Tone and mode in the polyphonic magnificat cycle ca.1530-1552
Simmons, Andrew Michael
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This thesis is an examination of six Magnificat cycles by five composers active in continental Europe during the middle part of the sixteenth century. The composers are: Carpentras, Festa, Gombert, Morales and Clemens. The aim is to explore the differences and similarities in melodic and cadential structure between polyphonic Magnificats and free polyphony written in the equivalent modes. The melodic nature of the eight reciting tones on which the polyphonic settings are based makes makes this a particularly interesting exercise. The reason for this concerns the position these reciting tones occupy within the plainchant repertory. As short melodic fragments designed for the recitation of various liturgical texts, they display a sense of intrinsic rather than fully-fledged modality, and become tonally coherent only in their liturgical context (where they are framed by a plainchant antiphon). However, the extent to which the concepts of mode and tone are bound up is evident in the structural importance given by theorists to the reciting notes of the tones as an element of the modal repercussion (commonly stressed intervals in plainchant melodies). In polyphonic contexts as well, both concepts were closely related: Piere Pontio, for example, suggests that knowledge of the reciting tones is useful in differentiating between authentic and plagal modes in polyphony which does not use the reciting tones as a structural basis. Renaissance theorists discuss various ways in which reciting tones are used as a structural basis. In the context of melodic structure, one of the most common is for the Magnificat intonation to generate the initial imitative arrangement. In cadential structure, the mediation and termination finals are recommended as cadence pitches. Thus in cases where there are discrepancies in opening and closing pitches between the reciting tone and the equivalent modal final, these are also reflected in the melodic structure and cadence distribution of the polyphonic version. Further differences arise in certain cases as the mediation-final of the reciting note is not always a structurally important cadence pitch in free polyphony. Analysis of melodic structure and cadence distribution in the settings under discussion shows that in some cases, the basic outline of the Magnificat tone is closely reflected in the polyphony: the exordium of the verse is generated by the Magnificat intonation and the mediation and termination finals are the only cadence pitches. In other cases, this is varied or even ignored, and the setting displays structural characteristics more typical of those found in free modal polyphony. In most instances, these structural features are those typically found in equivalent-mode polyphony, though it is intriguing that in some cases, this is not the case, and the Magnificats display characteristics of polyphony written in other modes. After introductory material, in chapters four to seven, typical features of each of the four pairs of polyphonic modes are discussed. Information on this is taken from Bernhard Meier's The Modes of Classical Vocal Polyphony and Harold S. Powers' Tonal Types and Modal Categories in Renaissance Music. Against this background, the equivalent Magnificat settings are discussed. In some cases, differences in approach to composition require each composer's setting(s) to be discussed separately; in others, similarity in approach means that it would be repetitive and time-consuming to do this. The results of the analysis help to underline the unique position of polyphonic Magnificats within the overall corpus of Renaissance polyphony. Like the monophonic reciting tones, they are intrinsically rather than actually modal, though attempts are clearly made in certain cases to realize this potential more fully.