Fourteenth century France was a place of radical musical developments, particularly in rhythmic structures, polyphony and notation systems. The greatest testament to this style is the Chantilly Codex, a book of music by French and Italian ‘Ars Subtilior’ composers featuring the exquisite mannerist notation of the time. Containing heart-shaped musical scores and canons set out in 33-bar spirals, this codex is one of the most exquisite syntheses of two artforms: graphic design and musical notation. The experimentation of composers such as Solage (“sol” & “age”?) and Trebor (Robert backwards) gave birth to an effervescence of richness and strangeness, a radical pushing of the boundaries of notational complexity, a period of highly idiosyncratic art which left little in the way of posterity. In this respect it has the capacity to connect deeply with contemporary artists; this fleeting and isolated style, in leaving no immediate descendants, retains its perennial novelty and remains forever gilded in mystery.
Fred Thomas is currently preparing a recording of this music with viola da gambist Liam Byrne, using contemporary recording techniques and a wide range of strange instruments, both old and new.
….more to come….