Ja que lui ne s’i actende 3v · Busnoys, Antoine
Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:
New Haven 91 ff. 17v-19 »Ja que li ne s'i actende« 3v
Sevilla 5-1-43 ff. 57v-58 »Jaqueluine« 3v
Editions: Jeppesen 1927 no. 32 (Copenhagen); Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 5 (Wolfenbüttel).
Text: Bergerette, full text in Copenhagen, Dijon, Laborde and Wolfenbüttel.
Ja que lui ne s'i actende,
Aussi il a tel renom
deux des lectres de mon nom,
Plus que jamais de sa bende
Ja que lui ne s'i actende,
1) Copenhagen, line 12 “… tous les jours …”.
Ja que luy ne s'i actende, (1)
Aussi a il le renom
deux des lectres de mon nom,
Plus que jamais de sa bande
Though he does not expect it,
Thus he is known
two of the letters in my name,
More than ever to his band
Though he does not expect it,
Thus he is known
one blue and the other grey.
1) Laborde, line 1 “Ja que line …”;
2) line 2, Laborde, “… aultres si sont …”, Wolfenbüttel, “… aultres en sont …”;
3) Laborde and Wolfenbüttel, line 3 “… l’aime trop plus …”;
3) Wolfenbüttel, line 6 “…l’autre blanche”;
In addition some variants in spelling.
Evaluation of the sources:
The four related sources are to some degree quite similar, but they still have an interesting story to tell. They can be divided into two groups. One group consists of the two copies made by the Dijon scribe, which although presenting crucial differences in key signatures were both based on the same exemplar. If we for a moment disregard the signatures the only differences between Copenhagen and Dijon concern coloration (T b. 4 and C b. 35), ligatures (S bb. 50 and 55; C bb. 54-57), and the breaking up of note values (S b. 44.2-43.1, T bb. 44.2-43.1), and most of the differences seem to be caused by changes of staff in different places (S bb. 44.2-43.1 and 50; T bb. 44.2-43.1; C bb. 54-57). Moreover, both sources transmit the same error in the tenor’s bar 20 (d’ in stead of c’), which probably comes from the exemplar.
The Wolfenbüttel and the Laborde versions also build on closely related exemplars as they transmit the same slightly corrupted version of the poem with supernumerary syllables in lines 2-3 and a different interpretation of how the lover displays his lady’s colours – in the Dijon scribe’s version it is in the trimmings of his clothing (line 6 “a sa plaisance”), in the other version it is in his device (“a sa devise”). They both use more coloration than Dijon/Copenhagen (see for example bars 2 and 4), but they also display traits which show them as independent redactions from related exemplars, for example Laborde divides the maxima in the contratenor in bars 46-49 and has a brevis in the superius in bars 56.2-57.1, while Wolfenbüttel in these cases complies with Dijon/Copenhagen.
Taking accidentals and key signatures in consideration we can read a more complicated story into these sources:
The Wolfenbüttel scribe as well as the Dijon scribe worked from different, but closely related exemplars, which did not transmit any key signatures. The music was here in C without any signature flats in both sections of the bergerette. This concept of the music is also transmitted by the two younger sources, New Haven 91 (Mellon Chansonnier) and Sevilla 5-I-43. While Dijon is devoid of any accidentals, Wolfenbüttel introduces a flat before B in bar 28, which immediately causes flattening of e in the next bar and of b in the tenor. It was possibly provoked by an uneasiness about the stressed diminished fifth b-f’ between tenor and superius in bar 29 (the diminished fifths in passing in bars 19, 22 and 24 apparently did not bother the scribe as much).
As mentioned the Laborde scribe worked from an exemplar very similar to Wolfenbüttel’s. But he went a step further in order to dispel his anxiety about diminished fifths. He placed a key signature of one flat in the first two staffs of the tenor as well as of the contratenor; he misplaced the flats in the contratenor, but flats on the B-line were clearly his intention. Hereby the bergerette came in line with other songs of the same type, which in addition to the change of mensuration also displayed a tonal contrast. The flat in the contratenor does not cause any real problems; the fifths become perfect, but apart from that it does not influence the superius much. The tenor flat is different. Owing to the tenor’s oscillation between e’ and b a singer has to sings naturals in bars 5-6, 8 and 12 in order not to change the tonality of the song by introducing a lot of E- and A-flats and at the same time a host of problems in performance.
When the Dijon scribe worked on completing the Laborde Chansonnier (see the description of the MS) he could not copy “Ja que lui ne” into the MS. It was already there. But he studied the version made earlier by the Laborde scribe carefully, and in stead he entered on folios 94v-95 a song modelled on “Ja que lui ne”, namely the anonymous rondeau cinquain »La pourveance de mon cueur«. This song quotes the start of Busnoys’ contratenor as its tenor and duplicates the hexachordal roles of the lower voices – it may be a sort of reponce (see further the comments on the chanson). He notated it without any key signatures in the upper voices and a signature of two flats in the contratenor and created a sound world modelled on the Laborde version of “Ja que lui ne”. It was either composed by himself or possibly edited from an effort of someone in his circle of musical colleagues.
