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Amiens 162 D, f. 116v »Ecce quam bonum« 2v (kanon? - 4v ex 1v)

Notation: Added by Hand C in chant notation below the end of the preceding tonale (on the last two staves of the page (system 3)). Written as a single part in black ink; its last section “fratres in unum” is written twice with different music, indicating a two-part ending.

Text: psalm verse “Ecce quam bonum et quam iocundum habitare fratres in unum”, Vulg. Ps. 132, v. 1 (Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity).

Edition: Amiens 162 Edition no. 14 (PDF).


Monophonic psalm verse, widely used around 1500. It is often quoted in the statutes of medieval confraternities as part of their reason for existence; it functions as a sort of device for the confraternal movement (cf. Vincent 1994, p. 68). Moreover, it was the battle song (with another tune) of Savonarola’s reform movement in Florence 1495-98; it exists as a lauda and is cited in motets by among others Verdelot and Richafort (see further Macey 1998, pp. 23 ff and 170 ff). “Ecce quam bonum” also figures in the French farce, Sotie ... le roy des sotz (probably dated 1495-1500), where it is used as a sort of choral refrain. Howard Mayer Brown associates this farce with Charles VIII’s Italian campaign and the death of Savonarola (cf. Brown 1963, pp. 178-179). Its appearance in Amiens 162, however, points out that the song was well known in monastic and confraternal circles in France, and this fact probably contributed to its effect in a farcical situation.

The song in Amiens 162 consists of elements of five tones, which are separated by vertical strokes through the system. Apparently it is monophonic, but the last element appears twice (the second time in a lower range and after a double bar) making it possible to perform it note-against note in two parts – as a polyphonic Phrygian ending. The very disjunct tune can be sung as a four-part canon, as all the elements can be combined in simple polyphony with parallel fifths. The counter-voice for the last element cannot be used while the canon runs, but may possibly be added when the parts thin out again. This solution is shown in the edition’s proposed realization of the canon. This song is probably local, added to the MS while it was in use in the confrérie Ste Barbe by Antoine de Caulaincourt, and it may have been constructed by one of the singers of its polyphonic repertory, possibly by Caulaincourt himself.

PWCH January 2014 (revised March 2015)