The eight monophonic political planctus of the Florence manuscript
By Leslie Anne Taylor
Master’s Thesis, University of British Columbia, 1994
Abstract: The medieval planctus is a Latin lament, composed in great numbers on Biblical themes as well as for the death of political figures or the destruction of cities. It appeared in both monophonic and polyphonic form, and had counterparts in a number of vernacular languages. The manuscript Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana Pluteo 29.1, known as the Florence manuscript, contains eight monophonic planctus in the memory of well-known public figures of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. This thesis will examine these compositions as a collection. The monophonic repertoire of the middle ages has been examined in a relatively limited fashion; the florid Latin repertoire, which includes these planctus, has been studied hardly at all. This thesis will provide a musical analysis based upon the text, to prove that the underlying compositional basis for these widely disparate pieces was the same. The planctus span a period of seventy years, and differ greatly in length, textual structure, and musical form. However, as this work will demonstrate, despite their differences, they follow essentially the same inner logic. The analyses contained in the thesis are based upon study of both the syntax and poetry of the text, and seek to discover the relationship of the music to these textual aspects. Various facets of the music (cadence structure, melodic outline, ambitus, and mode) are included in the study. In the process of this study, other facts about the planctus also come to light: the importance of pitches grouped into melodic phrases; mode as an expressive tool rather than a restrictive set of parameters; and the presence of various forms of descriptive composition, or word-painting, often considered not to exist in medieval music. The thesis draws conclusions regarding these aspects of the music, and how they are all used to the greater expression of the texts. The results of this analysis conclude that the eight planctus, while differing in surface characteristics, are the outcome of a single compositional approach, that of the text as a departure point for the music.