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A methodology for the analysis of melodic accent in Renaissance sacred polyphony

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Title: A methodology for the analysis of melodic accent in Renaissance sacred polyphony
Author: Ethier, Glen Edward
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Music
Copyright Date: 1996
Subject Keywords History and criticism; 16th century; Sacred vocal music; Music
Abstract: Modern scholars have suggested various approaches to the analysis of the pretonal repertory. However, if we consider the question of how the individual voice parts interact in a Renaissance polyphonic composition to create coherence for the movement as a whole, we find that there are no tools available to undertake such a task. We may be able to speak generally of the arrival of certain moments as relatively accented or unaccented; we may even be able to dissect a complete melodic line with some segmentation process to highlight motivic structure, phrase development or contour-articulated pitch events. But there are no analytic strategies available yet which are capable of disclosing the structures of independent voice parts and their interaction as timepoint-accenting elements capable of creating formal, rhythmic and pitch-class patterns. This study outlines a methodology that has been developed to deal with these specific issues. The analytic strategy is based on the perception of accents in individual voices of polyphonic works. The types of accents germane to Renaissance polyphony include durational, leap, contour, cadential and beginning-accents. The study proposes a simple, bipartite classification of accentual strength—strong or weak. Each voice part in a work is then analyzed, with every pitch attack represented as strongly or weakly accented through special notation developed for the analysis. The methodology affords a picture of the most strongly- accented timepoints in the individual melodies of three- and four-voice cantus firmus masses of the mid- to late fifteenth century. The relative strengths of these accents, along with their synchronization in the multi-voice aggregate, are disclosed through the notation. After renotating scores with this special notational symbology, we extract points of coincident strong accents in three or more voices to create accent profiles for each section of a movement. We then compare profiles of same-texted works by different composers in order to disclose normative formal and pitch-class procedures in some Renaissance compositions.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/4836
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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