Panat in postcardThe Ranums'

Panat Times

Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


 Dots at the beginning of a measure:

Their rhetorical significance in Jacquet de La Guerre's vocal works

The Broude Trust and Mary Cyr, the editor, are to be commended for two beautiful volumes that make Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre's vocal works available to performers and students: The Collected Works of Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre (New York: The Broude Trust, 2005), Vol. 3 (Sacred Vocal Works) and Vol. 4 (Secular Vocal Works). Jacquet was a superb vocal composer. And she was a master at the art of rhetoric, French-style. I will enthusiastically recommend these cantates to the singers I coach in the Washington-Baltimore area.

A regret and a personal testimony

I regret that Jacquet's at the beginning of a measure were "emended" by the editor, as if they were mistakes. Mary Cyr converted these dots to notes carried across the bar from the final note of the previous measure. As a result, Jacquet's dotted passages are indistinguishable from the tied notes that Jacquet herself put into the music.

Cyr lists the eliminated dots at the back of each volume, in her Report of Emendations. But how many singers have the time to scrutinize the final pages of the volume, trying to understand the implications of "227.3-228.1, Voice, dotted eighth note," then compare this original notation with the modern edition?

To help them, I am reproducing the dots below, along with a brief discussion of the rhetorical implication of each particular dot. Jacquet did not use these dots often. Indeed, they appear in only six passages. On the surface their "emendation" therefore seems inconsequential. Not so: every dot provides performers with an important clue to declamation and rhetoric.

Back in 1998, during the Arts Florissants-Festival of Ambronay's rehearsals of Lully's Thésée, I was forced to reckon with the meaning of these dots that virtually every editor transforms into tied notes. The young singers were working from the Ballard edition of 1688, with its awkward movable type. I watched, mesmerized, as Emmanuelle Haïm urged them to perform these dots as written, to think of them as ordinary dotted notes that had migrated and were straddling the bar line, to think of them as survivals of the bar-less early seventeenth century. The result was electrifying! The rhetorical effects of these dots made me chuckle, or feel like weeping, or exult. As one long day of rehearsals was followed by another equally intense, I became convinced that the early-music pioneers who concluded that this kind of dot was a notational shortcut and required "emendation," were just plain wrong! True, I am talking about Lully's music, not Jacquet's; but what solid evidence do we have that Jacquet's notational practices diverged from Lully's?

A misstatement about articulating dotted notes

Before proceeding, I must call attention to Mary Cyr's misstatement on page xxix of Vol. 3 (and on p. xxxi of Vol. 4), because it goes to the core of my observations about the meaning of dotted notation. Cyr writes (my emphasis): "Patricia Ranum believes that the use of the dot rather than a tied note after a bar line signals to the singer that the consonant at the beginning of the syllable being sung to the dotted note should be prolonged...." I presume she meant "the syllable being sung to the note after the dot." This misstatement appears trivial. Still, her misstatement suggests a very strange elocution that singers should avoid: instead of saying "les plai-zzirs" (example 8.11 in my Harmonic Orator) and "jou-ir dde" (example 8.13), she says that I want a singer to say "les plllai-zirs," and "jou-wwir de."

The rhetorical implications of a dot, wherever it is found in a piece

Nowhere in my Harmonic Orator do I propose that one should lengthen ("double") the initial consonant of a dotted note ­ for example, lengthen the initial consonant on a quarter note that is followed by a dot and an eighth note. Rather, it is the note after the dot ­ the eighth note ­ that requires an expressive consonantal articulation during the time of the dot.

I realize that this is difficult to imagine among musicians who have been brought up to think that a dotted quarter note should last for three eighth notes and should be made longer still in baroque music, should be "over-dotted." In my Harmonic Orator I argue that twentieth-century pioneers in early music were mistaken about over-dotting, and that this musical rhythm meant one of three things for seventeenth- and eighteenth-century musicians:

1) The dot usually told them that the consonant of the syllable on the note after the dot should be "doubled" in order to express a passionate thought.

2) The dot sometimes represented the brief "suspension of meaning" associated with a punctuation mark ­ followed by a slight "doubling" of the consonant on the next note, to launch the next word clearly.

3) In a "feminine" word, where the penultimate syllable is long and the final syllable with the "mute" e is short, the dot suggests that the long syllable should be lengthened beyond the dotted value, and that the final "mute" syllable be performed a bit shorter than notated. This is the one instance where a dotted note approaches something like "over-dotting."

It may be easier for twenty-first-century musicians to imagine a dotted rhythm as follows, be it sung or be it played on an instrument. The dotted note ­ let's say it is a quarter note ­ normally lasts the length of that quarter note, but no longer. In fact, the dot rarely has anything to do with that quarter note. Most of the time, it belongs to the next note, the eighth note. The dot represents the articulation that launches that eighth note. (For an instrument, this articulation is a pluck, a tongue stroke, etc.; for a singer it is a consonant.) In a song, the syllable set to the eighth note should therefore be imagined as beginning on the dot, when its initial "doubled" consonant is articulated, and as continuing on through the eighth note after the dot, which represents its vowel. In a sense, the singer is reciting two syllables to two quarter notes, but the second quarter note is notated as a dot plus an eighth, the better to suggest that the composer wants a lengthened consonant plus a vowel.

Example 6.4a and 6.4b from my Harmonic Orator demonstrates this pronunciation; and 6.4c shows the principal exception to this general rule, a "feminine" word. (This example does not illustrate how a dot can also be a punctuation mark.) ex of dotted notes

The dotted notation in Example 6.4 usually occurs more or less mid-way through a measure of music ­ is imprisoned, so to speak, by the bars on each side. But dotted notation can occasionally flow across a bar. When it does, the declamatory meaning of the dot does not change. It continues to suggest a "doubled" consonant, a punctuation mark, or a swelled "feminine" word. Owing to the fact that the dot flows across the bar and disregards musical meter, this notation is especially expressive. As we will see below, in the phrases with one of these peculiar dots, the reposes of the poetry almost never fall on the strong beats of the music, as they normally do. Instead, they come early, or they come late, or they drag along, or they end up draped unevenly over the bar line. As a result, the next word tends to begin a wee bit later than the strong beat at the start of the measure. It is as if the words have gotten mired down for a second, hurry to catch up with the beat, but don't immediately manage to coincide with the musical meter.

In sum, a dot at the start of a measure is an extremely expressive device that adds interest, or even a tinge of passion to the music. It is therefore unfortunate, for singers and instrumentalists alike, when these dots are editorially transformed into two bland notes tied across the bar.

Did Jacquet use dotted notation differently from Lully, especially at the start of a bar?

Having vaguely acquiesced that dots at the beginning of a measure may have had a declamatory meaning for Lully, Mary Cyr asserts that "Jacquet de La Guerre does not seem to have used dots after bar lines for this purpose" ­ that is, as an indication of "doubling" (Vol. 3, p. xxix; and Vol. 4, p. xxxi). This conviction caused her to turn every one of these dots into an actual note.

Her assertion that Jacquet's dots are not related to declamation or rhetoric is contradicted by the notational practices of a host of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century composers. Jacquet's way of setting words to music was scarcely unique. From the early 1670s until the 1750s, virtually everyone used these dots, in song and in instrumental music, although some used them more cleverly than others. In song these dots inevitably were used for one of the three reasons presented above: 1) as a warning to "double" a consonant, 2) as a punctuation mark, or 3) as an indication that the long syllable of a "feminine" word should be lengthened and swelled dramatically.

If Jacquet meant something else when she put a dot after a bar, what could it have been? What did a dotted note within a measure mean to Jacquet? If a quarter note followed by a dot after the bar is the equivalent of a quarter note tied to an eighth note, could a dot later in the measure be routinely replaced by a quick note slurred to or tied to the preceding note? (Scarcely!) Did a dotted note perhaps mean two distinctly different things for Jacquet, depending on whether the dot came immediately after a bar, or whether it appeared later in a measure? If there were two meanings, why didn't she (or someone else) allude to this aberration that set her apart from her predecessors and her contemporaries?

I do not believe that Jacquet de La Guerre was doing something markedly different from Lully, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Marin Marais, and so forth. Indeed, as I show below, in these two volumes, every one of the dots after a bar suggests one of the three declamatory devices mentioned earlier: 1) "doubling," 2) punctuation, or 3) lengthening of a "feminine" word. In Jacquet's music ­ just as in the works of her predecessors and her contemporaries ­ when one of these dots is use, the words inevitably are out of step with the musical beat. In sum, the content of the words and the way the words mesh ­ or do not mesh ­ with the musical rhythm show that Jacquet was far from unique: she consistently used these dots in the very same way that most French composers were using them.
Jacquet proudly tells us that her understanding of how musical rhythms and melodies were related to texts had been praised for imitating speech (my emphasis):

"People have flattered me until now [by saying] that my music conformed rather well to the words with which I was working. This is also what I always tried to do, being persuaded that melodies that do not express what one is singing about, ... can only bring displeasure to true connoisseurs" (Cyr, Vol. 4, p. xxi).

She does not claim to equal or surpass Lully, whose settings of Quinault's lyrics were considered a nec plus ultra. But underlying her words is a veiled awareness that her skill in matching texts to rhythm and melody approached those of Lully himself. Indeed, she is preoccupied with the two aspects of the vocal art at which he had excelled: 1) she took great care that her musical notation would convey the rhythms of speech; and 2) she was very attentive to how melody expressed thoughts and emotions. Upon these two pillars rested her reputation, and her future place on the Parnasse François. (As Titon du Tillet, the creator of this French Parnassus, pointed out, "Madame de la Guerre avoit un très beau génie pour la composition, & a excellé dans la Musique vocale ...")
I propose that we take Jacquet at face value and try to understand what a dot at the beginning of a measure meant to her (and to her contemporaries) ­ even if it has meant something else ever since those pioneers in the early-music movement concluded that this dot needed correcting.

For each of Jacquet's troublesome dots, I will show her original notation, and I will state very succinctly which of the three declamatory uses applies to that particular dot. In smaller type I will discuss in detail the rhetorical implications of the notation and the melody. I hope that musicians will pencil those original dots back into Cyr's edition, and will give them a serious try.

Dots after a bar, versus a note tied across the bar: are they synonymous?

But first, a brief digression. In note 98 of Vol. 3 (and again in note 95 of Vol. 4), Mary Cyr explains her reasons for eliminating the problematic dots (my emphasis): "For example, in the air 'La seule victoire' from Judith, there are several places where the same text, realized musically with the same rhythm, is represented once by a dot after the bar line and once by a tied note. Therefore, there seems to be no difference in meaning between a dot and a tied note."

I don't understand that sentence! How can she say that, in those particular measures, the "same text" is "realized musically with the same rhythm"? True, the same words are repeated several times. But an eighth note tied across the bar to a sixteenth note can scarcely be called the "same" musical rhythm as an eighth note followed by a dot.

When words are repeated several times in a song, they often are set to identical musical rhythms; but sometimes they are not. Even when the musical rhythm is identical, the reiterations are not necessarily identical. Indeed, they cannot be identical unless the melody is also identical. In addition to two distinct musical rhythms, there are two distinct melodies in the passage from Jacquet's Judith to which Cyr refers.

"J'aime mieux ma chaîne" (Judith, Vol. 3, pages 95-96, measures 111-112, 119-120, 131-132, 137-139, and 141-153 (original edition, pages 64-65)

Let's look at this passage more closely.

It is unusual ­ and very dramatic ­ to find a 1-syllable verb on the final note of a measure, as J'aime is here. Normally it comes on the strong beat at the start of a measure. The dot suggests a doubled consonant, to be articulated just as the measure begins. A dot at the start of a measure usually goes hand in hand with words that are not in step with the musical meter. This is what happens here: not until chaîne do the reposes of the words once again mesh with the strong beats of the measure.

This is the air that Mary Cyr cites to support of her reading of Jacquet's intentions. Jacquet set J'ai-me mieux ma chaî-ne to two distinct musical rhythms ­ in measures 111-112 (tied), 119-120 (dotted), 131-132 (tied), 137-139 (dotted), and 141-143 (dotted). In short, contrary to what Cyr asserts, Jacquet did not "realize [these words] musically with the same rhythm." Twice she set them to a tied note, and three times she used a dot.

