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

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”

Italian Benedictine Polyphonists c.1400

Two weeks ago I attended and presented a paper at the “Sources of Identity: Makers, Owners and Users of Music Sources before 1600” conference that Lisa Colton and Tim Shephard convened at the University of Sheffield, 4-6 October 2013. I’d just hopped off a long-haul international flight from Australia and had made my way north to Sheffield using England’s rather slow and not cheap train system, so my memory of the first day was a bit patchy. Continue reading “Italian Benedictine Polyphonists c.1400”

Some insights into late medieval music notation

As 2012 draws to a close, it pleases me to learn that the journal Early Music has published my article examining an anonymous late fourteenth-century song, Aÿ, mare, amice mi care. This Latin rondeau was discovered among an odd assortment of music fragments by Mark Everist just a few years ago but until now has not been satisfactorily transcribed nor its notation discussed. Thanks to the generosity of Oxford University Press, I am able to provide readers of my blog with a free-access URL to my article for their personal use only. The details of the article are as follows:

Jason Stoessel, ‘Revisiting Ay, mare, amice mi care: insights into late medieval music notation’, Early Music 40/3 (2012): 455-468. doi: 10.1093/em/cas101. Free access links: PDF or HTML.

Continue reading “Some insights into late medieval music notation”

Armchair philology – Musical treasures from the Austrian National Library

Philology—the study of early texts, their meaning and how they have been passed down through the ages—has has traditionally consisted of researchers chasing after books and manuscripts scattered throughout libraries and archives. I use the adverb “traditionally” with some irony since for some time now researchers have done much of their work sitting at a desk (or occasionally in an armchair) pouring over facsimiles, photographic images on 35 millimetre microfilm, and increasingly digital images on a computer’s screen, of original sources. Researchers are spending less time with the original manuscripts. Although it is important that archivists maintain access to the original sources, it is also important that these sources are conserved for future generations. There are many music manuscripts that have been the subject of intense scrutiny over the last century, and between their handling by scholars and sometimes fraught attempts at conservation by their owners, the condition and legibility of these sources has noticeably declined. Though I am inclined to give examples, I won’t because that would give the impression that I am censuring particular individuals, libraries or archives. The reality is that time has simply taken its toll on these books.

Continue reading “Armchair philology – Musical treasures from the Austrian National Library”

Unusual signs and Angevin politics

In early 2006 I sent a draft piece examining some unusual examples of notation in some polyphonic songs from around 1400 to colleagues Yolanda Plumley and Anne Stone. To my pleasant surprise, Plumley and Stone invited me to contribute to their collection of essays on the famous Chantilly Codex. Most of the chapters in this collection originated at a conference held in mid September 2001 at Tours, France. It was much to my disappointment that I wasn’t able to attend this conference. On the other hand, a three-month sojourn earlier in the year researching in various European libraries had consumed most of my energy, resources and the patience of those I had to leave behind in Australia. Continue reading “Unusual signs and Angevin politics”