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  • Anne Heminger (a1)


Whilst scholars often rely on a close reading of the score to understand English musical style at the turn of the fifteenth century, a study of the compositional techniques composers were taught provides complementary evidence of how and why specific stylistic traits came to dominate this repertory. This essay examines the relationship between practical and theoretical sources in late medieval England, demonstrating a link between the writings of two Oxford-educated musicians, John Tucke and John Dygon, and the polyphonic repertory of the Eton Choirbook (Eton College Library, MS 178), compiled c. 1500–4. Select case studies from this manuscript suggest that compositional and notational solutions adopted at the turn of the fifteenth century, having to do particularly with metrical proportions, echo music-theoretical concepts elucidated by Tucke and Dygon. These findings impinge upon the current debate concerning the presence of a network between educational institutions in the south-east of England during this period.

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I would like to thank Stefano Mengozzi, James M. Borders, Austin Stewart, William van Geest, Bonnie Blackburn and the anonymous reader at Early Music History for their thoughtful feedback and suggestions at various stages in the writing process. All errors or omissions that remain are, of course, my own. My thanks also to Benedict Singer for creating the mensuration sign font used in this article.



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1 Williamson, M., ‘The Early Tudor Court, the Provinces and the Eton Choirbook’, Early Music, 25 (1997), pp. 229243 . Williamson provides a more complete list of Eton personnel (including clerks, chaplains and selected choristers, scholars and fellows) and their associations with other institutions in Appendix C of his dissertation, ‘The Eton Choirbook: Its Institutional and Historical Background’ (D.Phil diss., University of Oxford, 1997), pp. 478–503. A revised copy (2009) is available from the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM) online; see Although most of these biographical entries contain only employment information, occasionally there is evidence to suggest that a clerk or scholar received a musical degree, such as the case of Richard Lesse, clerk from 1457 to 1461, who was admitted to the BMus at Cambridge (p. 482), or Robert Wydowe, a scholar at Eton c. 1460–4, who received a BMus from Oxford by 1479 (p. 503).

2 The recent volume by Smith, D. J. and Taylor, R. (eds.), Networks of Music and Culture in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries: A Collection of Essays in Celebration of Peter Philips’s 450th Anniversary (Burlington, Vt., 2013), for example, highlights how musical style, composers, performers and musical works were transmitted across both real and virtual networks in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, both in England and on the Continent.

3 A selection of this scholarship can be found in Bowers, R., English Church Polyphony: Singers and Sources from the 14th to the 17th Century (Aldershot, 1999).

4 Kisby, F., ‘Music and Musicians of Early Tudor Westminster’, Early Music, 23 (1995), pp. 223240 .

5 R. Lloyd, ‘Provision for Music in the Parish Church in Late-Medieval London’ (Ph.D. diss., Royal Holloway, University of London, 1999); H. Baillie, ‘London Churches, their Music and Musicians, 1485–1560’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Cambridge, 1957); Burgess, C. and Wathey, A., ‘Mapping the Soundscape: Church Music in English Towns, 1450–1550’, Early Music History, 19 (2000), pp. 146 .

6 Dumitrescu, T., The Early Tudor Court and International Musical Relations (Aldershot, 2007).

7 Theodor Dumitrescu highlights this fact in his edition of John Dygon’s Proportiones practicabiles secundum Gaffurium. See Dumitrescu, T., John Dygon’s Proportiones practicabiles secundum Gaffurium (Urbana, Ill., 2006), p. 1 .

8 Fitch, F., ‘Towards a Taxonomy of the “Eton Style”’, in M. Jennifer Bloxam, Gioia Filocamo and Leofranc Holford-Strevens (eds.), Uno gentile et subtile ingenio: Studies in Renaissance Music in Honour of Bonnie J. Blackburn (Turnhout, 2009), pp. 3752 , at p. 38. For a discussion of the provenance of the York Masses, see Colton, L., ‘Music in Pre-Reformation York: A New Source and Some Thoughts on the York Masses’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 12 (2003), pp. 7188 and Dumitrescu, T., Introduction’, Fifteenth-Century Liturgical Music VII: The York Masses (London, 2010), pp. xviixx .

