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Open access 15th c.
MS Florence 2794

 

 
Je ne fais plus, je ne dis ne escris 3v · Mureau, Gilles

Main sources:

*Florence 176 ff. 73v-75 »Je ne fay plus je ne dis« 3v G. muream PDF

*Florence 2794 ff. 50v-51 »Je ne fais plus, ne ne ditz ne escris« 3v PDF

Other sources dated before c 1500:
Bologna Q17 ff. 37v-38 »Je ne fais« 3v A busnois Facsimile
Florence 178 ff. 40v-41 »Je ne fai plus« 3v
Florence 229 ff. 54v-55 »Je ne fay plus ne je ne dis ne escrips« 3v Antonius busnoys
Florence 2356 ff. 6v-7 » Jenephai« 3v
Paris 15123 ff. 177v-178 »Je ne fais plus je ne dis ne escrips« 3v Facsimile
Paris 2245 ff. 23v-24 »Je ne fais plus je ne dis ne escrips« 3v mureau Facsimile
Rome XIII.27 ff. 19v-20 3v »Je ne fay plus« Gil murieu
Sevilla 5-1-43 ff. 25v-26 »Je ne fay plus« 3v

Sources dated later than c 1500:
Copenhagen 1848 p. 97 »Je ne fais plus ne je ne dis« 3v
Florence 121 ff. 26v-27 »Je ne fai plus« 3v
Petrucci 1501 ff. 10v-11 »Je ne fais plus« 4v (Altus “Si placet”)
Sankt Gallen 462 p. 85 »Je ne fais plus je ne dis ne escrips« 3v
Segovia f. 181v »Je ne fay plus« 3v Loysette Compere
Turin I.27 f. 47 »Au joly moys de may« 3v
Washington M2.1 M6 ff. 11v-12 »Jene fai plus« 3v

For intabulations and citations, see Fallows 1999 p. 209.

Editions: Brown 1983, no. 55 (after Florence 229), Geering 1967, no. 44 (after Sankt Gallen 462), Hewitt 1942, no. 8 (after Petrucci 1501).

Text: Rondeau tercet layé; full text in Florence 2794 and Paris 2245; also in Paris 1719 f. 39-39v.

After Florence 2794:

Je ne fais plus, je ne dis ne escris, (1)
en mes escris
l’en trouvera mes regretz et mes plains
de larmes plains,
Ou, le moins mal que je puis, les descris.

Toute ma joye est de souppirs et cris
en dueil acris; (2)
il est a naistre, cil a qui je m’en plains.

Je ne fais plus, je ne dis ne escris,
en mes escris
l’en trouvera mes regretz et mes plains.

Se mes sens ont aucuns doulz motz escris,
il sont prescris;
je passe temps par desers et par plains,
et la me plains
d’aucunes gens plus traittres qu’Antecrix.

Je ne fais plus, je ne dis ne escris,
en mes escris
l’en trouvera mes regretz et mes plains
de larmes plains,
Ou, le moins mal que je puis, les descris.

I do nothing more, I do not speak nor write,
in my writings
you will find my regrets and complaints
filled with tears,
or I, the least poorly I can, describe them.

All my joy has by sighs and cries
grown into pain;
he is still to be born, he to whom I will complain.

I do nothing more, I do not speak nor write,
in my writings
you will find my regrets and complaints.

If my mind ever did write any sweet words,
they are damned;
I pass time in abandonment and grievance,
and there I grieve
that some people are more treacherous than Antichrist.

I do nothing more, I do not speak nor write,
in my writings
you will find my regrets and complaints
filled with tears,
or I, the least poorly I can, describe them.

1) Florence 2794, line 1 “... ne ne ditz”
2) Florence 2794, line 7 “en dueil et cris”, changed in accordance with Paris 2245.

Evaluation of the sources:

The earliest source is Florence 176, where it was entered without any errors around 1480 or earlier by its main scribe. His exemplar probably was French and contained the complete poem, but he only used the first words to identify the song. A slightly later hand added the composer’s name as was the case with many other songs in the MS, among them two additional chansons by Mureau. The complete poem can be found in the two French manuscripts, Florence 2794, near contemporary with Florence 176, and Paris 2245 from the 1490s (see above). It is worth to remark that the spelling in Florence 2974 underscores the poem’s use of rime équivoque, which is not as evident in other sources in which “escris” is spelled “escrips”. The last spelling blurs the homonymous final words in all verse lines.

The song was probably widely circulated at an early date. The earliest sources show on the surface only few variants, but some of them are quite important for an understanding of the song’s original layout and character, and for the text underlay. Let us first take a look of the differences in key signatures.

