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Distinguished Lecture Series: “Sing to this Tune…”: Music, Marginalia, and Refrains in the Middle Ages

Sing to This Tune
Room 1440 – Schoenberg Music Building Watch Livestream

Dr. Mary Channen Caldwell explores the phenomenon of songs lacking notation yet made musical by means of the process of contrafacture; where new lyrics are fashioned after the poetic structure of a preexistent song, thereby allowing his work to be sung to that earlier melody. While the existence of music may seem central to contrafacture, notation is not always a necessary element. I consider ways in which music can be conveyed textually, as in directions to sing a new poem “to the tune of” a familiar melody. For three medieval manuscripts from the high and late Middle Ages preserving unique Latin contrafacts of French, German, and English songs, scribes and rubricators employed text, often in in margins or rubrics, as a stand-in for musical notation. In this trio of sources, the vernacular refrain emerges as a particularly rich locus for communicating musical, poetic, and linguistic meaning, encapsulating in its brevity and memorability a wealth of information required for the realization of new Latin contrafacts. Dr. Caldwell is currently Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. Caldwell has published articles in Early Music History, Plainsong & Medieval Music, and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. Edited chapters include one on Latin conducti in a book of essays on the thirteenth-century manuscript Tours 927 published by the Medieval Institute in the Early Drama, Art and Music series (2017) and forthcoming chapters on the historiography of medieval dance history and sung litanies.

Reception to follow in the Green Room.

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The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is eager to provide a variety of accommodations and services for access and communications. If you would like to request accommodations, please do so 10 days in advance of the event by emailing ADA@schoolofmusic.ucla.edu or calling (310) 825-0174.


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Food and drink may not be carried into the theaters. Thank you!

The Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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