9 Bray, R., ‘Music and the Quadrivium in Early Tudor England’, Music & Letters, 76 (1995), pp. 118 .

10 Two provenances have been suggested for the Ritson Manuscript: Exeter Cathedral and a Franciscan monastery in Devonshire. For more complete bibliographic information on the Ritson Manuscript see ‘GB-Lbl Add. MS 5665 (Ritson Manuscript)’, DIAMM ( The Eton Choirbook’s exclusively liturgical and paraliturgical repertory, as well as its high proportion of named composers, also provides a more consistent sample than the varied contents of the Ritson Manuscript (which features Latin- and English-texted carols; Latin motets, hymns, votive antiphons and masses; English secular pieces; and even one French secular song). For more on the contents of the Ritson Manuscript, see C. K. Miller, ‘A Fifteenth Century Record of English Choir Repertory: B. M. Add. Ms. 5665; A Transcription and Commentary’ (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1948).

11 After his studies at Oxford, where he received a bachelor’s degree but never finished his MA (despite completing the qualifications for the degree), Tucke accepted a teaching position at Higham Ferrers College, where he remained for eight years before being appointed lay master of the Lady Chapel at the Benedictine Abbey of St Peter, Gloucester, teaching music and grammar. See Woodley, R., John Tucke: A Case Study in Early Tudor Music Theory (Oxford, 1993), pp. 137 , for an overview of Tucke’s career.

12 As Theodor Dumitrescu has shown, the music-theoretical writings in circulation in England were primarily copied from Continental sources, and usually contain the works of much earlier authors, including Boethius, Isidore of Seville, Guido d’Arezzo, Marchetto of Padua and Johannes de Muris. Moreover, the classic writings of these authors formed the basis of music teaching in universities in both England and on the Continent. See Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, pp. 177–8.

13 Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 63–4.

14 Woodley offers a chronology of the contents of the manuscript in John Tucke where possible, and describes the order in which they are bound, organising the excerpts in his edition by subject matter.

15 Dumitrescu briefly discusses John Tucke’s notebook in his edition of Dygon’s treatises; see pp. 5–7 and 54–7 of Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones.

16 Anna Maria Busse Berger has argued that, at least on the Continent, the fifteenth-century interest in proportions by music theorists was part of a more widespread fascination with ratios. Commercial arithmetic of the period was dominated by the practical use of proportions, and Busse Berger argues that theorists including Tinctoris and Gaffurius were inspired in part by this broader academic interest in the subject. See Busse Berger, A. M., Mensuration and Proportion Signs: Origins and Evolution (Oxford and New York, 1993), pp. 198210 .

17 Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, pp. 178–9. Dumitrescu gives a date of c. 1450; the British Library catalogue places the date closer to c. 1460. The manuscript was copied by John Wylde, precentor of the Augustinian priory of Holy Cross, Waltham, Essex. It includes Musica Gwydonis; Metrologus; the Regule of Johannes de Muris; the Declaratio trianguli of Torkesey/Brunham; Walsingham’s Regule; and miscellaneous notes on modes, the origins of music, plainchant, colours, intervals, counterpoint (including faburden and descant) and proportions.

18 For a discussion of the English treatises, see Meech, S. B., ‘Three Musical Treatises in English from a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript’, Speculum, 10 (1935), pp. 235269 .

19 Ibid., p. 268.

20 Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, pp. 184–6.

21 Woodley, John Tucke, p. 66.

22 Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, p. 198. The other English copy of this treatise exists in a manuscript copied from John Tucke’s notebook in 1526, Lambeth Palace MS 466. See Woodley, John Tucke, p. 65. Although earlier scholarship tended to view Hothby as primarily a theorist, recent scholars paint a broader picture of his work: like John Tucke, he was responsible for teaching young boys in his role as maestro di cappella in Lucca. See Brand, B., ‘A Medieval Scholasticus and Renaissance Choirmaster: A Portrait of John Hothby at Lucca’, Renaissance Quarterly, 63 (2010), pp. 754806 .

