Dunkeld Music Book: Chapter 1

This version of the dissertation has been made for the web. The text is largely that of the original dissertation, however, recent research and thinking since submission has resulted in some changes.

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Chapter 1
Historical and liturgical context

For over a thousand years Scottish music, like its liturgy, seems to have had an identity both derivative and unique. This twin personality can be seen, for instance, in the late 13th-century chants in the Inchcolm Antiphoner honouring St Columba (which may originate between the seventh and tenth centuries). Together with those celebrating the miracles of St Kentigern, the Inchcolm chants have a distinct personality in a similar way to the organisation and practices of the Celtic church (Purser, 1992, p. 16). The liturgy, too, was 'different' in Scotland, or so it at first seems.

A printing licence signed by James IV and dated 15th September 1507 to the Edinburgh printers Walter Chepman and Andro Millar authorises them to produce, together with government and other publications,

mess bukis, manualis, matyne bukis and portuus bukis [breviaries] efter our awin Scottis use and with legendis of Scottis sanctis as is now gaderit and ekit be ane reverend fader in God and our traist counsalour Williame, bischop of Abirdene
and, because of the high costs involved, that
na maner of sic bukis of Salusbery us[e] be brocht to be sauld within our realme in tym cuming. [8]
Isobel Woods (1987, p.22) has shown that only one liturgical book resulted from the licence: William Elphinstone's Aberdeen Breviary, published in 1510 and the only surviving example of James' wish to standardize Scottish use. Although the ceremonial of the liturgy is essentially the 'Salusbery us[e]' the Sanctorale is a different matter.

An intelligent, pastoral bishop intent on internal reform, Elphinstone was responsible for the introduction, or at least the re-discovery, of the cult of 'Scottis sanctis'. Whereas there had previously been only a handful of local saints venerated, Elphinstone produced seventy drawn from across the country, continuing the work of some twenty years earlier on the Martyrology of Aberdeen (Wormald 1981, p. 82). Although this emphasis on saints may seem fairly insignificant today (writing in the context of a post-Vatican II liturgy) this cultus was part of a

general and self-conscious interest in Scotland's distinctive place as a European nation, not an increasing Scottishness for its own sake [since] the province of the church in Scotland was now provided with its own holy men, as other provinces of the church universal had long had (Wormald 1981, p. 82).

Notwithstanding the royal injunction, other liturgical books found their way into Scotland – evidence of the need for reform. David McRoberts (1957, pp. 33-42) draws our attention to three breviaries found in different parts of Scotland, all of which are of the same, 1546 Lyons edition of the Quiñones Breviary [9].

The Breviary, as its name implies, is a book shortened or condensed from the Antiphonale, Hymnale and Psalter, containing all that one would need to fulfill the requirements of "saying my breviary". This example was certainly a devotional book, but to what extent it was a liturgical prayer book in the line of the Roman Rite is questionable. There were drastically simplified rubrics so users needed only a bible and copy of the psalms, since some of the other texts were printed in full, including the hymns (available to Quiñones from the Roman Rite), patristic readings and collects. McRoberts hypothesises that one of the books, the Orkney Breviary [10] was intended as a choir book for the Chapter of St Magnus' Cathedral, Kirkwall; if this theory is correct, it would mark an official departure from the Sarum Rite in that Cathedral during the fourth and fifth decades of the 16th century.

John Purser (1992, p. 16) notes that at least until the close of the 16th century there had been two main periods of musical growth: up to the 13th century and in the 15th and 16th centuries when another period of flowering took place – only to be all but extinguished following the Protestant Reformation around 1560. The first period was one in which music in both court and church developed peacefully, including the foundation of great ecclesiastical centres (with attendant sang-schules) in Dunfermline, St Andrews, Glasgow and Elgin. This flowering was interrupted only by disruption of the kingdom's stability in the 14th century by aggression from her 'auld inemeis', the English. Indeed John Major (1467-1550), himself an advocate of Anglo-Scottish relations, had recognised the musical talent of the Scottish and French peoples as comparing favourably with those of England, even if there were fewer from those in the 'auld alliance'. It would seem, then, that there was a flourishing musical tradition of which only fragments remain due to the iconoclasm of the mid-16th century.

Arguably the Reformation in Scotland wreaked considerably more cultural damage than that in England. In a fascinating account of the relationship between social, ecclesiastical and political conditions in Scotland during the quinquecento, Jenny Wormald (1981, p. 95) mentions danger-points identified by the late 16th-century political writer, Estienne Pasquier:

There are three things of which one should be infinitely afraid in every principality – huge debts, a royal minority, and a disturbance in religion. For there is not one of these three which is not sufficient in itself to bring mutation to a state.
The last two of these were at force in Scotland in the 1540s and 50s, leading up to those fateful days at the end of the sixth decade. At every level in society there was instability.

The local Church had been quite successful – perhaps more so than in Continental Europe – in both identifying the need for internal reform and in endeavouring to realise that reform. Coupled with this, however, was a determination to expel heresy and dissent, and this conviction resulted in what can only be seen in hindsight as grave errors of judgement.

The burning of the reformer George Wishart, for example, with the consequent murder of Cardinal Beaton in revenge at St Andrews in 1546, provoked outrage from the masses. The more liberal reform by Lutherans of the 1520s had been rejected, only to be followed by the more radical Calvinist doctrine and practice which took hold in the late 1550s.

