Singing the motets of Philippe de Vitry

Person(s) in charge



Olivier Bettens,
Francis Maréchal, Fondation Royaumont

Gisèle Clément, CIMM – Montpellier

Arnaud Pignol, Avignon Tourisme (Palais des Papes)

António Augusto Aguiar, ESMAE de Porto

Dr. Martin Kirnbauer, Schola Cantorum Basiliensis

Géry Moutier, CNSMD – Lyon

Manuel Pedro Ferreira, CESEM Lisbon

Sabine Rommevaux-Tani, CNRS – SPHERE

Christian Lange, Klemm Music Technology

Start date: 2018

Presentation of the project

Singing the motets of Philippe de Vitry, a major cultural figure in the 14th century, still poses a unique challenge today. His musical oeuvre, featuring twenty motets whose authorship is disputed, is difficult to access, both with respect to the search for historical sources (more than a hundred at present, spread among thirty European libraries) and to the reading of them (damage to manuscripts, alterations caused by foxing, mistakes by those who copied down the music).  

These difficulties appeared to have been solved by a transcription of fourteen motets that appeared in 1956, published by Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre - a project led by the musicologist Leo Schrade. Indeed, this transcription has served, and still serves today, as the resource used at virtually all public performances and recordings. Yet, for all that, it does not meet the current requirements of historically informed musical practice: the sources are not mentioned, the poems are neither written out nor translated, the editorial choices and additions are neither commented on nor justified, and the publisher did not take into account the techniques that constituted the ‘science of singing’ in the 14th century: solmization, single descant and ‘Fiori musicali’.    

This applied research project has the aim of filling in these gaps with artistic and scientific work on the original sources, by proposing:  

  • a database of the motets;
  • an online diplomatic edition, adjustable and interactive, of each source;
  • the writing down and translation of the poems;
  • a critical edition of the motets, in printed format and online, incorporating the techniques of the ‘science of singing’;
  • a recording of the poems being read out in the ‘Parisian dialect’;
  • concerts in Switzerland and abroad, along with recordings of the main motets attributed to Philippe de Vitry, by the Arborescence ensemble, made up of professional singers, created specifically for the project;
  • two international colloquiums and the actions associated with them: in Geneva in November 2023 (in collaboration with the University) and in Royaumont in March 2024 (in collaboration with the Foundation).