23 ‘Colors requesyt to musical proporsyons byeth thes: blake, grene, blew, rede, yelow. Colores in ordine sunt isti: blake, grene, yelwe, blewe, rede, sangwyn, purpull. Grene to blake and red to blew ys proportio sesqueoctaua. Item blew to blake and yelwe to blew ys proportio sesquetercia. Item red to blake ys sesquealtra. Item rede to grene sesquetercia. Item rede to blew sesqueoctona [recte: sesquioctaua].’ As Ronald Woodley points out, the formula ‘x to y’ should be interpreted as ‘x in relation to the preceding (or tenor) y’, not ‘x in relation to the following y’. Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 68–9.

24 Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 68–73. Although there are no extant examples of manuscripts using green or yellow colouration, and the only blue notation is found in two pieces in the Old Hall manuscript, Woodley uses a six-part Ave Maria mass by Thomas Ashwell to document cases where blue, green, or yellow colouration might have been used in other versions of the mass to better indicate complex proportional relationships (such as 9:8 and 9:4). See Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 112–20.

25 Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 70–1. Both the first two pairs indicate a 3:2 relationship with respect to prolatio, or the ternary versus binary division of semibreves into minims ( E to C=9:6, D to A=6:4). Tucke’s other three examples are more difficult to parse. A reversed sign usually indicates semibreve equivalence, which in the third example might mean three semibreves in J are equivalent to two semibreves in D, although one would not typically expect to count three semibreves in D, whether straightforward or reversed. Tucke’s fourth example is perplexing, since usually a slash indicates diminution, and specifically the reduction of all temporal values by two (a change in speed); in standard practice the relationship between these two signs would be 2:1. F could also mean two perfect breves, which could be seen as making a sesquialtera relation with the three semibreves of C. The final pair is perhaps the most complicated: it appears to illustrate a sesquialtera proportion at the level of the minim (12:8), where the semibreve is first divided in perfect prolation (twelve minims total) and then imperfect (eight minims). For an overview of the common understanding of proportional relationships in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Continental music theory see ch. 6, ‘Proportion Signs’, in Busse Berger, Mensuration and Proportion Signs. See DeFord, R., Tactus, Mensuration and Rhythm in Renaissance Music (Cambridge, 2015), for related discussion on tactus in sixteenth-century Continental theory and practice.

26 Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, pp. 1–2. Although there are no records of his receiving the degree, Dygon supplicated for the BMus at Oxford in 1512; see p. 23.

27 Ibid., pp. 1–2. Gaffurius’s theory of proportions in the Practica is, in turn, largely modelled on Tinctoris’s Proportionale musices.

28 As Dumitrescu has shown, the two texts are separated by a blank page in the manuscript, and they are laid out with the same ordering of proportions (that is, the second text returns to dupla, the first proportion treated in the first text). The second section of text is in fact a reworking of the first which demonstrates an alternate system of proportional notation. See Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, p. 24.

29 Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones; see the chart on pp. 26–8 for a complete list.

30 Ibid., pp. 9–10 and 34–6. Dumitrescu also discusses this technique, and Thomas Morley’s critique of it, in The Early Tudor Court, pp. 206–7.

31 ‘Ceterum hoc ausim dicere, nostros Britannos musicos, maxima ingenij subtilitate . . . illas quas uocant proportionum inductiones, inuenisse, & hac una re omnem antiquitatem superasse.’ Quoted and translated in Wegman, R., The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe 1470–1530 (New York, 2008), p. 154 . Dumitrescu also cites this passage on p. 10 of John Dygon’s Proportiones.

32 Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, p. 206.

33 Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, pp. 7–9.

34 Ibid., p. 32.

35 Ibid., p. 96. Dygon includes even more complicated examples, such as an upper discantus line in an 8:1 relationship with the tenor and a second discantus in a 7:1 proportion. See Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, pp. 90–1.

36 Ibid., pp. 48–9, 57. In this system, each sign receives a value, dependent upon whether it represents a perfect (three minims or semibreves) or imperfect (two minims or semibreves) mensuration, and then the values of signs grouped together are added together to yield a final value for the group. As Dumitrescu notes, of sixteenth-century English examples, only a single set of compositions uses a system of combining mensuration signs which is at all similar to that in Dygon’s treatise. These works, found on fols. 100v–115r of John Baldwin’s Commonplace Book (London, British Library, R.M. 24.d.2, copied c. 1580–1606), were clearly grouped together as examples of proportional writing; the combinations of mensuration signs present, however, bear no resemblance to those in Dygon’s system.

