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Faculty of Music

Dr Sam Barrett on BBC Radio 3 The Early Music Show

Lost songs fascinate, especially when their melodies survive in unfamiliar notations that cannot be fully reconstructed. It has long been known that poems from the influential De consolatione philosophiae (On the Consolation of Philosophy) by the sixth-century Roman philosopher and statesman Boethius were sung in the Middle Ages. But how to recover a song tradition recorded over a thousand years ago in mnemonic notations when performance traditions have fallen silent?

In the latest episode of The Early Music Show on BBC Radio 3, (25 November, 2pm), Dr Sam Barrett talks to Lucie Skeaping about his fascinating research to bring back to life the lost repertory of Boethian song.

And a new website gathers together manuscript images, videos and other resources, explains reconstruction methods and invites users to contribute. Research hitherto conducted by Dr Barrett and extended in consultation with members of the professional ensemble Sequentia resulted in the creation of a small number of reconstructions. It remains to extend the process across all thirty-nine poems, drawing on expertise from a wider community to refine hypotheses and make unexpected connections in an area where systematic research methods can proceed only so far.