The Old and New in Early Fifteenth Century Padua

Last week (7-9 April 2015) I had the opportunity to give a talk entitled

Climbing Mount Ventoux: The Contest/Context of Scholasticism and Humanism in early Fifteenth-Century Paduan Music Theory and Practice

It was delivered at this year’s conference of the Sydney Intellectual History Network, which was entitled “Rethinking Intellectual History”, at the University of Sydney. As part of a session of papers discussing the concept of the Ancient and Modern in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century music theory, I spoke about the contrasting approaches of two authors writing in early fifteenth-century Padua: the composer Johannes Cicionia; and the university professor Prosdocimo de’ Beldomandi.

Continue reading “The Old and New in Early Fifteenth Century Padua”

International Symposium on Louise Hanson-Dyer Music ms. 244

ADVANCE NOTICE: INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON LOUISE HANSON-DYER MUSIC MS. 244 (LHD 244), UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE LIBRARY, 29 MAY 2015 The University of Melbourne Baillieu Library will hold a one-day international symposium “Challenges and conundrums: New research on a little known music theory manuscript at the University of Melbourne”, 29 May 2015. Manuscript LHD 244, despite its diminutive size, comprises more than 20 theoretical texts on musical rudiments and performance from the late 14th to early 17th centuries. Its oldest texts are a compilation of well-known and otherwise totally unknown treatises from the late 14th and 15th centuries. The many later additions include psalm-tones, prayers and more unknown treatises, on composition and organ playing. Speakers include Denis Collins (University of Queensland); Linda Page Cummins (University of Alabama); Jan Herlinger (University of Alabama; Louisiana State University); Jason Stoessel (University of New England); and Carol Williams (Monash University). Kerry Murphy and Richard Excell (University of Melbourne) will briefly place LHD 244 in the context of the Louise Hanson-Dyer Collection. The afternoon will comprise a round table: “Placing LHD 244: Answers and Future Tasks”. If you are interested in receiving formal notification of this symposium, please e-mail Tim Daly, absum [at] netspace.net.au. The symposium will be held in the University Library, Parkville, Melbourne, Australia. A full program will be available and registrations open in early May.

UPDATE: The University of Melbourne Library has announced the symposium here; flyer here.

I say data, you say data

John Stinson and Jason Stoessel, “Encoding Medieval Music Notation for Research,” Early Music 42, no. 4 (2014): 613–17. doi: 10.1093/em/cau093.

What do medieval music and computers have to do with each other, especially since the only “calculators” in the fourteenth century were clever sophists and theologians from Oxford? Well, it turns out quite a bit. The latest issue of Early Music, guest edited by Dan Tidhar, contains numerous articles on the theme of Early Music and modern technology. Several articles examine how computer-assisted research is revolutionising some of the ways music historians can approach medieval music.

Richard_of_Wallingford

Continue reading “I say data, you say data”

Louis II of Anjou and Mod A?

I’ve just had my first fully online, open access journal article published. It’s not the first time my research has been published online, but my previous articles were dual-mode published in print and online. And, in a strange twist that is indicative of the state of medieval musicology in Australia, this is my first article published in this country: all others have appeared in journals published in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe. Anyway, enough of that.

Continue reading “Louis II of Anjou and Mod A?”

Ciconia at MedRen 2014

Another annual Medieval and Renaissance (MedRen) Music conference has drawn to a close. Held this year (3-6 July 2014) in Birmingham in the United Kingdom, an unprecedented number of delegates presented on a wide range of topics in Medieval and Renaissance music. As with all conferences, the opportunity to engage with each others scholarship continues long into the evening over dinner with friends and colleagues (some of whom I haven’t seen in person for years), often resulting in some new collaborations and projects. But the main event is naturally presenting a paper on recent research. Continue reading “Ciconia at MedRen 2014”

Singing in French at Constance

Last week (19-22 June 2014) I had the pleasure of attending a symposium organised by Stefan Morent, Silke Leopald and Joachim Steinheuer to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Council of Constance. Entitled the Internationales und interdisziplinäres wissenschaftliches Symposion Europäische Musikkultur im Kontext des Konstanzer Konzils, it was held where else but in Constance on the shores of the lovely Bodensee. Continue reading “Singing in French at Constance”

Vocal stereotypes in the late middle ages

After a bit of a break from blogging, I’m pleased to note the publication a new piece that I wrote about vocal stereotypes and epistemologies of song in the late middle ages, with particular reference to Italian musical culture. “Howling like wolves, bleating like lambs: Singers and discourse of animality in the late middle ages” marks a new thread of scholarship for me in which I have become increasing interested in the ways that song is represented in the late middle ages. By this I mean how the practice of singing and the singing voice is described and conceptualised by contemporary writers, and indeed how composers make use of these ideas and attitudes in their compositions. My curiosity was sparked by a reference to the singing voices of the Mongols in the travel writings of a thirteenth-century author. (This line of enquiry has also lead to other fields of investigation, discussed briefly here.) This lead me to consider how other authors described the voices of singers of particular nations in often unflattering ways. (I intentionally steered clear of more “generic” descriptions that have been discussed by other scholars in great detail.) Well, from there I dug deeper into various epistemologies of song and poetry—principally in an Italian and humanist context—to reveal the depth of attitudes to singing voices from the thirteenth- to mid-sixteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the way that some poets sometimes described themselves as animals or even used an anthropomorphised animal voice as a poetic voice in their poetry. This led me to reconsider a few of the most puzzling songs from the mid-fourteenth century created by Italian composers, most likely around Florence. A good dose of Dante was also in order: this foray into Dante scholarship was both thrilling but also intimidating. In short, this is big picture scholarship that tries to map some ideas about the singing voice in the late middle ages (which I take as late as c.1550), although it ends by discussing some very particular musical works from the fourteenth century. Continue reading “Vocal stereotypes in the late middle ages”

