Performance Workshop 2: JP4

A second post from the performance workshop with graindelavoix, sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust and held at St Hugh’s College, Oxford in March 2017.


This is the second of a series of four posts giving the audio tracks and an introduction for the songs from Douce 308 that we workshopped in Oxford in March 2017 with graindelavoix and my students and postdocs. The song given here is another jeu-parti, the fourth in the subsection of this genre in Douce 308, Par Deu, Rolant, une dame est amee (RS497), which is a song between a nameless ‘sire’ and Roland de Reims, a trouvère who is only known from the jeux-partis in Douce 308.

The song starts with the lord setting the scene of a lady who is loved by her lover and loves well in return. But now she has been false to him, which has caused him to go around bad-mouthing her to anyone who will listen, although he’s now ashamed of gossiping about her in such a way. Which of these two, asks the lord, has committed the worse fault. Roland’s reply in the second stanza opts to blame the lady more than the lover since the lover had not deserved such treatment and has now repented of the ill that he did in gossiping. The lord, forced to argue the other side, maintaining that if his own lady had done such a thing, he would protect her honour at all costs as a way of giving alms to ‘redeem the sinner’. Roland thinks the lord has entered a second childhood and would be really foolish and weak-hearted to continue loving a lady who is false. The lord then cites a proverbial idea that ‘no one ever loved who hates so readily’: good love is rooted in the heart of a lover and anyone who finds out that his lady has played him false would keep his own anger–and tongue–in check. Roland then, it seems, realizes that the lord is actually talking, covertly, about his (Roland’s) own lady, who has indeed been false to Roland–with the lord! He says he would rather not have known for certain about this and will now leave her to the lord, ‘seeking his prey’ elsewhere.

Given that this song is copied Douce 308 and thus does not survive with music notation, how were we able to sing it? Well, the opening  lines are almost identical with another jeu-parti, one which does survive with notation in TrouvZ, between Jehan Bretel and Lambert Ferri (RS496). I thought that Roland’s song could be a contrafact of that other song and set about fitting the text of Roland’s JP4 to Bretel and Ferri’s RS496. However, RS496 has an 8-line stanza, whereas JP4 has a 10-line stanza, so some melodic repetition was necessary. As you’ll hear, my decision in the English singing translation as to which lines to use twice differed from the decision that graindelavoix took with their French version. Either–or neither–might represent how JP4 was sung, but I think there is a good chance that this is a contrafact: contrary to the usual assumption that contrafacts mirror the verse structure of their models exactly, I can think of at least one  example where both versions are notated–proving melodic contrafaction–but the verse structure differs, with stanzas of different lengths, and that’s with my as-yet incomplete knowledge of the trouvère repertoire! Moreover, the whole of the first stanza of RS496 is also copied later in the JP subsection of Douce 308, in a lightly edited version among the 30 ‘prose’ Love Questions that occupy what look like two JPs between JP21 and JP24. There it’s one of a number of Love Questions that are formed from lightly de-versified first stanzas of jeux-partis from the Bretel/Arras puy circle, a repertoire that doesn’t otherwise feature in the subsection… But I digress.

So now for some music. The tracks below give JP4 first in an English singing translation by me, sung by Joseph Mason (lord) and Matthew P. Thomson (Roland), and then in the original French, sung by members of graindelavoix.

English version of JP4: Joseph Mason and Matthew P. Thomson: 

French version of JP4: Björn Schmelzer and Marius Peterson: 

(Accompaniment in both recordings by Thomas Baeté)

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s