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The Problem of the Vitry Motet Corpus: Sonority, Kinship, Attribution

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No fewer than twenty motets have been attributed to Philippe de Vitry. But since so few of these motets have been assigned to the composer in fourteenth-century sources, scholars have relied upon other means of attribution: citations of motet titles in treatises and literary documents, internal evidence from poetic texts, transmission of motet poetry without music, and examination of rhythmic, structural, and various other stylistic properties. Analysis of sonority, however, strongly suggests that many of these motets cannot be the work of the same composer. Consequently, I argue that a systematic examination of sonority usage and patterns must be regarded as an essential analytical tool when tackling the thorny issue of motet attribution. Analysis of selected motets attributed to Vitry reveals recurring patterns of sonority usage, but also numerous anomalies, which in turn raise many interesting questions. For example, if the motets associated with Enguerran de Marigny (Aman, Garrit, Tribum, and Floret) were composed more or less contemporaneously with—and specifically for—the compilation of Fauvel, then my findings suggest that Vitry is not the composer of all of these motets. In sum, I demonstrate that analysis of sonority can both support and, conversely, attenuate a Vitry motet attribution.
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Keywords: ATTRIBUTION; EARLY MUSIC ANALYSIS; GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT; MOTET; PHILIPPE DE VITRY; SONORITY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2017

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  • Music Theory and Analysis (MTA) International Journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory

    Music Theory and Analysis (MTA) is a peer-reviewed international journal focusing on recent developments in music theory and analysis. It has a special interest in the interplay between theory and analysis, as well as in the interaction between European and North-American scholarship. Open to a wide variety of repertoires, approaches, and methodologies, the journal aims to stimulate dialogue between diverse traditions within the field.

    Each issue of the journal will contain five sections: (1) an invited keynote article, (2) a selection of peer-reviewed articles, colloquies and short analytical vignettes, (4) contributions to the pedagogy of music theory and analysis, and (5) book reviews, with a focus on transatlantic exchange.

    MTA is the official journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory (Vereniging voor Muziektheorie). It is the successor to the Dutch Journal of Music Theory (Tijdschrift voor Muziektheorie).
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