Jacquet uses a tied note in measures 131-132  ­ and also in measures 111-115. In both passages there was a declamatory reason for doing so. The notation she chose was nothing new to her. It was employed by her predecessors and her contemporaries alike. By the tied note, she is instructing the singer to make J'ai- (the long penultimate syllable of a "feminine" word) last for precisely three sixteenth notes, and then to pronounce the short, weak syllable, -me, as a little sob that is a musical third higher than the long syllable: J'aiii- me mieux/ ma chaîne.... Hence the tied note across the bar. If a singer follows Jacquet's instructions to the letter and observes the notation just as she herself wrote it, the affect is languid and slightly hesitant. Here the emphasis is upon the concept j'aime, "I like."

By contrast, in measures 119-125 (and in measures 137-139 and 141-143), where Jacquet put a dotat the beginning of the bar, the melody moves stepwise. This melody has repercussions on the declamation of the line. The syllables flow up into one another. In this ascending melodic contour, if the two initial m's are not carefully articulated, the text will be unintelligible. By placing a dot before -me, Jacquet is warning singers to say "J'ai-mme mieux." (An experienced singer knows enough to say "mmieux," so no notational clue was needed to suggest that the initial m on that word be stressed : "J'ai-mme mmieux.") Gone is the pathos conveyed by the little sob after the lengthened syllable that followed the tied note. In fact, in these three instances where she uses a dot, J'ai- is only an eighth note long ­ that is, it is a sixteenth note shorter than in the tied setting. In the place of the languid "feminine" swell expressed by the tied notes, here we have an assertively articulated phrase with m's that lend themselves to "doubling." In fact, the words rise in the inverted V that virtually every composer from Lully to Gluck used to express an Assertion. True, the assertive rise does not go very high, but it is there; and an assertive articulation should accompany it. The emphasis is no longer upon J'aime (which is a sixteenth note shorter than in the tied setting); it is upon mieux, which sits at the top of the inverted V (the spotlight inevitably is trained on the word at the top of the inverted V). In short, the emphasis is no longer on "loving" but on "better." Finally, instead of the 1-syllable plus 2-syllable poetic rhythm in the tied version, the dotted version would be declaimed as a 3-syllable foot that pulls the ear up the little slope, to the crest of the inverted V.

I must point out in passing some further evidence that Jacquet was very aware of how her contemporaries were indicating consonant doubling. There were two principal ways to do this: 1) by a little grace note, and 2) by a dot, as I have said above. Jacquet uses both devices in the space of only a few measures. Just look closely at the illustration that shows both tied and dotted notation for J'aime. In measures 119-120 she put a grace note in front of ma ­ a routine way of showing a doubled consonant (in this case, m) that should slur down to the vowel. In the process, this slurred articulation cleverly imitates a linked "chain." By contrast, in measures 131-132 (where J'aime is set to a tied note), and in measures 137-183 (where J'aime is set to a dotted note), Jacquet puts a dot between the trilled mieux and the short monosyllable that follows, ma. That is to say, the m on ma should be "doubled," more or less as it was in measures 119-120; but this time there is no slur, simply a muttered mm that launches the new poetic foot, ma chaîne, "mma chaîne." This dot is a routine way to indicate that a strong articulation would be appropriate, either to add a touch of passion or, as in this particular instance, to improve comprehension. Details like this reveal the extent to which Jacquet observed the word-music relationships that had been worked out by Lully and Quinault in the 1670s and that would be used for the next century by composers throughout France. Contrary to what Mary Cyr asserts, dots clearly meant the very same thing to Jacquet that they meant to Lully.

The remaining passages where Jacquet uses a dot at the beginning of a bar, and what these passages tell singers

But first, one general comment. I am not troubled by the way Jacquet de La Guerre herself occasionally ties words over the bar. That is a familiar and quite routine sort of notation for the period, and its meaning is so clear that the pioneers in early music saw no need to "emend" it. Rather, my comments focus on the consequences of the widespread editorial practice of modifying dotted notes that flow over the bar, and showing them, instead, as notes tied across the bar.

