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Research Colloquium: Professor Emma Hornby

February 12 @ 5:15 pm - 7:15 pm


Professor Emma Hornby (Bristol)

Processional chants in early medieval Iberia: adventures in musical analysis.

The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Jason Weir and Emma Kavanagh organise the series. Presentations are followed by discussion and a drinks reception. Students, staff, and the general public are warmly encouraged to attend.


The Old Hispanic rite, entirely independent of the Roman rite and its familiar Gregorian chant, was practised across much of medieval Iberia until its suppression at the council of Burgos in 1080. Until recent years, its ‘peripheral’ status and preservation almost entirely in unpitched (rather than pitched) notation led to Old Hispanic chant being neglected by scholars outside Iberia. With my long-term collaborators, I have developed methodologies that enable us to establish the melodic grammar of repertoires preserved only in unpitched notation, opening up the Old Hispanic melodies to fruitful interrogation. In our Leverhulme-funded project, my colleague David Andrés identified all rubrics mentioning processions in the Old Hispanic rite. This has given us a secure basis from which to explore the chants associated with those processions. Before beginning work on them, I was expecting relatively simple melodies, conducive to being sung by people on the move and engaged in complex rituals. This is sometimes the case – as I will show – but there are also complex chants with significant melismas, almost certainly sung by expert singers. In this paper, I introduce some of the processional chants. I explore some of the unexpected melodies (fully notated prayers?!), a day that has no fewer than 22 processional chants assigned to it, and a series of chants that include internal melodic repetitions, sometimes articulating and communicating theologically-charged texts in quite subtle ways, and sometimes seeming to be more of a musical “”tic”” within a chant or a set of chants. My aim is to establish whether there is an identifiable musical language or set of musical strategies within Old Hispanic processional chants, or whether instead the processional chants sit within the musical norms that my colleagues and I have identified for the repertoire more widely.


February 12
5:15 pm - 7:15 pm
Event Category:


Faculty of Music
01865 (2)76133


Denis Arnold Hall, Faculty of Music
St Aldate's
Oxford,OX1 1DB
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01865 276125