


"Writing Intensive" Requirements

The Writing
Paper 1
Paper 2
Paper 3
Paper 4

University Requirements: The University requires that each department designate as "writing-intensive" at least one course which is required of all students in that department, and that the student's writing in this course be guided by the professor to represent the kind of writing that is accepted as suitable in the professor's professional field. The minimum requirement is a total of 15 pages of writing spread over several different assignments (not a single "term paper") all of which follow a process of drafting, evaluation, revision, and final polishing.

Early Music Literature has been designated by the Music Department as one of four "writing-intensive" courses, along with Symphonic Literature, Choral Literature, and 20th-Century Literature. For music majors any of these courses fulfills the requirement for a writing-intensive course in the major. For non-majors they may fulfill the requirement for a second writing-intensive course outside the major.

There are 4 (or 6, depending on how you count them) writing assignments in this course, but THIS COURSE IS DIFFERENT! All these assignments involve transcribing music from early (medieval and renaissance) notation into modern notation. The deadlines are given below and also on the Course Calendar. All assignments will involve music score paper. Music majors and others who can must submit the final version as a computer printout from Finale, Sibelius, or another computer music program, butpreferably as a Sibelius score file. Non-majors and music minors may submit neat, hand-written manuscript.

PLEASE ALSO NOTE that due dates may need to be adjusted as the semester progresses.


Types of writing: This is not traditional "writing." In order to understand the music (that is, the "literature") of previous centuries, it is necessary to be able to "read" that music in its original notation, and to analyze it using the analytical tools that were used by musicians at the time, not the 19th and 20th century theoretical tools used to analyze more recent music.. At the least, students in this class will learn to "transcribe" the original notation (i.e., "decode" it!) into modern notation. At the most, students will begin to understand that this music can be read, even at sight, just as easily as modern notation can be, although skilled reading will take a lot more practice than you will get in this course. Please note that a "draft" is a complete (if unpolished) version of a transcription, not a final version that is incomplete! Writing a "final draft" from scratch the night before it is due will probably not satisfy the requirements!

Non-music majors may pair up with a music major. These assignments will be brand new to everyone, but theoretically music majors will have more depth of background in both modern theory and modern analysis.

Evaluation & Grading: Each transcription is worth a total of 100 points. Papers turned in late will be marked down by 50% for each deadline missed; in the real world deadlines are deadlines, and excuses don't count. All Due Dates will be on Thursdays, as listed in the Course Calendar. Each score will be converted to an 0-100% grade percentage, and weighted according to the scale given in the Syllabus.

Hard-copy Submission:

(only if really necessary)

E-mail Submission: For e-mail submission (generally only appropriate for Sibelius files OR .pdf files of computer engraving), prepare your paper as above and transmit your file as an attachment to an e-mail message. Include your last name in the filename (Howell-Jones-Gomez/1.2). It is better to automate this because when I print the paper the page breaks may not be the same. An e-mail submission is on time if it is sent by 11:59:59 pm on the date due.

If you submit regular text files for any reason (like the Reviews of the Early Music Ensemble concerts), please also submit them as Word files as attachments to an email, double-spaced.

Paper 1

Although many attempts were made to develop a useable notation throughout history, the beginning of our modern notation can be traced directly to the Italian Monk, Guido d'Arezzo, who lived and worked in the early 11th century. The notation he developed was for the chants of the Church, but the approach he developed was designed to teach his choirboys to read music in his new notation. That notation is still the best notation for that music.

The Assignment: I may assign specific chants or I may give you a choice. In either case, you are to transcribe the chant notation into clear and readable modern notation while keeping as much information as possible and adding or losing as little as possible We will discuss this in class. Yes, you must include the text, and you must make the intended text underlay clear in your transcription. (Not that difficult, since it is clear in the original notation.)

The Process: Work individually, although anyone who is having real trouble may certainly ask other class members for help. Everyone will be starting at a different point and with different background, and that's fine.

The Schedule: Check the Course Calendar.

