Musiconis



In the images collected by our database, representations of scores appear most frequently--but not exclusively--in the margins of manuscripts. They are also found carved in wood on choir stalls and within historiated initials in music manuscripts. All representations of scores found in the database's images are held by singers (usually a group), most of whom are associated with the church in some way (e.g., angels or clerics). Most of the images date from the 14th and 15th centuries, with the earliest examples from the 13th.

I. Marginal Scores

A high concentration of images including musical scores within Musiconis is found in fiches from the manuscript Abbeville, BM, ms. 0016., a fifteenth-century book of hours from Amiens. Here, on fol. 035v, three angels hold a score upon which three staves of music are notated, if messily:

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One would be hard-pressed to transcribe these notes. Another folio from the same book contains a pair of angels holding a scroll on which somewhat more legible music is written:

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Our five angels are close-lipped, although a few seem to look at the score before them. What, then, is the role of musical sound in these two images? Perhaps these notational scribbles are present more for the prestige they lend than for the sounds they signify. Further down the margin of the image above, indeed, we find a religious character writing on a lectern (click the image above to see). The margins of this folio thus seem to offer visual representations of two kinds of literacy in lieu of a musical performance from notation.

For more sonorous notation, let’s turn to another book of hours, from the fourteenth century (Avignon, BM, ms. 0121, f. 162v):

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This image is noisy. Five clerics wearing richly varied robes tilt their head backs in song, the notation for which sits on a lectern in front of them. A closer look at the score suggests the miniature's illustrator had little knowledge of music notation: ambiguous mensural figurae float freely on the page in the absence of the expected musical staff:

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What is perfectly clear, however, is that this notation is rendered audible within the fiction of the image. Four of the men look upward, perhaps toward God, while a fifth trains his eye on the score before them; all mouths are open. They stand intimately close to one another, a formation necessitated by the lone score that nevertheless also allows the cleric at the back to keep the tactus (or beat) by pulsing his hand on the man in front of him.

II. Scores within Scores

A second subset of representations of musical scores in Musiconis is found within capital letters heading the texts of musical scores themselves. Here, a 14th-century breviary:
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And here, a 13th-century missal:
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As in the group examined above, these scores are held by religious singers--here, clerics who participate in the liturgy.

III. Choir Stalls

A final group is found carved in wood on choir stalls. Here, foxes sing a known Magnificat around a lectern in an English choir stall from the 15th century:
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