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Tonality and Atonality in the Prologue to Orlando di Lasso's "Prophetiae Sibyllarum:" Some

Methodological Problems in Analysis of Sixteenth-Century Music


Author(s): Karol Berger
Source: The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 484-504
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/741963
Accessed: 06-04-2020 16:15 UTC

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Tonality and Atonality in the
Prologue to Orlando di Lasso's
Prophetiae Sibyllarum:
Some Methodological Problems
in Analysis of Sixteenth-
Century Music
KAROL BERGER

T HE prologue to Orlando di Lasso's motet cycle


Sibyllarum (Ex. 1)1 has been the subject of several a
comments in recent years. In 1961, Edward E. Lowinsky
the piece as a prime example of what he dubbed "triadic ato
Here is a music in which extreme chromaticism and constant modulation within

a triadic texture erode any sense of a stable tonal center. . . . In the f


bars of the prologue to the prophecies Lasso uses all twelve tones; he b
triads on ten different degrees, six of which result in harmonies forei
mode - if we take the mode as Mixolydian since the piece ends on
strays as far as B-flat major and C minor in one direction, and B majo
other. This phrase, although beginning on a C major and ending on a
chord, has no stable frame of tonal reference. Through the excessive mo
within so small a space we lose all orientation.2

Portions of this essay will appear in my Theories of Chromatic and Enha


Music in Late 16th-Century Italy to be published by UMI Research Press.
1 I have transcribed the piece from its only sixteenth-century source, V
Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS mus. 18744, fol. 23r (Cantus, Ten
(Altus), 22r (Bassus). The source, possibly Lasso's autograph, was prepared
shortly after the composition of the cycle. See Horst Leuchtmann, Orlando
I (Wiesbaden, 1976), 124-34. The cycle was originally published posthum
Lasso's son, Rudolph (Munich, 1600). The only modern edition to date was
by Hans Joachim Therstappen for Das Chorwerk, XLVIII (Wolfenbiittel,
also Wolfgang Boetticher, Orlando di Lasso und seine Zeit 1532-1594, I (Ka
Basel, 1958), 71-79.
2 Tonality and Atonality in Sixteenth-Century Music (Berkeley and Los
1961), p. 39.
484

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485

EX. 1
2 4 5 7

Cr .mi na chro - _m_ - ti - i o -u a i mu - du-

,--. - J ' , ' ',E : , - ' - J ' ,_


Cer - mi - na Chro - m - ti - co aue ~u - dis m - au - u -

8 IO 15

tSta
- ro- -ror. Pe [ u s- i - -ui - bus no - stre o - m
- re. Hec suI i- qi- bu o - t o - li -

to to - ro - c Uvu il-I - bus no-st~re o - [ litm or-cu - n so-

ta te-ro - re. itaec snat 11- ia cui - bus no-s+rae o - lim or-cO - no so -

o sc-lu- tie bis se- ne io- te-pi- do ce- ci-ne runt ce-ri-ne runt o- re [s- b1

D sO-u- tis bis se- in-tre- pi- do ce - ci-ne-run c c-i-ne rzunt o- re sy- bil

lu- tis bis se- nse in-tre -pi-do ce- ci-ne- runt ce- ci-n. -unto- re Si-bt] - b ll-
lh - tis bts. - nee in-tre - pi -do ce - c r-ue- rnt ce- ri- ne - t o - re Sb - bil - le.

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486 The Musical Quarterly

Among several critics who have objected to Low


one of the most eloquent was William J. Mitch
published in 1970, suggested that "perhaps t
'stable tonal center' is less the fault of Lasso, who seems to have
made a splendid effort, than of the analysis which is indeed atona
And he offered a detailed analysis of his own designed to dispel a
doubts concerning the prologue's "tonal qualities."3
The existence of such diametrically opposed interpretations o
the prologue, one negating its tonal coherence, the other affirmi
it, raises a fundamental problem of the proper method of analys
of tonal coherence in the music of the sixteenth century. The que
tion asked by the two quoted analysts is the same: Is Lasso's pro
logue tonally coherent or not; that is, are the individual pitc
events which take place in the course of the work connected an
mutually related, or are they merely juxtaposed with one anothe
The two answers to this question are opposed primarily becau
the analytical methods employed in arriving at them are differen
the tradition of the nineteenth-century Harmonielehre stands be
hind Lowinsky's observations, and the analytical methods of Hein
rich Schenker behind those of Mitchell. The two analysts lea
the problem of the appropriateness of the methods they use to
sixteenth-century composition unexamined, and yet it is this ver
problem which has to be addressed if we are to evaluate their ana
lytical results.
It would be naive to expect a direct answer concerning the proper
method of analysis from sixteenth-century theorists. Organic c
herence (organischer Zusammenhang) was a characteristic preoccu
pation of nineteenth-century music theory and aesthetics, a pre
occupation which grew more and more intense as the coherence
of the contemporary music itself became more and more proble
matic, and which turned into an obsession with the generation
theorists to which both Schenker and Arnold Schoenberg belonge
We cannot expect sixteenth-century theorists to answer directl
nineteenth-century questions. But this means neither that our que
tion is illegitimate (we must be allowed to examine the achievements
of an earlier age from standpoints suggested by subsequent develo
ments), nor that an indirect answer cannot be found. While six-

8 "The Prologue to Orlando di Lasso's Prophetiae Sibyllarum," The Music


Forum, II (1970), 264-73.