In Florence 176 the song is notated with key signatures of three flats in each voice: Superius has flats at f’, b’ and f’’ positions, tenor at b, f’ and b’, and contratenor at e, b and e’. These formations of flats are quite sure evidence that the song originally was notated without letter clefs – in formations of fa-clefs alone, three or two flats in each voice are typical. This means that “Je ne fais rien” was not notated at a fixed pitch, but could be performed at any convenient pitch; if letter clefs were imagined, two sets of such clefs were available a fifth apart. The relatively restricted tessitura of “Je ne fais rien” (d-g’’) permits a performance a fifth lower. The fa-clef notation seems to have been used by composers around Binchois and in Central France in the 1450s and the early 1460s (Ockeghem, Barbingant, Le Rouge). Knowledge of the notation soon faded away, and the songs were then transmitted in fixed-pitch notation (concerning fa-clefs, see my article ‘On chansons notated in fa-clefs – and the question of pitch in 15th century secular music’).

The original fa-clef notation had probably been misinterpreted already in the exemplar, which the main scribe of Florence 176 reproduced carefully. The flats in the contratenor should have been placed at the positions f, b and f’ (fa2, fas3, fas5), which produce a standard formation of fa-clefs with a default reading in D-Dorian. This, of course, is readable in two sets of letter clefs too (G2, C2, C4 (G-Dorian), and C2, C4, F4 – sounding a fifth lower in C-Dorian), and it does not bring about the superfluous e-flat signature in the contratenor. In the French chansonnier Florence 2794, as in most other sources, the contratenor is notated with one flat only. The Pixérécourt chansonnier (Paris 15123), which was made in Florence shortly after Florence 176, maintains the erroneous three-flat signature in its contratenor.

Nine sources including Petrucci’s Odhecaton retained the flat in the superius at f’’, which signals the part’s high tessitura. But scribes did not know what to do about the now redundant flat at the f’ position, which apparently still circulated in many exemplars. Different impossible interpretations appear in the superius parts: In Florence 2794 flats at e’ and b’; in Florence 2356 at g’, b’ and f’’; in Florence 121 at e’, b’ and f’’ (thislate MS also have two or three flats in the tenor and contratenor, at b, e’, b’ and e/f, b respectively)– and Bologna Q17, Paris 2245 and Rome XIII.27 do not have a flat at all at b’. An unusual and soon obscure notation could have unexpected repercussions many years later!

There are many lesser differences between the sources concerning ligatures, tone repetitions and accidentals. The most important regarding the text underlay can be studied in the present editions of the versions in Florence 176 and Florence 2794. In bar 33 the octave leap in the superius is included in a ligature in Florence 176; this forces the singer to place the important word “larmes” on the g’ in bar 33.1 (or on the beat before), not on the exposed high point. Florence 2794 does not have this ligature; instead the octave leap is separated by a rest. This interpretation – obviously more effective in a performance – is also found in the French chansonnier Paris 2245, while most of the Italian sources have ligatures. The opposite situation is found in bar 44: Here Florence 176 in the tenor has two semibreves, which allow the three voices to pronounce the words together, while the bar in Florence 2794 is a brevis and part of a ligature. Paris 2245 again follows Florence 2794 (with Sevilla 5-I-43, Florence 121, Copenhagen 1848), while the majority of the Italian sources follow Florence 176. Likewise the contratenor’s participation in the simultaneous declamation of the short 2nd line (bb. 15-16) is found in Florence 2794 and Paris 2245.

Comments on text and music:

This song is by Gilles Mureau. This interpretation is not only favoured by the early sources closest to France (French or copied from French exemplars), the song also appears in Florence 176 among undisputed songs by Mureau. The ascriptions to Busnoys and Compere, which appear in later sources, probably reflect the fact that Mureau as a composer had disappeared from the international scene before the 1490s – his name was simply replaced by names of more famous colleagues.

The poem is congruent with other poems, which probably stem from the hand of Mureau, cf. »Grace actendant ou la mort pour tous mes« and »Tant fort me tarde ta venue«. It is a rondeau tercet layé in the not so common form with three long lines only in the refrain (with two short lines interpolated), which is combined with a rime équivoque pattern; in all, a rather literary pretentious concept, which is not often met in poems made for musical setting, and it involves the writing situation itself in its subject.

The lyrical musical setting adheres closely to the text. It is varied with a declamatory first section and a more animated second. The tessitura is high (d-g’’), and the upper voices often go in parallel thirds or sixths, the tenor occasionally crossing above the superius. The contratenor keeps below the tenor, but takes the fifth at cadences (first and fifth lines in Florence 176). The very short 2nd line “en mes escris / il sont prescris” is integrated with the following line as a declamatory beginning, while the just as short 4th line “de larmes plains / et la me plains” is stretched out to a full line length by the introductory duet in parallel thirds between superius and tenor and the elaborate continuation. In this way Mureau balances his setting of the irregular verse lines. The nearly syllabic setting of the 3rd line in the tenor forces the placing of the syllable “plains” in bar 26, and thereby invites the tenor’s repeat of the last words “et mes plains”, while the outer voices slides into the fermata chord.

See further my Introduction to The Complete Works of Gilles Mureau.

PWCH July 2011