Songs, Scribes, and Society

Songs, Scribes, and Society : The History and Reception of the Loire Valley Chansonniers

By (author) Jane Alden

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A new kind of songbook emerged in the later fifteenth century: personalized, portable, and lavishly decorated. Five closely related chansonniers, copied in the Loire Valley region of central France c. 1465-c. 1475, are the earliest surviving examples of this new genre. The Loire Valley Chansonniers preserve the music of such renowned composers as Guillaume Du Fay, Johannes Ockeghem, and Antoine Busnoys. But their importance as musical sources has overshadowed the significance of these manuscripts as artifacts in their own right. This book places the physical objects at center, investigating the means by which they were produced and the broader culture in which they circulated. Jane Alden performs a codicological autopsy upon the manuscripts and reveals the hitherto unrecognized role of scribes in shaping the transmission and reception of the chanson repertory. Alden also challenges the long-held belief that the Loire Valley Chansonniers were intended for royal or noble patrons. Instead, she argues that a rising class of bureaucrats-notaries, secretaries, and other court officials-commissioned these exquisite objects. Active as writers and participants in poetry competitions, these individuals may even have written some of the chansons' texts. The unique integration of image, text, and music found in chansonniers extends their appeal to a broad readership. But for the nineteenth-century scholars who rediscovered these manuscripts, the larger literary and visual resonances were not of primary interest. Alden documents the tangle of motivations-national identity, populist politics, and the rise of the musical masterwork-that informed the earliest writings on these books. Only now is their multifaceted structure the inspiration for a new generation of readers.

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  • Hardback | 312 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 544.31g
  • 27 Jan 2011
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York
  • English
  • 49 illustrations, 10 music examples, 8 tables
  • 0195381521
  • 9780195381528
  • 1,340,288

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Author Information

Jane Alden is Associate Professor of Music at Wesleyan University. She specializes in manuscript production, patronage, and music books in fifteenth-century France. She is editor of Johannes Delahaye: Chansons in Loire Valley Sources (2001) and her writings have been published in Acta Musicologica, the Journal of Musicology, Revue belge de musicologie, and Contemporary Music Review.

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Review quote

the definitive guide to the Loire Valley chansonniers, it also reaches out in numerous directions to enrich our knowledge and appreciation of 15th-century musical and bibliophile life. Helen Deeming, Early Music There is so must that is new and refreshing here that it is a challenge to summarize the book's importance. ... Alden's study will stand as one of the most important works on the Loire Valley chansonniers and will undoubtedly inspire many scholars to look anew at these fascinating volumes. Deborah McGrady, French Review Jane Alden's infectious enthusiasm for the chanconniers as material objects shines through the pages of Songs, scribes and society ... The dazzling extent of the author's codicological spade-work yields rich fruits. Helen Deeming, Early Music

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