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

Hilary Term 2024


Thursday 25 January, 5pm–7pm GMT

Presenter: Susan Forscher Weiss (Peabody Institute and the Johns Hopkins University)
Title: Roman de Volvelles: A Story of Revolving Diagrams in Early Modern Quadrivial Texts

Discussants:  Mary Carruthers (Oxford and New York University) and Michael Dodds (North Carolina School for the Arts)

Recent scholarly attention has focused on diagrams in early modern quadrivial texts. Representations of hands in musical texts reveal nuanced differences in their inscriptions. In addition to the hand, other diagrams such as trees and geometric shapes, particularly the circle, symbolize new ways of thinking about music that stretch the limits of the gamut. These diagrams also reveal that music was aligning itself with discourse and language that united the two artes, mathematical and rhetorical.
That these diagrams imply movement is reinforced by the presence of 3-D interactive wheel charts known as volvelles, early versions of analog computers, by-products of an expanding interest in the science of navigation. These devices appear in manuscripts as early as the 1100 CE, as visual enticements and pedagogical aids for learning both visually and kinesthetically in astronomy, astrology, calendrical calculations, cryptography, navigation, and architecture. In this paper, I will trace the progression of diagrams in musical sources leading to arguably the earliest musical text containing a set of windowed volvelles, Ambrosius Wilfflingseder’s Erotemata musices practicae, published in Nuremberg in 1563, and how these images reflect changes in music theory and practice that demonstrate a shift from a vocal toward an instrumental conceptualization of music.


Thursday 15 February, 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: Antonio Calvia (Università di Pavia), Kévin Roger (University of Tours) and Anne Stone (CUNY Graduate Center)

Since their discovery by Wulf Arlt and Martin Steinmann some thirty years ago, two independent parchment fragments now housed at the University Library of Basel – the bifolio FIX.71 and the single folio NI6.72 (hereafter Basel71 and Basel72) – have awaited detailed study. This paper analyses, from multiple perspectives, the two different versions of the same fourteenth-century motet uniquely and incompletely recorded in these fragments.
I shall not only untangle the complex voice transmission and musical structure of this motet, but also explore the chronology and interdependence of its two alternative poetic texts: …Papam querentes/Gaudeat et exultet (triplum and motetus in Basel71, concerning the papal schism of 1378) and Novum sidus orientis (triplum in Basel72, drawn from a Franciscan sequence). Finally, I discuss the composition’s striking musical and possibly also historical connections to the widely transmitted motet Rex Karole/Leticie pacis/Virgo prius, which is also partially preserved in Basel72.
Overall, this remarkable case raises overdue and somewhat unexpected questions concerning manuscript transmission, compositional process, political propaganda, and musical and poetic creativity in the late fourteenth century.


Thursday 7 March, 5pm–7pm GMT

Presenter: Barbara Haggh-Huglo (University of Maryland at College Park)

Title: Guillaume Du Fay between the Church and Two Courts: A Reassessment of his Biography
Discussants: Anne Walters Robertson (University of Chicago) and Reinhard Strohm (University of Oxford)

In this paper, I reassess Du Fay's biography to emphasize his years in Savoy that I claim defined his career and his fame. A gap in his biography in 1433-34 corresponds to Auclou's travel from Rome to Dijon to bring a Miraculous Host to Duke Philip, the birth of his son Charles to whom Du Fay willed his music, and the court's travels to the Savoy wedding of 1434: a stay of Du Fay in Dijon would explain Duke Philip’s subsequent promotion of his career. At Philip’s court in 1433 was Henri Arnaut de Zwolle: K. Sachs associates a short text on counterpoint in the Buxheim Organ Book (with Du Fay songs) with a Dijon organ drawn by Zwolle, and language in Martin Le Franc’s Le Champion des Dames suggests Du Fay did play the portative organ. Le Champion includes a set of arguments against and for the Virgin Mary’s conception without Original Sin used by Carlier in his Parisian commentary on the Sentences suggesting Le Franc knew Carlier’s text. While in Savoy, Du Fay spent the winter of 1438/39 with Louis I of Savoy and Anne, where Le Franc may have heard him. Such stays in court castles during Du Fay’s Savoy years lead me to reassess the transfer of the Shroud to Louis I and music by Du Fay, including two songs and a rediscovered fragment of his Missa Ecce ancilla Domini. When Du Fay returned to Cambrai as a composer of distinct renown, he sought to raise the Cathedral’s music to court standards. His testamentary documents, post-mortem recognition by Dominicans and Franciscans, and the fate of his chant composed in Savoy for the Cambresian Recollectio festorum beate Marie virginis bear witness to his years in Savoy. That Du Fay, the priest, lacks the anecdotes of the later Josquin but was praised by Le Franc as a ‘most eminent and utterly modest musical practitioner’ corresponds to his appreciation by the two dukes who employed him in times of war and theological and political division.