Renaissance Partbooks Research Project
Achieving an Historically Informed Performance of Renaissance Polyphony: a Qualitative Study of the Use of Modernized Partbooks
A word of thanks to all participating conductors. This research project would not be possible without you – THANK YOU! Your participation will help answer the three important research questions listed at the bottom of this page. Throughout the process, do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. email@example.com; cell: 816-806-0338
Expectations for participation
- Sign the Required Consent Form
- Fill out the Preliminary Questionnaire
- Rehearse and perform a piece this Fall using a set of modernized partbooks which can be downloaded below
- Fill out the Post-Performance Questionnaire by November 1, 2023
Required Consent Form – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign IRB (institutional review board) requires this consent form. Please read, sign, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org before you begin the project.
Preliminary Questionnaire – This questionnaire should be filled out before your first rehearsal with partbooks. You may find some questions challenging to quantify, please answer as honestly as you can, neither diminishing nor inflating your experience. Know that your answers will not be seen by anyone else.
Post-Performance Questionnaire (not yet available)
Hassler – Cantate Domino – SATB (D Ionian)
Tallis – Lamentations of Jeremiah I (E phrygian)
***if you find an error in the score or parts that needs addressing, please reach out. I am more than happy to correct and send out a new parts.***
The goal in these modernized editions is to retain what I consider the two key ingredients of Renaissance polyphony, while modernizing all other elements to make these editions as easy to use as possible, so they can be utilized by the widest population of choral singers. The two ingredients are 1.) the horizontality of line, which is supported by singing from a partbook, rather than a full score; and 2.) musical shaping based on shape and text stress, rather than metric stress, which is supported by the exclusion of barlines. Each score below includes a list of editorial decisions specific to that score. Below is a an overview of the decisions made for these modernized editions.
- Bar lines were retained in the full score to aid the conductor during the rehearsal process
- A dotted, rather than solid, bar line is used in the full score to reduce their emphasis and to remind that they must not imply metric stress
- The individual partbooks have no bar lines
- Non-diplomatic score = reduced note lengths that resemble half the length of the white mensural notation originally used. Reflects modern note values.
- Long notes that cross bars were retained in the full score rather than using a tie across the bar. These match the note lengths used in the singers’ partbooks.
Slurs and Beams
- Modern editorial practice is to slur notes together that are sung on the same syllable. No slurs were used in these editions to match the original partbooks and to avoid resultant note groupings.
- Modern editorial practice is to beam notes together to show placement within a bar. No beams were used to avoid metric groupings.
- Modern time signatures have been used, and the original mensuration is explained with each score.
- The Latin pronunciation guide is based on Ecclesiastical Latin, and may vary if using regional Latin pronunciation (i.e. British, French, German, Spanish, etc)
- In two-syllable words the stress will always be placed on the first syllable
- In polysyllabic words, the location of the stress varies, so diacritical accents (á,é,ó) have been used to indicate the stressed syllable
- Modern punctuation has been used to reflect the structure of the Latin text phrases
- Chromatic notes on the staff were retained from the various prints used for each edition
- Chromatic notes above the staff are suggested ficta
- Chromatic notes on the staff in parenthesis are courtesy accidentals.
- Accidentals are repeated on every pitch because the singers’ partbooks do not have bar lines so cannot follow modern rules of applying accidentals
- Rehearsal letters have been added to aid in the rehearsal process
- Where possible, rehearsal letters fall at moments when all voice parts are singing, allowing the singer to know where the conductor is starting and to give them a reference pitch from which to find their subsequent pitch
- Most rehearsal letters fall at phrase endings rather than beginnings because that is when most voices are singing
- Does the use of modernized partbooks positively impact the conductor’s ability to teach the skills needed to achieve an historically informed performance of 16th-century polyphony?
- What rehearsal techniques are most useful for the successful integration of partbook singing into a choir?
- What editorial decisions should be made for modernized partbooks to reduce the challenges of their use, while retaining the most essential and impactful elements?
The compositional and theoretical processes of the Renaissance era differ greatly from those of later centuries. Consequently, modern editions translate the musical language of Renaissance polyphony into an anachronistic syntax, increasing the challenge of properly understanding and performing the compositions. This paper explores the value of using modernized partbooks with choral ensembles to teach the skills and understanding needed to execute the expressive musical qualities of sixteenth-century polyphony. Working with 60 choirs from across the US, I will evaluate the conductors’ experience of using modernized partbooks to teach Renaissance performance skills through a questionnaire prior to rehearsals and again following the performances. I will analyze the conductor feedback to determine the impact of partbook singing for educational purposes and performance; additionally, the questionnaire will yield valuable feedback on the partbooks themselves, informing my editorial choices for future editions. In culmination, I will assemble the feedback that comments on suggested rehearsal techniques to produce a conductor’s guide on how to successfully incorporate partbook singing into ensembles.