A musical score engraved on a stone from the 15th century comes to life

During preventive excavations that took place between 2011 and 2013 under the Jacobin convent in Rennes, archaeologists unearthed a shale plaque on which was engraved a musical score.

It is on a shale plate of about twenty centimeters barely unearthed during the preventive archaeological excavations of the site of the convent of the Jacobins of Rennes that a musical score had been engraved. The plaque  » stood on the site of the large refectory, dated from the 15thand century “, explains Gaetan Le Cloirec, archaeologist at the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP), in charge of the site which took place from 2011 to 2013. “ It wasn’t the first one we found. Some presented sketches of hopscotch, others drawings of boats. But this one struck us as very special: andn studying these graffiti closely, we saw that this schist plaque had… a musical score! »

For the Sciences et Avenir website, Dominique Fontaine, soprano of the musical ensemble Ad Lib, in Rennes, deciphered this score representing a song dating from the 15th century made of lines made of diamond-shaped notes.  » It may have been an essay in composition for a course or an original work. If we consider that the melody is complete, it is a so-called score in “A aeolian” mode, a relatively late form in European religious music. “, she explains.

Here is the melody:

Religious songs dating from the Middle Ages were mainly composed in four modes: Ré, Mi, Fa and sol. Here, this mode in A is used in certain contemporary music, “ very popular in traditional Celtic music… and more widely in Heavy metal », continues Dominique Fontaine.  » Few instrumental works were noted during these periods, because it was through the voice that prayer was expressed. It was thought, moreover, since St Gregory (Pope Gregory 1er) that it would be better heard by God by being sung everywhere and by everyone at specific times. Hence the Books of Hours to follow the offices of the day « .

This site of preventive excavations proved to be extremely valuable, allowing the discovery of Roman temples, more than 800 burials, thousands of objects and therefore this melody, presented on March 15, 2017 during the official handover to the services of the State of the final report of the excavations of the convent of the Jacobins of Rennes.

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