62 Pages

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION Toward a Comprehensive View of Compositional Priorities in the Music of Dufay and his Contemporaries

As a focus for this volume, which presents translations of venerable studies by authors who often address diverging themes, the figure of Guillaume Dufay is well chosen. In the first place, Dufay is the subject of the earliest article represented here, Heinrich Besseler's "Dufay Schopfer des Fauxbourdons" (1948), and he is also named in the only other study whose title mentions actual composers: Wolfgang Marggraf's "Tonalitat und Harmonik in der franzosischen Chanson zwischen Machaut und Dufay." Secondly, some 90 percent of the works discussed below fall within the period encompassing the lifetimes of Machaut (d. 1377) and Dufay (d. 1474), and of these two preeminent figures, it is Dufay who, along with his contemporaries, stands at the center of attention. Thirdly, Dufay must probably be acknowledged as the premier composer of the fifteenth century in terms of productive output and influence-a point affirmed by his pivotal place in the literature. I

A prime benefit of this kind of disparate compilation of essays is precisely that it reflects the opinions of several different commentators. The polemics one encounters in these selections make for fascinating-one might even say entertaining-reading, but more importantly, they frame a dialectic that is useful for testing our own hypotheses.2 While the articles comprising

this volume can hardly be expected to have remained current in every respect, many topics discussed in them retain a surprising degree of vitality, and some of their findings have never been superseded. Indeed, it is difficult to account for the lack of recognition accorded certain of these ideas or to explain why they are so consistently unacknowledged in English-language monographs and histories. For it is not the case that they have been thoroughly tested and rejected-quite to the contrary, only relatively rarely have they even been mentioned. In perusing the Anglo-American scholarship of the past three decades, one would be hard put to discern several key concepts that are routinely discussed in the German literature. This is not to depreciate the indubitable value of many studies that have appeared during that time; nevertheless, the present collection even now is probably the closest approximation to a textbook on counterpoint and compositional process in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.