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 runs on Zoom in Michaelmas and Hilary Terms and generally attracts a large international audience. Usually, a presenter speaks for around 30 minutes and then engages with invited discussants for another half an hour. The floor is then open for questions and lively general discussion. Each term’s seminars are announced in advance on this page and attendees are asked to register via the button below. 

For each seminar, those who have registered will receive an email with the Zoom invitation and any further materials a couple of days before the seminar. If you have questions, please just send an email to Matthew Thomson, who is dealing with the practicalities of holding these seminars via Zoom.

Margaret Bent (Convener, All Souls College)

Matthew P. Thomson

Michaelmas Term 2023

19 October 2023, 5pm–7pm BST
Presenter: Sam Barrett (University of Cambridge)
Title: ‘Newly Discovered Aquitanian Polyphony from c. 1100’
Discussants: Andreas Haug (University of Würzburg) and Margot Fassler (University of Notre Dame).

This paper will present organa for four metra from Boethius’ De consolatione Philosophiae recently discovered in the margins of an Aquitanian manuscript copied c. 1100. It will show that the principal voices relate to the wider tradition of sung Boethian metra and that the organal voices were generated in accordance with principles outlined in theory treatises written towards the end of the eleventh century. The new find expands the number of recoverable melodies for Boethian metra, augments the number of surviving examples of organa consistent with the Ad organum faciendum group of treatises, and extends understanding of early medieval practices of singing non-liturgical versus. The successive disposition of the organum mirrors notational practices used in the earliest layers of Aquitanian polyphony, prompting reconsideration of the implications of surviving neumatic notations for non-liturgical lyric verse and consideration of the possibility that another Aquitanian notation dating from c. 1100 records organum for one of Horace’s Odes. It will be proposed, finally, that non-liturgical song traditions provide a previously overlooked background to the New Song. 

2 November 2023, 5pm–7pm GMT
Presenter: Jane Bernstein (Tufts University)
Title: ‘Music Printing in Rome during the Long Sixteenth Century’
Discussants: Bonnie J. Blackburn (Oxford) and Noel O’Regan (University of Edinburgh).

Rome ranked second only to Venice as a center for music book production in Renaissance Italy. Yet unlike their Venetian counterparts, who standardized their music publications, Roman printers, experimented more readily and more consistently with the materiality of their books. Emphasizing the exceptionalism of Roman music publishing, this talk highlights the innovative printing technologies and book forms devised by bookmen in the Eternal City. By drawing on landmark publications, it reveals a synergistic relationship between music repertories and the materiality of the book, particularly during the post-Tridentine period, when musical idioms, both new and old, challenged printers to employ alternative printing methods and modes of book presentation in the creation of their music editions. 

30 November 2023, 5pm–7pm GMT
Presenter: Peter Lefferts (University of Nebraska)
Title: ‘Disiecta Membra Musicae: A new facsimile edition of music manuscript fragments from 14th-Century England’
Discussants: Andrew Wathey (The National Archives and University of Northumbria) and Jared Hartt (Oberlin College).

A volume of facsimiles of English fourteenth-century polyphonic music in preparation for the series Early English Church Music is intended to supersede Harrison and Wibberley, Manuscripts of Fourteenth Century English Polyphony (EECM 26, 1981). It will fill the current gap between Summers and Lefferts, English Thirteenth Century Polyphony (EECM 57, 2016) and Bent and Wathey, Fragments of English Polyphonic Music c. 1390-1475 (EECM 62, 2022). As in the latter two, leaves will be reproduced in colour, mostly at full size, and in their original order; further, about twice as many sources will be reproduced as in the 1981 book. This talk will address some of the most interesting features of the relevant new sources uncovered in the last 45 years, consider questions about provenance that have been raised by scholarship on the codices housing these musical fragments in their bindings, and offer a taste of the discoveries yielded by the use of modern research tools, from basic internet text searching to high-resolution digital and multi-spectral imaging. In addition, the repertoire of the extraordinary Dorset rotulus will serve as the point of departure for remarks about what is new in our picture of 14th-century English music. 

Hilary Term 2024

25 January 2024, 5pm-7pm GMT
Presenter: Susan Forscher Weiss (Peabody Institute and Johns Hopkins University)
Title: ‘Roman de Volvelles: A Story of Revolving Diagrams in Early Modern Quadrivial Texts’
Discussants: Mary Carruthers and Michael Dodds.

15 February 2024, 5pm–7pm GMT
Presenter: Johanna-Pauline Thöne (University of Oslo)
Title: ‘New Interpretations and Contexts for the Motet Fragments Basel 71 and 72 (ca. 1400)’
Discussants: Kévin Roger and Anne Stone.

7 March 2024, 5pm–7pm GMT
Presenter: Barbara Haggh-Huglo (University of Maryland at College Park)
Title: ‘Guillaume Du Fay between the Church and Two Courts: Proposals for a Revised Biography’
Discussants: Anne Robertson and Reinhard Strohm.