Part 6: How to play “divers ways upon the Plainsong Miserere”

This is the sixth of a multi-part post. (Please see previous post below for earlier instalments.)

Example 7a is a simplified version of Redford’s Te prophetarum, on a simple plainsong and in which pairs of quavers in the point are replaced with crotchets to show how it consists mainly of descending and repeated crotchets. One note in the descant has to be altered at plainsong note 13: instead of the minim A, a G is used (which is consonant with the plainsong figuration). In addition to appoggiaturas and an accented passing-tone there are some suspensions (sus, a note of the descant that is consonant with a note of the plainsong, held or repeated so that it is dissonant against the next note of plainsong, and then resolving down by step to a consonance), as well as several fake suspensions (fsus). These unprepared suspensions were allowed by Tudor musicians because they are approached by descending step. The first dissonance in Ex. 7a, however, could be described as an anticipation (ant), because when it is repeated it sounds a consonant 6th against the plainsong.

Ex. 7a A version of Redford’s Te prophetarum, with a simplified point on a simple plainsong:

Example 7a

Example 7b demonstrates how Redford’s point, including its ornamental pairs of quavers, works contrapuntally against a simple plainsong (with the minim G rather than A). The pairs of quavers have the effect of softening the dissonances against the plainsong, creating lower neighbors and accented passing-tones rather than suspensions and fake suspensions.

Example 7b A version of Redford, Te prophetarum (Te Deum, 29996, fol. 21r), with the point on a simple plainsong:

Example 7b

Example 7c is Redford’s verset, with the simple plainsong given on the staff below for ease of comparison with the plainsong figuration, which is a little more varied and complex than that in Exx. 5a and 6a;[1] bar 1 demonstrates the replacing of repeated notes in a plainsong with a single long note. Another favourite technique of Tudor organists shown here is the use of parallel imperfect intervals: in this verset, parallel 6ths between the descant and the plainsong figuration result in a reduction in the amount of dissonance.[2]

[1] For a similar example of plainsong figuration see Blitheman’s Eterne rerum I (the first of four versets of this hymn, 30513, fols 55v-56r), which will be posted later as Example 11.

[2] See Redford’s Salvum fac (Te Deum, 30513, fol. 63r), which will be posted later as Example 10.

Example 7c Redford, Te prophetarum (Te Deum, 29996, fol. 21r), with the simple chant on a stave below:

Example 7c

In Exx. 7d-e I demonstrate how the simplified point (without the pairs of quavers) and the point with the quavers may be applied to a simple Miserere. The point begins on the same note, G, for its last four occurrences, in order to demonstrate an ‘ostinato’ point.[1]

Example 7d Jane Flynn, Miserere 6: One way of using a simplified version of the point from Redford’s Te prophetarum:

Example 7d

[1] See Redford’s Dignare (Te Deum, GB-Lbl Add. MS 15233, fol. 6r), which will be posted later as Example 9.

Example 7e Jane Flynn, Miserere 7: One way of using the point from Redford’s Te prophetarum:

Example 7e

In Ex. 7f I demonstrate the application of the point from Redford’s Te prophetarum above Miserere that is broken in order to introduce some short descending scales in parallel 3rds or 6ths with the point.

Example 7f Jane Flynn, Miserere 8: One way of playing on plainsong figuration using the point from Redford’s Te prophetarum:

Example 7f

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