Philippe de Vitry was one of the primary composers of Ars Nova music. He lived from 1291 until 1361. During his lifetime, he wrote a treatise called Ars Nova that further defined note values and rhythms from Franco de Cologne's previously created system. (Bent et al. 2013) He was best known for his isorhythmic motets. He composed twelve surviving motets.
Historical Context of Composition:Edit
"Garrit Gallus/In nova fert/Neuma," composed in 1315, is one of the earlier works of the Ars Nova. It lies within the beginnings of the stylistic changes from Ars Anitqua. This composition was written as a part of the Roman de Fauvel. The Roman de Fauvel is an animal fable about a corrupt donkey who is the ruler of a disorderly world. The book is intended as satire about politics in Paris. (Bonds 2013) This book contains 169 musical works, one of which is "Garrit Gallus/In nova fert/Neuma."
In order to understand how his specific compositions fit within the Ars Nova, one should first understand the general characteristics of his music. Because all of his motets were isorhythmic, it is important to look for both the talea and the color. Unlike his 13th century predecessors, he used primarily Latin texts. Most of his works were secular. His compositions are mostly polyphonic and combine both duple and triple rhythms. (Bonds 2013)
This particular composition by de Vitry fits into the Ars Nova style for several reasons. First, the work is an isorhythmic motet. This is seen through the talea and color. The talea, or repeating rhythmic figures, present themselves in a rhythm that, in modern notation, would be described as four sixteenths and a quarter note. These rhythmic patterns also have set pitch patterns, known as color. The primarily duple feel of the piece was more common to the Ars Nova as part of what was known as tempus imperfectum. However, the piece alternates between both duple and triple meters and groupings, a strong characteristic of de Vitry's Ars Nova compositions (Bonds 2013). The piece is very mellismatic with quicker rhythms heard than had been in the past. All the parts employ a Latin text. Harmonies of thirds and sixths are more present than in Ars Anitqua, where open fifths and octaves dominated harmonic structure. Interesting dissonances are also more frequently employed in this piece, also typical to the style of this period. Syncopation and polyphony further define the work as an Ars Nova composition.
I chose this piece because I felt that, of the Ars Antiqua period, I understood de Vitry's music least of the main composers. I wanted to individually explore more in depth actual characteristics of isorhythmic motets since this is an important genre of this stylistic period of music. The primary aspect of the piece that I found interesting was that all the text is in Latin, whereas previous motets we have studied commonly employed French text. This movement back to Latin text is a defining characteristic of de Vitry's motets and something I was unaware of before my research.
"013275 DeVitryPhilippe GarritGallusIn nova fert." YouTube video, 1:44. Posted by "Pattaforma Didattica Pusc," upload May 31, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8aLj8x2DW0
Margaret Bent and Andrew Wathey. "Philippe de Vitry." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed January 27, 2014, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.proxy.lib.utk.edu:90/subscriber/article/grove/music/29535
Mark Evans Bonds. A History of Music in Western Culture. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2013.
Von Ficker, Rudolf (editor). Garrit Gallus/In nova fert/Neuma. Vienna, Austria: Trienter codices VI. http://imslp.org/wiki/Garrit_gallus_-_In_nova_fert_(Vitry,_Philippe_de)