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L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa 3v · Ockeghem, Johannes

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 20v-21 »L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa« 3v · Edition · Facsimile

Other musical sources:

Bologna Q16 ff. 94v-95 »Lantrentanta« 3v [low C) Facsimile (194)
New Haven 91 ff. 25v-26 »L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa« 3v Jo. okeghem · Facsimile
Paris 15123 ff. 32v-33 »L’autre d’antan l’autre passa« 3v · Facsimile
Paris 2973 ff. 24v-25 »L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa« 3v · Facsimile
Rome 2856 ff. 52v-53 »Lauter dantan« 3v [low C) Okeghem · Facsimile

This page with editions as a PDF

Citations in poem by Molinet and in theoretical works, see Fallows 1999, pp. 242-243.

Editions: Droz 1927 no. 17 (Dijon); Ockeghem 1992, p. 71 (Dijon).

Text: Rondeau cinquain; full text in Dijon and Paris 2973; Paris 2973 and the incomplete texts in Paris 15123 and New Haven 91 repeat the opening line at the end of the refrain. After Dijon:

L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa
et en passant me trespassa
d’un regard forge a Millan,
qui m’a mis en l’arriere ban,
tant mauvais brassin me brassa.

Par tel facon me fricassa
que de ses gaiges me cassa,
mais, par Dieu, elle fist son dan.

L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa
et en passant me trespassa
d’un regard forge a Millan.

Puis apres nostre amour cessa,
car oncques puis qu’elle dansa,
l’autre d’antan, l’autre d’antan, 1)
je n’eus ne bon jour ne bon an,
tant de mal enuy amassa.

L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa
et en passant me trespassa
d’un regard forge a Millan,
qui m’a mis en l’arriere ban,
tant mauvais brassin me brassa.

One from yesteryear passed the other day,
and in passing she stabbed me
with a look forged in Milan,
which put me in the rear guard,
such a bad beer she brewed me.

In such a way she chopped me up
that she dismissed me from her service,
and, by God, she used her power.

One from yesteryear passed the other day,
and in passing she stabbed me
with a look forged in Milan.

Since after our love had ended,
for never since she danced on,
the one from yesteryear, the one from yesteryear,
have I had one good day or one good year,
so much bad anguish did she heap on me.

One from yesteryear passed the other day,
and in passing she stabbed me
with a look forged in Milan,
which put me in the rear guard,
such a bad beer she brewed me.

1) Dijon, line 14 “... l’autre d’anta” (error)

Evaluation of the sources:

The Dijon scribe selected Ockeghem’s song to be included among the first songs in his new chansonnier. It must have had a much wider circulation than what this single appearance in the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers implicates. It can further be found in five chansonniers of mostly Italian origin dating from a bit later than Dijon and until the last decade of the century (in rough chronological order): the Mellon chansonnier (New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS 91), the Chansonnier Cordiforme (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. Rothschild 2973), Roma, Biblioteca Casanatense, ms. 2856, the Pixérécourt chansonnier (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. 15123), and Bologna, Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale, MS Q16. Ockeghem is mentioned as its creator in the Mellon chansonnier and in Rome 2856.

The transmission is very stable. The music is practically identical as it appears in the Dijon, Mellon, Cordiforme and Pixérécourt MSS. This is also true of the superius and tenor voices in the two textless versions in Bologna Q16 and Roma 2856. However, here the wide-ranging contratenor have in slightly different ways been reworked into a more narrow range (c-e'), possibly in order to make it more fit for instrumental performance (the two versions of the contratenor have been published separately in Ockeghem 1992, p. lxxv).

The main differences between the four texted versions appear in their texting and in their use of mensural signatures.

The poem appears in Dijon as a normal rondeau cinquain with the refrain laid under the superius and text incipit in the tenor, and the remainder of the poem standing on the lower half of the left-hand page. In the three other sources the first text line of the refrain “L’autre d’antan l’autrier passa” is repeated in the upper voice when the opening three-part imitation comes back in the music from bars 31, thereby making the poem into an irregular sixain with a refrain line. In Mellon the tenor as well as the superius are fully texted with the refrain, and in Cordiforme the tenor is partially underlaid with text.

There can be no doubt about the reading in Dijon – the words “me brassa” are clearly placed under bars 33-37 in the superius. This is a quite subtle effect with only the music remembering the beginning, and it probably represents the original state of the song. It is reproduced in the present edition and in Droz 1927 no. 17. The slightly too obvious solution of letting a text repeat pinpoint the musical repeat can be seen several modern editions, Ockeghem 1992 no. 9, Perkins 1979 no. 20, Thibault & Fallows 1991 no. 18, and in this edition’s alternative version.