Digital Humanities and Medieval Music

Last week (19–21 March 2014) I attended the 2nd Digital Humanities Australasia Conference “Expanding Horizons” at the University of Western Australia, Perth (Australia). The content of the conference certainly expanded my horizons, demonstrating the current vibrancy of the digital humanities (DH) in Australia. Between the torrent of “show and tell” presentations about new and existing DH projects, fascinating but geeky information about metadata standards, data conservation and database design, there were interesting papers concerning including Anthony F. Beavers’s keynote on Computational Philosophy and digital humanities as an more efficient extension of existing research methodologies and tools, and Toby Burrows on what I would call the epistemic foundations of current approaches in digital humanities in earlier philosophy, mathematics and socio-economic history. Music research had a modest but healthy representation at the conference, with one entire session devoted to “Music” (in which we presented) and several other papers on music and closely related topics scattered through out the program. Continue reading “Digital Humanities and Medieval Music”

Where did the Caron Website go?

From the end of the 2004 to mid 2006, I developed with Dr Rex Eakins a website devoted to the music of the often under-appreciated fifteenth-century composer Caron (musicologists still aren’t absolute sure whether the composer’s first name was Firminus or Philippe, although a recent discovery by Rob C. Wegman firmly favours the former). With a recent update to the University of New England’s content management systems, to our surprise the Caron Website vanished, possibly due to it antiquated HTML format.

Despair not gentle reader. There are plans to resurrect and update the Caron Website in the near future. However, anyone who misses our synthesised recordings of Caron’s music and editions of his music, the entire site has been archived on archive.org.

Of course, there have been some significant recordings of Caron’s music since we embarked upon our website. The Sound and Fury‘s recordings of most of Caron’s works is the most notable, although we would not claim that our website had anything to do with this.

The Illuminator of Mod A

At last my article on the illuminator of the important early fifteenth-century music manuscript Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria, ms. α.M.5.24, also known as Mod A has been published in the Journal of Musicology. I am little proud of this article since it is the result of several years of research and makes what I think is an important contribution to music history’s understanding of this manuscript, well at least part of it. I’m also humbled by the fact it benefited from considerably from comments and insightful reviews for several scholars. This article is by no means the end of the story when it comes to Mod A, its illuminator and this manuscript’s origin. Instead I hope that it will provoke other scholars to revisit this manuscript and indeed my conclusions. The reference and abstract for the article is as follows:

Stoessel, Jason. “Arms, a Saint and Inperial Sedendo fra più stelle: The Illuminator of Mod A.” Journal of Musicology 31/1 (2014): 1–42.

Scholars have proposed Milan, Pisa and/or Bologna as possible locations for the copying of the inner gatherings (II–IV) of the manuscript Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria, α.M.5.24 (Mod A) and have argued that some of the compositions might have originated in the circle of Archbishop of Milan Pietro Filargo. Yet evidence based on Mod A’s repertory and the scant biographies of its composers is insufficient for determining the manuscript’s origin. To solve this problem, I look at Mod A as a cultural artifact, attributing its illumination to the Master of 1411, an illuminator active in Bologna from 1404 to 1411, or to his assistant, both associated with the manuscript workshop of the Olivetan abbey of San Michele in Bosco, on the outskirts of medieval Bologna. The Master of 1411 might have been Giacomo da Padova, an illuminator documented there between 1407 and 1409. Iconographical analysis shows that the illuminator of Mod A possessed considerable knowledge of Paduan culture before the fall of the ruling Carrara family in 1405. This knowledge is apparent in his use of an astrological allusion to Carrara heraldry in his decoration of the song Inperial sedendo. His illumination of a Gloria by Egardus with the figure of Saint Anthony of Padua implies a familiarity with Padua’s musical institutions. Mod A may have been illuminated when the papal entourage of John XXIII visited San Michele in Bosco in the fall of 1410, although further compositions were added after the illuminator had finished his work. This conclusion invites scholars to consider afresh the social context that might have fostered the compilation of the repertory in the inner gatherings of Mod A.

The University of California Press has granted me permission to post a copy of my article on my personal website. Click here to download a copy of this article strictly for your own personal study. (Warning: links to an 8 MB PDF.) Any further use or redistribution of this file is not permitted.

Saint Anthony of Padua Reading by Cosimo Tura [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Saint Anthony of Padua Reading by Cosimo Tura [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons