Dana Plank Senior Capstone Presentation Notes December 15th, 2008 I. Title Slide Good Afternoon. My name is Dana Plank, and I would like to welcome you to my senior capstone presentation in music history. Today we will be taking a look inside the Dulces Exuviae motet of Josquin des Prez, which draws its text from book four of Virgil’s Aeneid. Book four recounts the doomed love of Dido and Aeneas, the queen of Carthage and the founder of Rome. I will discuss the context for the Dulces exuviae text in the Aeneid as well as Josquin’s musical interpretation of the text. (first slide) II. Summary of Book Four The Aeneid is one of the great epic poems of the Roman empire. The poem is about the quest of Aeneas to found Rome. Aeneas is a man of piety and honor and a symbol of Roman virtue, and his destiny is a great one. However, throughout the course of his journey, various gods and goddesses periodically attempt to throw the hero off course. The fourth book of the epic is one such diversion. Aeneas’ ships wash up in Carthage, dominion of Queen Dido. Carthage is a suburb of the capitol city of Tunis in modern day Tunisia. (As you can see from my map, the arrow is highlighting Tunis, where Carthage was, and Rome is highlighted by the teardrop shape. I have also included the map on your handout). (show slide of Tunisia and Rome) (show slide of Dido receiving Aeneas) Dido is described as a chaste widow who rules Carthage without the aid of a male monarch. Her unwavering devotion to her people and to the memory of her late king is legendary. She is intelligent, gracious, and beloved by her people. Aeneas is driven to the shores of Carthage by the meddling of the Fates. At this misfortune Venus seizes the opportunity to cause trouble for our hero. She orders Amor, also known as Cupid, to “enflame Dido’s heart with a passion for Aeneas that is uncontrollable and ruinous.” This divine intervention turns the chaste queen into a lustful temptress who offers Aeneas rule of her kingdom in exchange for his love. (show slide of Dido and Aeneas in the cave) The apex of the fourth book is an episode in which Dido’s misunderstanding begins the downward spiral that will eventually result in her death. During a hunting party the gods cause a horrible storm, forcing Aeneas and Dido to seek shelter in a cave for the night. What occurs in the cave compromises Dido’s chastity. The love-struck queen believes that this union is a declaration of marriage, but Aeneas wants no part of this contract and departs with his men. (show slide of Dido begging Aeneas not to leave) (show slide of Dido watching Aeneas’ ships leave) The queen is inconsolable at the realization that she has ruined herself, broken her vows to her dead husband, and abandoned her city, all for a tryst with a foreigner. Her only solution is to cover her indignity with a dramatic suicide atop a fire of Aeneas’ belongings. The queen dies at her own hand, throwing herself on the sword of her former lover, surrounded by flames. Dido begins book four as a mirror of Aeneas: she too has lost a husband, she has been washed ashore far from her homeland of Tyre (which is modern day Lebanon), and her destiny is also to build and rule a great city. But the gods intervened, and because of this, Dido becomes not only a spurned lover but a victim. In the course of one book of Virgil’s work, she becomes a plaything of bickering gods, an unrequited lover, and a woman who longs for death. For the sake of literature, Dido is meant to serve as the foil for Aeneas. At the beginning of book four, she represents everything he hopes to achieve, but her path becomes clouded by divine intervention and so she perishes in flames while Aeneas continues on to other adventures. (show slide of Dido resolving to die) III. Dido’s final words Dido’s suicide is a poignant moment in classical literature. The well spoken queen tells no one of her plan to commit suicide. She orders all of Aeneas’ belongings to be burned and at the last moment ascends the platform and plunges Aeneas’ sword into her chest. However, what is most moving about these final passages is not the act itself, but the queen’s last words. (show slide of Dido’s last words) Dulces exuuiae, dum fata deusque sinebat, accipite hanc animam meque his exsoluite curis. uixi et quem dederat cursum Fortuna peregi, et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago. John Dryden gives an eloquent translation of the passage: Dear pledges of my love, while Heav'n so pleas'd, Receive a soul, of mortal anguish eas'd: My fatal course is finish'd; and I go, A glorious name, among the ghosts below. (show translation slide) After this proud resignation to her fate, the queen goes on to curse the day Aeneas’ ships touched her shores. She says: “From yonder sea may his cold Trojan eyes discern the flames that make me ashes! Be this cruel death his omen as he sails!” Yet, despite Dido’s arresting invective towards Aeneas, the most powerful moment of her speech is not her attack, but her submission to fate. (show curse slide) Some of the most important features of these four lines of poetry are the nature of Dido’s words. Her tone is calm for a woman about