College-level courses devoted to Renaissance culture typically put a premium on incorporating primary sources and artifacts of a literary, art-historical, and historical nature. Yet the monuments of contemporaneous music continue to be marginalized as instructional resources, even though they are fully as worthy both from an aesthetic and from a historical standpoint. This study attempts to address that problem by invoking the tradition of early polyphonic masses on L’homme armé – a secular tune used as a unifying melody (cantus firmus) throughout settings of the five-movement liturgical cycle. Beginning by explaining the origins and significance of the putative monophonic tune, the paper then details how a series of composers utilized the song in interestingly varied ways in various mass settings. Subsequently it sketches out a context for mysticism in the liturgical-musical tradition of L’homme armé, and points to some compelling parallels with the contemporaneous art of panel painting, specifically as represented in the works of Rogier van der Weyden.
CohenJudith, ed. The Six Anonymous L’homme armé Masses in Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, ms vi E 40 [introduction and commentary]. Vol. 21 in the series Musicological Studies and Documents. N.p.: American Institute of Musicology, 1968.
CohenJudith, ed. The Six Anonymous L’homme armé Masses in Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, ms vi E 40 [musical edition]. Vol. 85 in the series Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae. Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hänssler-Verlag, 1981.
WarmingtonFlynn. “The Ceremony of the Armed Man: The Sword, the Altar, and the ‘L’homme armé’ Mass.” Antoine Busnois: Method, Meaning, and Context in Late Medieval Music. Ed. Higgins.PaulaOxford: Clarendon Press, 1999, 89–130.