The whimsical upper-voice texts of the anonymous fourteenth-century motet Musicalis/Sciencie stage an epistolary exchange between Rhetoric, Music, and a long list of French composers and singers. The letters complain that these musicians, whose ranks include Guillaume de Machaut and Philippe de Vitry, split words with rests when they write hockets. The critical tone of Musicalis/Sciencie implies that some ars nova composers must have regularly split words with hockets, while others—the motet’s composer, for one—held this to be bad practice. But since modern editions and medieval scribes alike are imprecise in the placement of text around hockets, the existence of such opposing camps seems difficult to substantiate. An analysis of text-note alignment in four sources for Apta/Flos reveals that some scribes were prescriptive in their texting of hockets, while others, like the scribe of the important Ivrea codex, were pragmatic. An awareness of these differences can lead to alternate modes of interpreting ambiguous text underlay. In the case of Philippe de Vitry’s Petre/Lugentium, shifting syllables adjacent to hockets can transform the work, highlighting carefully differentiated textural zones that are key to its structure. Such editorial intervention can in turn yield fresh insight into competing compositional approaches.
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