(Ger. Vordergrund). In Schenkerian analysis (seeAnalysis, §II, 4) the Layer in a piece or movement that preserves the contrapuntal and rhythmic essentials but lacks some ornamentation or its embellishment (including note repetition) or indications of scoring.
The word ‘foreground’ is sometimes used more loosely in analytical writings to denote the surface of the piece, as opposed to ‘background’ which is equated with structure.
(fl first half of the 15th century). English composer. No initial or forename is given in the sources, and no Forests with specifically musical credentials appear in archives. Identification therefore remains uncertain, though the name is not common, and there is only one strong candidate, John Forest, onetime Dean of Wells, who was born about 1365–70 (obtaining a papal dispensation by 1390 to take holy orders despite illegitimate birth) and died on 25 March 1446. Full details of his ecclesiastical preferments are given in A.B. Emden: A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 (Oxford, 1957–8). He was a member and benefactor of Lincoln College, Oxford, and a lifelong canon of Lincoln Cathedral, also holding prebends at various times at Durham, York, Lichfield, Southwell, Salisbury and Wells. He was Archdeacon of Surrey from 1415 and Dean of Wells from 1425 until his death, having obtained in 1429 a papal indult to visit his archdeaconry by deputy for five years, owing to old age, failing sight and infirmity. This has cast doubt upon the identity of John Forest with the composer as being inconsistent with the fresh, blossoming and youthful music presumably composed at this time. However, he lived for a further 17 years and cannot have been totally decrepit; also, it seems that some of his most advanced compositions may have been copied into the Old Hall Manuscript not much later than 1425. Identification with a close contemporary of Leonel Power’s is stylistically convincing. John Forest was particularly active in the Winchester diocese, and closely associated with Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester from 1404 (translated from Lincoln); this may reflect some personal patronage. Forest also appears in the records of Christ Church, Canterbury, perhaps significantly, given Leonel Power’s association there after the death of his patron in 1421.
Forest was apparently one of the earliest English composers to cultivate the long panconsonant duets, smoothly spun ornamental melodic lines, omnipresence of 3rds and essays in textual declamation, sometimes understood by the term contenance angloise. His name is mentioned, together with those of Dunstaple, Leonel, Plummer, Frye and others, in Hothby’s Dialogus. Forest’s style has much in common with that of the ‘later’ motets of Power, including an instability of metre, though he is perhaps more inclined to write strings of parallel 3rds and 6ths. Like Power also, Forest seems to have had a special partiality for Alma Redemptoris mater, having used the text in one antiphon setting (Alma Redemptoris/Anima mea/Alma Redemptoris) and the plainchant in another (Ascendit Christus/Alma Redemptoris: this marriage of the text of one antiphon with the plainchant of another is found in even closer form in Power’s Salve regina, which is based on Alma Redemptoris). The reasons for assigning him the Credo on this melody (possibly an isolated survival from a cyclic mass) may turn out to be a circular argument, especially since they depended on Bukofzer’s inaccurate observation (in MB, viii, 1953) that the plainchant usage was identical to that in Ascendit Christus. Its signatures (C C C) are not characteristic of Forest, who favoured and C, though he did use major prolation for the lower parts of the Credo that is ascribed to him by name: its upper part is written in perfect time.
The two Old Hall antiphons and the anonymous Credo copied by the same scribe have long duets for discantus and contratenor, an unusual feature outside the isorhythmic motet, of which Forest’s sole surviving example uses the classical structure of Dunstaple, with three statements of the colour, each of two taleae, and regular isorhythm in the upper voices.
Apart from tenor usage, there is no certain case of plainchant paraphrase, though clear allusions can be found to the relevant melodies in the upper parts of Ascendit Christus (see critical commentary to MB, vii, no.61) and Tota pulcra es. In one source only, Alma Redemptoris is provided with a different text to the second part (Anima mea), possibly as an alternative for liturgical reasons rather than to produce a simultaneous, motet-like rendering. Four of the texts associated with Forest’s antiphon settings are for Vespers for the Vigil of the Assumption (he used four out of the six prescribed in the Sarum Antiphoner) and the other two are for the Nativity of the BVM.
Old Hall Manuscript
Edition: The Old Hall Manuscript, ed. A. Hughes and M. Bent, CMM, xlvi (1969–73) [OH]
Credo, 3vv; ed. in DTÖ, lxi, Jg.xxxi (1924/R)
Alma redemptoris mater/Anima mea liquefacta est/Alma redemptoris, 3vv, I-MOe α.X.1.11, Bc Q15, AO, TRmp 90
Ascendit Christus/Alma redemptoris, 3vv, OH no.68, also ed. in MB, viii (1953, 2/1970)