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, 2021

The seminars in 2021-22 will continue on Zoom. The seminars are all at 5 p.m. UK time (this will be BST for the first seminar and GMT for seminars 2 and 3). 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 the button below. 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

Thursday 28 October, 5pm BST

Margot Fassler (Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Music and Liturgy, University of Notre Dame; Tangeman Professor of Music History Emerita, Yale University)

The Restoration of Anima in Hildegard of Bingen’s Sung Play the Ordo Virtutum

Discussants: Alison Altstatt (University of Northern Iowa), Barbara Newman (Northwestern University)

This presentation is based on chapters from Margot Fassler’s forthcoming book Cosmos, Liturgy, and the Arts in the Twelfth Century: Hildegard’s Illuminated Scivias (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022).  The musical dimensions of the book have been crafted to make what can be a highly technical subject accessible for non-specialists. Hildegard is an excellent composer for this goal: she worked in many disciplines, including the visual arts, and took this aspect of her thinking over into her musical/poetic creations.  This short discussion will focus on one example of music and the graphic, that is the character Anima as she comes to life in Hildegard’s sung play the Ordo Virtutum. The presentation explains the widely recognized polarity in Hildegard’s play between two tonal areas, one E and the other in D. Here the focus is primarily on Anima’s musical development in scales with finals of the pitch D. Within this area, Anima moves from joy, to the fallen condition, to restoration. In the play, a range of characters inspire her return to health, and, as they do so, they “tutor” her in the ability to recover particular pitches and ranges of pitches. The sense of expectation is greatly heightened through the use of music in this dramatic work as Hildegard demonstrates skill in character development through singing within community. This work was apparently designed to be sung by the Benedictine nuns on the Rupertsberg, where Hildegard was the magistra, the leader of the community. The play was a teaching tool for performative theology and also may have been designed to ready the women and other members of the probable congregation to receive communion.

Wednesday 10 November (please note change of day), 5pm GMT

Paweł Gancarczyk (Associate Professor, Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw)

Music in a vanished kingdom: traces of fifteenth-century polyphony in the Teutonic Order State in Prussia

Discussants: Lenka Hlávková (Charles University, Prague), Reinhard Strohm (University of Oxford)

The Teutonic Order State in Prussia (1228–1525) belongs among those ‘vanished kingdoms’ (Norman Davies) that, not having contemporary heirs, remain on the margins of the main stream of historiography. While much attention has been focused on the political and church history of medieval Prussia, we still know extremely little about its musical culture. To fill this gap in our knowledge is the aim of the project ‘Music in the Teutonic Order State in Prussia: sources, repertoires, contexts’, of which I am principal investigator.

Alongside chant sources preserved in Pelplin, Gdańsk, Toruń and Berlin, we also have evidence of polyphony being practised in Prussia. All this evidence concerns the fifteenth century and the western regions of the state (which in 1466 became part of the Kingdom of Poland known as Royal Prussia). During my lecture I would like to discuss archival records regarding polyphonic practices, and present several music sources preserved mainly in Gdańsk. I will focus in particular on fragment 2153a, containing repertory typical for Central Europe in the second quarter of the fifteenth century. I will describe the genres represented in this manuscript (motet, cantio, rotulum) in the context of mensural theory known from the treatise originating in the Duchy of Mazovia (Prussia’s southern neighbour). Referring also to other sources, I would like to put forward the hypothesis that the Teutonic Order State belonged to the same network of Central European cultural connections as Silesia and Bohemia.

Thursday 2 December, 5pm GMT

Brianne Dolce (Fitzjames Research Fellow in Music, Merton College, Oxford)

The Confraternity of Jongleurs and Bourgeois of Arras: A Reappraisal

Discussants: Catherine A. Bradley (University of Oslo), Barbara Haggh-Huglo (University of Maryland, College Park)

The Confraternity of Jongleurs and Bourgeois of Arras has long figured prominently in musical histories of the thirteenth century, but its influence on musical society—and vernacular music making in particular—has often been misunderstood. Through a close paleographic analysis of the Confraternity’s register of membership, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français 8541, I show that the Confraternity simultaneously recorded the names of living and dead members, and therefore its entries of nearly eleven-thousand names, half of which belong to women, cannot be precisely dated. Nevertheless, my comprehensive study of these names reveals that they not only include those of the trouvères with which the Confraternity is so frequently associated, but also of civic and liturgical musicians—many of them women—constituting an important cross-section of musicians and types of musical practices existing in Arras over three centuries. Moreover, an in-depth look at the Confraternity’s membership betrays a community deeply invested in practices and movements associated with lay religion in the period. Thus, by carefully excavating the true extent of the Confraternity’s musical influence in Arras and beyond, I argue that we stand to gain a radically new perspective on interactions between religious culture and vernacular musical life in one of the centers of high-medieval European music-making.

Advance notice of seminars, Hilary Term 2022

27 January

Lachlan Hughes (University of Oxford)

Laude and Lyric Poetry in Late Thirteenth-Century Florence

Discussants:  Blake Wilson (Dickinson College (PA)) and Elena Abramov-Van Rijk (Jerusalem)


17 February

Antonio Calvia (Università di Pavia) and Anne Stone (CUNY Graduate Center)

Two Fragments, One Manuscript: Introducing a Newly-Discovered Italian Source of Ars Nova Polyphony


10 March

John Milsom (Liverpool Hope University) and Jessie Ann Owens (University of California at Davis)

Demystifying Morley: New Findings about A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke (1597)