|All Souls, Wharton Room
|Thursdays, 5 –7 p.m
Weeks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8
All are welcome.
Week 1 (Oct 17th)
Moritz Kelber, Universität Bern:
Seeing, Hearing, Touching, Smelling: Early Modern Dance and the Senses
This paper investigates modes of physical encounter in early modern dance and considers their importance within musical life in general. In medieval and early modern times dancing was one of the most widely disseminated forms of musical practice and an important means of social interaction. It was a space of seeing, hearing, touching, and even smelling. In a society that highly valued the symbolism of physical proximity, dance involved the implementation of social conventions as well as the crossing of boundaries.
The social role of dance was long debated in dance theory and polemical literature from the mid-fifteenth century onwards. Italian dancing masters like Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro tried to establish dancing as a discipline alongside the other arts. A close reading of the texts by Ebreo and his followers reveals a sophisticated understanding of sensual perception and in particular of musical hearing. Thus, dance theory might not only help to sharpen our picture of Renaissance philosophy of the senses, but it might also lead us to rethink our preconceptions about art music as the only valid topic for theoretical reflections on music.
[Dr Kelber will also be giving a talk in the Music Faculty colloquium series on Tuesday Oct 15th at 5.15 p.m., entitled: (De-)Constructing the Enemy in Early Modern Dance.]
Week 2 (Oct 24th)
Jared C. Hartt, Oberlin Conservatory of Music:
Naufragantes/ Navigatrix/ Aptatur: A Newly Discovered Motet on St Nicholas
Two large fragments of a rotulus have been recently discovered in a manor house in Dorset. The fragments preserve four early fourteenth-century motets of English provenance. One of these motets, Naufragantes visita/ Navigatrix inclita/ Aptatur, previously unknown to modern scholars, combines numerous unique features, beautifully illustrating and adding to the remarkable degree of compositional innovation present in fourteenth-century English motets. The four-voice motet often features four different simultaneous texts and uses a complex method of text exchange. The poetic texts plead both to St Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, and to the Virgin Mary, the star of the sea, to intercede as protectors and guides of seafarers. Its cantus prius factus, Aptatur, used in thirteen musically distinct motets on the Continent, is found now for the first time in a motet that definitely originates in England. Because of damage to the rotulus, however, the motet does not survive in full. In this presentation, through an exploration of the motet’s melodic, harmonic, textual, and formal characteristics, I demonstrate not only how Naufragantes/ Navigatrix exemplifies remarkable compositional innovation, but I also offer a complete musical reconstruction of the motet, thereby allowing for the possibility of performance of this remarkable discovery. Images of the manuscript and a brief description are now available on diamm: https://www.diamm.ac.uk/sources/4750/#/.
Week 5 (Nov 14th)
Andrew Wathey, University of Northumbria:
John Dunstaple, Lionel Power and the mid Fifteenth Century
The English career of John Dunstaple has been the subject recently of significant studies by Lisa Colton and by Roger Bowers, who separated from John Dunstaple the composer a John Dunstaple senior who owned lands in Cambridgeshire, and possibly also a related John Dunstaple junior of London. But while the composer remains elusive as an individual, a set of family relationships place the documented John Dunstaples in close proximity with John Duke of Bedford, in whose service it has long been known that the composer was employed as ‘musicus’. This paper argues the salience of the family network, alongside individual identity, in shaping a picture of Dunstaple’s activities and his links with patrons. It explores other aspects of the Bedford household diaspora following the duke’s death in 1435, in this context presenting new documents illuminating the late career of Leonel Power. It also offers some reflections on the wider implications of the careers of Power, Dunstaple and their contemporaries for the construction of the mid-fifteenth century in English music history.
Week 6 (Nov 21st)
Henry Drummond, University of Oxford:
Blasphemy, Cursing and Sonic Violence in the Cantigas de Santa Maria
Of all sins one could commit in the Middle Ages, few were as grave as blasphemy. Medieval writers describe blasphemy as violent, claiming that such acts re-enact the mutilation of Christ’s body, or spoil the Virgin’s corporeal perfection. Other authorities see logical dissonance in the denial of holy miracles, and in the rejection of God’s supremacy. While scholars have written much on medieval blasphemy, few studies have approached the links between religious sacrilege and song. Sonic propriety can itself be violated, affording mirroring of written warnings against blasphemous acts. In this article I focus on the cantigas de miragre, written at the court of Alfonso X in the latter years of his reign (1252–84). Alfonsine literature includes multiple warnings against blasphemy, including its links with drinking, gaming and music. In this talk, I address miracle songs of the Alfonsine court that present nuanced cases, considering how disjointed musical-poetic structures can intriguingly mirror warnings against blasphemous oaths conveyed in their texts.
Week 8 (Dec 5th)
Giovanni Varelli, Magdalen College:
Mapping Notational Dialects of Early Medieval Italy
In his Annales Ecclesiastici (1588), the Renaissance cardinal and historian Cesare Baronio (1538–1607) defined the tenth century as Italy's saeculum obscurum. Yet, surviving music manuscripts and fragments clearly show an utter burgeoning of different notational 'dialects' with an impressive array of musico-graphic creativity, stemming from complex institutional and ecclesiastical networks, and reflecting the highly unstable and fragmented political situation in Italy after the dissolution of the Carolingian Empire. The paper will explore the intricate topography of the earliest music scripts in the Italic peninsula (ca. 900-1050) and will present a close-up of specific graphic strategies for the visualisation of liturgical chant, exposing also their intersections with other material manifestations of written musical media at the turn of the first millennium.