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 Michaelmas Term, 2020

The seminars this year will be held on Zoom. We have seized the opportunity to bring together people in a way not geographically feasible, even in normal times. A larger online attendance will make our usual free-for-all discussion impossible; the format will consequently differ from the live seminars. Apart from the first one, in dialogue, individual presentations will be slightly shorter than usual, about half an hour, and 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 would like to attend a seminar in Michaelmas, you must register using this form. Please register at least a week before the seminar you wish to attend. One week before each seminar, all those who have registered will receive further materials and instructions for joining the Zoom call. 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

22 October, 4 p.m. (NB earlier time!)

Presenters: Richard Dudas (Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea) and Lawrence M. Earp (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Title: Four early Ars nova motets: a new source

Abstract: The seminar will address issues regarding the discovery of musical fragments in BnF NAF 934, fols. 79–80 (reported on; images on Gallica). Two three-voice and two four-voice motets survive, all of them unica. On the basis of notation and style, the repertory slightly postdates Fauvel. Each motet has a different form. The first utilizes a notational trick that prefigures Machaut’s M6. The second is the only isoperiodic motet, with an early, special use of red coloration in the lower voice pair. A third combines two chants, a freely rhythmized Kyrie tenor with an ostinato contratenor. The final motet is based on a Fauvel ballade.

12 November, 5 p.m.

Presenter: Manon Louviot (Utrecht University)

Discussants: Michael Scott Cuthbert (MIT) and Jared C. Hartt (Oberlin College and Conservatory)

Title: Dating polyphony, making history: the Douai fragment and its motet Ferre solet

Abstract: The late fourteenth-century Douai fragment is composed of four parchment folios and contains five polyphonic pieces copied in black full mensural notation. Among these pieces, only the three-voice motet Multipliciter amando has a concordance in the Chantilly manuscript (F-CH 564). The other four pieces, two incomplete motets, a three-voice Gloria, and a complete motet, were all previously unknown to modern scholars. The complete motet Ferre solet stands out in particular because its texts conceal the name of a hitherto unknown composer and a date of composition, transforming this modest fragment into a crucial witness for understanding fourteenth-century musical culture. After introducing the source and the distinctive aspects of each piece, I will therefore focus on Ferre solet by analysing how its unique textual features are intermingled with its musical composition to fulfil the religious function of the motet.

3 December, 5 p.m.

Presenter: Jacob Mariani (University of Oxford)

Discussants:Marc Lewon (Schola Cantorum, Basel) and Michael Lowe (Wootton)

Title: An unstopped string: new perspectives on the rise of the lira da braccio and its medieval predecessors

Abstract: It is currently held that lira da braccio of the ‘High Renaissance’ took its morphology from the late medieval Italian fiddle (It. viella or viola), where classicising efforts and new performance practices further transformed the instrument into a vehicle for chordal accompaniment. However, the mechanisms and historical roots of this transformation are far from clear. Using updated photos of Italian iconography, this presentation reviews various narratives about the features and functions of bowed string instruments from 1300-1500. In doing so, it attempts to untangle the historical evidence from the needs and influences of the Early Music Movement and its modern reconstructions.

Advance notice of the dates and speakers for Hilary Term:

28 January 2021

Presenter: Grantley McDonald (University of Oxford)

Title: Emperor Frederick III as patron of music

18 February 2021

Presenter: Charles Atkinson (Ohio State University / Universität Würzburg)

Title: On modulation in Eastern and Western chant: techniques, texts, and rhetoric

4 March 2021

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

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