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Paper 9: Polyphony in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries

Aims and Objectives

In this course students will explore the notation of polyphonic music of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. A wide range of genres will be covered, including organa and clausulae, but there will be a special focus on motets. Students will become familiar with a variety of different types of motet, from the earliest notated examples of this genre to those found in the richly decorated early fourteenth-century manuscript of the Roman de Fauvel. The soundworld of the motet in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is rich in both sonic impact and intertextual associations: one motet may present numerous texts simultaneously, while also pointing outside itself to other genres by quotation. Students will learn to access this soundworld through an approach that is both notational and historical: the skills of transcription taught will enable students to explore the musical language in depth, while studies in the broad range of scholarly issues associated with this repertoire will place their notational exploration in context.

Description of the Course

The course is taught by lecture, seminar, and supervision, with sessions in each of the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. For the notational aspects of the course, lectures familiarising students with the source materials and with notational techniques will be followed by collective transcriptions and small group supervision. Similarly, for the historical sections, lectures will be followed by seminars, then by supervisions in which students will be invited to pursue their own particular interests within the course.
Lecturer: Matthew Thompson

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