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Saturday morning quotes 8.19: Doulce mémoire

July 3, 2021

Our quotes today are from Frank Dobbins, “‘Doulce Mémoire’: a Study of the Parody Chanson,” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 96 (1969-1970), 85-101.

“The chanson ‘Doulce mémoire’ was probably first published at Lyons, in Jacques Moderne’s first book of Le Parangon des Chansons-there are two different editions, both undated but probably appearing late in 1537 or early in 1538. The piece was reprinted (with a few minor variants) at Paris in Attaingnant’s XXVII Chansons, the first edition of which could not have been issued before 21 April 1538. It was one of the first compositions by Pierre Regnault, alias ‘Sandrin’, who was one of the most successful of Claudin de Sermisy’s younger colleagues in the royal service…”

“The poem is a decasyllabic huitain with the three-rhyme scheme a b a b b c b c (with alternating masculine and feminine line endings) common to many of the eight-line epigrams of the time…”

The poem as it appears in our source, Antoine Gardane’s musical setting à deux, is as follows:

Doulce mémoire en plaisir consommée,
O siècle heureulx que cause tel scavoir,
La fermeté de nous deux tant aymée,
Qui à nos maulx a sceut si bien pourvoir
Or maintenant a perdu son pouvoir,
Rompant le but de ma seul’ espérance
Servant d’exemple à tous piteux à veoir
Fini le bien, le mal soudain commence.

Fini le bien, le mal soudain commence.
Tes moins en sont nos malheurs qu’on peut veoir
Car tout le bien trouvé par l’esperance
Le mal nous l’a remis en son pouvoir.
Otant d’ennuy qui as voulou pourvoir.
De varier la fermeté aymée,
Il auroit bien qui sçauroit son sçavoir
Doulce mémoire en plaisir consommée.

The poetry is attributed to “Le Roy,” most likely François I (1494-1547), and may have been written during his imprisonment in Italy following the 1525 battle of Pavia (the inspiration for many instrumental settings that strive to create random battle noises, a variation form popular throughout the 16th century). Music for the résponce, “Fini le bien” is attributed to Pierre Certon (c. 1510 – 1572), and while the music diverges in melodic detail from the original by Sandrin, the text itself is, at least in spirit, a repetition of the first verse beginning with the last line working backward.

The two-voice version performed by Mignarda was adapted for two voices from Sandrin’s four-part original by French musician Antoine Gardane and published in 1555 by Le Roy & Ballard in Chansons à deux, a veritable goldmine of the sort of music sung around our house for our own entertainment. We recorded the version presumably arranged by Gardane, and it appears on our 2009 recording Au pres de vous performed with solo voice on the cantus and lute on the tenor line. Our new recording features Doulce mémoire complete with its résponce sung in two voices a cappella.

You might well ask: what relevance does a song first published in 1537 have in a program of proto-baroque airs de cour? The lasting popularity of Doulce Mémoire is demonstrated by the appearance of an instrumental arrangement of the piece found nearly a century after its earliest mention, in an English manuscript collection of music for viols written in the hand of William Lawes (1602 – 1645).

Doulce Mémoire is the title track of our upcoming September 2021 recording that offers a sampling of early airs de cour by Adrian Le Roy and moves forward, in time and in style, to music of a few decades later—to what is essentially music of the early baroque. The recording is aptly named to celebrate the sweet memories of 18 years as a duo dedicated to music for voice and lute, and we look forward to sharing the results of our work.

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