The mensuration is in Dijon indicated with the sign "C3” or minor modus, tempus perfectum. This means that the music is organized in longa bars consisting of two breves, which each contain three semibreves, and all is diminished by half (in the edition the longa bars are marked by ticks appearing in all voices on the lowest line of the staves). This mensuration gives the song a natural and lively flow in double bars, and it is surely its original mensuration.

Some copyists did not understand this way of indicating the mensuration. The music is obviously in triple time and has to be performed in a fast tempo. Therefore the mensuration was changed into “O3”, which should mean diminished tempus perfectum. This is what we see in the chansonniers Cordiforme and Pixérécourt. In his Proportionale musices written in Naples before 1475, Johannes Tinctoris censured Ockeghem for using this mensuration in “L’autre d’antan”, because he found it illogical to indicate a mensuration by a proportion sign. Diminished tempus has to be marked by a stroke through the tempus sign, a circle with a vertical stroke. (1) This is – with the “3” retained – how the song appears in the Mellon chansonnier, which was produced in Naples at the same time, presumably under Tinctoris’ supervision.

Tinctoris’ criticism of Ockeghem was based on a misinterpretation of Ockeghem’s original notation arisen at an early stage of the song’s transmission into wider circles. The Dijon chansonnier on the other hand seems to have preserved most of the composer’s concept of mensuration and texting.

Comments on text and music:

The poem tells a highly ironic story about a man who has lost all in battle against a woman, a former lover. It is in artful rich rimes, nearly equivoques, and incorporates military language and pictures: He is pieced by a look forged by the famous weapon manufactures in Milan, sent to the rear guard and dismissed by his commanding officer.

The very elegant musical setting in the style of a setting of a popular tune is for two core voices placed an octave apart (d'-e'' and d-e'), both composed with a precise declamation of the words in mind, and a wide-ranging contratenor (c-a'), which weaves around the tenor. All voices participate in the opening imitation, which is repeated at the end of the refrain, ‘sneaked in’ by the contratenor in bar 31, and creating a rounded form, a rondeau sounding as if it had a recurrent refrain line in the full refrains and the tierce. It is possible to perform the song with a repeat of the first line of text – see the alternative edition – but this somewhat destroys the subtlety of Ockeghem’s setting.

The sound is bright Mixolydian with the superius and tenor kept entirely within C- and G-hexachords (g'-, c''- / g-, c'-hexs), while the contratenor alternates c- and c'-hexs around the g-hex. It is furthermore remarkable how the settings of the single text lines at the same time stand out distinct and are unbreakably woven together in order to let the rhythmic flow in the double bars run without pause. In the first three lines tenor and contra are prolonged to keep up the flow until the next superius entry (bb. 6-7, 11-13 and 17-19). After the fourth line (b. 27) the tenor starts the last line early provoking the superius to come in before the double bar beat, a welcome break in the regularity.

Leeman L. Perkins has pointed out that Ockeghem’s song is closely related to the three-part double chanson »Il sera pour vous conbatu / L’omme armé«. (2) Ockeghem’s rondeau is stylistically modelled on the song based on a popular song, alludes unmistakably to the well-known “L’homme armé” tune, and turns its poem on its head: instead of a mock attack and victory over the fearsome Turk, “L’autre d’antan” sings of a mock defeat by a woman. It furthermore creates an illusion of “L’homme armé”s ABA form by quoting the opening imitation in the rondeau’s last line. Both chansons have a bright Mixolydian sound with the voices keeping entirely to hexachords on G and C, and both use the unusual mensuration “C3”. In “Il sera pour vous” it works on the tempus level designating tempus imperfectum with two perfect semibreves in each brevis, and it is notated in shorter note values. The result is that the two songs go in exactly the same tempo. It is very easy to get the idea that Ockeghem composed “Il sera pour vous” as well. Robert Morton, Antoine Busnoys and Guillaume Du Fay have all been suggested as its composer.

See further the discussion of »Il sera pour vous conbatu / L’omme armé«.

PWCH February 2023

1) Liber primus. Capitulum III ( The best discussion of the often cited passage is in Anna Maria Busse Berger, Mensuration and Proportion Signs. Origins and Evolution. Oxford 1993, pp. 159-161.

2) Leeman L. Perkins, ‘The L’homme armé Masses of Busnoys and Ockeghem: A Comparison’, Journal of Musicology 3 (1984) pp. 363-396 (at pp. 372-275).