37 Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, pp. 54–6 and Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, p. 208. It is most likely that Tucke and Dygon were at Oxford within five years of one another; Tucke read for the MA at New College, Oxford in 1504–7, while, as mentioned, Dygon supplicated for the BMus in 1512.

38 Williamson, ‘The Early Tudor Court’, p. 241.

39 Dumitrescu, ‘Introduction’, pp. xxix–xxxv.

40 Williamson, ‘The Early Tudor Court’, p. 235.

41 Benham, H., Latin Church Music in England c. 1460–1575 (London, 1977); see especially ch. 6, ‘The Eton Composers’, pp. 74–97.

42 N. Bisson, ‘English Polyphony for the Virgin Mary: The Votive Antiphon, 1430–1500’ (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1998).

43 Ibid., p. 136.

44 Ibid., pp. 133–4. Rob C. Wegman notes the particular disdain Continental writers such as Erasmus and Tinctoris expressed for contemporary English music, and its rhythmic complexity in particular, arguing that ‘this English manner of composition . . . cantus fractus or pricksong . . . at this time was indeed being pushed to unprecedented extremes’. See Wegman, The Crisis of Music, pp. 148–61, at pp. 160–1.

45 Fitch, ‘Towards a Taxonomy’, pp. 39–43. The limited use of this type of resolution in both earlier English works and contemporary Continental style, as well as its frequent and varied usage in the Eton repertory, strongly suggests that this treatment became popular only around this time.

46 Bisson, ‘English Polyphony’, p. 142.

47 Ibid., pp. 142–3.

48 Maynard, J. D., ‘Heir Beginnis Countering’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 20 (1967), pp. 182196 , at pp. 184–8, 194. Maynard also cites additional documents which suggest that countering was often taught alongside faburden and plainsong.

49 Flynn, J., ‘The Education of Choristers in England during the Sixteenth Century’, in J. Morehen (ed.), English Choral Practice 1400–1650 (Cambridge, 1995). Reprinted in Schmidt-Beste, T. (ed.), Institutions and Patronage in Renaissance Music (Burlington, Vt., 2012), pp. 141160 , at p. 143. Counter is mentioned as a skill to be taught to choristers in five of the eleven indentures for masters of choristers Flynn cites, though whether these indentures refer to composing counterpoint or to the more specific practice described by Scottish Anonymous is impossible to tell.

50 Bisson, ‘English Polyphony’, pp. 143–4. The tenor upon which Example 3 is based (the ‘Gracias agimus’ from Mass I in the Sarum Gradual) is placed below the ornamented tenor in the manuscript.

51 For ease of reading, most examples in this essay from these works are in score and in modern notation; the examples that focus on notational oddities are taken from the recent facsimile of the Eton Choirbook edited by Williamson, M., The Eton Choirbook: Facsimile and Introductory Study (Oxford, 2010).

52 Robert Wylkynson began his tenure at Eton in 1496. This nine-voice Salve regina and Wylkynson’s thirteen-voice canon Jesus autem are clearly later additions to the manuscript, copied using standard Continental white notation; Magnus Williamson believes they were incorporated around the time Wylkynson either left Eton or died. See Williamson, M., ‘ Pictura et scriptura: The Eton Choirbook in its Iconographical Context’, Early Music, 28 (2000), pp. 359380 , at p. 371.

53 Williamson, ‘The Early Tudor Court’, p. 231.

54 For biographical entries on Lambe and Wylkynson see Williamson, ‘The Eton Choirbook’, pp. 486 and 500.

55 For an overview of exactly what chorister education in late medieval England entailed, see J. Flynn, ‘A Reconsideration of the Mulliner Book (British Library Add. MS 30513): Music Education in Sixteenth-Century England’ (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1993), pp. 124–32 and 159–240.

56 Skinner, D., ‘William Cornysh: Clerk or Courtier’, Musical Times, 138, no. 1851 (1997), pp. 512 . Skinner makes a convincing argument that the William Cornysh whose Magnificat appears in the Caius Choirbook was in fact William Cornysh the elder. Whether the Eton works were composed by the elder or younger Cornysh is largely irrelevant to my analysis, as I am concerned with compositional practice over a relatively long duration.

