An Early Theory Compendium in Australia: Louise Hanson-Dyer Manuscript 244 Published

In November 2017, a series of studies on the late medieval–early modern music theory compendium, Louise Hanson-Dyer MS. 244 (LHD 244) of the Rare Books Collection at the University of Melbourne appeared in the latest issue of Musica Disciplina. (Attendees at the American Musicological Society’s Annual Meeting in Rochester would have had an opportunity to browse a copy at the A-R Editions book stand in the same month.)  I am pleased to note that the table of contents for Musica Disciplina Vol. LX (2015; published 2017) is now available from the American Institute of Musicology’s web site. The yearbook is available for purchase from the publisher A-R Editions here.

An Early Theory Compendium in Australia: Louise Hanson-Dyer Manuscript 244

I. Jason Stoessel, “The Making of Louise Hanson-Dyer Manuscript 244”   67

II. Jan Herlinger, “LHD 244: An Early Layer and What It Tells Us”   93

III. Karen Cook and Carol Williams, “New Light on Frater Nicolaus de Aversa: His Plainchant Treatise in LHD 244”   115

IV. Linda Page Cummins, “The Reception of the Compendium Musicale of Nicolaus de Capua: Paris to Melbourne”   149

V. Denis Collins, “Instructions for Keyboard Accompaniment in Music Manuscript LHD 244 of the University of Melbourne”   173

VI. Jason Stoessel, Jan Herlinger and Linda Page Cummins, “Melbourne, University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections, Rare Music, MS LHD 244: Inventory”   201

VII. Melbourne, University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections, Rare Music, MS LHD 244: Complete Reproduction   211

The five essays, an inventory and facsimile edition mark the culmination of an international collaboration between six musicologists from Australia and the United States of America on LHD 244. Early findings from this project were presented by the authors at a symposium held at the University of Melbourne Library in June 2015.

The same issue contains an unrelated study by Alexander Robinson.

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?


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.

Changing tastes in French music around the Council of Constance, 1414-1418

The Council of Constance (1414–1418) was a significant event for the ecclesiastical, political and culture histories of early 15th-century Europe. It ended the Great Schism of the Western Church (1378–1418) when up to three claimants competed for the papal throne, a situation that fuelled political and dynastic rivalries (and wars) in Western Europe. The Council gathered delegates from all over Europe in the small city on the Bodensee. Cardinals and princes brought their households, including musicians to provide suitable music for liturgical ceremonies and for diversion when the business of the Council concluded each day. Chronicler Ulrich von Richental provided a vivid description of some of this music making of musicians to a pope, several bishops and dukes, although most of it is ceremonial or civic in its nature. Little is known of the cultivation of polyphonic song repertoires around the Council, although internal, and circumstantial evidence indicates that this genre thrived in the courts of religious and secular princes during this period.

This is the background to my recently publication on French-text songs at the Council Constance. In 2014, I was in the fortunate position to be invited to present a paper on this topic along with other colleagues speaking on related topics at a public symposium convened to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Council. This provided me with an opportunity to address some of the difficult historiographic questions concerning the music of this period, both in terms of his stylistic definitions and political function. A novelties of this research that I hope will be recognised is that I propose that the style that is today called the Ars subtilior be defined by its cultural function, rather than musical characteristics alone, and that the decline of this style represents a loss of functionality, rather than just a change of taste. One of the challenges of this approach is that it invites a tremendous amount of knowledge about the sources which transmitted the music in question: for this reason alone, the number of manuscripts and fragments of music (and scholarship on them) considered in the paper is extensive.

Subsequently, papers from the symposium were reworked for a volume of essays on music culture at the Council of Constance. Details of the chapter are as follows:

Stoessel, Jason. “French-texted Songs at the Council of Constance: Influences, Paths of Transmission, and Trends.” In Europäische Musikkultur im Kontext des Konstanzer Konzils, edited by Stefan Morent, Silke Leopold and Joachim Steinheuer, 205–224. Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke, 2017.

A copy of this chapter can be downloaded by visiting my page at (login required).

This collection of essays will be/was officially presented to the public in the Stadtarchiv Konstanz (State Archive of Constance) on 18th July 2017 at 7pm.

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] 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.

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?”

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 considerable 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

Johannes Ciconia’s “Merçe o morte” (with a free transcription)

Johannes Ciconia’s Merçe o morte is an extraordinary example of early fifteenth-century song. Several features set it apart, including the repetition of affective words using short melodic motifs, its extremely economical use of musical material, and indeed its immediate appeal to many listeners today. Continue reading “Johannes Ciconia’s “Merçe o morte” (with a free transcription)”