Essay on Death’s influence on the Music of the Fourteenth Century

The following is the English text of a general essay recently published in Dutch in the Laus Polyphoniae 2016 festival program booklet. It names several compositions that featured in the festival program. I am posting it here for the benefit of readers less comfortable with the Dutch version. Continue reading “Essay on Death’s influence on the Music of the Fourteenth Century”

Review of Schiltz’s new book

My review of Katelijne Schiltz’s Music and Riddle Culture in the Renaissance (OUP) has recently appeared in Music and Letters. Full citation:

Jason Stoessel, “Music and Riddle Culture in the Renaissance. By Katelijne Schiltz (review).” Music and Letters 97, no. 2 (2016): 327-329. doi: 10.1093/ml/gcw030

Oxford University Press has provided free access to the review via this link (HTML) or this link (PDF) for use on my personal research blog. Enjoy my review and I hope that it encourages you to read this book on a fascinating topic.

Musical oratory: Johannes Ciconia’s “Con lagreme bagnandome”

I was pleased to see that my article on Johannes Ciconia’s lament Con lagreme bagnandome was published in Plainsong and Medieval Music earlier this month. This article arose from some of the research that I have been undertaking as an associate investigator with the Australian Research Council’s Centre for the History of Emotions. I became interested in how Johannes Ciconia was using using musical elements in this song to emphasise certain textual features, and the relationship between this approach and the revived practice of public oratory in Padua. In the meantime, a better (albeit mostly dry and legalist) picture of Ciconia’s contacts with members of the humanist community at Padua has emerged in recent publications and in my own archival research, although this is not a primary focus of this article. Instead, by looking at humanist literature and intertexts with other Italian sources, I outline my case for Ciconia’s participation in an emotional community of musicians and humanists at Padua, as part of a larger project looking at this trend over several decades in this Veneto city.

Continue reading “Musical oratory: Johannes Ciconia’s “Con lagreme bagnandome””

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”

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?”

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”

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

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”