Post July 2015 Conference roundup

The first three weeks of July have been a whirlwind of musicological activity, starting with hosting Graeme Boone for his great talk on music and emotions in the early songs of Du Fay for the 26th Gordon Athol Anderson Memorial Lecture (follow the link for more information), followed by a short week in Brussels (Belgium) for the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference (MedRen) and then back to Australia for the Biennial Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS). (For those unaccustomed to transglobal travel, the flight from Australia to Europe takes between 22 to 27 hours on a good airline with only one stop on the way.)

Although possibly nothing could live up to Boone’s superb talk, Brussels was not without its highlights. The express purpose of attending the conference was to be a part of a triple session of eight papers on “Canons and Canonic Techniques, 14th to 16th centuries” that Denis Collins and I convened under the auspices of our research project funded by the Australian Research Council. We were overjoyed that Bonnie Blackburn and Katelijne Schiltz — the two scholars who have done more to raise the profile of research on Canons (which can be either verbal instructions indicating how to resolve a piece of notation into a musical performance or a type of music composition using forms of strict imitation between parts) — were able to chair the sessions. There was a tremendous range of papers featuring the research of Niels Berentsen, Mikhail Lopatin, Emily Zazulia, Denis Collins, Stefan Gasch, Mattias Lundberg, Joe Sargent and yours truly. Abstracts are online for those interested in further details (warning: a slightly large PDF download). Publication plans are in the pipeline.

At the risk of offending friends and colleagues who all gave great papers, some of the showstoppers at MedRen 2015 that I managed to attend — aside from some great sessions on canonic techniques — included: Thomas Payne’s fortuitous discovery of an organum by Perotin quoting part of a famous conductus; Giuliano Di Bacco’s identification of a possible archival reference to late 14th-century composer Philipoctus de Caserta; Eliane Fankhauser’s tying down some of the 14th-century Utrecht fragments to Utrecht itself; and Liz Leach‘s keynote on music and sound in Richard de Fournival’s Bestiary of Love. (Naturally, I have chosen not to reveal the precise findings of each scholar’s paper in anticipation of their detailed research being published in the near future.) The prize for the most breathtaking paper was Manon Louvoit’s revelations about the contents of the neglected Douai fragments. I say “breathtaking” because this is the first paper in which I have heard music historians, many of them leaders in their field, gasp in absolute surprise at each and every revelation.

After a delayed return to Australia of 9 hours (caused by a broken air conditioner which was fortunately discovered before the plane pushed out from the gangway), soon enough I found myself in Brisbane Australia for the ANZAMEMS conference. Rather than being faced with the leisurely task of delivering just one paper, I managed to get myself in the unenviable position of needing to give two papers at each end of the conference. The first provided another instalment in my research on the cultural and social context of Johannes Ciconia’s music as part of a session I had arranged on Emotional Communities in Medieval and Renaissance Music. Joining me were Carol Williams (speaking on Intellectual communities in Paris c.1300), Graeme Boone (with further insights into the place of Du Fay’s music within an emotional regime of the early fifteenth century) and Denis Collins (speaking on the phenomenon of musical laments c.1500). The session went extremely well and I was grateful for the positive feedback received afterwards. At the end of the week I spoke on music at the Council of Constance in a session that also include an excellent paper by Professor Thomas Fudge on Hussite heresy. The link, of course, was that poor Jan Hus was condemned and burnt at the stake at the Council of Constance.

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