Why and how to transcribe Renaissance music

[Petrucci, Odhecaton]

This article
by Luigi Lera
about how to transcribe early polyphonic music makes a lot of very
good points. Some of them are from a (to me) odd point of view,
for instance:

Our amateur choristers often do not shy away even from the St Gallen neumes of Gregorian chants or the obscurity of some twentieth-century writing. Is Renaissance notation really so different from ours as to justify transliteration into another system?

I don’t know those amateur choristers who read neumes or
obscure twentieth-century writing. And my impression is that the
motivation for putting barlines in where the composer didn’t is
different from what Mr. Lera states when he says:

In polyphonic arrangements, you often find a sort of
subtle premise where the editor has distanced himself from the
measures that he himself has used, trying to push all the
responsibility for any poor outcome onto the singers; it clearly
states that the bars had been added only to aid the singers and
that it really must not influence the rhythm of the piece. Aiding
the singers: could this be a good justification in support of all
the transcriptions into bars?

I don’t think editors add bars to directly aid the singers —
they add them so that conductors can aid the singers.

But a lot of what he says is exactly why I do what I do on the Serpent Publications
site,
so I recommend you read it if you’re at all interested
in the subject.

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