57 Dumitrescu argues that the musical style of Dygon’s examples, moreover, more closely resembles the polyphony in the Eton Choirbook than it does any other extant English source. See Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, pp. 5–7, 33, 59. However, as a comparison of Dygon’s treatise to contemporary polyphony is not the focus of his edition, he does not explore this link further.

58 These four colours are also mentioned in Cornysh’s poem A treatise bitwene Trowth and enformacion. See Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, pp. 209–14 for a full discussion of this poem as it relates to contemporary music-theoretical writings.

59 This number includes all instances of proportional notation in partial works, but it is possible that the actual number is higher, since for some of these works only a single page of notated music still exists, and thus there is no conclusive evidence as to whether proportional notation might have been employed on a previous or subsequent leaf.

60 Other notable works that make substantial use of sesquialtera in the Eton Choirbook include, for example, Richard Davy’s Salve regina, John Browne’s six-voice Stabat virgo mater and John Sutton’s Regina mater.

61 These proportional changes are indicated here using the time signatures given in the modern edition of the Eton Choirbook as well as the mensuration signs. All examples from the Eton Choirbook in modern notation are taken from Frank Ll. Harrison’s revised edition, published as vols. 10–12 of Musica Britannica (London, 1983), but returned to their original note values.

62 As in Dygon’s examples, the new mensuration sign in b. 94 effectively ‘cancels’ the B in the previous section, rather than indicating a proportional relationship with B.

63 Williamson, The Eton Choirbook, p. 26. Williamson offers no suggestion for the meaning of the slash in the Eton repertory as a whole; whereas in instances where it is employed simultaneously in all parts it certainly could signify diminution in performance, here that cannot be the case. Margaret Bent and Rob C. Wegman have also examined the use of cut signatures in Continental music contemporary with that in the Eton Choirbook. See Bent, M., ‘The Use of Cut Signatures in Sacred Music by Ockeghem and his Contemporaries’, in Philippe Vendrix (ed.), Johannes Ockeghem: Actes du XLe Colloque international d’études humanistes, Tours, 2–8 février 1997 (Paris, 1998), pp. 641680 , and Wegman, R. C., ‘What Is “Acceleratio Mensurae”?’, Music & Letters, 73 (1992), pp. 515524 .

64 It is true that for Tucke the slash was functional; these signs suggest a 3:2 ratio in the division of the semibreve as well as a 3:2 relationship with respect to the speed of the semibreve. Of the eleven proportional relationships between mensuration signs that Tucke describes, five can be used to show sesquialtera; all other proportional relationships are given only one paired example.

65 Tucke does posit a sesquialtera relationship between these signs; however, it is fairly clear that here they do not indicate a proportional relationship. See Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 70–1.

66 Benham, Latin Church Music in England, p. 81.

67 Again, 3:1 indicates a relationship between the original mensuration (in black full) and this new passage, rather than between it and the previous section; in this case 3:1 refers to the division or equivalence of one black full semibreve in A to three minims in the section at b. 105. In his work on Robert Fayrfax’s mass O quam glorifica, Ian Darbyshire distinguishes between ‘true’ proportional writing, in which colouration indicates a shift in speed (red full notes being sung at two-thirds of the speed of the preceding black full notation) versus imperfection, where colouration indicates a change in the number of semibreves per breve, or minims per semibreve, from two to three. In the Fayrfax mass, Darbyshire argues that proportional shifts are always indicated by both colouration and a figured ‘3·2’; imperfection might follow such passages, in which case a mensuration sign effectively ‘cancels’ the previous proportional shift, as is the case here. The Eton repertory, as demonstrated in this example, shows no such systematic implementation of colouration, figures and mensuration signs. Moreover, even Darbyshire concedes that in almost all cases, it is impossible to tell from the notation whether a passage indicates a ‘true’ proportional shift or imperfection. See I. Darbyshire, ‘The Notation of the “Esoteric” Masses in the Early Tudor Festal Repertory: A Case Study of Fayrfax’s Mass O quam glorifica, its Numerical Structure, and a Comparison with his Mass Tecum principium’ (Ph.D. diss., Lancaster University, 2002), pp. 134–5.