to impale herself a sword. Despite her moments of lust and weakness, Dido still dies a queen. She has realized, perhaps, that her destiny was not her own, but dominated by the whims of Fate. So why is Dido such a lasting archetype? It appears that the continued fascination with the Carthaginian queen was due to the unresolved tensions in Virgil’s treatment of Dido with respect to Aeneas’ quest. There is an aspect of cruelty in Aeneas’ treatment of Dido; he misleads the queen and escapes with his men, and all is forgiven in the name of destiny. But Dido is not chasing Aeneas of her own free will. Her love wasn’t true; it was induced. Perhaps she would never have fallen for Aeneas if Amor had not intervened. Dido’s apparent lack of free will suggests an interesting interpretation of her character. If one looks upon the queen as a miserable pawn in Aeneas’ destiny, meant to derail his search for Rome, then she becomes sympathetic. The chaste queen becomes a victim. And thus, her final speech is all the more powerful. She recognizes that her fate was not her own, that her life was a course set out for her. This proud resignation is the source of timeless inspiration. 4. Josquin’s musical setting (show Josquin slide) The practice of setting Latin classical texts as motets was not uncommon throughout musical history. The form of the motet was originally derived from liturgical chant accented with secular poetry that was considered an allegorical elaboration of similar themes.1 While the motet is generally thought of as a sacred genre, a motet could be on any subject, though sacred texts were the most common. Throughout early music, many pieces have recounted Dido’s last words (Purcell’s Dido’s Lament comes immediately to mind, as well as motet settings by Alexander Agricola, Jean Mouton, Mabriano de Orto, and Orlando di Lassus, among others). However, Josquin des Prez’s setting of the queen’s final speech became the model for a century of imitators. Josquin chose to immortalize Dido’s quiet acquiescence, setting only the four lines that begin with Dulces exuviae. A depiction of Dido from only a few lines later in the text, cursing Aeneas’ arrival in Carthage and wishing for her death to become a bad omen for his ships, could have made for a dramatic composition. However, Josquin’s selection of the Dulces exuviae text (and not of the later, angrier lines) is a powerful indication that he interpreted Dido as a symbol of strength in the face of death. Josquin’s interpretation of the text became a powerful model for later composers, who went on to set the same lines in their own motets. Thus, Josquin’s choice of text allowed Dido to go “to the ghosts below” not as a madwoman queen, but as a glorious name amidst the timeless characters of classical literature. The lines beginning with Dulces exuviae lend themselves well to a motet setting because the four lines are complete in themselves; longer passages would have been far more cumbersome to set as vocal music.2 The image of a tragic queen going solemnly to her death is a powerful one. Instead of writing Dido as simply a lovestruck, spurned lover, Virgil also wrote her as strong and proud, and Josquin latched onto this image. 1 Randel, 529 2 Strunk, 488 Josquin’s interpretation of the Dulces exuviae was attributed in a manuscript from Brussels dated between 1516-1522.3 This makes the piece one of the earliest extant examples. Josquin’s setting is attentive to the meaning of the original Latin, and thus the overwhelming emphasis of Josquin’s motet seems to be the repetition of important words and phrases and imitative gestures between parts. The motet does not give rhythmic emphasis to support the dactylic hexameter of the original poetry.4 However, the piece’s structure is derived from the organization of the Latin text; each musical section starts at the beginning of a poetic line. Josquin’s compositional style in this motet was centered on the clarity and meaning of the text rather than complicated melodic innovations. (show slide of page 1) Because the text is so short, Josquin divides many of the poetic lines into two units. He seems to have the dual intention of maintaining clarity of text declamation in spite of the imitative horizontal motion. However, Josquin generally reserves prominent cadences for the true ends of poetic lines. (show slide of page 3) One of the most striking cadences occurs at the end of the third line, in measure thirty three, on the words “magna mei.” The soprano line has an ascending motion to the cadence which seems to highlight Dido’s pride. The words “magna mei” refer to her great name, and the ascending music seems to give the word a majestic emphasis. The beginning of the piece has a few smaller cadential gestures at the midpoints of lines, such as m. 10 (in the middle of “dum fata”) and m.12 (in the middle of “deusque”), but these gestures are not as strong as the other cadences because one of the voices immediately moves to the next note or word of text. Despite Josquin’s frequent use of imitation and repetition (particularly in the first two lines of the poem), the four voices are rarely more than a measure apart in their declamation of the text. Often, the ends of poetic lines are clearly marked with long note values, and other voices began the imitation anew over the previously held note. A good example of this is in the middle of the first line of text. In m.8, the soprano line holds a G 3 Thomas, from the motet database. 