Robert Eric Toft
One of the major problems in Renaissance music scholarship has been to establish a precise understanding of the structure and development of pretonal polyphony. Scholars working toward this end have long been plagued by the ambiguities of pitch notation in the sources of vocal music from this period. Tablatures,owingto the nature of the notation, are the only Renaissance sources of polyphony which specify all pitches unambiguously. An examination of these sources, coupled with a reconstruction of the theoretical framework surrounding the incorporation of chromatic signs, is essential if one is to fully ascertain the details of pitch content and modal procedure operative during the period.
The dissertation considers a composer who was most frequently chosen for intabulation in the sixteenth century–Josquin Desprez (d. 1521). The comparative study of the materials of the dissertation establishes the
parameters of sixteenth — century practices in relation to Josquin’s motets. Although this study does not purport to explain what his own practices may have been, it does illustrate how musicians during the fifty or so years after his death interpreted the pitch content of his motets.
The thesis provides evidence not of a single practice but of diverse practices that were dependent, to a large part, on the preference of the Individual musician. It documents the range of options open to the Renaissance performer and demonstrates that a flexible attitude toward the treatment of dissonance existed in the sixteenth century. Both singers and instrumentalists worked within a theoretical framework in which precepts and conventions were by no means immutable.
Volume I of the dissertation discusses intabulation techniques, the filial relationships between the tablature arrangements and the vocal models, the theoretical framework surrounding the incorporation of chromatic signs, the intabulators’ interpretations of pitch content in Josquin’s motets and resolves the confusion associated with the pitch content and modal procedure of Absalon, fill ml. Volume II contains transcriptions of the printed intabulations of Josquin’s motets that were examined for this dissertation.