Isorhythmic Technique Of The Ars Nova Period and 20th Century Serialism
Do we often discover that concepts regarded as contemporary innovation and/or progress have precedent in earlier concepts and work? It would seem this is the case regarding the isorhythnic motets of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries in comparison with serialism of the twentieth century. Both techniques involve a strict ordering and cycling of pitch collections, both feature retrograde or palindrome (de Vitry's Garritt gallus), both techniques "serialize" musical structure as an organizing principle. In De Touz Les Biens by Machaut, the talea and color (tone row?) in the tenor part cycles through all of it's ratios until the starting point is reached in which case the compostion is concluded. Of course isorhythm and serialism are not the same, but the essential organizing concepts are very similar minus the chromatic twelve tones as reference material - there still is a distinct "row" of pitch class set material as a priori structure. The continual variation facilitated by the cycled structure at any given point in the antiphon or row is also, I would argue similar. Just as the Triplum and Motetus in Machaut's De Touz Les Biens are composed according to, in relation to the antiphonal/talea/color tenor, the serial or twelve tone rows of Schoenberg or Webern's compositional material is also the focus and organizing principle of horizontal and vertical relationships. Isorhythm of the Ars Nova period does not involve permutations and combinatorial subset relationships as archtectonic reference, rather the sense of contrapuntal consonance and dissonance of Medieval modal aesthetic. I would posit rightly or wrongly that there is a conceptual similarity between Ars Nova isorhythm and contemporary serialism. I would appreciate any opinions, counterarguments and comments. Thank you.