Citation and Allusion in the Ars Nova French Chanson and Motet: Memory, Tradition, and Innovation

This project undertakes the first detailed study of citation and allusion in the period c1340–1420 as expressed in the two genres at the cutting edge of musical style at the time, the motet and the chanson. Medieval composers had always demonstrated a readiness to exploit existing material in their creation of new works, nowhere more conspicuously than in the 13th-century motet. Only very recently have musicologists begun to explore citational practice in the 14th-century Ars nova repertory; their findings suggest that citation and allusion continued to occupy a vital place in the compositional imagination albeit in a different guise and in the context of newly modernised genres.

Our aim is to clarify the extent, nature, and significance of such citational practice in both lyrical and musical production in 14th-century France. Focussing on musical works with vernacular texts, citational activity in the musical repertory will be located within the broader context of literary and social practices of the time. This investigation will contribute to some pressing topical questions within musicology and to broader interdisciplinary debates: how does the Ars nova repertory intersect with earlier works, and what light does citational practice shed on the emergence of the new polyphonic chanson of this period? To what extent did Guillaume de Machaut, the most famous poet and composer then as now, draw on earlier traditions in his lyrics and music, and how far are his works representative of his own period? What is the relationship between the musical and lyric-only corpus, and is the traditional view of a split between musical and poetic production in this period fully justified? How can citational practice in music and text enhance our understanding of memory and attitudes to remembrance in the Middle Ages?

This interdisciplinary and multi-facetted project has potential to benefit a number of scholarly constituencies. By cutting across disciplinary boundaries in the manner proposed, it should afford both musicologists and literary scholars a more rounded and contextualised view of their particular corpus of material. This study of citational practice in the late medieval context will also contribute to ongoing studies of intertextuality in general, and to topical debates concerning memory in the Middle Ages and the negotiation of past and present.