Counterpoint, Composition and Musica Ficta (Criticism and by Margaret Bent

By Margaret Bent

Musica ficta is the perform of sprucing or knocking down sure notes to prevent awkard periods in medieval and Reniassance tune. This assortment gathers Margaret Bent's influential writings in this arguable topic from the previous thirty years, in addition to an in depth author's advent discussing the present country of scholarship and responding to critics.

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Some things that can be explained in words or on paper only in a very cumbersome way, like bicycling or cooking, are more easily grasped in the doing. One rarely has to stop singing to debate ficta; the habit of adjusting by ear is quickly developed, on the basis of the counterpoint, to what the singer of another part is doing; then the performance can be gradually refined in subsequent readings. Because even “harmonic” problems are usually anticipated by suspensions or overlaps and are not attacked simultaneously, singers can anticipate aurally, and react accordingly.

The rising sequence from Josquin’s Ave Maria discussed in “Diatonic Ficta” is of a different kind from the downward spiralling terminal sequences represented by Obrecht’s Kyrie. I am pleased that most recent performances seem at least to accept the multiple logic for a bass bb in bar 48 (see Chapter 6, ¶ 21) absent from many earlier editions and performances; this always did and does seem to me essential, whatever one chooses to do about the consequences. I have nothing further to add to my discussion in Chapter 6, ¶¶ 19–22, except to say that, of the various possible compromise solutions for performance (as apart from Josquin’s provocative one that he might have expected us to consider and reject), I would favour Urquhart’s, sounding bn in the treble, as in Ex.

It is also a way for a musicologist to introduce professional singers to aspects of the music, including ficta decisions; even slight exposure to the different musical demands of an underprescriptive notation is educative, and can only improve understanding when they return to performing the music from critical editions that may be excessively timid. Of course I deplore the idea that mere notational access has the status of an egg of Columbus; what I and others value are the understanding and insights that can result from acquiring this ability.

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