Two unnoticed pieces of medieval polyphony
By David Hiley
Plainsong and Medieval Music, Volume 1, Number 2, 1992
Introduction: The two pieces introduced and briefly discussed in this article have so far remained unnoticed because of the manner of their notation. In each case pieces of twovoice polyphony were notated with the two voices separate, instead of in the score notation which has been usual since, roughly, the second half of the twelfth century.
In the one case, the sequence Magnus deus in universa terra in a manuscript from Marchiennes of the fourteenth century, a second voice was added at the back of the book in which the usual melody had already been recorded. In the other case, the song Ad honorem regis sutnnti in the so-called Codex Calixtinus, the two voices are notated successively, verse 1 of the text being given with the first voice, verse 2 with the second voice.
Both these two methods of notation are by now well known. The musical style of the pieces is likewise unremarkable. I have therefore felt justified in presenting simply a transcription, an account of the manuscript source, and a short comment on the music. Neither of these discoveries is particularly spectacular; but they create the expectation that other such discoveries may not be uncommon in the future, adding welcome detail to our knowledge of the humbler types of polyphony practised in the Middle Ages.