Music and Politics

I recently attended the 35th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia, 3–5 December 2012, a regular fixture on the Australian music research scene. The conference, held at Australian National University, brought together over 140 speakers on the broad theme of “The Politics of Music“. Like many conferences most of the papers ran in parallel sessions, so it is always difficult to arrive at an overall view of the conference and its success. Australian musicology is a broad church, and my own research and general interests determined which sessions I attended. For me, highlights of the conference included James Webster’s keynote on politics in the music of Joseph Haydn and John Griffiths’s account on the relationships between architecture, rhetoric and music in the 15th and 16th centuries. A slightly abbreviated version of Griffiths’s paper can be read here.

For my part, I presented a paper on a long gestated topic: the politics of part of the repertoire of the manuscript Modena, Biblioteca Estense, ms. α.M.5.24 (Mod A) (warning: links to 14 MB PDF of the manuscript). The following details are from the conference program.

Title: The Angevin Struggle for the Kingdom of Naples (c.1378­­–1411) and Politics of Repertoire in Mod AII–IV: New Hypotheses

Abstract: The “old corpus” of the music manuscript Modena, Biblioteca Estense, ms. α.M.5.24 (Mod AII–IV) is a tangle of politically-charged songs (mostly in French) that refer to the tumultuous Great Schism of the Western Church (1378–1417) and the prowess of several princes of ascendant Italian states during the same period. Some scholars have connected the repertoire of Mod AII–IV with Pétros Fílargos, sometime Archbishop of Milan and then the short-lived Conciliar pope Alexander V. However, as I have argued in extensio elsewhere, art-historical evidence now strongly suggests this manuscript was completed as late as September 1410 at Bologna in the midst of Alexander’s successor, John XXIII. During the first two years of John’s pontificate one of the most influential and wealthiest princes of France, Louis II d’Anjou, materially and personally reasserted his claim for title of the Kingdom of Naples, simultaneously supporting John XXIII’s military campaign to reclaim Rome and the Vatican. This paper will explore my new hypothesis that part of the repertoire of Mod AII–IV—and possibly the manuscript’s very structure—reflects the presence of the Angevin prince at the court of John XXIII at Bologna in the second half of 1410. It will also consider how other political threads running through this manuscript render it an unlikely candidate for a source connected with the pro-Visconti Alexander V.

Five keywords: Late medieval music, the Great Schism, Late medieval Italian Politics, Louis II d’Anjou, (Anti-)Pope John XXIII

Source: Wikipedia.
Portrait of Louis II of Anjou. Source: Wikipedia.

Readers interested in the full text of the paper (which I am a little reluctant to distribute while part of this research is being considered for publication) are invited to contact me using the contact form on this blog to request a copy.

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