Having “learned” a lot from the Laborde “Ja que lui ne” the Dijon scribe copied Busnoys’ bergerette into the Copenhagen chansonnier using his own exemplar but introducing key signatures inspired by Laborde. The tenor in Copenhagen has a one flat signature in both sections causing and extending similar problems in performance as in Laborde, while the contratenor only has a flat in the first staff of the first section.
That the Wolfenbüttel and Dijon scribes could work from exemplars, which was quite similar and without key signatures, but at the same time already belonged to different traditions especially as regards the poem, indicates that they were somewhat removed from the composer Antoine Busnoys and his circle, but not very far removed. The copyists seem to have regarded the song as a “must” for their collections but also as a difficult piece as signalled by the editorial interventions by the Laborde scribe and the Dijon scribe (in Copenhagen).
A crucial spot, which may have worried all the scribes, is the cadential figure in the superius, which ends the first line (bb. 7-8). It includes the tritone movement from b’ to f’ above an f in the contratenor (see example 1) and seems to demand a flat in the superius, and it may have forced the thought of the necessity of flats on the copyists (cf. the flats in both tenor and contratenor in Laborde and Copenhagen). This figure is present in all six sources and thus with a high probability goes back to a first generation clear copy of the song. But it may still be an error. If we dare to correct a detail, which all the sources agree on, and replace it with another standard figure (see example 2), the first line of the music will come to cadence smoothly in parallel with bars 33-34, and no thoughts about flats are induced at this point. A reconstruction of the song along these lines is included in the edition with the Dijon version. Even if the Copenhagen version represents the Dijon scribe’s final but somewhat misguided thoughts on this chanson, the reconstruction must build on the first Dijon version, which probably preserves the best version of text and music. However, it must be stressed that the Wolfenbüttel and Laborde versions as shown in the editions also appear to work satisfactorily in performances.
Comments on text and music:
The equivocal sense of the poem’s first line, “Though he does not expect it” or “Jaqueline expects”, places this bergerette firmly in the famous series of Jaqueline d’Hacqueville songs by Busnoys, which several times has been commented on in the musicological literature, first and foremost by Leeman L. Perkins and Paula Higgins. (1) And that something unusual is going on here is made audible by the music: The contratenor hammers out “ja / que / lui / ne” in four repeated brevis notes on c. For once, neither the superius nor the tenor is the most important voice to present the text, even if it looks different in the sources. Busnoys’ bergerette offers a dazzling and bold perception of the courtly chanson. The three voices are conceived as a unity, probably with the contratenor as its principal voice and with a heavy reliance on hexachordal procedures.
The opening of the contratenor is unique in this repertory. In the five related sources something like it is only found in the anonymous rondeau »La pourveance de mon cueur«, which the Dijon scribe entered in the Laborde Chansonnier (see above and the edition), and it clearly quotes Busnoys’ bergerette, maybe as a sort of reponce. The copyists of the two younger sources, the Mellon and Sevilla MSS, did not recognize the importance of the four brevis notes and turned two of them or all four into longa values – against the unanimous evidence of the four early sources.
The contratenor goes on, one could say marches on, in equal semibrevis notes, and the voice shows up an abundance of c.o.p.-ligatures whose regularity puts its stamp of most of the refrain/tierce section. The contratenor extends the four Cs by a complete statement of the natural or C hexachord, which reigns until bar 15. Then the hard or G hexachord is brought into play, first in high position (bb. 16-20) then in low position (bb. 21-31). During bar 31 it mutates back to the C hexachord, which is stated again in the last bars (with a dip into the G hexachord at the leading note).
The beginning’s organ point is harmonized as a C chord by the upper voices. Superius offers an elegant version of the usual secure countervoice pattern against long cantus firmus notes, the steps 1-3-5-6-5-3, before it develops its sweeping melodies, which combine the natural hexachord and the hard hexachord in different positions. The tenor supplements the hexachordal play of the contratenor. In bars 1-16 it keeps entirely within the G hexachord, only in bar 17 it moves to the C hexachord – when the contratenor changes to G. The superius and tenor drop into a bit of unison canon at the important word “qu’assez” (she loves him more than enough; bb. 20.2-25), which leads directly into the last line “affin que …”, while the contratenor gently muses around the central note c – all of it creating a coherent flow of emotion. The strict hexachordal play of the lower voices gives the first section its own distinctive sound, also characterized by touches of ostinato and a strong forward drive produced by the diminished fifths and many leading notes resulting from the constant juxtaposition of the natural and hard hexachords.
The couplet-section is a miracle of lightness and elegant declamation in faster tempo as indicated by the shift into diminutum. It conveys a mood of delight in the fact that the lover carries her colours. This song obviously was something new and demanding for performers, also for performers using ink and parchment.
PWCH December 2009
1) Leeman L. Perkins, ‘Antoine Busnois and the d'Hacqueville Connection’ in M.B. Winn (ed.), Musique naturelle et musique artificielle. In Memoriam Gustav Reese (Le moyen français 5). Montreal 1979, pp. 49-64, and Paula Higgins, ‘Parisian Nobles, a Scottish Princess, and the Woman’s Voice in Late Medieval Song’, Early Music History 10 (1991), pp. 145-200.