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”

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”

Scribes and Editors at Work and at Play

Last month I was very pleased to receive an offprint of a chapter of mine that develops and expands on a paper that I originally gave at the Early Music Editing: Principles, Techniques, and Future Directions conference held in Utrecht, 3-5 July, 2008. The abstract of the original paper read:

This paper seeks to establish a prima facie case for a new edition of the repertoire of music from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century which is today referred to as the music of the ars subtilior. Although most of this body of compositions has been published in monumental editions in the 1970s and 1980s, these editions leave much to be desired both as sources of further scholarly enquiry and also as editions to be used for performance. This paper will detail some of the existing problems of published editions (including misreadings, errors, incomplete realisations) and how they might be avoided in a future edition using new technologies. In particular it will focus on cases within the scribal record of the ars subtilior that embody significant variants, including erasures representing scribal revision and/or scribal alteration of notational process. The emerging paradigms embodied by new technologies offer significant opportunities to move beyond Lachmannian and Bédierian theories of text criticism to principles of editing which preserve multiple local variants and empowers readers with a choice of readings. 

Continue reading “Scribes and Editors at Work and at Play”

Italian Benedictine Polyphonists c.1400

Two weeks ago I attended and presented a paper at the “Sources of Identity: Makers, Owners and Users of Music Sources before 1600” conference that Lisa Colton and Tim Shephard convened at the University of Sheffield, 4-6 October 2013. I’d just hopped off a long-haul international flight from Australia and had made my way north to Sheffield using England’s rather slow and not cheap train system, so my memory of the first day was a bit patchy. Continue reading “Italian Benedictine Polyphonists c.1400”

Late Medieval Notational Identity

Earlier in the month, my paper “The Notational Identity of Late Medieval Composers and Their Scribes” was read at the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference at the Centro Studi sull’Ars Nova Italiana del Trecento, Certaldo (Italy) as part of a Panel session convened by Karen Cook (Assistant Professor, University of Hartford) on “Theory and Notational Practice(s) in the Fourteenth Century”. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the conference to deliver the paper in person, and I am most grateful to Karen Cook for volunteering to read it in my absence. I was, however, able to answer questions “remotely” over Skype after the reading of my paper, a novel if not “exhilarating” experience. Continue reading “Late Medieval Notational Identity”

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). Continue reading “Music and Politics”

Redemption and the “Missa L’Ardant desir”

Recently I have been thinking again about the Missa L’Ardant desir, an anonymous polyphonic mass that was at the centre of a previous piece of research on the use of unusual signs in fifteenth-century music notation. The remarkable Confiteor from the Credo of this mass is but one of a number of distinctive features in this mass. Like many polyphonic settings of the Ordinary of the Mass from the middle of the fifteenth century (or slightly later, perhaps the 1460s, in the case of the Missa L’Ardant desir) this setting repeatedly uses a preexistent tune, mostly in the Tenor, throughout its settings of the five items of the Ordinary of the Mass, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus dei. This preexistent tune, called the cantus firmus meaning ‘the fixed song’, could be drawn from either a liturgical chant (a chant sung in the Mass or the Holy Office) or a secular song, both courtly and also popular street songs. In the case of the L’Ardant desir melody, there is no surviving court song that corresponds to the L’Ardant desir text incipit or melody used in the Mass, although the tenor survives in two settings (nos. 133 and 134) from the Buxheimer Organ Book, a mid-fifteenth century book of early organ or keyboard tablature now in the Bavarian Library at Munich. Continue reading “Redemption and the “Missa L’Ardant desir””