Abstract

Among the numerous references to music in the writings of poet, composer, and Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet, none is more puzzling than a passage from his Roman de la rose moralisé (ca. 1500) that describes the misadventures of a note—a minim—fallen victim to Fortune. As it rides her wheel, it becomes a maxima and then a minim again, while its pitch is raised, then lowered. Another passage linking Fortune with transposition and mensural change occurs in Molinet's Petit traictié soubz obscure poetrie. Both stories are exempla divorced from their immediate contexts, raising the possibility that Molinet may have been influenced by specific musical compositions related to Fortune. Aspects of notational usage and cantus-firmus manipulation in the Fortuna desperata masses of Jacob Obrecht and Josquin des Prez make these works—especially the latter—likely influences for Molinet's strange digressions. And Molinet's exempla, insofar as they can help clarify previously misinterpreted aspects of both works, are an important early example of musical hermeneutics. The difficult relationship between Molinet's musical stories and the ostensibly sacred texts from which they digress also offers insight into the devotional functions of secular mass models.

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