68 Williamson, ‘The Eton Choirbook’, p. 214.

69 Woodley, John Tucke, p. 72. In an additional Latin passage, Tucke indicates that in imperfect prolatio of major tempus, full red notes are in sesquialtera proportion to black full (‘sub imperfecta maioris note . . . rubie plene [sunt] de proportione sesquealtera’). Conversely, ‘blacke full to red full ys subsesquealtera [2:3]’. See ibid., pp. 68–9 and 72–5, at pp. 68 and 74.

70 Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 71–5. Woodley points out that Tucke’s ‘ D to A’ should be read in the same manner as any ‘x to y’ proportion, that is, A in relation to the preceding D.

71 Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, p. 6.

72 As Roger Bray has demonstrated, the first indication that musica speculativa and musica practica were both required came when one Lesse and one John Baudwyn were awarded the BMus at Cambridge for their study of both subjects. This Lesse is almost certainly the Richard Lesse who was a clerk at Eton College from 1457 to 1461. A clearer trend of combining the study of these subjects for the BMus in music can be found beginning in 1506–7, when Richard Ede was approved for a Bachelor’s degree at Oxford for his study of music and composition of a mass and antiphon. The composition requirement had spread to Cambridge by 1515–16. See Bray, ‘Music and the Quadrivium’, pp. 6–7.

73 See Bray, ‘Music and the Quadrivium’, and ‘Editing and Performing Musica speculativa’, in Morehen (ed.), English Choral Practice 1400–1650, pp. 48–73.

74 Bray, ‘Editing and Performing Musica speculativa’, p. 49.

75 Darbyshire, ‘Notation of “Esoteric” Masses’. Darbyshire refines a number of features of Bray’s original hypothesis, disagreeing with Bray’s categorisation of colouration itself as a marker of esoteric composition; he argues instead that certain practices, such as colouration, might be used in both an ordinary and an esoteric manner, and it is their application which differentiates the two uses in such cases. For an example of what the application of a complex system of colouration might have looked like see Darbyshire’s conjectural reconstruction of the original cantus firmus of Fayrfax’s O quam glorifica in ch. 4, ‘The Cantus Firmus of O quam glorifica’.

76 Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 112–21.

77 Darbyshire points out that Tucke’s notebook and the Peterhouse partbooks share an Oxford context, but does not explore any potential connections outside Oxford; see Darbyshire, ‘Notation of “Esoteric” Masses’, p. 139. The Caius and Lambeth Choirbooks were copied by the same scribe, who also copied the music on what is known as the Arundel Roll (Arundel Castle, Archives of the Duchy of Norfolk, MS A34). David Skinner and Roger Bowers have proposed conflicting provenances for these sources; Skinner puts Arundel College forward as the likely place of copying, while Bowers argues the evidence instead points to the household chapel of the Earl of Arundel. See Skinner, D., ‘Discovering the Provenance and History of the Caius and Lambeth Choirbooks’, Early Music 25 (1997), pp. 245–66, and R. Bowers, ‘More on the Lambeth Choirbook’, Early Music 33 (2005), pp. 659664 .

78 N. Sandon, ‘Fayrfax, Robert’, Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online (Oxford University Press, accessed 31 Aug. 2016),

79 Bonnie J. Blackburn notes one parallel Continental example of complex proportional relationships in Tinctoris’s motet Difficiles alios, which she demonstrates served as a practical model for understanding mensural relationships, imperfection, colouration, alteration and proportions. See Blackburn, B. J., ‘A Lost Guide to Tinctoris’s Teachings Recovered’, Early Music History, 1 (1981), pp. 29116 , at pp. 30–1 and 53–88.

80 Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, p. 200.

81 Woodley, John Tucke, p. 122.

82 Ibid., pp. 78–9. ‘Isto modo possunt cantus componi per typum in omnibus naturis prolacionum.’

83 Ibid., p. 123.

84 This William Cornysh is certainly the court composer who was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal from at least 1504 until his death in 1523. See D. Greer and F. Kisby, ‘Cornysh’, Grove Music Online (accessed 19 Feb. 2016).

85 Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 122–32.

