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Over half-a-million pounds to bring medieval music back to life

Published: 
16 September 2010

The Department of Music at the University of Southampton has been awarded almost £600, 000 to research, catalogue and create sound recordings of a genre of medieval music which hasn’t been performed since the middle of the 13th century.

Supported by the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Sydney, the eScholarship group in the University of Sydney Library, the Dixson Library at the University of New England in Australia, and the National Centre for Early Music in York, Southampton will lead a project to study, recover and revive the conductus – vocal compositions which merge Latin poetry and music.

“We’ll be examining manuscripts kept in archives across Europe for centuries and will bring information on them together, to create the first wide-reaching musicological study of the genre,” comments Head of Music Research at Southampton, Professor Mark Everist.

The project called ‘Cantum pulcriorem invenire’ or ‘to find a more beautiful melody’, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Results will take the form of a monograph published by Cambridge University Press; an online catalogue of the manuscripts – hosted by the eScholarship group in the University of Sydney Library; and selected works performed by world-class musicians, recorded for commercial release on the Hyperion label. Other recordings will be released online as research material.

Mark is leading a project which will bring a genre of medieval music back to life
Professor Mark Everist

"Conductus were performed widely in the 13th century across Europe, but eventually fell out of fashion and haven’t been heard for around 700 years,” says Professor Everist.

He continues, “Our performances will bring to life this all but forgotten, yet highly significant genre of music, making it accessible to a 21st century audience.”

As part of the project, researchers at the University of Sydney re-cataloguing the repertory of conductus will draw heavily from the unpublished work of the late Australian musicologist Gordon Anderson – a scholar of 12th and 13th century Latin poetry and music. Anderson was a Professor at the University of New England, and on his death papers and an extensive library was left to the institution, to which the project team have been granted access for the first time.

Work on the project begins in January 2011.

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