This article investigates the use and function of Brussel Royal Library II 2631, a song manuscript likely originating shortly after 1525 in a house of Franciscan tertiaries in the northern Netherlands. It contains both Netherlandic songs and Latin chants, written by the same scribe.
The Netherlandic songs are primarily devotional, with a handful of secular texts nevertheless to be considered 'occasionally sacred'. All vernacular songs lack musical notation, but in individual headings most indicate one or more tunes to which they can be sung. The prescribed tunes are generally well known, sometimes taken from the secular repertoire; often one melody serves for more than one song. Though there is no strict organization within the corpus as a whole, it is possible to identify smaller groups on the basis of melody or subject. The manuscript is a typical example of 16th century contrafact practice.
In contrast to the Netherlandic songs, the Latin chants do have musical notation. Chant type (Christmas lessons, Benedicamus-melodies, processional chants), their organization, and occasionally the addition of a prayer incipit, clearly indicate a liturgical function. This suggests that the manuscript was used in services and during processions, and may have belonged to (and was compiled by) a person fulfilling the role of cantor, or more probably cantrix, who was involved with liturgical chant but appreciated vernacular song as well.
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