86 For more information on Tucke’s career, see ibid., pp. 17–37.

87 Flynn ‘Education of Choristers’, p. 143. At St Peter’s, records indicate that Tucke was required to teach choristers plainsong, cantus diuisus or fractus and discant, along with leading regular services; see Woodley, John Tucke, p. 22.

88 Reinhard Strohm has discussed a similar use of rhythmic motifs in his study of English mass settings of the mid-fifteenth century, for example. See Strohm, R., ‘Imitative Counterpoint in Mid-Fifteenth-Century English Mass Settings’, in E. Hornby and D. Maw (eds.), Essays on the History of English Music in Honour of John Caldwell: Sources, Style, Performance, Historiography (Woodbridge, 2010), pp. 143161 , at pp. 146–8.

89 See Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 80–1. ‘Cantus stat in arse tempore quando canitur retrorsum, et in these tempore quando contrarie canitur per circumspectionem diuersam.’ These concepts are not as unusual as Tucke’s description of typus; however, as Woodley notes, Tucke’s specific differentiation of arsis as retrograde and thesis as inversion is uncommon.

90 Ibid. ‘Isto modo possunt cantus componi per arsim et thesim tam in plana musica quam in mensurabili ad placitum, ut libet.’

91 Ibid., p. 130. Of the cells Woodley discusses, those he designates x and its retrograde y play an especially prominent role in generating further motivic material. For the detailed analysis, see the diagram on pp. 124–9.

92 That this ‘composing out’ often included minor variation in the melodic and especially the rhythmic content of such motifs suggests this method of analysis might prove especially useful on a broader scale. See Woodley, John Tucke, pp. 124–30.

93 As the music examples are the most original of the content in Dygon’s first treatise, Dumitrescu discusses their specifically English features, comparing numerous versions to those in Gaffurius’s original, and demonstrating that the examples attest to a unified compositional approach that is in line with the early sixteenth-century English ‘festal’ style. See Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, pp. 38–48.

94 Bisson defines nine different types of cadence found in the Eton Choirbook; of these, the quasi cadence, partial cadence, full cadence, half cadence and obscured cadence all deal with instances in which one (or both) of the cadential voices, or an additional voice, does not stop, thus prolonging the phrase. See Bisson, ‘English Polyphony’, pp. 145–52.

95 This type of extended cadence is also found in the extant works of the Scottish composer Robert Carver, suggesting that this may have been a more widespread practice found throughout the British Isles, but as the remaining works in the only contemporary Scottish source (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Adv. 5.1.15, known as the Carver Choirbook, where Carver’s works are located) are either anonymous (with unknown provenance) or by English composers, it would be difficult to draw broader conclusions about Scottish musical style. Isobel Paterson Woods has suggested, for example, that some of these anonymous works – at least the Magnificats in fascicles 6 and 7 – may be English. See Woods, ‘The Carvor Choirbook’ (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1984), pp. 179 and 183–6. For a list of the Carver Choirbook’s contents, see the DIAMM inventory (

96 Dumitrescu, John Dygon’s Proportiones, p. 39.

97 Bray, ‘Music and the Quadrivium’, pp. 6–7.

98 Dumitrescu, The Early Tudor Court, pp. 182–7, 196–218.

99 Burgess, C. and Heale, M. (eds.), The Late Medieval English College and its Context (York, 2008).

100 Skinner notes that a number of the composers in the Caius Choirbook had strong connections to Westminster; he contends that this manuscript was assembled for St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster, by the manuscript’s benefactor, Edward Higgons, who served as both master of Arundel College (1520–38) and canon of St Stephen’s (from 1517). The Lambeth Choirbook, meanwhile, Skinner suggests was a working choirbook for Arundel College. See Skinner, ‘William Cornysh’, p. 5.

I would like to thank Stefano Mengozzi, James M. Borders, Austin Stewart, William van Geest, Bonnie Blackburn and the anonymous reader at Early Music History for their thoughtful feedback and suggestions at various stages in the writing process. All errors or omissions that remain are, of course, my own. My thanks also to Benedict Singer for creating the mensuration sign font used in this article.

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Early Music History
  • ISSN: 0261-1279
  • EISSN: 1474-0559
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