Dufay's Piece for Peace: an Ironic Battle Between Structure and Word

2625 WordsJun 20, 201811 Pages
Dufay's Piece for Peace: an Ironic Battle Between Structure and Word On April 8, 1433, the Pope Eugenius and Sigismundus, King of the Romans, united to sign a treaty of peace. The king was crowned Holy Roman Emperor and there was much celebration. To commemorate this joyful occasion, Guillame Dufay wrote the motet "Supremum est mortalibus bonum" ("The highest good for mortals is peace"), including the names of these two honored men in his great sustained chords near the piece's conclusion (Bent, CD notes). Dufay's main text is shared by his top two voices, the triplum and motetus, and is divided into two stanzas. The first 12 lines comprising the first stanza speak of the benefit of peace to men of all classes and of the freedom and…show more content…
Measures 11-25, line A1, text lines 3-6 | Measures 56-70, line A2, text lines 13-14 26-40, line B1, text lines 7-9 | 71-85, line B2, text lines 15-16 41-55, line C1, text lines 10-12 | 86-100, line C2, text lines 17-18 Measures 101-106, line 19 Measures 107-109, line 20 (names), sustained chords Measures 110-120, lengthy free section of fauxbourdon, text: "Amen" ____ Now with these structural features clearly in mind we can turn to examine the individual lines of Dufay's work, noting especially the ways in which the piece's melodic features illustrate his text. The first two lines of text ("Supremum. . . donum" ) introduce the theme of peace, proclaiming "The highest good for mortals is peace, the best gift of God on high." The words of the parts coincide very closely so that this important introduction can be more easily heard and understood. In measure 4 there comes a beautiful high E flat and G chord on "bonum," perhaps representing audibly the "highest" good. In measure 5, at the conclusion of line 1, there follows a clear ringing cadence on D and A even though there is no syntactical break between these lines. In line 2, the tension of the triplum's B flat on "Dei," God, creates a large emotional swell, bringing emphasis to the glorified name. With this in our ears, the "d" sound on dominum is especially noticeable. At the conclusion of line 2, there are three bars of an upward and downward scale, perhaps

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