Mais en vain sa rage ....Vol. 3, Le Passage de la mer rouge, pages 31-32, measures 227-228 and 239-40 (original edition, page 21)

In this instance the dot represents a punctuation mark: it is the colon that seventeenth- and eighteenth-century orators placed after mais, "but." Once again a dot is associated with a text that gets out of step with the musical meter.

Here mais comes a bit early, on the eighth note just before the bar, rather than at the start of the measure as it usually does in French song. After mais, "but," the singer-orator makes the requisite colon-like pause, to get the audience's attention. This pause coincides with the beginning of a new measure. He is still out of step, however, so he utters a hasty sixteenth note. This is the equivalent to the little skip a marcher uses to get back in step. This quick step finally permits him to go evenly on his way, speaking in eighth notes and placing reposes on the strong beats, exactly where they are expected.

Although mais is technically a "long" monosyllable, for rhetorical reasons it is usually performed a bit shorter than its notated value suggests. That is the case, because ­ if the notation does not provide time for the intake of the breath that conveys a colon ­ a singer has to borrow the time from the end of the note to which mais is set. (See Ranum, Harmonic Orator, p. 274.) When composers wanted this pause to be especially noticeable, they wrote it into the musical rhythms. They frequently used dots to suggest this colon, just as Jacquet did in this passage. The tie in the bass is especially interesting. I do not believe it should be read as evidence that the dot after mais is a sort of shorthand way to indicate a tie. Rather, the bass is holding its note until the singer finishes his dramatic colon, at which point they move on together, en vain sa rage....

Any doubts we might have about her familiarity with this declamatory device is dissipated by measure 209 of Le Temple rebâti (page 139 of Vol. 3 of the Cyr edition, and page 18 of the original). Jacquet inserted a rest after mais, thereby making sure the singer would pause, as good declamation required. Why, then, in Le Passage de la mer rouge, didn't she put a sixteenth-note rest at the start of the measure, rather than a dot? I suggest that she preferred a less rigid notation here. That is, mais is should continue for the duration of the eighth note, and then ­ just at the bar and during the time of the dot ­ the singer should make an audible intake of breath, before moving to "in vain...." Lengthening mais, as it is lengthened in the Cyr edition of Le Passage, not only distorts the French language by making this monosyllable overly long (so long that it risks sounding like mes, the plural form of "my"), it also eliminates the reminder to put a colon-gasp after mais.

... plus touchante encore  (Vol. III, Joseph, page 165, measures 61-64 and measures 71-73 (original edition, page 37)

Here the dot suggests a pause akin to a punctuation mark, a "touching" hesitation. Once again a dot at the start of the measure appears in a passage where the words are out of step with the strong beats of the musical measure.

Why did Jacquet put a dot after touchante in measure 63 (the top instance where touchante encore appears)? Are we betraying her wishes when we carry the long feminine syllable, -chan- over the barline, as in the Cyr edition? I believe that we are, and this is why.

In poetic scansion, a slash would follow the long syllable (-chan-) of the "feminine" word, touchante; and -te en-co-re would be treated a separate foot: De-ve-noit/ plus touchan-/t'en-co-re///. Here, as with J'aime in Judith, above, melody, not rhythmic notation alone, reveals how cleverly Jacquet could weave drama and emotion into a few brief measures. By making the root syllable of tou- drop a musical seventh to -chant-, she conveys the strong pathos of the "touching" thought. Next she makes the voice glide on chant-, then drop a fifth to G ­ a second indication of the singer's strong emotions.

Finally comes a Post Scriptum, a P.S. that is tacked on as an afterthought: -t'en-co-re. This P.S. stands apart from the words that precede it, because it is separated from the end of the previous poetic foot by four musical intervals (the low G of the first foot is followed by a leap up to C-B natural-C). When this remark is uttered the first time (measures 61-64), the singer says Devenoit/ plus touchan/ .... t'encore///, "Became too touching .... by far." Hence Jacquet's dot: it serves as a punctuation mark of sorts, it represents the slash of poetic scansion. She wrote that little pause after touchant(e) into her music.

Jacquet wove another very expressive detail into these measures. She made the "touched" singer linger on another "feminine" word, encore ­ but not quite long enough to permit the penultimate syllable, -co-, to coincide with the strong note of the next measure, as it should. As a result, -re, the weak, "mute" syllable of encore, falls on that strong beat. A final "mute" syllable coming on the first note of a measure signals great emotional disarray. By the time the extremely "touched" singer has finished saying tou-chan(te), the text has gotten out of step with the music, and the usual march of key words toward the strong beats of the musical meter has been momentarily abandoned.

In measures 71-73 the same words return, but in a less passionate way. Gone is the dot at the start of the measure. And this time, the reposes of the words come to rest on the strong beats at the start of the musical measures, just as they should. Although -chan- retains its imitative drop of a fifth, the pathetic accent on tou- has been replaced by a calm, step-wise descent in thirds. (To help an audience grasp the words, composers used melodic clichés that imitated the meaning of the word, just as Jacquet does here; but singing books warned singers to watch the melody and notation, and avoid a "touching" delivery, when a word or phrase was being repeated.) The Post Scriptum has been retained. Although the dot is absent, an experienced singer would recognize the P.S. for what it is, and would separate -t'en-co-re from the first part of the phrase. Above all, the rules of declamation warned that when a phrase is repeated, it is usually a pale echo of the original statement. The second time around, one therefore ruminates rather calmly, a bit like a cow chewing its cud.

That is exactly what Jacquet is telling the singer to do here: Be passionate the first time you say plus touchante encore; but the second time, show the audience that you have regained your self-control and are reflecting upon what you said earlier. The first time you say it, the P.S. should sound like an afterthought that has struck you like a thunderbolt. The dot is there to suggests your hesitation while the idea is striking you. The second time you say the phrase, your delivery should be reflective, dispassionate, and rhythmically stated. Above all, the P.S. is no longer a surprising afterthought: a pause would therefore be inappropriate.

... partage vos regrets , Vol. 3, Jepthé, page 189, measure 243 (original edition, page 53)

The dot indicates that the long, penultimate syllable of a "feminine" word should be swelled and made as long as possible. Once again the dot is part of a passage where the words are out of step with the beats of the music.

Jacquet's reason for putting a dot at the start of measure 243 is very clear. She wants -ta-, the long "feminine" syllable of partage, to be lengthened across the bar. This is a clever passage! The singers are making a hyperbolic statement: "Let all nature share your regrets." They get so caught up in this notion of "all" that they start the long syllable of partage a half note too early. As a result, -ta- does not attain its expected position on strong beat of measure 243: instead, it drones on at the end of a measure. The singers try to remedy the situation by holding that long penultimate syllable just a wee bit longer, during the time of that dot. As a result, the repose manages to coincide with the strong beat ­ but just barely! After that, the singers articulate the next foot (-ge vos regrets) and, by making vos a bit longer than it normally would be, they get themselves back on beat. (Compare this measure with measures 253-254 and 157-258, where partage meshes perfectly with the musical meter, and where vos is appropriately brief.)

In these two measures Cyr's notation does not noticeably distort Jacquet's intentions. Still, for singers versed in sung French declamation and who have worked from facsimiles, the tied note in the published edition eliminates the flexibility suggested by Jacquet's original dot. That is to say, Cyr's notation suggests that -ta- should be exactly three quarter notes long; Jacquet's more approximate notation suggests a more spontaneous-sounding swell for the long syllable of this feminine word ­ and perhaps a slightly desperate tone of voice, to suggest that the singers realize they are out of step.

...les foiblesses de son amour Vol. 3, Samson, page 211, measures 318-320 (original edition, page 69)

Here the dot functions as a punctuation mark of sorts, to indicate a Post Scriptum. Once again the dot appears in measures where the words do not mesh with the musical meter.

What does Jacquet's dot tell singers to do this passage, with its melisma on foiblesses? (The melisma imitates the wobbles of "feebleness.") She certainly is not telling them to lengthen the final short syllable of the "feminine" word foiblesses, and hold it into the next measure, as Cyr's notation suggests. Nor is Jacquet suggesting that -ses should occupy even a bit of the strong beat (as it does in Cyr's notation), in order to express the emotional disarray that is suggested by the placement of the final syllable of encore, discussed above, Joseph.

