PhD Scholarship Opportunity in Digital Musicology: The Art and Science of Ludovico Zacconi’s Collections of Canons

We are very pleased to announce that the University of New England is offering a targeted PhD in Digital Musicology for a project on Ludovico Zacconi’s collection of canons. This project will run parallel with our ARC Discovery Project “The Art and Science of Canon in the Music of Early 17th-century Rome,” sharing and contributing […]

via PhD Scholarship Opportunity in Digital Musicology — Art of Canon

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.

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 Academia.edu (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.

Late Medieval Listening in Padua

Due to a research trip, it has taken me a few weeks to post news of a recent article on subjectivity, listening and music in early fifteenth-century Padua. The article is part of a special issue on visual and aural intellectual history. It arose from a paper delivered at the Rethinking Intellectual History conference, held 7–9 April 2015 at The University of Sydney, Australia, and was part of a session on the old and new in medieval music theory. Some of the research—including archival research mentioned in the footnotes—in this article is the result of a project that I am undertaking in association with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100–1800.

I was interested in exploring the idea of the old and new in writings of music theorists at Padua, particularly around the issue of musical listening and the conceptualisation of consonance. As a point of departure, I chose Petrarch’s famous letter from his Epistolae familiares (IV, 1) written after his ascent of Mont Ventoux when the fourteenth-century poet was living near Avignon, now in the south of modern-day France. Without going into details here, Petrarch’s letter can be read as the author’s realisation and exploration of his own subjectivity, made apparent when Petrarch realises that his experiences differ radically from those whom he sought to model his life upon, and upon his personal reflection as he looked figurative to his past, present and future on the peak of Mont Ventoux.

In the article, I wanted to explore how subjectivity in musical listening began to affect late medieval theoretical discourse at Padua, particularly with respect to two prominent figures, the university professor Prosdocimo de’ Beldomandi and the composer Johannes Ciconia. Both left writings about music which are all the more interesting according to their intellectual positions. Yet, pigeonholing each theorist according to their intellectual context is complex: while Prosdocimo might be put in the camp of scholastic thought, he is obviously interested trying to describe the qualities of the music he hears not just in technical terms. Ciconia seems conservative in his choice of venerable authors on music from many centuries before he was writing—Boethius and Remigius of Auxerre, for example—but his framework for music knowledge proves to be a radical one, more in keeping with (and probably influenced by) humanist thought in Padua c. 1400.

The complete bibliographic reference for my article is as follows:

Stoessel, Jason. “Climbing Mont Ventoux: the contest/context of scholasticism and humanism in early fifteenth-century Paduan music theory and practice.” Intellectual History Review 27, no. 3 (2017): 317–332. doi: 10.1080/17496977.2017.1333314.

For readers without access to a personal or institutional subscription to Intellectual History Review, a free copy of the article can be found here. Note that Taylor and Francis kindly provide 50 free e-prints only, so once the online article has been accessed that number of times, no further copies will be available from the link above. If you require a copy for personal study, please request a copy using the contact form on this blog or my email at the University of New England.

Short essay on Guillaume Faugues and his reception

Earlier this year my essay on fifteenth-century composer Guillaume Faugues was published as the introduction to the fourth and final volume of Rex Eakins’s new edition of The Complete Extant Transmissions of the Masses by Guillaume Faugues (published by The Institute of Mediaeval Music). This essay gave me the opportunity to summarise all previous scholarship on Faugues, and discuss his reception by authors from the late fifteenth century to the present. (There is, however, a substantial hiatus in literature when Faugues’s name was forgotten until the 18th century.)

I take this opportunity to share the text  of my introduction (downloadable from this link) in the hope that it might be of interest to enthusiasts of fifteenth-century music.

Proportional Canons at Tokyo

Last week I travelled to Tokyo, Japan, to present a paper at the quinquennial congress of the International Musicological Society on some of my recent findings on proportional canons from c.1390 to c.1500. This research is part of a larger project that I am conducting with Denis Collins on Canonic Techniques and Musical Change, c. 1330–c.1530. While we have been doing much work last year on the fourteenth-century canon, these are relatively straight-forward examples in which voices imitated each other at the unison after a certain delay between voice entries. The latter is commonly called in technical parlance the interonset interval or IOI. Continue reading “Proportional Canons at Tokyo”