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“A mon resveil ung oyseau j’ay oy”

An anonymous four-voice setting of “A mon resveil ung oyseau j’ay oy” (“On waking up, I heard a little bird”) appears in three early Attaingnant collections: Chansons nouvelles[1], Trente chansons musicales,[2] and a reprint of Trente chansons musicales.[3] Two decades later in Antwerp, Tylman Susato published a collection of three-voice chansons, La fleur des chansons 5eme livre[4] [RISM 1552-10], containing a pair of settings, both attributed to Janequin, that relate to “A mon resveil.” The text of the first setting, “Je demande comme tout esbahy” is the second verse of “A mon resveil” as it appears in all three of the early Attaingnant prints. The text of the second setting, “M’en allé veoir la belle” shares both rhyme scheme and refrain (“…tu, tu, tu, tu, tu auras jouyssance”) with the “A mon resveil” and “Je demande” texts. In addition, the two a3 Susato settings are both built over the same structural foundation, the exactly quoted tenor line of the a4 Attaingnant “A mon resveil”, used as middle voice (atb) in “Je demande” and top voice (ssa) in “M’en allé veoir.”

This raises at least two questions: (1) Why is Susato – a printer who otherwise published relatively little by Janequin, and certainly had no direct contact with him – attributing this material to Janequin when Attaingnant failed to do so on three previous occasions? (2) What kind of composing exercise takes an existing tenor line from an imitative texture and implements it slavishly through two independent a3 settings, even though this line has none of the symmetry or simplicity that usually characterize a cantus firmus subject? Of the available (and necessarily hypothetical) responses to the curiosities which are LM220 and LM221, I find the following most credible:

  • Sometime around 1520 a versemaker of courtly or some other background fashioned a poem in several verses in which a lover receives counsel from a little bird. The two couplets of each verse were rhymed aabb (syllables ending in “i” and “ance”) with the first three lines using the familiar 4 foot/6 foot structure, while the last line stopped after seven syllables.
  • Sometime around 1525, Janequin made a setting of the first verse, not failing to exploit the descriptive possibilities (“tu-tu-tu-tu”) inherent in the subject.
  • Pierre Attaingnant printed this setting in the 1528 Chansons nouvelles and since the setting was short Attaingnant printed the words to the second verse under the words for the first verse. As usual in his early collections (except for chansons by Claudin de Sermisy) Attaingnant didn’t take the trouble to identify the composer.
  • Attaingnant reprinted the setting without attribution in 1528-8 and 1531-2, and then in a further reprint (now lost) where he identified the piece as belonging to Janequin. (LM1 “Réconfortez le petit cueur de moi”, LM7 “Aller m’y fault” and LM8 “Assouvy suis” were all published by Attaingnant first anonymously, then attributed to Janequin in later editions.)
  • Sometime later, perhaps around 1540, a composer with a decided contrapuntal bent (someone like Gombert, for example) made a setting using all (or several) of the original verses. He maintained the original four voice texture for the opening and closing verses, but for the sake of variety, changed the distribution in two of the internal verses to first three high voices and then three low voices, both of which remain tied to the original material through the use of the a4 tenor as a kind of cantus firmus.
  • Showing the same blissful contempt for context as can be seen in the scissoring of the B sections of LM21 and LM26, Susato (or someone working for him) extracted the a3 sections from the 1540 setting and printed them in the fifth book of Susato’s Fleur series, apparently undeterred by the subsequent total lack of textual coherence this produced.

The primary argument for not attributing the a4 version of “A mon resveil” to Janequin is that Attaingnant failed to do so on three occasions. Three counter-arguments can be advanced: (1) Attaingnant was demonstrably indifferent to attributions in his early collections, but demonstrably enthusiastic about using Janequin material, some of which was initially printed without attribution; (2) from the point of view of genre and style, “A mon resveil” (with its mix of simultaneous declamation and imitative linearity, plus an ample dosage of descriptive bird song) is consistent with other Janequin efforts from this period; (3) at a later point in time, motivation of some kind existed prompting Susato to connect Janequin with material from the early editions. This may have been a simple knee-jerk association of everything using birdsong with Janequin or it may have its roots in information that was reliable but is no longer available.

Since Janequin was not closely connected with Susato, since Susato’s Fleur series contains several other questionable attributions, and since the a3 settings in Fleur 5 are structurally uncharacteristic of Janequin, I am reluctant in the extreme to consider these as efforts for which Janequin was directly responsible. If on the other hand, the discovery of a new Attaingnant collection should show that Janequin was responsible for the a4 version of “A mon resveil” in Attaingnant’s 1528 Chansons nouvelles, this would engender no surprise whatsoever on my part, and justify my recommendation that this title be incorporated into the Janequin canon as LM8bis.

  1. RISM 1528-3, nr. 22.
  2. RISM 1528-8, nr. 30.
  3. RISM 1531-2, nr. 17.
  4. RISM 1552-10, nr. 15 (xvv) and nr. 17 (xvii-xviiv.)