Anonymous, Codex Calixtinus: Kyrie Cunctipotens Genitor

The Cathedral at Compostela
In the twelfth century, the Cathedral of Saintiago de Compostela in Northern Spain, with its relic: the body of Saint James the Greater (whose head is also said to be housed Jerusalem's Armenian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint James) was the culmination of a great Pan-European pilgrimage route. Preserved in its archive is the Codex Calixtinus, named after the Pope of the same name, although dating from c.1160 -1175, a text of enormous interest to scholars of both religion and music. The five books of the Codex cover all aspects of the pilgrimage and liturgical practice in the Cathedral. The first book contains liturgical material for the feast days of Saint James, including the Veneranda Dies sermon, and some of the earliest polyphonic musical notation. Books two and three tell of Saint James himself: the twenty-two miracles of Saint James; and the translation of his body to Compostela. Book four, since removed by Catholic officials, is known as the Pseudo-Turpin and recounts mythical exploits of Charlemagne and Roland (of Chanson de Roland fame) in Spain. Book five is the Pilgrim's guide, a resource listing general stages of the pilgrimage and traveller's refuges along the route.
This polyphonic setting of the Kyrie "Cuntipotens Genitor" has been attributed to a "Prefect Gauthier," a man who is lost to history, if he ever existed. His name leads scholars to believe that the music may have been composed in France, particularly Paris, whose polyphonic style would revolutionize music. However, the freedom of the organal (or added) voice, anticipates by at least a half-century the developments of the Notre Dame school (e.g. Perotin's Alleluia Nativitas). While there are no indications of rhythm In the original manuscript score, the scribe has drawn barlines to delineate phrases. Most likely music of this type was performed in a fluid manner with coordination worked out by the soloists. This early type of polyphony goes by the name organum.

The Statue of Saint James at the Cathedral at Compostela
Things to Note
The basis of this organum is the old standby Kyrie Cunctipotens genitor. After listening to the whole piece, try listening to it to pick out the Kyrie melody in the lower voice. The performance alternates sections of the chant performed monophonically with sections performed polyphonically: you should be able to distinguish the textures quite easily. Consonant intervals are ornamented, and there is a sense of movement toward consonant cadences (points of repose). Notice also how the addition of a second more intricate voice extends the duration of the chant significantly. A modern transcription of the score is below for those who desire to see it. You may find it easier to follow this.

Listening Chart

Anonymous, Codex Calixtinus: Kyrie Cunctipotens Genitor (c. 1160)

Cunctipotens genitor.... 0:00 Small group sings syllabic line of music (a) monophonically
Cunctipotens genitor .... 0:23 Soloists sing organum version of the chant. (a') The chant is in the lower voice.
Christe Dei... 1:25 Small group sings syllabic line of music (b) monophonically

Christe Dei... 1:45 Soloists sing organum version of the chant. (b')
Amborum sacrum... 2:35 Small group sings syllabic line of music (c) monophonically
Amborum sacrum... 2:51 Soloists sing organum version of the chant. (c')

Cunctipotens genitor Deus omnicreator eleison
All-powerful Father, God, Creator of all things, have mercy
Christe dei forma virtus patrisque sophia eleison
Christ, the splendor of God, strength and wisdom of the Father, have mercy
Amborum sacrum spiramen nexus amorque eleison
The holy breath, the fusion and the love of both, have mercy

A modern transcription of much of the Score

All text © Todd Tarantino 2002-2012.
Not to be reprinted without permission.