Rather, -ses should at most be only one quarter note long; and it should die out at, or before the bar line. As a result, listeners will initially get the impression that the poetic line is about to end on foiblesse. In other words, the ear imagines a triple scansion slash after foiblesse, as if it were a feminine rhyme : "foi-blessss-se///." But the ear has been tricked. The poetic line continues and ends with a tacked-on 4-syllable foot: de son a-mour///. The dot at the start of measure 320 represents the abortive triple slash after foiblesse; yet it also suggests a gasp, an intake of breath appropriate for a "feeble" person who has just managed to get through a melisma. After this exhausted gasp, this apparent end of a poetic foot, the singer assumes a more assertive tone of voice and speaks in dotted notes. In fact, until the dot at the beginning of measure 320 was edited out of Cyr's edition, it inaugurated a brief dotted passage where the singer is being advised to "double" both the d (Jacquet's dot at the start of the measure) and the n (the dot between son and amour). The result is an assertive enunciation ­ "dde so-nna-mour" ­ that leaves "feebleness" behind and prepares for the next assertive line, which recounts how the "shame of slavery is erased."

Imitez le cours de l'onde ... and ... qui vient arroser, Vol. 4, L'Isle de Délos, pages 38-39, measures 316-317, and also measure 322 in the instrumental part (original edition, pages 35-36)

The dot after imitez suggests a doubled consonant; and the dot in the instrumental part, above arroser, is a clever rhetorical Clausula in which the instrument refuses to "imitate" the singers.
Would Jacquet want the final syllable of a command ­ Imitez, "Imitate" ­ to be lengthened, as it is in measures 316-317? Certainly not. In French, the first syllable of a command is lengthened, to show immediately that it is a command; and the final syllable is relatively short. Inverting these stresses, as Cyr's edition does, distorts what is being said. As notated in Cyr's edition, imitez receives an end-accent appropriate for the infinitive, imiter, "to imitate," but not for a command. The listener is momentarily confused, thinking that the singer is saying, Imitez, imiter le cours, "Imitate! To imitate the course..."

Jacquet's dot clearly is not a punctuation mark, because no one would pause between an imperative verb and its object: "Imitate [pause?!?] ... the flow of the waves." The dot clearly means something other than a pause or a punctuation mark.

If it does not suggest lengthening, and it does not suggest punctuation, one possibility remains: the dot tells the singer to "double" the l of le cours. That is exactly what comprehensibility requires ­ especially after a word that does not close neatly with a consonant. In short, Jacquet is not telling the singer to linger on the final syllable of Imitez, as the Cyr edition suggests. Rather, she is warning the singer not to be sloppy, not to say "Imitayle cours", but to say "Imitay lle cours." Once again the words are out-of-step with the musical meter. The ear expects the final syllables of the reiterated imitez, and the noun cours to come at the beginning of measures. But they don't! Throughout Imitez, imitez le cours... the singer misses the strong beat; only with l'on(de) do the words get back in step with the musical meter.

Measure 322 (qui vient arroser...) does something very interesting in the instrumental part. It is particularly unfortunate that this cleverness was eliminated by the editor. This passage is a witty Clausula in which the lyrics come to reposes on two of the three possible "hemiola" positions: vient and -ser. The instrument does not adhere to this rhythm, however. In fact, it resolutely refuses to "imitate" the others, and it stubbornly plays a dotted rhythm across the bar, regardless of the fact that the singer is moving ahead in the slurred pairs that a host of composers routinely used to imitate flowing water. That of course explains why, in the original score, instrument and voice do not mesh for an instant. (For hemiolas, and for "Clausulas," see Ranum, Harmonic Orator, pp. 294-307, especially pp. 300-304, where you will find other examples of how one voice refuses to cooperate with the others and states as much in the lyrics.) What a shame to force the instrument to conform, as it has been made to do in the Cyr edition! To deprive it of the pleasure of not imitating the others! Jacquet's clever rhetoric has been turned into a phrase where everyone politely avoids the witty disagreement that she had indicated by that dot at the start of the measure.  


© 1995-2015  Orest and Patricia Ranum.  All Rights Reserved