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.

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”

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)”

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”

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””