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 487

teenth-century theorists will not tell us how to evaluate the tonal


coherence of a composition, they will tell us which kinds of pitch
events were heard and understood by their contemporaries as be-
longing together in a single work and which were not - that is they
will provide us with an indirect insight into the musical hearing
of their time. This will allow us to construct analytical tools which
while different from anything available to sixteenth-century mu-
sicians, will escape the charge of anachronism better than those
developed in dealing with music of later times. Our tools will en-
able us to establish with a certain degree of probability whether
a given composition would have been heard by its contemporaries
as being coherent or not, while the procedures of a Riemann or a
Schenker can at best demonstrate how we may understand th
coherence of such a work.

Sixteenth-century modal theory as applied to polyphonic music


will undoubtedly provide us, and actually already has provided us,
with the best insight into the era's understanding of coherence.
It is in the context of this theory that we read most often about
the pitch events which do, or do not, belong together in a single
composition. Thus, for instance, when a conservative Flemish mem-
ber of the Papal Chapel, Ghiselin Danckerts, in his unpublished
Trattato sopra una differentia musicale written during the 1550s,
wants to explain what is wrong with the nuova maniera of writing
music exemplified by the works of composers whom he contemptu-
ously refers to as compositori novelli, he points out that the in-
discriminate use of accidentals by these composers destroys all mo-
dal order in their works and introduces "disorders because of which
everything goes to ruin."4 Similarly, Gioseffo Zarlino in his Le
Istitutioni harmoniche of 1558 advocates that the modal identity
of a composition be preserved and considers an internal mutation
of one mode into another "a vice some composers practice."5
Thus, the unity of the mode is the chief criterion of coherence
suggested by the period's theorists, and this criterion has been fre-
quently employed in studies designed to demonstrate the tonal
(or modal) coherence of one portion of the Renaissance repertory
or another; for example, in Leo Treitler's paper on the "Tone Sys-

4 Rome, Biblioteca Vallicelliana, MS R.56, fol. 407v.


5 (Venice, 1558), p. 237, trans. Guy A. Marco and Claude V. Palisca in Zarlino,
The Art of Counterpoint (New Haven and London, 1968), p. 175.

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488 The Musical Quarterly

tem in the Secular Works of Guillaume Dufay"'; o


tion of "Mode and Structure in the Masses of Jos
man L. Perkins presented at the International Jo
Conference in 1971.7 By observing such characte
for defining a mode as the use of the mode's inte
the choice of the steps on which cadences are plac
in most cases, demonstrate that a composer took
the modal unity in his works. But the method is
structures foreign to the basic mode of the comp
cussion, nor can it explain whether and how diff
be employed in a single work.
In my dissertation on Theories of Chromatic a
Music in Italy in the Second Half of the Sixteenth
to demonstrate that from the concepts which ar
theorists of the era it is possible to reconstruct the
material of all steps and intervals available to
posers was organized even before any actual comp
This precompositional organization of the tonal sy
sumed and shared by all musicians of the period
archical differentiation among intervals and amo
intervals and certain steps are more fundamental, m
stable than others. Among intervals these are (in the
of perfection) the octave, other perfect consonanc
sonances, and finally dissonances. Among steps th
the fifth above it, the third above it, other diatonic
steps. The coherence of any particular work is groun
compositionally established hierarchies. A piece of
a mode, and the hierarchy of steps within this m
multilevel hierarchy of steps within the piece. More
are stable "centers" to which less important steps
with the final as the ultimate point of reference
position does not have to use the tonal material
Most theorists of the era affirm this fact, even tho
deplorable. An analyst can expect to find in a sixteen
position a modulation, that is, a change of mode,
a mode, and a simultaneous modulation and transp
show on which mode and transposition a given are
6 Journal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS), XVIII
7 JAMS, XXVI (1973), 189-239.
8 (Yale University, 1975); to be published by UMI Research Pr

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 489

is based and to explain how these various areas are combined with
one another. To accomplish the first part of his task, he will observe
primarily which species of fifth and fourth and secondarily also which
species of thirds are used, both horizontally and vertically, at any
given point within the piece. The second part of his task, the ex-
planation of how areas based on different modes and transpositions
are combined to create a coherent whole, is more difficult.
Perhaps the most serious effort to recognize and address the prob-
lem of coherence in works employing various modes was made by
Nicola Vicentino in his L'antica musica ridotta alla moderna prat-
tica.9 He explains that various modes may be introduced within a
single composition in order to imitate diverse passions of the text.
However, one mode has to be established as the basic mode of the
composition, and other modes have to be treated as secondary. The
form of a piece, its structure (fabrica), as Vicentino calls it, will be
determined by its modal organization. His remarks on musical struc-
ture are so interesting that they deserve an extensive quotation:
The broadest foundation which the composer ought to have is to consider on
what he wants to construct his composition, according to the words, whether
ecclesiastic, or of another subject. The foundation of this structure is to choose
a tone, or mode, that will suit the argument of the words, or another musical
theme, as the case may be, and on that good foundation he will measure well with
his judgment and he will draw the lines of the fourths and of the fifths of this
tone and of their limits, which will be the columns that will keep the structure
of the composition standing. Although the fourths and fifths of other modes may
be placed between these [fundamental] fourths and fifths, they [the interjected
fourths and fifths] will not damage this structure when put in a few places and
well accompanied in the middle of the composition. With the variety of archi-
tecture, they will rather embellish the structure of the composition, as good
architects do who skillfully exploiting the lines of the triangle dazzle the sight of
men and by their means achieve that a. facade of some beautiful palace, which
in a picture is painted very close to the sight of the onlooker, will appear to him
very far without being distant at all. This illusion results from knowing how to
accompany colors with lines. Often architects accompany diverse manners of
orders of construction,in one structure, as one sees in the celebrated Vitruvius:
the Doric order'o will be accompanied by the Attic one, and the Corinthian
by the Ionic; and they are so well connected and united that even though the
manners are diverse, the practical artist using his judgment composes the struc-
ture proportioned with various ornaments. So it happens that the composer of

9 (Rome, 1555). A facsimile edition was prepared by Edward E. Lowinsky for


Documenta musicologica I/17 (Kassel and Basel, 1959).
10 In the original, the same term--mode (modo)- is used for both the archi-
tectural orders and for the musical modes, thus strengthening the analogy.

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490 The Musical Quarterly

music can with art make various mixtures of fourths and fifth
and he can embellish the composition with various interva
cording to the effects of the consonances applied to the w
observe closely the tone or the mode.11

Thus, according to Vicentino, the most important str


of the composition will be constructed on the fina
steps of the fundamental mode. In the course of th
may also be constructed on steps belonging to oth
sake of variety and embellishment of the fundame
the composition provided by the cadences built o
of the fundamental mode. Areas based on seconda
subordinated to this fundamental structure. The skeleton of the
musical composition could be visualized as consisting of the fund
mental level in which the cadences built on the most important steps
of the basic mode would serve as points of repose - pillars suppor
ing the whole structure - and of upper levels, in which a simila
role would be played by the cadences built on the most importa
steps of secondary modes.
This skeleton can be fleshed out with pitch material comin
from all the genera. The mixing of genera will not introduce tot
chaos precisely because the piece has this firm internal skeleton
It has been mentioned that some, more conservative theorists of the
time, such as Danckerts or Zarlino, deplored the fact that the ind
criminate use of accidentals, the desire to mix the genera, destroy
the modal order of a composition. Vicentino's sophisticated view
formal architecture was needed to show that the mixture of gene
and modes did not have to create tonal chaos.
It is perhaps worth noting that in the lengthy excerpt just quoted
the art of the composer organizing the form of his work is compared
by the theorist with that of a painter organizing forms in space by
means of perspective, creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimen-
sional surface through lines converging in a single point and marking
the diminishing sizes of receding objects. There is a further com-
parison with an architect who is able to unite diverse orders in one
structure. The art of a composer, as that of a painter or an architect,
enables him to organize diverse elements into a structure based on a
single, unifying, fundamental principle, he it perspective or the basic

11 L'antica musica, fols. 47v-48r.


12 Ibid., Book III, Ch. XLVIII, fols. 64v-65v.

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 491

mode.13 Underlying Vicentino's thought on musical structure is the


need to achieve a balance between the demand of expressive flexi-
bility and of a nonexpressive, purely formal ideal, the work seen as
a unified whole.

Vicentino suggests that we should regard the relationship be


tween areas based on various modes (or transpositions) as being
hierarchical: one mode is fundamental, others are subordinated to it,
still others may presumably be subordinated to these, etc. This sug-
gestion is worth pursuing. Coherence within a piece of music based
on a mode is generated by the precompositionally established multi-
level tonal hierarchy which makes certain steps become stable
"centers" to which other steps are subordinated. Similarly, a com-
position which uses many modes and transpositions can be made into
a unified, coherent whole only if hierarchical relationships are estab-
lished between these various modes and transpositions when certain
of these are subordinated to others. As a matter of fact, the coherence
of a total composition based on several modes is the result of the
same principles which establish coherence within an area based on a
single mode; it is generated by the same principles of the tonal system.
In other words, the precompositional principles of the tonal
system establish a specific hierarchy of steps within each area based
on a single mode within a composition. In order for a total composi-
tion to be coherent, these separate hierarchies will have to create a
more fundamental hierarchy. Since all steps of a mode are ultimately
subordinated to the final, the relationships between several modes
and transpositions are basically the relationships between their finals;
that is, their finals will enter into the same type of hierarchical or-
ganization as steps of a single mode do. Any step within a composi-
tion is either the central point of a mode, or is subordinated to such
a central point, or both. An analyst will elucidate the function of
each step within the total hierarchy.

13 Comparisons between music and architecture were frequently made by Renais-


sance writers on the basis of numerical ratios being common to both musical conso-
nances and to architectural proportions. See Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Princi-
ples in the Age of Humanism (London, 1949); Robert Klein, La forme et l'intelligible.
Ecrits sur la Renaissance et l'art moderne (Paris, 1970), pp. 151-73; Jean-Marc
Bonh6te, "Resonance musicale d'une Villa de Palladio," Musica disciplina, XXV
(1971), 171-78. Pythagorean speculations of this kind were, however thoroughly dis-
tasteful to Vicentino who, with his usual originality, managed to make his comparison
on a different basis.

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492 The Musical Quarterly

While Vicentino's suggestions are general enoug


approach to any mid-sixteenth-century composition,
appropriateness for Lasso's work is worth mention
tion between Vicentino's L'antica musica and Lasso
two most substantial documents of the interest in chromaticism in
the 1550s, comes naturally to music historians and has often been
made. Lasso arrived in Rome in the fall of 1551,14 too late to witness
the celebrated public dispute between Vicentino and the Portuguese
musician Vicente Lusitano which took place in early June, 1551, and
which was subsequently documented in Vicentino's and Danckerts
treatises. It is possible, however, that the composer heard about the
debate from his fellow Northerner Danckerts who was one of the
judges or from his friend and publisher Antonio Barrd who was one
of the witnesses and who subsequently published Vicentino's treatise.
The treatise itself might have been known to the composer by the
time he wrote his cycle in Munich around 1560.15 At any rate, the
Vicentino connection was already made in Lasso's lifetime. In a well
known letter of January 14, 1574, the Parisian printer Adrian le Roy
reported to the composer from the royal residence at Saint-Germain
that he had presented to the king, Charles IX, "the beginning of the
Sibyls" ("commencement de Cibiles"), since the king had previously
expressed his liking for the chromaticism of Vicentino and said that
"Orlando will not know how to make this chromatic music."'6
It should be mentioned that the pedantic method of indicating
chromatic inflections used by Lasso in his cycle (reproduced in Ex. 1)
had also been used and advocated by Vicentino in his treatise. The
theorist followed his own example of a purely chromatic composition
with this remark: ". . . the accidental applies only to this note by
which it is placed; the rest of the notes written without accidentals
will be sung according to their ordinary position ...."17
But to return to Lasso's prologue. One cannot disagree with
Lowinsky's characterization of the texture of the piece as "triadic,"
at least as long as the term remains purely descriptive. Four-part

14 See Leuchtmann, op. cit., I, 45 f.


15 This date of composition has been convincingly defended in Leuchtmann,
op. cit., I, 47, 127-31. See also Peter Bergquist, "The Poems of Orlando di Lasso's
Prophetiae Sibyllarum and Their Sources," JAMS, XXXII (1979), 516-38.
16 Munich, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Abteilung II: Geheimes Staatsarchiv,
Kasten schwarz Nr. 6580 (formerly 284/13), fol. 249. For a diplomatic transcription
of the letter, see Leuchtmann, op. cit., I, 311 f.
17 Op. cit., fol. 62v.

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 493

consonant "triads," almost all of them full, in root position, and with
the prime doubled, completely dominate the strictly syllabic setting
and are enlivened by very brief ornamental dissonances only before
the three main cadences (mm. 8, 16-17, and 24). The result of this
single-mindedly austere texture is that modal species are articulated
locally primarily in vertical rather than horizontal terms. Since a
consonant triad is a harmony consisting of the three most important
steps of a mode, each triad emerges locally as the main event defining
the mode in its immediate area. Incidentally, this is why one is justi-
fied in using the anachronistic concept of "triad," which made its
appearance only in the early seventeenth century,1s in a discussion
of a mid-sixteenth-century composition, in spite of the fact that the
theory contemporaneous with it conceives of "triadic" harmonies as
mere sums of intervals rather than harmonies unified by a central
root.19 A triadic harmony, whether theoretically recognized or not,
has the power of defining a mode by emphasizing its most important
steps and, consequently, of projecting its own prime as the central
point of reference for all intervals, analogous to the final of the mode.
It is certainly not an accident that Johannes Lippius, who coined the
term "harmonic triad" (trias harmonica) and who was among the
earliest theorists to understand the full implications of the concept,
related it very closely to the concept of the mode.20
The principal analytical problem of Lasso's prologue is to estab-
lish whether individual triads-modes merely succeed one another
without being truly connected and without creating a coherent uni-
fied whole (as would be the case in "triadic atonality"), or whether
it can be demonstrated that the composer took pains to impose on
the manifold of triads an intelligible and audible multilevel hierar-
chical order whereby the roots (finals) of individual triads (modes)
articulate a mode of a more fundamental level, the whole process
repeating itself as many times as is necessary to subordinate all triads
ultimately to a single modal center. I believe that, while it is hard
to deny that the piece through its extreme chromaticism and explora-

18 See Joel Lester, "Root-Position and Inverted Triads in Theory around 1600,"
JAMS, XXVII (1974), 110-19.
19 For a particularly persuasive warning against the anachronistic use of the
concept of "triad," see Carl Dahlhaus, Untersuchungen iiber die Entstehung der
harmonischen Tonalitiit, Saarbriicker Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 2 (Kassel and
Basel, 1967), pp. 57-140.
20 See Joel Lester, "Major-Minor Concepts and Modal Theory in Germany,
1592-1680," JAMS, XXX (1977), 208-53.

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494 The Musical Quarterly

tion of distant tonal areas makes heavy demand


possible to demonstrate the existence of a sophi
design which not only imposes a sense of coherenc
piece as a whole and on its constituent parts but
careful correlation with the text, subtly paral
various nuances of the poem's structure and me
The success of an analysis based on a theory posi
of a hierarchy of structural levels depends t
whether the events belonging to a single level h
chosen and distinguished from those belonging
well as on a correct evaluation of relationships
can be accomplished only if the style of the ana
taken into consideration. In the case of a syllabic a
setting, such as Lasso's prologue, initial clues will m
vided by the structure of the poem. One notice
the endings of the three lines of the prologue's te
the three strongest cadences in the piece, the on
brief ornamental dissonant disturbances in the
syllabic, consonant, and homorhythmic texture (m
three main cadential points, on G, C, and G resp
the most fundamental structural level and prov
framework of modal reference (I-IV-I in G-Mi
for the entire composition.
The first nine measures are perhaps the most di
prologue, and for the purpose of this essay it will
only these opening measures. The section not o
starts in G-mode, the initial triad on the fourth d
C, being subordinated to the following triad on
As Mitchell pointed out, "In a context such as
relates persuasively to the following G-chord,
chord in a position of dependence."21 It might
tenor's g's are the only notes in these first two
heard in a metrically strong position. Beginnin
unusually with the progression IV-I, Lasso sub
importance of the fourth degree within the bas
piece (I-IV-I).
The most important textural caesura correspo
plied comma in measure 5, after the word Chr

21 Op. cit., p. 267.

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 495

of articulation in the text, combined with metrically strong place-


ment of the accompanying chord and with the following rest in the
tenor (the only internal rest in the whole analyzed section), gives
special prominence to the E-triad at the beginning .of measure 5.
This triad is additionally emphasized by the deliberate analogy with
the central G in measure 2. Namely, it is repeated in the same rhythm
in which the G-triad was repeated previously. As a result, the first
triad after the textural caesura, ft in measure 5, which is the only po-
tential rival of E in architectonic importance since it opens the second
half of the verse, is clearly heard as subordinated to E which emerges
as the main event between the G-triads in measures 2 and 9. Thus,
the basic structure of the section seems to be:

Measure: 2 5 9
Triad: GE G

Structure: I VI3# I

(In this and following diagrams,


diatonic degrees of a mode and d
them. An Arabic superscript fol
chromatic inflection within such a
The progression is chromatic be
to the same diatonic series as the G
mode is Mixolydian or transpose
from the end of measure 2 to th
there to the beginning of measur
perhaps also modulations. The ver
B in measure 3, introduces a chr
and, consequently, it cannot bel
ever, together with the following
can well belong to a single diato
represented by the first two chord
of this progression, E, is the loc
previous two triads are subordina
measures express the untranspos
a fifth up), measures 3 to the b
C-mode transposed a major thi
separately are diatonic, the secon
first. This chromatic relationship b
most immediately by the chrom
soprano between the last triad of t

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496 The Musical Quarterly

second unit (d'-d$'). The latter triad (B) may be


chromatic pivot chord between the two units, b

V in the second unit and III3$ or III3# in the first


We have seen that the two units differ not only
levels of transposition of the diatonic series, but a
tive modal centers (G and E) and that the second
subordinated to the first one (as VI3# to I). Conseq
subordinated to the second center (which, in re
comes a local I) must represent a different, an
structural level from all the other triads of both units:

Measure: 1 2 3 4 5

Triad: C GB c5 E
Structure: 2nd level: (V) [VI] I

1st level: (IV) I [III3t ] VIs#

(In this and following diagrams, parenthese


enclose events of decreasing structural weigh
Thus, on the first level, IV has been interprete
less prominent than either I or VI3#, and the c
ing even less weight than the diatonic IV.)
The most important architectonic points i
in measure 5 back to G in measure 9 are the fir
5-6, since it initiates the new motion and is
in measure 8, since it is embellished and pro
measure. These two triads receive so much em
vening chords are experienced as being subor
sequently, the analyst should avoid the trap
G-triad in measure 6 as representing the retur
center. The D-triad is a diatonic or chromatic
mode, and the fg-triad - a diatonic member
also the pivot in the return, since it may be in

matic VIII? of G or the diatonic III of D:

Measure: 5 8 9
Triad: E ft D G
Structure: 3rd level: (III) I
2nd level: I (II)

Ist level: VI3# [VIII?] (V:#?) I

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 497

(On the third level fg is interpreted as being subordinated to D and


not the reverse, since D is metrically stronger.)
The progression from ft in measure 5 to D in measure 8 involves
the melodic descent in the soprano from a' through g' and f' to
fj'. The melodic motion from g' to f' is supported by the triadic mo-
tion down the circle of fifths from G to C (under the melodic g')
and from F to Bb (under the melodic f'). The result is a strict se-
quence of two units. In each unit, the appearance of a new melodic
note over the first chord gives this chord a slightly greater weight
and subordinates the second chord to it (as IV to I):
Measure: 5 6 7 8

Triad: ft (D) G C F Bb D
Structure: 4thlevel: (V} I (IV)/I (IV)

3rd level: (III) [IV III1l,] I


(D has been enclosed in braces because, taking as it does the weakest
metric position and being the first inverted triad heard so far, it
leads a much less independent existence than other triads. It exists
only because the note d' is introduced in the alto one beat "too
early" in order to avoid parallel fifths with the bass.)
Nothing in the first half of the analyzed section (mm. 1-5) allows
us to recognize whether the central tonality represented the un-
transposed G-mode or the C-mode transposed a fifth up. The "key
signature" was of no help not only because it obviously cannot be
heard, but also because we know far too little about the function
of accidental signatures in sixteenth-century music to assume their
consistent and systematic use to indicate modal transpositions. In
the second half of the section (mm. 5-9) both the Mixolydian and
the Ionian versions of the seventh scale step are used prominently.
My analysis demonstrates, however, that ff- and D-triads are struc-
turally more important than F. As a result, we hear the melodic fa'
in the soprano in measure 8 as a diatonic step and we hear the
preceding f' as its chromatic alteration. It is, incidentally, quite
likely that a sixteenth-century theorist would consider the piece as
representing the Hypomixolydian mode.22 In doing so, he would
follow the obvious traditional clues provided by the final, the sig-
nature, and the emphasis on the fourth scale step, that is, the plagal

22 Cf. Bernhard Meier, Die Tonarten der Klassischen Vokalpolyphonie (Utrecht,


1974), p. 452.

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498 The Musical Quarterly

reciting pitch. Even he, however, would probably


measure 7 as a chromatically lowered step.
Only now are we in a position to appreciate the
which Lasso set his text, "The songs which you
chromatic manner" (Ex. 2). (In the diagram, the
in m. 8 indicate that this triad, like D in m. 6, leads a much less
independent existence than other triads, because of its context,
weak metric position, and inversion. It is, in fact, no more than
a chromatic neighbor-note embellishment of the prolonged D. S
p. 499.) The most striking feature of the section, and the one whi
contributes most to our difficulty in hearing it in "tonal" rather tha
"atonal" terms, is the sudden chromatic modulation in measures
3-5. The unexpected shift is fully justified by the text, since it
corresponds precisely with the word Chromatico. While the modu-
lation from G to E is chromatic, the return from E through D to
G is diatonic, since it is effected by means of pivot chords which
are diatonic members of modes between which they mediate. Con-
sequently, the return offers less opportunity for "atonal" hearing.
The only difficulty is introduced by the progression down the
circle of fifths in measures 6-7 and one is tempted again to look
for the possible justification of the musical procedure in the text
(modulata), even though the term used here probably did not yet
acquire its modern connotation in Lasso's lifetime.
Observe further that in the text the usual syntactic order has
been disturbed by the displacement of the adjective Chromatico
from the position before the noun it modifies, tenore, to the middle
of the verse. This has two important results. It gives the displaced
word, Chromatico, an extraordinary prominence, and it creates a
"syntactic gap" between Chromatico and tenore. Both these textual
features have their musical counterparts. Chromaticism is the cen-
tral characteristic of the section, since it not only embellishes less
fundamental structural levels or relationships between them, but
penetrates to the very core of music, the most fundamental struc-
tural progression being chromatic. And the gap between Chromatico
and tenore finds its counterpart in musical syntax. While these two
words are set by musical events of the first structural level, the
events that separate them belong to the third and fourth levels only.
In addition, as if to emphasize the Chromatico character of the
tenore, Lasso embellishes the latter word by chromatic neighbor
notes.

