_Cantum pulcriorem invenire_: Thirteenth-Century Latin Poetry and Music

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Humanities


The long thirteenth century (c1170 to c1320) saw the emergence of three coherent repertories of polyphonic music: settings of liturgical chant called organum, motets that were originally derived from parts of organum, and the conductus. Organum and the motet have been the subject of impressive levels of musicological study in the last 150 years whereas the conductus - despite its status as the first consistent repertory of newly-composed polyphony in the history of music - has remained somewhat in the shadows. Although the repertory has been catalogued, little work, although very distinguished, has been built on these bibliographical foundations. The conductus therefore stands at the centre of this project, merging Latin poetry and music in a single genre.
Cantum pulcriorem invenire (the title of the project quotes lines from the treatise Ars cantus mensurabilis that instruct would-be composers of conductus first of all 'to find a more beautiful melody') seeks to understand the Latin poetry and music of the conductus with a view to reinstating it alongside organum and motet, the position that it enjoyed in the eyes and words of all thirteenth-century theorists. This understanding is gained by an analysis of repertories and chronology, poetry and music, in conjunction with a review of the highly contested question of the genre's rhythm and metre. This then serves as the basis for an examination of cadential function, intertexts, leading to a study of the function of the conductus as a mixed form in the context of the literary prosimetrum. The research also considers geographical aspects of the conductus (its particular cultivation in England, the Iberian Peninsula and south-western German-speaking lands) and its fate on the shifting generic horizon around 1300.
The research involves four elements: a monograph, a recataloguing of the entire repertory, practice-led research to contribute to some of the key parts of the project and two PhDs. The recataloguing of the project depends heavily on the unpublished work of the late Gordon Anderson (d. 1981), an Australian musicologist, and is conducted in collaboration with the Universities of Sydney (both its Centre for Medieval Studies and its eScholarship environment) and of New England at Armidale. The second element is the examination of the repertory from a performative standpoint. Using world-class performers with an extensive track record in the performance of medieval polyphony, and building on the PI's experience in this area, Cantum pulcriorem invenire investigates the questions of rhythm and metre in the conductus by bringing various solutions to the question into a performative arena and creating recordings both on CD with a commercial label and as internet-delivered sound files. The two PhD dissertations will work in detail on areas of the repertory that the project itself will treat coherently but in general terms: the question of the relationship between the English conductus and other genres and the issue of intertextual links both within the conductus repertory itself between the conductus and other genres.
The project will be disseminated in the form of a monograph, published by Cambridge University Press, recordings in two formats (three commercial recordings with Hyperion; a series of working documents placed on the PRIMO (Practice as Research in Music Online) website), and an online catalogue of the repertory hosted by the University of Sydney's e-scholarship environment.

Planned Impact

Cantum pulcriorem invenire proposes an innovative and creative approach not only to the research itself but also to its dissemination and impact which will benefit non-academic consumers of research which is out or proportion to what might be considered reasonable and expected from a project on medieval culture. While the strong link between scholarship and musical performance is integral to the conduct of the research, this results in a range of different types of output, each with different modalities of impact. The combination of monograph, commercial CD recordings and online database means that the project has impacts that overlap a number of related constituencies.
The three principal groups of outputs for Cantum pulcriorem invenire therefore have different levels and types of impact on non-academic beneficiaries. For example, it is doubtful if the online catalogue of the conductus repertory will have any significant benefit beyond academia, and that would be true of any such resource. On the other hand, the catalogue is being structured in such a way as to make it usable and accessible to any performer, for example, who might want to investigate the repertory further; it has to be stressed that the catalogue is only part of the suite of bibliographical tools that would be needed (inventories of manuscripts, facsimiles and editions) that still leave this repertory difficult to approach without the help of professional consultants.
The monograph, however, will address at least in part the world outside academia, especially anyone interested in early music and medieval culture, and is a self contained document that will convey the overall thrust and significant levels of detail the characterise the project. It will, necessarily, make its impact at a single point in time, although reviews will continue to keep it in the public view for anything up to three years after publication. CUP will ensure that the book is sent for review in more popular journals in addition to the obvious peer-reviewed scholarly journals that carry reviews. The monograph will also be available as an e-book as a matter of course, and to judge from PI's previous and analogous monograph with CUP (French Motets in the Thirteenth Century), the current work will also be published in paperback.
What marks out Cantum pulcriorem invenire is the ways in which the research is embedded in practice and the high-profile outputs that are proposed. Not only does a commercial CD recording with Hyperion reach those who buy it, but it profits from air-time on radio both in the UK and abroad, reaching well beyond those who purchase; it also allows Hyperion to issue such recordings that in a purely commercial environment (where they take all the risk without support from AHRC) would simply not happen. Commercial recordings are now locked automatically into streamed and downloadable audio which points to yet another constituency on whom the project will make an impact. The strength of the project is also that the CDs will appear at annual intervals, thus creating a cumulative effect on CD sales, downloads and air-time. Not formally part of the project, but important for this part of its impact will be the live concerts that will inevitably follow from the research and the issue of the commercial recordings; these are impossible to predict but largely self-funding, and that is why they are excluded from the formal costed parts of the project. Earlier collaborations between the PI and the performers working on this project have demonstrated this to be the case.
The non-academic constituencies with which Cantum pulcriorem invenire seeks to engage are:
First and foremost the wider public interested in early music, its recording, performance and presence on radio
Those in the broadcast media that support that audience
Commercial recording companies, especiall


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Description The late 12th and 13th centuries saw the emergence of coherent repertories of polyphonic music for the first time. Organum and motet emerged as genres understood by contemporaries of their composers as bodies of music that could be organised in a written form and could be described and explained using the written word. Both genres were open, in that they were subject to consistent reworking, and since the beginning of the 20th century, they have enjoyed canonic status in musicology, and - to a degree - in the world of music as cultivated in the present.

There was a third category of polyphonic music that co-existed with motet and organum. Latin song, called the conductus by contemporary authors, was composed and cultivated in both monophonic and polyphonic forms. Unlike the motet and organum, it was not based on any pre-existing musical or poetic material (with a very few exceptions [see chapter five of the outline]), nor did it experience the mobile textual status that characterised the other two genres. Although this meant that it represented a less engaging musicological challenge to scholars of the early 20th century, today it may be recognised as the first coherent repertory of polyphonic music that was entirely composed - poetry and music - for the first time. If there is a single point on which Cantum pulcriorem invenire focuses, it is the aim of reinstating the conductus repertory not simply to an equal status with organum and motet, but to re-establishing the 13th-century recognition that saw the conductus as the most significant form of poetic and musical utterance.
Exploitation Route Database is in constant use; CDs used by many; monograph will form an essential part of the scholarly literature.
Sectors Creative Economy

URL http://www.southampton.ac.uk/music/research/projects/cantum_pulcriorem_invenire.page?
Description Catalogue mostly used by the scholarly community. CDs widely used by the general public and the music community beyond academia.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural