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Plesch, Melanie, ed.. Analizar, interpreter, hacer música del las Cantigas de Santa María a la organología: Escritos in memoriam Gerardo V. Huseby (Katz)

  • 23 Aug 2016 10:27 AM
    Message # 4206052
    Simon Doubleday (Administrator)

    Plesch, Melanie, ed. Analizar, interpreter, hacer música del las Cantigas de Santa María a la organología: Escritos in memoriam Gerardo V. Huseby. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2013. 598 pp.

    Reviewed by Israel J. Katz

    University of California at Davis


    This exemplary Liber amicorum (Gedenkschrift) could not have been realized by anyone other than Melanie Plesch, wife of the deceased honoree. As the propelling factor underlying her intensive two-year dedication to its planning and solicitation of articles, she envisioned the Liber primarily to complement the topics that most interested Gerardo throughout his active professional and academic life (medieval music, Gregorian chant, the Cantigas de Santa María [CSM], tonal systems, the role of musical theorists, the rhetorical use of mode, and organology). Recognized as a highly respected classical guitarist and musicologist, Plesch’s earlier scholarly writings, up through the year 2000, are cited beneath her entry in the Diccionario de la Música Española e Hispanoamericana.

    The introductory material, consisting of three bilingual (Spanish/English) presentations (pp. 11-91), contains: an overview of each of the solicited articles (by Plesch; pp. 11-24/25-38); a touching portrait of Huseby from a personal perspective (by Clara Cortezar; pp. 39-42/43-46); and a discussion of his work and interests in the context of Argentine musicology (by Plesch; pp. 47-70/71-91, including his bibliography, pp. 68-69). There is, in addition, an historical account (in Spanish, by Marcela Alejandra Abad and Victoria Preciado Patiño; pp. 93-125) of the early music ensemble Ars Rediviva (of Buenos Aires), for which Huseby was a founding member, instrumentalist (flute, recorders, and shawms) and vocalist, and subsequently its director.

    Of the seventeen articles that follow, the first five, comprising musicological contributions devoted to Alfonso X’s Cantigas de Santa María, should prove of particular interest to the readership of the AARHMS website, especially its devoted cantigueiros. These include: “Understanding the Cantigas: Preliminary Steps” by Manuel Pedro Ferreira (pp. 127-52); “Inside the Virelai: A Survey of Musical Structure in the CSM” by Alison D. Campbell (pp. 153-70); “Bookish Theoicke and the CSM of Alfonso el Sabio” by David Wulstan (pp. 171-86); “Music and Musical Performance in the Texts of Alfonso X’s CSM” by Joseph T. Snow (pp. 189-207); and “Entre la juglaría y la liturgía: Dos modos de performance en las CSM de Alfonso X by Santiago Disalvo and Germán Pablo Rossi  (pp. 209-32). [Each of these will eventually be included along with other present and forthcoming contributions in a later addenda to Joseph T. Snow’s magnificentThe Poetry of Alfonso X: An Annotated Critical Bibliography (1278-2010) (Woodbridge, UK, 2012). Their respective authors, except for Campbell, are already well represented among Snow’s citations for their earlier musicological and varied researches on the CSM: Ferreira (21 items), Snow (29), Wulstan (9), Disalvo (10), and the latter in collaboration with Rossi (4).]

    Manuel Pedro Ferreira, an avid student of CSM studies, has for decades examined and compared the notation, rhythmic styles, and melodic variants between the extant Cantigas codices (To, T, and E). His expertise in musical paleography has proven essential for deciphering their notational and rhythmic discrepancies, as well as those of the later “so-called” facsimile editions of To (partially edited by Julián Ribera [1922]) and E (by Higinio Anglés [1943]) [because these had “been reset or retouched by hand,” Ferreira claims that they “hardly deserve the name of facsimiles” (p. 129)], plus the more recent partial and complete facsimile editions of E published in: 2000 (mainly of the decadal Cantigas de loor by Martin G. Cunningham); 2001 (a purely a metrical interpretation by Roberto Pla Sales); 2004 (a performing edition of the Prologo through CSM 100 by Chris Elmes); and of To in 2005 (a nonmensural transcription by Pedro López Elum). Ferreira discusses the notation systems of the primary codices in both their evolutionary and historical contexts, together with their compositional and textual constraints. In the matters of dating and stemma, which he covered in earlier publications, he includes F, the extant Florentine codex, which is devoid of musical notation. To provide a critical [performing?] edition—being the thrust of his article—“philological evaluation and accurate transcription of the sources are necessary preliminary steps… [and neither should] their cultural context” be ignored (p. 136). Taking the above aspects into consideration, Ferreira’s proposal for such an edition of the melodies, as a collaborative interdisciplinary venture involving a similar edition of the texts, is currently in progress between the CSM data bases of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Oxford University (the latter created by Stephen Parkinson). 

    Alison Campbell’s article replicates, with minute textual changes [her original footnotes have been totally rearranged, with interspersed insertions (mainly bibliographic in nature)], the first section “Musical Structures in the Cantigas” (‘large scale’ pp. 11-20 and ‘small-scale’ 20-33) of the first chapter from her Master’s thesis “Words and Music in the CSM: The Cantigas as Song” (Univ. of Glasgow, 2011). Surely her contribution was requested because of its proximity to Huseby’s study of the virelai which established its importance as the most predominant structural and organizing principal of the Marian corpus [“Musical Analysis and Poetic Structure in the CSM,” in John Geary, ed.,Florilegium Hispanicum: Medieval and Golden Age Studies Presented to Dorothy Clotelle Clarke (Madison, 1987), 81-101]. Concurring with Huseby’s findings, Campbell takes a further step by examining the smaller-scale structures, as well as the techniques used in composition. Whereas Huseby analyzed the long-verses, Campbell’s examination of the small-scale musical structures focuses "on variants at [the] phrase level that have often been disregarded in previous analyses… [concluding] that the musical structure of the CSM emerges from the play between large- and small-scale dimensions, of blurred boundaries, as a result of which small-scale variants can have significant implications for the large-scale structure [as explained by Plesch, p. 29]." Campbell’s presentation would have been more clearly understood had she incorporated Table 1 (pp. 23-27 from her thesis) to illustrate the phrase-by-phrase correspondences among various Cantigas in her discussion.

    At the outset of his article, David Wulstan shuns the early theorists and Greek and Latin metricians as a misbegotten breed whose assumptions about rhythm and meter have no validity with regard to the CSM. Likening the Alfonsine corpus to a Rosetta stone of medieval song, with particular regard to its rhythm, he defies, as “mythic,” the presumption among the pundits that its notation was arhythmical and that its melodies were predominantly of Iberian origin. Statistically, the polyphonic rhythmic “modes”—as encapsulations of the rhythmic patterns (for which he provides illustrations)—comprise more than a third of the corpus. Even the “naïve notion of modality” should be dispelled. He would argue that the Cantigas de loor (the decadal songs) “are the source and origin” of Alfonso X’s project. Moreover, he is elaborating in a forthcoming publication, as he has hypothesized in the past, that a large number of the cantigas’ melodies are contrafactions, mainly of dance tunes that have permeated the corpus.

    In his contribution, Joseph T. Snow elaborates on an earlier article, wherein he proposed a novel approach that had been surprisingly overlooked [“‘Cantando e con dança’: Alfonso X, King David, the CSM and the Psalms,” La Corónica, XXVII/2 (1998/99), 61-73]. Inspired by the Psalms of King David, who “commanded that the Lord be praised with holy songs, instruments and the dance,” Snow documents the textual parallels (verses) in the CSM to demonstrate how Alfonso X beckoned his subjects to praise the Virgin Mary in the same manner (p. 190). Sifting through the 422 narrative and lyrical songs of the Marian corpus, including Prologues A and B, he was able to cull information from 126 (i.e., 30%) that describe occurrences of music making (mostly singing), exemplifying the vital role music plays.

    Who sings in the Cantigas? The list is considerable, as we learn that the singers and groups of singers included: angels [65, 261, 419], convent nuns [55, 59, 94, 332], a deaf-mute [69], a heaven-sent bird [103], a jongleur (jograr) [194], male clerics (priests [22, 24, 32, 44, 92, 149, 225, 367, 404], a bishop [32], an Archbishop [12], and a Pope [206]), merchants [172], monks [113, 187], a repentant sinner [291], St. John the Baptist [265], saints [139, 196, 220, 262, 288], unidentified groups of voices [8, 140, 128, 140, 291, 270], virgins [288], witnesses to Mary’s miracles [66, 84], a young English lad [6], and a young girl [251]. 

