Medieval and Renaissance Music Seminar Series - ‘Newly Discovered Aquitanian Polyphony from c. 1100’

19th October 2023, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Presenter: Sam Barrett (University of Cambridge)


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.

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