The art of interpolation in the Roman de Fauvel

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The music of F-Pn MS fr.146 has long held a special place in medieval musicology as one of the most abundant records of musical taste and style in the early decades of the 14th c., particularly so in its famous version of the Old French satire of the Roman de Fauvel, interpolated with no less than 169 musical items. The numerous occasions where music is uncued and unprepared in the narrative are explored, with a focus on the most famous moment of narrative disjunction brought about by the presence of song: the interpolated bifolio, 28 bis and ter, containing the lai Pour recouvrer allegiance. Long viewed by musicologists as an ill-conceived afterthought, it is suggested that the song's narrative and bibliographic intrusion may be interpreted poetically, as a moment of lyric suspension engineered by its singer, Fauvel, in order to defer his lady's final, deadly refusal of his marriage suit. That deferral occurs not just in an abstract moment of lyrical time, but in the real, unfurling space of the parchment: As time passes (the reader turning the folios), Fortuna's impatience finally becomes palpable as she dramatically enters the landscape of the song in its closing moments. Song may thus be understood to occupy not only time but space; the manuscript, it is argued, is witness to a new form of music making in France at the turn of the 14th c., one that is material as well as sonic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-263
Number of pages41
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • 23:Western art music - History. To ca. 1400 (Middle Ages)


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