Paper 2

The first major development beyond chant notation, which indicated pitch but not rhythm, was the late 12th century development of the Rhythmic Modes by the musicians at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. It was based on chant notation and the graphic figures (ligatures or neumes) used in chant notation, but they were given rhythmic significance. This notation was only in use for between 50 and 75 years, but it influenced musical styles for at least the next 200 years!

The Subject: I will assign a specific example of Rhythmic Modal Notation for everyone to work on, so you can compare your transcriptions. The theory of the Rhythmic Modes is simple enough, but the practice is difficult for us because it is so completely different either from our own modern notation or the earlier chant notation. And as you will find in your assigned readings, musicians were just as likely to argue about it as musicians have been to argue about anything else throughout history!

The Process: You may pair up and collaborate on this project, but you are not required to. If you do pair up, both partners should be clearly identified and both will share the final score. And yes, the text underlay is important, and won't be NEARLY as easy as with chant notation.

The Schedule: Check the Course Calendar.

Paper 3

The first notation to combine rhythmic flexibility with clear pitch notation, and therefore the direct ancestor of our modern notation, is the notation first described by Franco of Cologne in about 1260 or so, so he gets the credit and we call it Franconian notation. In theory it is very clear, and you can learn to sightread it even though there are a couple of unexpected surprises that you simply have to learn and remember. And he was also the first to assign rhythmic values to breath (rest) marks. Once again, he used the graphic elements that everyone knew from both chant notation and modal notation, but he changed their meanings. This is the notation that almost immediately began to be further developed by other musicians, and over the next 150 years became the most complex notation in existence prior to the 20th century. Understanding it opens up almost all late Medieval and Renaissance music to you in its original notation.

The Subject: I will again provide a specific assignment so that you can compare your transcriptions. It may be from a slightly later time period, but it will be as close to pure Franconian notation as I can find.

The Process: This will probably be a piece in 3 parts, with the 3 parts on different parts of the page in the original. You'll first want to start with one part and transcribe it for a few phrases in a way that makes musical sense. THEN, add a second part, go about the same length, and see whether the two parts sound OK together. If not, back to the drawing board! (Finding an error can be frustrating, which is why you should work through a phrase or so at a time.) If those 2 parts work, then add the third. And yes, the text underlay is important, but you'll need to think like a singer in order to underlay it in a way that makes musical sense. Again, if you want to work in pairs that's perfectly all right.

The Schedule: Check the Course Calendar.

Papers 4, 5 & 6

A transcription of a polyphonic piece of 15th-century music from the original "White" notation into a performing edition in modern notation and clefs. It includes decisions regarding Musica Ficta and, again, text underlay. This is a more fully developed version of Franconian notation, using both white (outlined) and black (filled in) notes, and a few other little interesting traps.

The Subject: This project is built into the Atlas textbook, and will be approached exactly as he presents it in Chapters 4, 17, 21, and 30 as they come, although we won't do much of the work from Chapter 30.

The Process: To be done individually, but helping each other in such a way as to critique and instruct each other is perfectly all right. For non-music majors this will be an exercise in learning the music theory and notation of the 15th century. The following principles apply in general: If the original has names for the parts, they should be retained. The modern clefs selected should represent the original clefs, but should also take into account practical modern voicings and vocal ranges. An incipit at the beginning of each part should show the original clef, key signature, time signature, and the form of the first few notes in each part. The 1st draft may be in manuscript and must be complete in terms of notes; the 2nd draft should include editorial musica ficta; the final draft should incorporate editorial decisions, including text underlay, and should be computer-printed and camera-ready for publication for music majors. The text is French (well, 15th century French!), and there is always a question about whether the entire text can actually be used for the music as given. Interesting question, which hinges on the form of the poem as much as on the form of the music! And yes, it CAN all be used, but we'll have to talk about HOW that can be done.

The Schedule: Check the Course Calendar.

3144 Main Page | Syllabus | Calendar | Writing | Recordings | Instructor