4 Guentner, 64 on the “ae” of “exuviae” for the length of a double whole note while the other three voices move on to “dum fata” in half and quarter notes. A particularly striking entrance occurs on the second line of poetry, on “accipite hanc,” where Dido implores death to receive her life, her parting breath. The rhythm seems to fit the word particularly well; “accipite” is declaimed on a half note, two quarter notes, and another half note in m. 15, and carried through all four voices. It is an interesting contrast from the long values of the first entrance on “dulces,” which is written mostly in whole notes and double whole notes. This effect is imitated in m. 30, when the soprano and tenor lines have the same eighth-note rhythm on “peregi.” This echoes the previous settings of “accipite” in the other two voices, and shows Josquin’s attention to vocal groupings. His setting of Dulces exuviae may not be chordal, but he is by no means ignorant of the vertical interaction of his vocal lines. His attention to rhythmic affect, if not the Latin dactylic meter, is one of the sources of beauty in the music. Josquin’s compositional choices reflect his desire to highlight certain words of the text. One such word is “cursum” (mm. 25-28). All four voices have overlapping melismas on this word, which means “course” or “journey.” This is a vivid example of text painting, as the winding lines imply the winding course of the life Dido has lived. A melisma would be a musical journey of sorts, and a fitting device for demonstrating the path Dido has had to travel. Josquin’s voices each have unique patterns of repetition. Whether these repetitions were simply for vertical alignment or for word emphasis, they give a weight to certain words of the short text. The soprano, for example, repeats the words “dulces exuviae” and “sinebat" twice each, emphasizing the belongings that represent the last vestige of her lover and an active memory of the past. “Sinebat” is in the imperfect tense, a tense for habitual past action. She is reflecting on the items Aeneas left behind, and the brevity of her affair (sweet to me while fate and god allowed). One of the most arresting aspects of the piece is Josquin’s treatment of the final words “sub terras ibit imago” (I will go beneath the Earth). The soprano repeats “sub terras ibit imago” three times, followed by two repetitions of the “ibit imago,” which gives the sensation of fading into her accepted fate (mm. 34-43). The bass makes the most adamant repetitions at the end of the motet. Copied exactly from the edition (mm. 32-43), it reads: “sub terras, sub terras, sub terras ibit, sub terras ibit imago, sub terras ibit imago, ibit imago.” The bass has the most repetitions of the phrase, begins the line the earliest, and has the text in the lowest range. The effect of the bass’ repetition pattern is to cause suspense. The full line is not revealed until its fourth iteration in mm. 37-39. It has a sense of reluctance in its unwillingness to provide the entire text at first. Perhaps she is slightly afraid of her death and is stuttering to get the words out, despite her proud manner and resignation to fate. This phrase seems to echo again and again in the voices, the way it might echo in an underground cave if spoken aloud. The repetition and descending note patterns enforce the finality of Dido’s words as she announces her death. Whether or not the queen is afraid to die, she has firmly decided to do so, and her persistence is reflected in this fitting close to the motet. Perhaps the repetitions are a source of strength; a method of steeling herself for her encounter with Aeneas’ sword. However, the greatest thing about music is that it doesn’t need all this analysis to convey everything I just said. I will play for you now a recording of Josquin’s Dulces exuviae by the Huelgas Ensemble directed by Paul Van Nevel. I believe the piece speaks for itself; whether or not you understand the Latin, the emotional affect of pride and resignation and calm is quite clear. (music example slide, play example or use cd) Josquin’s Dulces Exuviae does not seek to clutter the text with over-wrought counterpoint. There is a spare quality to the echoed interactions between lines that is quite arresting. The voices move with such calculated intervals through the text that one really gains a sense of Josquin’s emotional interpretation of the classical text. Dido’s words gain a quietly haunting quality through this motet that can only be fully realized through performance. There is a slow, stately feeling to the piece, even when the values diminish and passing notes begin to include eighth note values. There is a sense of broadening, of calm, of contemplation. Dido has found a voice, and it moves with the grace of one of the finest composers of the Renaissance.
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