“Joyeusement il fait bon vivre”

“Joyeusement il fait bon vivre” comes to us from two sources. It appears as number 29 (without attribution) in Attaingnant’s Trente et six chansons musicales of 1530, and shows up twice, with the notations “per cantare el tenor: Di gannechino” and “Giannechin,” in a manuscript collection of Italian lute tablature preserved in a Swedish library, Uppsala 87. Lesure and Merritt seem to have been aware of the Uppsala 87 attributions,[1] but perhaps felt that a pair of misspelled attributions in a collection of handwritten lute tablature from around 1560 was not weighty enough to rescue “Joyeusement” from the anonymity accorded it by Attaingnant, and at first glance, who can blame them? A bit of scratching, however, suggests that perhaps this call to happy living has some canonical merit after all.

According to Hambreus, Uppsala 87 started life as 72 folios, probably of French manufacture, upon which systems of six lines had been printed. Onto these pages roughly 180 intabulations of French and Italian vocal originals were entered by hand, with the text from the tenor placed beneath the tablature. The collection seems destined to allow its owner to perform the pieces vocally, while accompanying himself on the lute. Most of the entries are by the same hand, but the identity of this scribe/musician, as well as his nationality, are open to question. A good half of the contents of the manuscript as well as the paper they are written on appear to be French. These are hardly decisive factors: French and Italian repertory regularly found its way across the Alps throughout the 16th century, and French paper, particularly the relatively unusual pre-ruled variety, could also find it’s way to Italy, or to an Italian. Neither is it decisive that our scripe preferred the Italian style of intabulation, since styles were mobile and subject to personal preference. An Italian working in France might have chosen either system. No less inconclusive are the scribes proclivities when it came to language: his reproduction of French texts is relatively reliable, whereas his Italian texts are subject to a wide variety of phonetic inventiveness.[2] When it comes to identifying the composer, however, and to jotting small reminders to himself about keys and the like, the scribe clearly feels more at home with a kind of Italian: “per cantare el tenore” he writes, “Di gannechino.”

Whatever regional and linguistic backgrounds our scribe brought with him, he clearly knew and appreciated the work of Janequin. Eight pieces are entered with the composer’s name clearly indicated, and three more which we know to be by Janequin[3] are entered close by (on the same page or immediately following.) Four of of the entries are from collections which appeared in 1554 to 1556. These are LM232 “Si dieu vouloit,” LM233 “Pleust a dieu,” LM237 “Herbes et fleurs” and LM251 “Bel aubepin.”[4] It is not altogether certain that the scribe made his entries in the order which we now have them[5], but if he did, then Hambreus’ suggestions that Uppsala 87 can be dated between 1542 and 1564 on the basis of the paper used, and of around 1550 on the basis of the repertory are perhaps a shade early, since Janequin’s “Si dieu vouloit,” (nr. 5 in the manuscript) is from 1554.[6] LM251 “Bel aubepin,” which appears in the middle of the manuscript as nr. 93, was published by LeRoy & Ballard in 1557, so it would appear that a date close to 1560 for the entire manuscript would not be unfounded.

The scribe was not selecting only pieces hot off the presses however. LM109 “La jalousie” and LM141 “Si le coqu” had both been around awhile (1545 and 1549), while LM41 “Or vien,” LM60 “Martin menoit” and especially LM3 “Escoutez” (“La guerre”) had all been subjected to several rounds of reprints and instrumental arrangements by this time. This means that our Franco-Italian lutist has a nice bouquet of chansons in his collection: four which are brand-new, two which are not, and three which are pure golden-oldie chestnuts. To this selection we add our candidate, which appears in the manuscript in the following sequence:

folio 32 (n.87) joieusement il fait bon vivre. per cantare el tenore: Di gannechino

(n.88) Digiannechinel: bass un ton piu bass: ma dame voules vous scavoir

folio 33 (n.89) herbes et flors e vo pres verdoians

(n. 90) Gianechin: Joieusement il fait bon vivre

(n. 91) Giannechin: si le coqu en ce moys de may

What seems clear is that while our scribe’s orthography is marvelously inconsistent, he is insistent that “Joyeusment il fait bon vivre” belongs in the thick of his Janequin selections, so much so that he includes it twice, once on folio 32 (nr. 87) and again on folio 33 (nr. 90). Why he does so is unclear, but he identifies the composer on each occasion, so there seems to have been no doubt in his mind as to who the author of the selection was.[7]

From whence came his confident assertion? Since our scribe was notating the chansons for his own personal use, there would have been no dark commercial motivations where a popular name was added to increase sales. Since his other Janequin attributions are all correct, we can assume that we have to do with a reasonably well-informed practitioner. Was he looking at a now lost print, or did he just think the piece sounded like Janequin? And why didn’t Attaingnant share this impression in his Trente et six chansons of 1530? Attaingnant’s reasons for not including an attribution for “Joyeuse il fait bon vivre” in 1530-4 were very likely the same as his reasons for not including attributions for 24 of the other pieces in Trente et six chansons: he didn’t have time, he didn’t have space, he didn’t know or he didn’t think it was important. Starting in 1533 and 1534, composer attributions start showing up a bit more consistently in Attaingnant’s collections, but before that, sometimes they were there, sometimes they were not. However, it would seem particularly inappropriate to play the attributorial nonchalance card in the case of Trente et six chansons from 1530, because Attaingnant did indeed make an attribution to Janequin in this collection. It is LM17 “Chantons, sonnons,” enjoying pride of place as the very first chanson in the collection. Surely if Attaingnant could identify the one, he could identify the other?

