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«Cantar por uso» and «cantar fabordón»: the unlearned Tradition of oral Polyphony in Renaissance Spain (and beyond)

Abstract: Abstract: The Renaissance theory, transmission and practices of extempore counterpoint have been increasingly attracting the attention of scholars over the last few decades. Within the Spanish musical tradition, a variety of historical sources, such as counterpoint treatises and actas capitulares, are providing an insight into how these crafts were actually taught and performed by learned musicians and singers in chapels. In addition to this tradition of extempore contrapunto, which I define as the ‘learned oral tradition of polyphonic music’, some Spanish sources suggest the existence of an ‘unlearned oral tradition of polyphonic music’, usually performed by non-professional musicians and by men and women without any formal notion of music theory. The music of this ‘unlearned’ tradition was often considered an essentially ‘artless’ repertory and was related, to some extent, to the term ‘fabordón’. While the skills necessary to sing extempore contrapunto were formally studied by professional musicians and practised in chapels, the unlearned tradition of polyphony, that is the capacity to perform simple consonances within a chordal and homophonic style on an existing tune or cantus firmus, was generally transmitted and sung by ear (‘por uso’). It can be seen as belonging to the oral tradition of common people who sung profane or devotional polyphonic songs ‘by ear’, but was also employed in churches where singers, monks and clergymen were accustomed to sing the psalm tones ‘a fabordón’. In this article I examine the various sources that describe this unlearned oral tradition of polyphonic music.

 Fuente: Early music 43/1 (2015), pp. 23-35

Editorial: Oxford University Press

 Año de publicación: 2015

Nº de páginas: 12

Tipo de publicación: Artículo de Revista

DOI: 10.1093/em/cau145

ISSN: 0306-1078,1741-7260