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Faculty of Music


Dr Helen Deeming
Royal Holloway, University of London

The Lives and Afterlives of a Medieval Song Manuscript

Helen Deeming is Reader in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London, and co-editor of the journal Early Music. Her research concerns medieval music, especially in England and northern France, and focusses on manuscript contexts, song, and notation. She has edited Songs in British Sources, c.1150-1300, for Musica Britannica, vol. 95 (Stainer & Bell, 2013), and co-edited, with Elizabeth Eva Leach, Manuscripts and Medieval Song: Inscription, Performance, Context (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Her work has also appeared in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Music & Letters, Early Music, Plainsong & Medieval Music, the Journal of the Alamire Foundation, and Scriptorium.

This paper considers a thirteenth-century songbook that underwent several phases of accretion and substitution during the century or so after its initiation. London, British Library, Egerton MS 274 (known to scholars of polyphony as LoB, and to scholars of Old French song as chansonnier F) bears witness to several repertories of thirteenth-century music. Best known are its opening fascicle of conducti here attributed to Philip the Chancellor, and its fourth fascicle, containing vernacular songs with marginal attributions to five trouvères; the manuscript also includes assorted liturgical chants, other Latin songs, and a fascicle of narrative Latin poetry, not set to music. The collection’s present state reflects several generations of intervention by subsequent possessors of the manuscript: these are both unusually extensive and relatively transparent, allowing us to uncover both what was added or changed, and what was there originally. As such, it offers a fruitful case study for examining the changing priorities of different owners of the book, and for exploring the archaeological concept of ‘object biography’. 

The Colloquium series is the main opportunity for members of the Faculty, researchers from other departments, and the general public to come together and hear papers on all aspects of music research, given by distinguished speakers from the UK and abroad. Colloquia are held on Wednesday afternoons in the Recital Room of the Faculty of Music, West Road. Admission is free and all are welcome. Please arrive at 4:50pm for a 5:00pm start. Papers are followed by a discussion and a drinks reception with the speaker.

Wednesday, 2 November, 2016 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
5:00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music