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Example 2

Measure: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Triad: C G B c$ E f# ({D}G C F B
Structure: 4th level: {V} I (IV)/I

3rd level: (III) [IV III10] I


2nd level: (V) [VI]I (II)
Ist level: (IV): I [IIIS3 ] V13# [VII5#] (V---
Text: Soprano: Car-mina Chro- ma- tico quae au-dis mo-
Other parts: Car-mina Chro- ma- tico quae au- dis mo-

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500 The Musical Quarterly

This analysis of the first section of Lasso's prolo


I hope, that the analytical hypothesis presented he
testing, since it can help to illuminate structu
features of an admittedly complex sixteenth-ce
By elucidating the function of each step (wheth
a point subordinated to a tonal center, or both
hierarchy of the whole work, an analyst can e
Lowinsky's thesis of "atonality," of the alleged e
of tonal centeredness.

Certain features of the analytical procedure proposed here will


stand out even more clearly when compared with the Schenkerian
method used by Mitchell in his analysis of the prologue, since Schen-
kerian analysis has often been hailed, especially in this country, as
the most powerful method of investigating tonal coherence in music.
Having explained why the first two measures represent an embel-
lished G-chord, Mitchell continues:

The Cs-minor chord in bar 4 must be evaluated linearly if it is to make sense,


for it is not a normal member of the community of chords that comprise the
harmonic elements of g. The questions to be answered are directed at the ways
in which a cg and a gg must behave in order to relate to the tonal center, g.
The simple answers, which provide us with a significant clue to the structure of
bars 1-9 are: The cg should move to d; the g$ should move to a.23

Thus, having established how the disturbingly chromatic c#-triad


in measure 4 "must behave in order to relate to the tonal center,
g," Mitchell proceeds to show in a graph (Ex. 3) that in fact it does
behave the way it must and postulates a long-range motion from
cg in measure 4 to d in measure 8. Among the main ingredients
of the section, he mentions "the joining of d and g in the upper
part through a stepwise motion, d-e-fg-g."24
A few methodological observations have to be made before an
evaluation of Mitchell's interpretation is attempted. The main
similarity between the analytical approach presented here and the
Schenkerian method used by Mitchell consists in the idea of a
hierarchy of structural levels; the main difference involves the man-
ner in which the events belonging to individual levels are chosen
and the hierarchical relationships between levels are evaluated.
An orthodox Schenkerian analyst attempts to discover beneath

23 Op. cit., p. 268.


24 Ibid., p. 269.

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 501

Ex.3

, Car2 3
- mi-r Chro 4
- m ,- fi - 5 , 7
CO O a-dismo - du-la -, 3
to te-ra - re

,s? "i - I~~ " e;I~ i ~t

graph: aI -rac ic, m d c .to y It iv


F - - --- --- -- I
6---... I .. . . .

i 2 3 4 t 7 5

Berger s
grdph:

subject to absolute, historically unchanging rules of voice-leading.


In analytical practice, melodic motion l~y step is often given priority
over all other considerations. Thus, for instance, Mitchell explains
that

Lasso, in this piece, as well as elsewhere, makes frequent use of crossed parts
as an immediate means of avoiding parallel fifths or octaves, and of satisfying
chromatic half-step motions. Some of these are illustrated in Example 2. The

~ 4 ,21 22

85 55 8 5 5 8

usual procedure of reg


the crossed parts will be

25 Ibid., pp. 266 f.

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502 The Musical Quarterly

The underlying assumption seems to be that


counterpoint of the composition lies another, p
original, one (note the word "becomes" in M
This may be reconstructed when we attempt to
as possible, and in particular the top voice, by
only the composer's voice-leading, but also such
counterpoint as the prohibition of parallel perf
violated in the process. Another basic assumption o
analytical practice is that in the presumably ori
reconstructed by the above means a note is som
a note of the same or larger structural import
same voice. As a result, Mitchell is able to claim, for instance, that
the chromatic c$ in the bass of measure 4 is resolved to d not im-
mediately, but only in measure 8. But the very choice of what is
structurally important seems often to be also governed by the princi-
ple of stepwise voice-leading. Otherwise, it would be difficult to
explain why Mitchell chose to give relative prominence to the c#-
triad in measure 4 of Lasso's prologue. His own explanation (that
"it is not a normal member of the community of chords that com-
prise the harmonic elements of g") is not convincing, because al-
ready the preceding triad, B of measure 3, falls beyond any diatonic
G-mode. The only justification for Mitchell's choice is that he
wanted to have a stepwise progression in the top voice connecting
the d' at the beginning of the phrase (m. 2) with the g' at its end
(m. 9). This forced him to give special prominence to the top-voice
e' and fg' in measures 4 and 8 respectively, as well as to the chords
supporting these notes.
While Mitchell's interpretation of the beginning and ending of
the phrase (mm. 1-2 and 8-9) is undoubtedly correct, his attempt to
explain tonal relatedness of the events connecting G- and D-triads
(mm. 2 and 8, respectively) is open to criticism. In my opinion,
Mitchell misinterprets the admittedly difficult passage, because he
wants to understand it in purely tonal terms and disregards the im-
portance of metro-rhythmic and textual considerations. It has been
remarked earlier that the central problem in an analysis based on the
notion of structural levels (that is, also in Mitchell's Schenkerian
analysis) is the correct choice of events belonging to individual levels
and evaluation of the hierarchical relationships between levels. In
my analysis, an attempt is made to demonstrate that this problem
cannot be solved if the style of the analyzed composition is not con-

