Blasphemy is one of the most reprehensible sins in the later Middle Ages. In its most injurious form – trivialising or denying divine authority – such wickedness is tied up with notions of violence and mutilation. Denying God’s authority implies breaking apart or defacing divine logic. Blasphemers in turn are punished through decapitation, dismemberment, and separation between body and soul. The Cantigas de Santa Maria contain numerous warnings against religious sacrilege, and in this paper I focus on one song in the collection. CSM 72’s disjointed musical-poetic structure mirrors narrative themes of logical mutilation, echoing the dissonance of religious profanity. Fractured logic generates fragmented song, both in its performance and in its presentation on the page. CSM 72 hence invites performers and listeners to reflect upon the dangers of illogical sound, both through blasphemous speech and irrational song.
An influential argument concerning William Herebert’s Middle English poems, which appear in his commonplace book (London, British Library, MS Additional 46919, c. 1314), is that they represent only intermittent successes as finished works of art because he frequently stuck so closely to the form of his Latin original that the Middle English results come over as forced and stilted. Yet Herebert acquits himself of the charge of pedantic accuracy by translating ‘sense for sense’ rather than ‘word for word’. Moreover he often inserts whole meanings entirely of his own invention to produce a finished and quite complex piece of exegesis. By exegesis we mean that Herebert actively interprets the text through translation, and while engaging the source’s music. For instance, in his translation of the Ascension hymn ‘Aeterne rex altissime’, the original Latin work is much more abstract in concept than Herebert’s, which describes motions self-consciously as individual actions through specific times and specific spaces. Although Herebert’s commonplace book does not include music, codicological evidence strongly suggests that his English poems were sung as ‘contrafacta’, using the original chant melodies. In fact, the music holds important clues about Herebert’s exegetical program which involves popularizing chants by turning them into carols. Collating this unique English chant translation with the original music, we hope to show that the song formed an essential ingredient of William Herebert’s avocation as a Franciscan preacher.
Despite recent scholarship, there are still considerable gaps in our knowledge about the composition and performance of 12th-century extra-liturgical music. The present paper looks at a source not previously considered in this context: the letter collection of Gui of Basoches, canon of Châlons-en-Champagne. Gui was directly involved in organizing major festivities, such as the Feast of Circumcision, and his letters provide texts and instructions for performance in and around the cathedral. The collection confirms the evidence of clerical dancing and processional singing found in extant liturgical offices, and also sheds light on devotional performance practice in the home.