Even as late as 1559, the Scottish hierarchy was confident that internal reform would be sufficient; there was certainly no lack of intention or goodwill by the bishops, and many reforms were made, including the introduction of common prayers, litanies, and evening prayers in the vernacular (Wormald, 1981, p. 93).

Yet these reforms were insufficent to hold back the tide of Protestantism. It was not enough that the hierarchy should begin to give a good lead in spiritual and educational matters, impressive and vital though this might be. The internal reforms were doomed to failure since they were reinforcing the image of the higher clergy as the literate elite, whilst ignoring the parish clergy and the aspirations of the laity (Wormald, 1981, p. 94). It was precisely these last two groups within the Church, together with their distrust and frustration, that made external reform inevitable.

Not that Calvinism per se can be blamed for the wiping-out of a musical tradition in that country, easy as it is to oversimplify matters (Baxter, 1997, p. 2). Calvin's introduction to the Geneva Psalter (Strunk, 1981, p. 157) shows how short-sighted this would be:

Now among the other things proper to recreate man and give him pleasure, music is either the first or one of the principal, and we must think that it is a gift of God deputed to that purpose and we find by experience that [music] has a secret and almost incredible power to move our hearts in one way or another.

Yet it is an inescapable fact that it was the Reformation of 1559-60 that caused the 'curious death of Scottish art-musical culture' (Baxter, 1997, p. 2). Furthermore, the extraordinary thing was that the principles underlying the Tridentine reforms were already being applied in Scotland (Wormald, 1981, p. 92).

Musically speaking, this may have been prompted by the Augustinian canon Robert Richardson's Commentary on the Rule of St Augustine. Published in Paris in 1530 and dedicated to Abbot Alexander Myln of Cambuskenneth from whom it was commissioned, this work set about establishing what must be done to renew the monastic life. So great was the need for reform and so little was achieved internally that just thirteen years later Richardson was back in Scotland, this time as a Protestant preacher, having given up the struggle. The 1530 Commentary included criticism of the elaborate nature of sacred music and advocating a return to a simpler style, especially that used at the Chapel Royal in Stirling. We can see this in the gradual replacing of the British decorative music of the early part of the century and before by the structural imitation of the Late or 'High' Renaissance.

Robert Carver

The shift in styles can be seen especially in the music of Robert Carver (or Carvor), alias Arnat (born c.1484, died after 1568). A canon of Scone, he was most likely, on the evidence of the' Arnat' alias, associated with the Chapel Royal at Stirling (Elliott, 1996, p. v). All the works that can definitely be attributed to him are to be found in the Carver Choirbook, previously known as the Scone Antiphonary [11], housed in the National Library of Scotland.

Elliott (1996, p. v) tells us that Carver's music

spans the shift in Britain from the late-medieval decorative style to the progressive and internationally-current structural imitation of the High Renaissance that seems to have taken place in Scotland in the 1520s and 30s.
Probably his earliest composition is the 10-voice Mass Dum sacrum mysterium, composed in 1513 possibly for the coronation of the infant James V at Stirling, followed by the 19-voice motet O bone Jesu. His last extant composition is the Mass Pater Creator omnium in which most of the Gloria is sung to chant, whilst the Credo is sung in faburden (according to the rules in The Art of Music).

Wode Partbooks

But Carver was not the only composer of note. Highly significant partbooks by Thomas Wode (or Wood) contain both pre- and post-Reformation Latin motets and music for the Reformed Church (including the psalm and canticle settings which form the main corpus of the books).

We know of Robert Johnson, or Johnston (c. 1500 – c. 1560), a priest from Duns in the Scottish Borders, who fled to England accused of some unknown heresy, and who composed Deus misereatur 'in Ingland ten or 12 yeiris before reformation' (TWT1, p. 156).

Composers represented in the Wode partbooks are John Angus, Andro Blakhall, John Buchan, John Fethy, Andro Kemp and David Peebles, together with English and Continental writers such as Campion, Dowland, Lassus, Morley, Tallis, and van Wilder. The most important of these Scottish composers is Peebles (fl 1530-76, died before 1592). A canon of the Augustinian Priory of St Andrews, Peebles contributed two motets, Si quis diligit me for Pentecost and Quam multis, Domine (based on Psalm 3), together with 105 harmonised settings of the Genevan psalm tunes (Elliott, 1988, p. 152).

However, it is with the Dunkeld Music Book known variously as the Dowglass-Fischear Partbooks or the Dunkeld Antiphonary that we are concerned here.

> Chapter 2: The manuscript source


8 Complete text in Woods (1987, p. 35)

9 Edited by Wickham Legge (Cambridge, 1888). References to the Breviary can be seen in Batiffol, Pierre, Histoire du Breviare Roman (London and New York, 1912), Cuming, Geoffrey J, A History of Anglican Liturgy (London, 1969), Eisenhofer, Ludgwig and Lechner, Joseph, trans. Peeler, A.J. and E.F., The Liturgy of the Roman Rite (Edinburgh & London, 1961) and Taft, Robert F., The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West (Minnesota, 1986)

10 in Preshome Library

11 GB-En 15.1.5

Some remaining research questions

Apparently the reformers gave instructions that nothing was to be destroyed, save that of wrong practices.
What evidence do we have for this? Did the agents of change go too far?


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