D’argent à une aigle de gueules, au vol abaissé, membrée, becquée et couronnée d’or, empiétant une montagne de trois coupeaux de sable issant d’une mer d’azur mouvant de la pointe et ondée d’argent.

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traditional musics county Nice, fife

Musical analysis of the Christmas carols of Nicolas Saboly, known as Micoulau Sabòli

The musical analysis given here only revolve around the 61 (1) Christmas carols publicated while Nicolas Saboly, known as Micoulau Sabòli was alive, and is based on the 1856 reprint by Fr. Seguin. For 26 among them (i.e. almost half), Nicolas Saboly has composed from one to three different variants, with same title and same lyrics, only differentiated by mentions bis, ter, quater, i.e. an amount – basic versions and all variants joined – of 97 timbres.

Tunes origin

According to Fr. Seguin, 44 of these 97 timbres (about 45 %) are attributable to Nicolas Saboly, whereas 53 Christmas carols (about 55 %) are re-use of pre-existing tunes, some by Nicolas Saboly himself.

Literary and musical forms

For the 61 basic versions, Nicolas Saboly used only 6 times the rondo (2) form: Ai proun couneigu, Auprès d’aquel estable, L’estrange deluge, Li a proun de gènt que van en roumavage, Per noun languì long dòu camin and Tòni, Guihèn, Peiroun. The other carols are of a linear form, i.e. made up of a repetition of verses. The literary genre of lyrics is:
 
  • a pure narration: 66 %
  • a narration including one or a few lines: 26 %
  • a full dialog: 8 %
  • Lastly, one Christmas carol use in its lyrics the concatenation (3) stylistic device (Tòni, Guihèn, Peiroun) and 4 other carols use the epanadiplosis (4) (Ai ! quouro tournara lou tèms, bregado ?, Qui vòu faire grand journado, Soun très ome fort sage and Viven urous e countènt).
    Number of verses in the Christmas carols:
     
  • 6 verses: 28 %
  • 5 verses: 22 %
  • 7 verses: 20 %
  • 4 verses: 15 %
  • 8 verses: 5 %
  • 3, 9 and 12 verses: 10 %
  • Time signature

    A wide majority of Christmas carols use a binary time signature:
     
  • alla breve 2/2: 30 %
  • (standard) 3/4: 24 %
  • (standard) 4/4: 19 %
  • (standard) 2/4: 10 %
  • (standard) 3/8: 2 %
  • to about 10 % ternary time signature (6/8 only).
    Only 4 carols have a multiple time signature: Chut ! Teisas-vous and Lorsque vous sarés malaut (2/2 + 3/4); Ai proun couneigu and Hòu ! de l’oustau ! (3/4 + 4/4).

    Tempo

    Metronomic indications are not in Nicolas Saboly own hand, but have been added by Fr. Seguin. So, following mean values are only indicative.
     
  • alla breve 2/2: half average tempo = 78 (from 46 for Ourguhious plen de magagno to 108 for Lorsque vous sarés malaut);
  • standard 2/4, 3/4, 4/4: quarter average tempo = 132 (from 72 for Quand la miejo-nue sounavo version bis to 240 for Venès lèu vèire la piéucello);
  • ternary 6/8: dotted quarter average tempo = 82 (from 50 for Pastre dei mountagno versions ter and quater to 104 for Uno estello version bis).
  • Bars count

    The bars count for each Christmas carol is as follow:
     
  • 16 bars: 25 %
  • 24 bars: 13 %
  • 12 bars: 12 %
  • various lengths: 50 %
  • Farthest values are for 6 bars (Micoulau noste pastre and Nautre sian d’enfant de cor, i.e. 2 %) and 34 mesures (Viven urous e countènt and L’estrange deluge, i.e. 2 %). Nicolas Saboly has composed an initial anacrusis for about 58 % of the 97 carols.

    Key signature

    The key signatures are splitted in the following categories:
     
  • minor key: 57 % (Gm 27 %, Am 18 % and Dm 6 %, the rest is divided up among Cm, Em and Bm);
  • major key: 42 % (F 25 % and C 8 %, the rest is divided up among A, D, G and B flat);
  • only 1 carol (Uno estello, version ter) has a key change, from Am to A.
  • First interval

    The first interval can be analysed as follow for the 97 timbres:
        by decreasing rate
  • major second: 30 %
  • minor second: 22 %
  • fourth: 19 %
  • fifth: 15 %
  • minor third: 8 %
  • major third: 6 %
  •       by interval
  • minor second: 22 %
  • major second: 30 %
  • minor third: 8 %
  • major third: 6 %
  • fourth: 19 %
  • fifth: 15 %
  • The “famous” fourth seems not to be the favorite first interval of Nicolas Saboly!

    Range

    The range between the lowest note and the highest note of each Christmas carol theme is as follow:
             by decreasing rate
  • octave (or diminished octave): 34 %
  • octave plus minor second: 13 %
  • minor sixth: 12 %
  • octave plus major second: 11 %
  • minor seventh: 8 %
  • octave plus minor third: 7 %
  • octave plus fourth: 5 %
  • fifth: 3 %
  • octave plus major third: 2 %
  • octave plus fifth: 2 %
  • fourth: 1 %
  • major sixth: 1 %
  • major seventh: 1 %
  •       by range
  • fourth: 1 %
  • fifth: 3 %
  • minor sixth: 12 %
  • major sixth: 1 %
  • minor seventh: 8 %
  • major seventh: 1 %
  • octave (or diminished octave): 34 %
  • octave plus minor second: 13 %
  • octave plus major second: 11 %
  • octave plus minor third: 7 %
  • octave plus major third: 2 %
  • octave plus fourth: 5 %
  • octave plus fifth: 2 %
  • Cadence

    The Christmas carols conclude according to one of the following cadences:
     
  • perfect cadence: 88 %
  • plagal cadence: 2 %
  • other conclusions: 10 %
  • Comments

    1. Christmas carol #54, Dialogo de dous nouvelisto (Dialogue between two short story writers), doesn’t include music, so it is not part of the current study.
    2. Rondo or rondeau: vocal or instrumental form, characterized by the alternation of verses and a chorus.
    3. Concatenation: repetition of a line (or group of lines) from the end of a verse to the beginning of the following verse.
    4. Epanadiplosis: repetition of a line (or group of lines) at the beginning and the end of each verse.
    5. Date of the first organist and choirmaster position held by Nicolas Saboly (at Saint-Siffrein cathedral, in Carpentras).


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