In order to respond to that query, we need to back-track a bit. In 1515, Francis I had a huge victory in Italy. In 1523, he decided to repeat the experience, but was instead captured and sent off in metaphorical chains to Spain, from which captivity he bargained his release by substituting his own presence with that of his two sons, the princes Francis and Henri. On the 4th of July, 1530, after four long years of captivity, the princes were released (on the payment of a huge ransom) and there was an outpouring of national celebration. It is this event that is the subject of Janequin’s LM17 “Chantons, sonnons” in which Janequin blows the trumpets, beats the drums and proclaims “Long live the children of our noble king!”

The exact timing of the release of the princes was dependent on a series of negotiations between the King and the Emporer which had dragged out, but by early 1530, there were signs that the release, if not imminent, was approaching. The potentials of this event were hardly lost on music printer and businessman Pierre Attaingnant, and we can safely assume that well in advance of the actual release, Attaingnant had taken Janequin to one side and suggested that it might be appropriate (read profitable) to have some small musical token of elation at the ready. Clearly, national euphoria would only last so long, and it was important to get things on the streets as quickly as possible.

When we look at the contents of Trente et six chansons, it is clear that this is a theme number. After the specificity of the opening number, the cohesiveness of the titles wanders a bit, but the topics that recur have to do with separation, waiting, hope and the joy of being reunited. The chansons selected give the impression of having been around a while, a few of them being traceable to manuscript collections which predate the start of Attaingnants printing activities. What quite possibly happened is that Attaingnant went to his store of chansons, found a collection of quasi-appropriate titles, and put them in readiness. If for some reason, the release failed, he could sell what he had as an ordinary collection. If, on the other hand, everything went well, Attaingnant could tack the Janequin paean on at the front end and get the collection out onto the street while spirits were high and purse strings loose.

Among the pieces that got plucked from storage was nr. 29 “Joyeusement il fait bon vivre.” Clearly, this kind of title fit the circumstances handily, and in it went, without any exagerated attention to who might have been the author, following a practive which was common enough at the time. As for Janequin, we don’t know where he was while Attaingnant was banging Trente et six chansons together, but he was probably not hanging around Attaingnant’s shop waiting for news of the long-delayed release so that he could proofread composer attributions. More likely, he was back in Bordeaux, through which both the king and his sons would pass after their release, and where he might be called on to perform his token of elation in person, with the consequent hope of some expression of royal gratitude (read remuneration).

Just how deep in Attaingnant’s store of chansons did “Joyeusement il fait bon vivre” reside? Impossible to say, but in that connection it is worth noting that “Joyeusement il fait bon vivre” is stylistically almost a twin of “Nous bergiers et nous bergieres” from the Lyon manuscript Cop1848. Both pieces are in a light, popular vein, both make extensive use of voice pairing and both are composed of 4 sections, in each of which the superius and altus first alternate with the tenor and the bass, then join together for a drive to the cadence. They are, as well, in the same key, with internal cadences on the same keys, and more importantly, both pieces, in spite of their popular and transparent texture, are marked by contrapuntal skill and careful attention to voice leading.

If, as with “Nous bergiers,” “Joyeusement” is to be admitted to the canon, then it clearly belongs to that amorphous early composing period between 1515 and 1528 during which no dates can be securely verified. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine that the fertile imagination of the author of “La guerre” and “Le chant des oiseaux” was inactive in the dozen or so years that separated the writing of those chansons from the flurry of documentable activity after Attaingnant got his printing presses going. Having before us a tune that is competently constructed, fun to sing, and insistently connected to Janequin on at least one occasion, we can surely be as generous with “Joyeusement” as we were with its twin.

  1. Lesure and Merritt cite Uppsala87 in connection with a handful of other chansons in Chansons polyphoniques (Vol IV:202 among others) but do not mention “Joyeusement” in either their tentative list of Janequin chansons in Musica Disciplina (1951) or in the subsequent editions (1965-71 and 1983.)
  2. This circumstance does not necessarily denote a French scribe: 16th century orthography for both French and Italian were subject to a wide range of personal and regional variations.
  3. LM233, LM237, LM251
  4. Hambreus1961:46 says that the entry on folio 2, nr. 6 (anon) “Pleust a Dieu” does not correspond to Janequin’s setting in Du Chemin’s 1554 Unziesme livre. Lesure and Merritt Vol VI:178 contradict this. I have not double-checked Uppsala87 on this point, but since LM232 “Si Dieu vouloit” and LM233 “Pleust a dieu” appear next to each other in both Du Chemin’s Unziesme livre and in the Uppsala manuscript, it would seem likely that the correspondence holds for both pieces.
  5. The individual entries in the manuscript are not numbered, and the numbering of the folios may have been done at the moment the folios were bound.
  6. Hambreus1961:29
  7. The subsequent history of Uppsala 87 seems to have been that it at some point passed into the hands of that enthusiastic compiler of lute music Guillaume Morlaye, who added a couple of intabulations in French style, as well as some explanatory comments in French concerning the identity and sources of some of the pieces, and then, by an unknown agent, it travelled to Sweden, perhaps in the prosperous times preceding the death of Gustavus Vasa in 1560, or in the equally prosperous times after 1611, when his third son, Gustavus Adolphus came to power. On Morlaye’s connection to the manuscript see Vacccaro1989:xxix.