    What was sung or heard centered, for the most part, on the Roman Catholic liturgy, namely the Mass, the canonical hours, hymns, psalms, antiphons, etc., apart from the devotional songs addressed to the Virgin. The Mass is either sung [12, 32, 44, 63, 66, 145, 179, 222, 224, 234, 251, 263, 308, 316] or heard recited or sung [64, 162, 208, 211, 219, 225, 237, 255, 262, 293, 299, 302, 311, 324, 331]. Of specific Masses, three are distinguished: Easter [115, 226], Marian [63, 78, 92, 113], and Requiem [133, 331]. Kyrie eleison is referred to in Cantiga 24. The canonical hours are mentioned in Cantigas 48, 54, 55, 111, 125, 132, 144, 156, 208, 384, 404, and 405; Matins is cited in Cantigas 73 and 262. And the revered prayer-song Ave María, [grátia pléna] is rendered among the entreaties in Cantigas 71, 93, 121, 125, 141, 151, 210, and 418; in Cantiga 415, it is cited as a textual paraphrase. 


    Among the named hymns, one will find: Ave maris stella [aka Salve estrella del mar] [94, 100, 180], Gaude Virgo Maria [mutated as Gaude Maria virgo] [6], and Salve Regina, known also as a Marian antiphon [55, 253, 313].

    While the singing of psalms are mentioned in Cantigas 11, 123, 347, and 429, five in Cantiga 56 are identified as: Ad Dóminum [cum tribulárer] (Psalm 119); Ad te [Dómine levávi] (Psalm 24); In converténdo [Dóminus] (Psalm 125); Retribue sérvo túo (Psalm 118, from vv. 17); and Magníficat [ánima méa Dóminum] (Psalm 146). The latter, known as the Canticle of the Virgin Mary, is considered an optional psalm. Cantiga 45 mentions Surgat  [sic! Exurgat] Deus (Psalm 68).        

    Dancing is mentioned in only four instances [24, 32, 62, 409].

    King Alfonso’s role as composer is attested to in Prologues A and B, plus Cantigas 1, 10, 130, 170, 172, 200, 240, 279, 295, 299, 300, 366, 400, 400, and 402. The only other named composer is the cleric-troubadour (creigo trovador) Martim Alvitez [316]. Included among the anonymous composers are: an archdeacon [202], a cleric [156], monk [56], poet [47, 64, 84, 284], and a poet-troubadour [363]. There are several internal claims of poet-collaborators who com-posed songs [135, 266, 293, 361], as well as the narrative of a good man (bon ome), who was bartered by the Virgin to compose a song [307].

    One would expect from the lavishly depicted musical instruments in codice E that many would be mentioned in the narrative verses. But, alas, only three: bells (both rung and heard) [11, 24, 25, 54, 59, 66, 69, 127, 215, 276], a viola [8], and trumpets [185].

    Mention should have been made of Kathleen Kulp-Hill’s English prose translations of the entire CSM corpus for those unfamiliar with Galician-Portuguese [Songs of Holy Mary of Alfonso X the Wise: A Translation of the CSM. With an introduction by Connie L. Scarborough and a foreword by John E. Keller. Tempe, AZ, 2000]. With this reference tool at hand, one can absorb the entire context of each of the narratives, as well as compare her translations with Snow’s.

    In the fifth article, Santiago Disalvo and Germán Pablo Rossi focus on the element of performance in the CSM. [Their article appears to be based on the premises of their earlier article, “Modelos cortesanos y modelos litúrgicos en la corte alfonsí: la performance cantada de las CSM,” Letras: Revista de la Facultad de Filosofía de la Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina Santa María de los Buenos Aires, nos. 61-62 (2010), 279-87]. Here they examine two types: the first of which belongs to the cate-gory of “jongleur miracles.” [They also provide additional examples in Cantigas 194, 238, 259, and 293, with a possible inclusion of 291]. A fitting example is Cantiga 8, wherein Pedro de Sigrar, described as a jograr violero (instrumentalist), fiddles and sings, with tearful eyes, a lai (a lyrical, narrative poem) before a statue of the Virgin at the famous pilgrimage shrine in Rocamadour. Pedro implores her to furnish a candle so that he and his parishioner friends can dine. Touched by his singing, the Virgin causes a candle to descend upon his viola. A monk-treasurer who witnesses this act immediately snatches the candle thinking that Pedro is a sorcerer. After several repetitions of the act, and with the parishioners admonishing him, the monk finally relents and realizes that a miracle has been enacted, thus pleading before Pedro and the statue for forgiveness.

