Early 15th-Century Italian Benedictine Songbooks

Last month also saw the publication of an essay on the role of Benedictines in the creation of songbooks in early 15th-century Italy, with three case studies from late medieval Bologna, Florence and Padua. My chapter started life as presentation given at the memorable Sources of Identity Conference convened by Lisa Colton and Tim Shephard at the University of Sheffield in 2013. In its final, more extended version, my study recognises that in addition to composing secular polyphonic songs, several Italian Benedictines (i.e. Benedictines from the Italian peninsula) were instrumental in the collection and preservation of secular songs and related polyphony around the year 1400. (Under Benedictines I include several reformed Italian orders too numerous to name here.) The essay includes further art historical evidence in support of my argument for the completion of the famous Modena A manuscript (Modena, Biblioteca Estense, ms. alpha.M.5.24) manuscript at Bologna in 1410-1411, and the early findings of a computer-assisted approach to music script analysis that supports expanding the role of Paduan Benedictine monk, Rolandus de Casale, in the copying of the so-called Paduan fragments (now in the University Library at Padua, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford) between 1406 and 1409. (Rolandus’s signing of his manuscripts is a curious feature from which I infer another conclusion about the nature of the Paduan fragments.) I also discuss Don Paolo Tenorista da Firenze’s position as a senior ecclesiastic and public figure in Florence, and his possible sponsorship and ownership of several books of Trecento polyphonic song in the first few decades of the 15th century. I intentionally avoid discussing (but list) other known Benedictine composers in any detail, although at Sheffield I spoke at some length on Bartolomeo da Bologna, composer and organist at Ferrara cathedral in the first two decades of the 15th century, and his possible role of in the cultivation of ars subtilior song. I hope to expand on this last topic in a future publication, along with further research into advanced music education in late medieval Italy: questions remain about where those Benedictines mentioned or discussed in my essay received their education, particularly in the craft of polyphony. In the monastery? The cathedral? Or elsewhere?

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Stoessel, Jason. 2017. “The Makers and Owners of Early Fifteenth-Century Song Books in Italy: The Benedictine Contribution to the Courtly Musical Culture of the Late Middle Ages.” In Sources of Identity, edited by Lisa Colton and Tim Shephard, 77–96. Turnhout: Brepols. ISBN: 978-2-503-56778-5. Available for purchase from Brepols.

I’m delighted to be part of this collection of essays by a fantastic group of musicologists examining similar themes of music book production, ownership and use in the middle ages and early modern period. My chapter is dedicated to John Stinson who inspired my interest in the music of the ars subtilior more than a quarter century ago.

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.)

Continue reading “Post July 2015 Conference roundup”

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.

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”

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”