chapter  1
26 Pages

Dufay—Creator of Fauxbourdon

The [re-]discovery of early music [that has taken place] since the eighteenth century has brought to light a singular practice, which lived on in the Roman tradition: the falsibordoni of the chapel of pope Sixtus. According to A.W. Ambros, this type of singing possesses "something undeniably solemn and plainly dignified" and is "even in our day not completely extinct.,,2 This name, often discussed but remaining enigmatic, is also found in writers such as Adam von Fulda and Gafurius in its French form: fauxbourdon. Thus one

may presume that the Italian term is a vestige of some venerable prehistory, a mystery from the days when the polyphonic art was first arising and developing. Only belatedly, with Guido Adler's Habilitationsschrift of 1881, did musicology begin to uncover the mystery.3 From this has sprung a rather extensive literature on fauxbourdon, but the fundamental questions are as disputed today as ever, and a convincing explanation of the name still eludes us. Two contemporaneous studies from 1936 and 1937 were devoted to the theoretical sources, but they reached contradictory conclusions. Manfred Bukofzer traced a homogeneous tradition of the so-called "English discant," and separated it sharply from the "Continental fauxbourdon."4 Thrasybulos Georgiades considers both phenomena as a unity and fauxbourdon as merely a derivative of the English practice on the Continent.s

It is a decidedly unsatisfactory state of affairs that no consensus can have been achieved on such an elementary question and that not once has it been possible to clarify the actual process of the creation [of fauxbourdon] and coining [of the term). If two foundation-laying studies such as those named above can draw diametrically opposed conclusions from the same material, then the very basis of the inquiry itself must be reexamined. [This basis] consists in both cases of the theoretical writings, which moreover can be considered as a closed, thoroughly examined entity. In addition, Bukofzer has taken practical musical sources into consideration.6 From a methodological standpoint, however, these [musical sources] deserve not only consideration but even the lion's share of attention, since they stand closer to the [contemporary] events and survive in greater quantities. For this reason it is attempted here, through the help of the musical sources, to solve the enigma of the genesis of fauxbourdon and to explain its name. Theoretical stipulations will be invoked only as a secondary recourse as long as the real [musical] antecedents can be recognized with certainty.