    The second type, exemplified in Cantiga 73, comprises narrative cantigas that are related to the liturgy by theme or context [Here they also include Cantigas 11, 222, 225, 279, 400 and 402. All, with the exception of 238 and 259, are also cited in Snow’s article]. This cantiga concerns a liturgical performance presented in a monastic setting. It recounts a miracle that took place at the Benedictine abbey Sagra di San Michele near the Turinese town of Clusa [sic Chiusa] in northwestern Italy. Among its community of monks, all ardent devotees of the Virgin Mary, is their most humble monk-treasurer. During the morning mass (matins) on the feast of Christmas, he carries, in one hand (on his way to the altar), a white chasuble and, in the other, red wine for performing the sacrifice. Stumbling on a stone, the wine spills over the chasuble, causing what he suspects is an irremovable stain. Weeping piteously, he prays to the Virgin, who immediately causes the stained portion to be removed, making the chasuble much whiter than originally. From a melodic standpoint, it bears a relationship to the formulaic psalmodic tones of the canonical hours. [For an in-depth musical analysis, see Huseby’s “The Common Melodic Background of ‘Ondas do Mar de Vigo’ and Cantiga 73” in I.J. Katz and John E. Keller, eds., Studies on the CMSArt, Music and Poetry (Madison, 1987), 189-201].

    From the point of view of the CSM’s iconographical “language”, Disalvo and Rossi feel that it is possible to discern and understand varied types of representation of performative practices as symbolic constructions through the iconographic discourse (p. 215).

    Whereas the matter of performance has been examined in the narrative and lyrical verses of Alfonso’s Marian corpus, supported visually by their respective iconographic vignettes, the question of how and where the Cantigas (with their corresponding melodic strophes) were per-formed during Alfonso’s reign and what constitutes bona fide performances in today’s world are matters that have not been fully addressed. Were they performed solely at the Court? How were they rendered vocally? Given the lavish display of some eighty musical instruments (string, wind, and percussion) in Codex E (referred to as Códice de los músicos), how were they employed in the performances? Moreover, Alfonso, in his last will and testament, mandated that the Cantigas de loor be preserved at the Cathedral of Seville, where his body was to be interred, and that they should be sung on the festive days of the Virgin Mary. Has his behest continued to be observed?

    It is truly lamentable that Huseby’s untimely death in Buenos Aires on June 26, 2003, just six months after his 60th birthday, brought an abrupt end to his on-going and planned projects. Had he lived to complete them, his already revered stature would have been more greatly elevated in the musicological world. Nonetheless, with regard to his legacy, each of the seventeen contributors to the Liber has included observations concerning aspects of his scholarly writings, as well as their personal recollections about him.


    Postscriptum: I first met Gerardo at the International Symposium on the CSM in New York (Nov., 1982), following which we continued our friendship through correspondence. In a letter to him (dated Aug. 29, 1984), I expressed an interest in La música de los trovadores by the Argentine musicologist and folklorist Carlos Vega (1898-1966). Because it contained information about the CSM, I wanted to know if it was still available. Huseby’s swift and generous reply (on Sept. 9th) shows how candidly and thoroughly he complied in the foregoing portion:

    “Vega’s book never got beyond a very untidy first draft. What there is consists of a huge package of notes, loose paragraphs, disjointed and complete drafts of whole chapters, etc., all or most of it in longhand.  I have always thought it would be interesting to delve through it, and I might do it some day. What cools my interest is that I know that all the way to the end of his life he followed Ribera’s ideas. I remember that whenever he would refer to a Cantiga or a troubadour or trouvère melody, he would liberally sprinkle it with accidentals.  He was convinced that all those melodies were in the major or minor mode, and he would doctor them accordingly. It was all leading tones with him. Of course, one doesn’t really know; however I find those ideas very hard to accept, even in spite of the survival of “Rosa das rosas” which Schindler found, leading tone and all. Personally I have found that medieval modal theory fits the Cantigas extremely well.

                As far as I know, there does not exist any other bibliography of Vega’s works than those you mention. I will try to find out more about that, and I will let you know,

                I would certainly be very happy to Xerox the portion of Vega’s draft dealing with the Cantigas, but I am afraid it will not be possible for the time being.  There exists in Argentina a rather ludicrous situation, in that there are two “Institutos de Musicología”, with a lot of petty rivalries and partisanship among their respective members. The “Instituto Nacional de Musicología ‘Carlos Vega’”, where I work is the one Vega himself founded in 1931. It is state-owned, and it holds in its archives the complete records of all of Vega’s field trips and those of many later ones); recordings, transcriptions, photographs, and a fairly important collection of some 300 folk and aboriginal musical instruments. It seems that that in the early 60’s Vega was quite frustrated with his Institute, both with the lack of official support and with the handful of people he was working with at the time. It was then that he was invited to become a faculty member of the “Facultad de Artes y Ciencias Musicales” of the Catholic University (privately funded), where I was then a student.  He found there a congenial atmosphere, and he worked there for the remaining years of his life, being at the same time the Director of the state “Instituto”.”

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