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Music Scholars Lecture Series: Early Music from Script to Sound


Barbara Haggh-Huglo, Professor of Music at the University of Maryland

Isabelle Ragnard, Maîtresse de conférences, Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)

Date: Friday, May 3, 2019 at 4pm

Location: Leah Smith Lecture Hall

Open to the University of Maryland Community | Free


Paper Abstract 1:

"From Heaven to Earth: Music Education in Ghent, 800-1559"

Barbara Haggh-Huglo, Professor of Music, University of Maryland

Early music theory, library book lists, monastic rules, chanted saints’ offices, and the virtually unbroken set of registers of the aldermen of Ghent give witness to the heavenly music of number and earthly music of singing and instrumental performance as it was known and taught in medieval Ghent, the most populous city north of Paris in 1400. Unlike most cities, whose earliest churches were  subordinated to cathedrals and collegiate churches in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Ghent was until the sixteenth century dominated by two competing Benedictine abbeys, St Bavo’s and St Peter’s. Even the eight parish churches in the city were managed by them, and the only independent church, the collegiate church of St Pharaïlde, which was the church of the counts of Flanders, was relatively poor throughout its history. As a consequence, music teaching relied at first on the abbey libraries and participation in the liturgy, and only later on the patronage of the city government and lay citizens. In the sixteenth century, when the parish church of St John’s was transformed into the cathedral of St Bavo with now secularized monks, music education in Ghent changed to make music an expression of prosperity befitting the birthplace of Emperor Charles V.


Barbara Haggh-Huglo, Professor of Music at the University of Maryland, specializes in medieval and Renaissance music, its notation, theory, manuscripts, archival documentation, and its place in urban life and at courts. Her paper is part of her book in progress on music in Ghent to 1559, funded by grants from the NEH and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Just published is her edition of ninth-century chant for St Hilary of Poitiers.


Paper Abstract 2:

"Towards a Historiography of the Sound of Medieval Music: Recordings on 78 RPM Flat Discs"

Isabelle Ragnard, Maîtresse de conférences, Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)

The rediscovery of medieval music since the nineteenth century is a recent subject of musicological research. Nevertheless, the habitual historiographical perspective based on written documents like musical scores is reductive, because, unlike the cases of the other arts, the music of the past does not exist in itself, but is realized anew in each interpretation of a score. Moreover, the invention of sound recording at the end of the nineteenth century made past music available to all; such access was limited to only a few initiates before then. The phenomenon of the early sound recording thus invites a sociological analysis as well as a musicological one. In this presentation I demonstrate the incomparable documentation of artistic activity on 78 RPM flat discs and suggest methods for cataloguing such sources. In proposing a medieval historiography through sound, I consider the inscription of the medieval musical repertory in contemporary artistic production, not just of sound recordings, but also of dramatic spectacles and cinema on historical subjects. This exploration extends beyond the history of the interpretation of early music to the dialogue established between the works of the past and contemporary artistic creations.


Isabelle Ragnard, Maîtresse de conférences at the Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), specializes in secular music of the 13th-15th centuries, its ‘invention’ in the 20th century, and in female musicians, theater, and the codicology and use of music books in the Middle Ages. Her paper results from her interest in the reception, interpretation, and use of medieval music in contemporary life through sound recordings and film.