Seminar in Medieval and Renaissance Music | Lachlan Hughes (University of Oxford)

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

The lauda, a form of vernacular song which flourished in the Marian confraternities of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy, has much in common with the lyric poetry written by Dante and his peers: the adoption of the ballata form, the development of a religiously inflected poetics of praise, the elevation of the vernacular, etc. Despite having much in common, however, the two traditions have typically been read as unrelated, in no small part due to an entrenched critical narrative, perpetuated by literary scholars and musicologists alike, which sees the poetry of medieval Italy as essentially ‘divorced’ from any possible musical execution, in stark contrast to the hybrid model of the troubadours. If the medieval Italian poetic tradition is characterised by a conspicuous absence of (notated) music, then the lauda, preserved in the earliest extant collections of musically notated Italian poetry, seemingly has no place in it.

This paper will begin by exploring the origins, consequences, and limitations of such a critical framing, drawing on a historical overview of early (and largely unsuccessful) efforts at assembling a corpus of laude, beginning in the late nineteenth century. It will then present the principal musical sources of the thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century lauda and reflect on their problems and possibilities, before moving to a consideration of what might be gained by reading the secular poetry of Dante and his peers against the contemporary tradition of the lauda. In a broader sense, the paper will also reflect on the advantages of reading a single repertoire through different disciplinary lenses, and what this might tell us about the scholarly traditions in which we work.

Free to attend, register here.

About the series

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 Hilary Term, 2022

The first (individual) presentation will be about half an hour, followed by invited discussants who will engage the speaker in conversation about the paper. The two joint presentations will have no additional discussants. In all cases, the floor will be opened for comments and questions by others after about an hour.