Inscribing Refrains in Medieval Song with Mary Channen Caldwell (University of Pennsylvania)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
3:30 PM – 4:45 PM


Free Event

Dr. Mary Channen Caldwell, Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Pennsylvania, will present a talk entitled “Inscribing Refrains in Medieval Song” on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 from 3:30-4:45 p.m. in Music Room 1145 on the UCSB campus. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. This event is sponsored by the UCSB Music History and Theory Forum.

Although repetition saturates medieval song at all levels, it takes its most identifiable shape across languages and genres in the refrain. There is, of course, no one kind of refrain; the refrain alters its identity almost as often as it repeats itself. Key to the refrain, however, whether understood on the level of structure, quotation, or aphorism, is repetition—a refrain requires a return. In this talk I will consider the moment of return as it occurs implicitly and explicitly on the manuscript page through cueing, symbols, and abbreviation practices. By attending to the material side of the refrain’s return, we gain a deeper understanding of how they were performed and disseminated.
Specifically, delving into repetition’s material life provides a revealing glimpse into its immaterial life, showcasing the refrain’s itinerancy across songs and manuscripts and its performative orality. As an example, I focus my attention on a collection of Latin songs (conducti) in two late-medieval liturgical manuscripts from the monastery of St. Lambrecht (Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, MSS 409 and 258). In both sources, the visual shape of refrains and their cues continually subvert expectations of repetition and return, demanding consideration of how performance practices and oral transmission intervene in song. Foregrounding the refrain’s life on the page, these sources disclose the complexity of the medieval return as it occurs beyond the page.
Speaker Bio:
Mary Channen Caldwell is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. She has articles published in Early Music HistoryPlainsong & Medieval Music, and (forthcoming) the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. She also has a chapter in an edited collection, The Jeu D’adam: Ms Tours 927 and the Provenance of the Play, published by the Medieval Institute in the Early Drama, Art and Music series. Ongoing projects include a book-length study of time and song in premodern Europe, titled Seasonal Refrains: A Calendar of Song in Premodern Europe.