All Souls Seminars in Medieval and Renaissance Music

This long-running series of seminars, convened by Dr Margaret Bent, considers all aspects of medieval and renaissance music. It usually consists of a talk by an invited speaker and then a period of questions, to which all attendees are encouraged to contribute.

Note on Hilary Term, 2021

The seminars this year and in 2021-22 will continue on Zoom. The seminars are all on Thursdays at 5 p.m. UK time (GMT). We have seized the opportunity to bring together people in a way not geographically feasible in normal times. A larger online attendance will make our usual free-for-all discussion impossible; the format consequently differs from the live seminars. Individual presentations will be about half an hour, followed by invited discussants who will engage the speaker in conversation about the paper, before the floor is opened for comments and questions by others.

If you are planning to attend a seminar this term, please register using this form. For each seminar, those who have registered will receive an email with the Zoom invitation, instructions for joining the call, and further materials for the seminar. We are keen to make the seminars available to a global audience, so please feel free to share the registration link with anyone you think might be interested.

In each seminar, you’ll be able to join the call up to half an hour before the seminar for a virtual ‘meet and greet’. The seminar will last for two hours, but those who wish to are welcome to stay on the call for a little while after that for virtual drinks and further discussion. If you have any questions about this process, please email Matthew Thomson (, who is dealing with the practicalities of holding these seminars via Zoom.

Margaret Bent (Convener, All Souls College)

Seminar programme

28 January 2021, 5 p.m. 

Presenter: Grantley McDonald (University of Oxford)

Title: Emperor Frederick III as patron of music

Discussants: Reinhard Strohm (University of Oxford), Andreas Zajic (University of Vienna) and Catherine Saucier (Arizona State University)

Abstract: Frederick III (born 1415, ruled 1440–1493) was the first Habsburg to be crowned as Holy Roman Emperor. This paper will discuss several aspects of his musical patronage during his long reign. Firstly, it presents new evidence for the membership of his chapel. Secondly, it discusses problems presented by the surviving sources of polyphonic music containing music written by musicians associated with Frederick’s court, such as Johannes Brassart and Johannes Tourout. Thirdly, it presents a chant book from Frederick’s collection, which appears to record the liturgy of St Jerome’s convent in Vienna, a religious house founded in 1378 for fallen women. This paper presents a sometimes unexpected view of the cultural programme of this pivotal figure in fifteenth-century Imperial politics.

18 February 2021, 5 p.m.  

Presenter: Charles M. Atkinson (The Ohio State University and Universität Würzburg)

Title: On Modulation in Eastern and Western Chant: Techniques, Texts, and Rhetoric

Discussants: Calvin Bower (University of Notre Dame), Susan Rankin (University of Cambridge), Alexander Lingas (City, University of London, EHRC Oxford, and Cappella Romana)

Abstract: This paper will focus on the discussions of modulation in Regino of Prüm’s Epistola de harmonica institutione (ca. 900 C.E.), Manuel Chrysaphes’ On the Theory of the Art of Chanting (1458 C.E.), and the anonymous 9th-century Scolica enchiriadis, and will present musical examples illustrating the techniques described in these works. Although these techniques are strikingly similar in East and West, the way modulation functions in relation to texts differs drastically in the two regions. As a result, while Regino characterizes modulating chants as nothae–degenerate and illegitimate–Chrysaphes can advance one type, the nenano, as “sweetest and finest.”

4 March 2021, 5 p.m. 

Presenter: Cristina Alis Raurich (Schola Cantorum, Basel and Universität Würzburg)

Title: Flos vernalis and Robertsbridge intabulation style: ornamentation, diminution and intabulation in the 14th century

Discussants: Karl Kügle (Universities of Oxford and Utrecht) and David Catalunya (University of Oxford)

Abstract: Until recently, only two sources of Flos vernalis were known: fragments of a vocal version in binding strips in All Souls College, Oxford (MS 56); and its ornamented intabulation in the so-called Robertsbridge MS. Two more concordances of the vocal version have meanwhile been discovered, by Cristina Alís Raurich in Karlsruhe, and in binding strips in Koblenz discovered by Karl Kügle. The new findings allow a reconstruction of almost the entire piece, together with evidence of an otherwise absent third voice. They permit an analysis of the diminution, ornamentation and adaptation techniques in the intabulation which can be related to theoretical texts of the fourteenth century; Flos vernalis was more abundantly embellished than the other intabulations in Robertsbridge. Several of the sources have Cistercian connections.

Banner Image: The opening of the Lai section in Machaut manuscript C (Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 1586, f. 168v).