The 16th-century motet Absalon, fili mi has long been scrutinized by modern scholars. The current effort to reassign its authorship to Pierre de la Rue, fueled largely by an interest in removing it from Josquin's canon, relies paradoxically upon aspects of the work that were celebrated as evidence of Josquin's genius by earlier scholars. These aspects, however, depend solely on our acceptance of a peculiar reading in an early manuscript version of the piece, a version that is indeed radical and unprecedented in its notation but is also internally inconsistent and marked by signs of scribal intervention. The author speculates on a mechanism by which such a flawed version of the motet could have arisen. If correct, this mechanism points to an original notated version of the motet that was clefless, while the much celebrated "incomparable modulation" of the end turns out to be neither a modulation nor incomparable. In themselves, these observations do not support either side of the authorship debate; however, they do suggest that some of the arguments levied against Josquin's authorship have little meaning if the pitch level and signatures present in the early manuscript source resulted from scribal decisions and not the composer's thought.
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