On the Matter of musica ficta and its Application in the Lute Intabulations of the 16th Century. With Attention to the Madrigal O s’io potessi donna from Wurstisen lute book

Well known fact is that signs of alterations are written rather rarely in 16th century vocal polyphonic music sources. When and how a certain note is meant to be changed is a matter, which the singers adjust according to the rules of solmization and hexachordal organization.

Even the very first lute prints reveal that the arrangements of vocal polyphony (intabulations) emerged as a crucial repertory for the instrument. 20th century musicologists have realized the highly informative value of those arrangements, especially in terms of usage alterations (and generally musica ficta). This value is determined by the nature of the lute tablatures themselves, which were meant to present the concrete intervals between the notes. Compiled according to certain rules, the lute intabulations, however, do not give one specific answer and suggestion for using alterations, but rather provoke more questions.

This paper aims to summarize the main guidelines of using alterations when transforming vocal music to lute playing. The discussion is illustrated by famous madrigal of the 16th century, widespread among the lute source at the time.


Keywords: intabulation; lute; madrigal; Renaissane; musica ficta; alterations; “O s’io potessi donna”; Wurstisen lute book