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Faculty of Music

Dr Sam  Barrett


Professor of Early Medieval Music
Director of Studies, Pembroke College


Sam Barrett is Professor of Early Medieval Music, and Fellow and Director of Study in Music at Pembroke College. He is a specialist in early medieval music, with a particular interest in Latin song and issues in notation, transmission and performance. He also has interests in jazz and related genres of popular music.

His work within medieval music is driven by an interest in song, especially in the way it crosses boundaries between text and music, writing and orality, and memory and performance. These interests have focussed on arguably the earliest surviving layer of the Western European lyric tradition, namely the music of the late antique and early medieval Latin lyric, in relation to which he has identified new notated sources and developed analytical techniques for assessing a musical tradition previously presumed to lie beyond detailed commentary. This research has resulted in new editions of the earliest layer of a continuous European tradition of song. He also has an active interest in American jazz of the 1950s and ’60s.

His undergraduate teaching has concentrated on topics in medieval music and jazz, including courses on plainchant and early polyphony, the Sequence, the music of Hildegard of Bingen, American Jazz (especially from the 1940s onwards), Miles Davis and the Blues. At the graduate level, he jointly taught the main Introduction to Musicology course for several years. He has supervised MPhil theses on medieval music and jazz, and is currently supervising PhD theses in trouvère song and the musical writings of al-Kindi.

He retains an interest in performance. He was Director of Music at Pembroke College from 2006-2015. He has since collaborated closely with the professional group Sequentia, resulting in contributions to several concert programmes and a CD entitled Boethius: Songs of Consolation - Metra from 11th-century Canterbury. He continues to direct, perform, and record with a number of vocal groups based in Cambridge, is a Trustee of De Profundis, and is Associate Director of Music at the Church of Our Lady of The Assumption and The English Martyrs.

Sam Barrett is on the editorial boards of Music & Letters and Early Music History.  He also serves on the board of Cambridgeshire Music, the county hub for music education and arts therapies.


Key publications: 


1. The Melodic Tradition of Boethius "De consolatione philosophiae" in the Middle Ages, Monumenta Monodica Subsidia Series VII, 2 vols., Bärenreiter, Kassel, 2013


2. Corpus Rhythmorum musicum saec. iv-ix I Songs in Non-Liturgical Sources 1. Lyrics (ed. F. Stella and S. Barrett), SISMEL (Edizioni del Galluzzo), Florence, 2007 - also online:



3. ‘Music and Writing: On the Compilation of Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale lat. 1154’, Early Music History 16 (1997), pp. 55-96

4. ‘Ritmi ad cantandum: Some Preliminary Editorial Considerations’, Poesia dell’alto medioevo europeo: manoscritti, lingua e musica dei ritmi latini (ed. F. Stella), SISMEL (Edizioni del Galluzzo), Florence, 2000, pp. 397-419

5. ‘On Editing Neumatic Notations of Rhythmical Verse’, Poesia dell’alto medioevo europeo: manoscritti, lingua e musica dei ritmi latini II (ed. E. D’Angelo and F. Stella), SISMEL (Edizioni del Galluzzo), Florence, 2003, pp. 149-170

6. ‘Two New Sources for the Poetry of Paulinus of Aquileia’, in Paolino di Aquileia e il contributo italiano all’europa carolingia (ed. P. Chiesa), Forum – Società Editrice Universitaria Udinese, Udine, 2004, pp. 25- 50

7. ‘The Rhythmical Songs of Paulinus of Aquileia’, Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 40/1 (2005), pp. 53-73

8. ‘Stylistic Layers in Early Medieval ritmi ad cantandum’, in Proceedings of the Fourth International Medieval Latin Congress (ed. M. C. Díaz y Díaz and J. M. Díaz de Bustamente), SISMEL (Edizioni del Galluzzo), Florence, 2005, pp. 525-538

9. ‘Reflections on Music Writing: Coming to Terms with Gain and Loss in Early Medieval Latin Song’, in Gewinn und Verlust in der Musikgeschichte: Auf der Suche nach verspielten Optionen (ed. A. Dorschel and A. Haug), Universal Edition, Vienna, 2008, pp. 89-109

10. ‘Music and Liturgy in the Middle Ages’, in Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music (ed. M. Everist), CUP, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 185-204

11. ‘The Sponsorship of Early Medieval Latin Song: The Musical Evidence of Two Carolingian Poetic Collections’, in Patrons and Professionals in the Middle Ages (ed. P. Binski and E. A. New), Harlaxton Medieval Studies XXII, Shaun Tyas, Donnington, 2012, pp. 122-40

12. ‘Neumes in a Ninth-Century Verse Collection and the Early History of Messine Notation at Laon’, Études Grégoriennes 40 (2013), pp. 161-189

13. 'New Light on the Earliest Medieval Songbook', in Manuscripts and Medieval Song: Inscription, Performance, Context (ed. Helen Deeming and Elizabeth Leach), CUP, Cambridge, 2015, pp. 9-34

14. 'Creative Practice and the Limits of Knowledge in Reconstructing Songs from Boethius' On the Consolation of Philosophy', Journal of Musicology 36 no. 3 (2019), pp. 261-294

15. ‘Latin Song at the Abbey of Sankt Gallen from c. 800 to the Liber ymnorum’, Early Music History 38 (2019), 1-50.

16. 'Music as Gloss in Newly Discovered Notations for Horace's Odes', The Musical Quarterly (2022).


17. ‘Kind of Blue and the Economy of Modal Jazz’, Popular Music 25.2 (2006), pp. 185-200

18. ‘Modal Jazz’, Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World VIII Genres: North America, ed. D. Horn, Continuum, New York and London, 2012, pp. 334-33

19. ‘Classical Music, Modal Jazz, and the Making of Kind of Blue’, Dutch Journal of Music Theory 16.1 (2011), pp. 53-63


20. ‘S. Wälli, Melodien aus mittelalterlichen Horaz-Handschriften: Edition und Interpretation der Quellen’, Early Music History 23 (2004), pp. 283- 305

21. ‘Performing Medieval Music’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 130.1 (2005), pp. 119-135

22. ‘Jan. M. Ziolkowski, Nota Bene: Reading Classics and Writing Melodies in the Early Middle Ages’, Early Music History 28 (2009), pp. 241-8

23. 'James Grier (ed.), Ademari Cabannensis opera liturgica et poetica: Musica cum textibus', Early Music History 33 (2014), pp. 259-271


24. ‘Boethius’ & ‘Paulinus of Aquileia’ in The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology (ed. J. R. Watson and E. Hornby), Canterbury, 2013


Early Music, Popular Music, Medium Aevum, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Plainsong and Medieval Music, Early Medieval Europe


Sequentia, Boethius: Songs of Consolation.  Metra from 11th-century Canterbury, with Ben Bagby, Hanna Marti and Norbert Rodenkirchen, Glossa: GCD922518, released 22 June 2018