During the Great Schism (1378-1417), a second pope emerged in Avignon.  The papal court there, oddly enough, was a great patron of secular music, and composers were able to be very creative.  This led to a sub-genre of the Ars Nova, called the Ars Subtilior.

In Ars Subtilior music, composers wrote in a rhythmically complex style and often tried new ways of notation.  The example shown, Belle, Bonne, Sage, written by Baude Cordier, is a prime example of the style.  The piece is in the shape of a heart, and although it would be highly challenging to read, one must give credit to the composer for his cleverness.  ("Cœur" is the French word for "heart," so Cordier made a double pun on his name and the heart shape, writing about love).

Other examples of interesting notation include a canon in the shape of a circle, a piece in the shape of a harp, and one in the shape of an inward spiral, to name a few.

Belle, Bonne, SageEdit

This piece was a rondeau, which basically means that it has a refrain.  This refrain repeats, word and note, the first stanza.

The lyrics, translated, read:

Lovely, good, wise, gentle and noble one,
On this day that the year becomes new
I make you a gift of a new song
Within my HEART***, which presents itself to you.

Do not be reluctant to accept this gift,
I beg you, my sweet damsel;

(Lovely, good, wise...) <------Refrain

For I love you so well that I have no other purpose,
And know well that you alone are she
Who is famous for being called by all:
Flower of beauty, excellent above all others.

(Lovely, good, wise...) <------Refrain

      • In addition to writing in its shape, Cordier also substituted the word "heart" with a small drawing of a heart in the lyrics. 

Section headingEdit

Here I show the standard notation versus the way Cordier chose to write it.
Belle Bonne Sage 1
Belle Bonne Sage 2

In standard notation, the piece would look more like this.

Baude cordier BELLE, BONE, SAGE

Baude cordier BELLE, BONE, SAGE

Ars Subtilior: Cordier- Belle, Bonne, Sage