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Tonality and Atonality in Orlando di Lasso 503

sidered. While Mitchell does not disregard stylistic criteria entirely


(for instance, he recognizes the cadences), for the most part he con-
ducts his analysis in a historical and stylistic vacuum, subjecting
Lasso's work to abstract, timeless voice-leading principles. As a
result, he arbitrarily overemphasizes the importance of the cy-triad
(m. 4) which, in turn, obliges him to stipulate a nonexistent long-
range connection between the cg- and D-triads (mm. 4 and 8, respec-
tively). The relative structural importance of the E-triad (m. 5) which
marks the internal division of the textual line is missed by Mitchell
entirely.
Ironically, this incorrect evaluation of the relative structural im-
portance of events leads to serious problems in the analysis of the
voice-leading itself, that is, in the area with which a Schenkerian
analyst is supposedly best equipped to deal. Thus, for Mitchell the
most important triads in the section are G (m. 2), cg (m. 4), D (m. 8),
and G (m. 9), since he wants his structural melody to ascend stepwise
from d' (m. 2), through e' (m. 4) and fg (m. 8), to g' (m. 9). But if,
as I have suggested, the E-triad in measure 5 is a more important
structural event than either c#- or D-triads, the fundamental struc-
ture of the upper part is more complicated though no less logical.
(See the graphs in Ex. 3. For now I accept, at least as working hypo-
theses, such Schenkerian postulates as that the "original" counter-
point may be reconstructed beneath the actual one on the basis of
the primacy of stepwise voice-leading and that remote as well as
immediate melodic connections exist within the so-reconstructed
counterpoint. In the graphs, the voice-leading of all four parts
shown. Slurs connect notes belonging to a single "reconstructe
voice. Rhythmic values are used to indicate the relative structu
importance of notes [in order of diminishing importance: e
, and ]. In any voice, a note is "retained" until a note of th
same or larger value appears. The upper graph shows the comp
voice-leading, the lower one omits details belonging to less fun
mental levels of structure.) The original upper-part d' (m. 2) asce
chromatically through dg' (m. 3) to e' (mm. 4-5), while the ten
g (mm. 1-2) proceeds chromatically through fg (m. 3) to ga (m
and is transferred an octave higher in measure 5, where it assu
the role of the uppermost part. The remaining portion of t
analyzed section involves the return of the structural melody fr
the chromatic to the diatonic version of the first scale step thro
the mediation of its upper and lower diatonic neighbor notes; t

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504 The Musical Quarterly

is, the motion from gg' (m. 5), through a' (mm. 5-6
to g' (m. 9). It must be emphasized once more that a
of voice-leading depends upon the proper evaluation of
importance of events, and this in turn cannot be a
stractly, apart from stylistic factors. Mitchell, on
starts with voice-leading, derives the structurally i
from it, and, for the most part, disregards stylistic c
Thus, the encounter of old music and Schenkeri
prove profitable for both sides. On the one hand, th
music historians sensitive to certain aspects of musi
tural layers or long-range voice-leading) which th
overlook otherwise; on the other hand, the application
analytical techniques to music for which they wer
devised reveals certain basic methodological problem
itself.
While Lowinsky exaggerated the "atonal" incoherence of the
prologue, Mitchell follQwed an inherent tendency of his chosen
method and erred in the opposite direction, relegating the work's
disturbing fundamentalchrQmaticism to an embellishing unessential
role and smoothing the chromatic structural top voice (g-gg'-gg') to
the diatonic tetrachord ascending stepwise (d'-e'-fg'-g'). But the pe-
culiar quality of the discussed, section lies precisely in the tension
between the forces of tonal coherence, on the one hand, and the
constant threat to this coherence posed by the presence of chroma-
ticism on the most fundamental structural level, on the other. Ana-
chronistic analytical methods are likely to obscure this tension. In
order to reveal it, a method which takes as its point of departure an
insight into the musical hearing of Lasso's contemporaries is neces-
sary.

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