12.11.14, Buckley and Cyrus, eds., Music, Dance, and Society

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Marilyn Lawrence

The Medieval Review 12.11.14

Buckley, Ann and Cynthia J. Cyrus. Music, Dance, and Society: Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Memory of Ingrid G. Brainard. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2011. Pp. xvi, 358. ISBN: 978-1-58044-166-7.

Reviewed by:
Marilyn Lawrence
New York University

At the time of Ingrid Brainard's death in 2000, I was still a graduate student and although I had given papers at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, I had not met this force of a woman. This eclectic collection in her memory makes me wish I had. The two editors, Ann Buckley and Cynthia J. Cyrus, and the seventeen contributors who were her students and colleagues have created a compelling tribute to this dancer, scholar, choreographer, teacher, mentor, and friend. The volume covers a wide range of topics-- including art, literature, and architecture--stretching from the Carolingian Empire to the late Renaissance. Though the title advertises music and dance, music is more heavily represented here, which is perhaps not surprising given Brainard's role as session organizer for Musicology at Kalamazoo for so many years. In addition to being established scholars, a number of the contributors to this volume are or have been actively involved in the performing arts as musicians, music directors, singers, dancers, and choreographers. Their experience as practitioners of the art forms they analyze enriches their work--sometimes more overtly in their discussions of performance, sometimes more subtly in the forming of their scholarly insights.

The editors have grouped the essays into three categories: "The Creation of the Repertory," "Interpreting the Repertory," and "Reevaluating the Repertory." This presentation gives the impression of logical connection, transition, and development of a common subject, however the essays read more like isolated offerings. Some subjects pop up in multiple essays (e.g., Boccaccio, Machaut, the Roman de Fauvel), but there is no real attempt to tie these occurrences together across essays or relate them to one another. The reader will have to take it upon himself to make such connections. Each essay ends with its own notes and bibliography, which works well given the variety of topics, but again emphasizes the autonomous nature of the individual contributions.

The essays are universally well written, carefully researched, thoughtfully argued, and solidly edited. Each essay has something significant to offer, but the majority stay sharply focused on the select topic of their specialty. The volume reads more like a series of discrete monologues rather than the dialogue that the editors invite in the Introduction, where they promise to "[combine] the fields of dance and music history in a mutually illuminating dialogue" in the "inclusive spirit" of Brainard herself (xiii). The few essays that do articulate more general wisdom and broader insights from their material serve the spirit of interdisciplinary dialogue more fully, and those contributors who make an effort to contextualize their studies and define their essential terms and methodologies make their discussions more accessible to non-specialists, which is crucial in a volume that aims to include scholars from a variety of disciplines. In this regard, the volume gets off to a slow start with musicological essays that make limited efforts to connect to scholars from other fields, but the cross-disciplinary spirit increases as the book progresses, culminating in the essay by G. Yvonne Kendall, a model of cross-disciplinary scholarship where we ultimately see the potential of this volume realized. The book's appeal to an individual reader will depend on his own particular interests, in which case he will likely want to seek out specific contributions. My overview below of the variety of offerings intends to help readers navigate the contents and pick out those parts of the volume that might be of most interest to them.

The first part of the book, devoted to "The Creation of the Repertory," contains seven essays, starting with three in-depth musicological studies. Vincent Corrigan opens the volume with his essay on "The Codex Calixtinus and the French Connection: The Office for St. James in Northern France." A musician as well as a musicologist, Corrigan analyzes three ways of constructing a Proper Office: with original text and music, with rewritten older text and borrowed music, and with scriptural text set to borrowed music. He compares two northern French services and the office from the Codex Calixtinus, analyzing revisions and reworkings to propose a possible chronology of the Office of St. James. Clyde Brockett provides a musicological analysis of processional antiphons and the dating of their repertories in "The Roman Processional Antiphon Repertory," discussing music in conjunction with physical movement in the form of processionals in Roman and Gregorian traditions. Joseph Dyer continues in this vein by examining processional chant within his meticulous analysis of the development of "The Celebration of Candlemas in Medieval Rome."

The four remaining essays of part one, while retaining focus on musical creation, bring in broader social and political dimensions. Barbara R. Walters discusses "'Laureata plebs fidelis': A Victorine Sequence from the Feast of Corpus Christi in Thirteenth-Century Liège" with a fascinating examination of the crucial role that the Augustinian religious woman Juliana Mont Cornillon (1193-1258) played in the establishment of the Feast and the significance of this new liturgical ritual on personal, social, theological, and political levels for the men and, particularly, the women of thirteenth-century Liège. Julia Wingo Shinnick devotes her essay to "A Newly Recognized Polyphonic Christmas Gospel, Liber generationis: And Another Look at the Polyphony in the Manuscript Assisi, Biblioteca del Sacro Convento, MS 695." With thoughtful consideration of contemporary performance traditions, Shinnick identifies an eighth polyphonic setting in this manuscript, made in Paris around 1230, and argues that the eight polyphonic pieces were intended for the Marian liturgy in the cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Reims, which had recently been rebuilt after a fire. In "Prope est ruina: The Transformation of a Medieval Tenor," Alice V. Clark unveils a hidden musical and literary intertextual relationship between a motet by fourteenth-century French poet Guillaume de Machaut and its possible inspiration, a motet from the Roman de Fauvel, revealing added layers of meaning to Machaut's work. Richard J. Agee lures us into the myriad theological, legal, and political debates concerning chant reform during the early Catholic Reformation and the culture shift from the Middle Ages to the humanistic Renaissance in his captivating essay on "Ideological Clashes in a Cinquecento Edition of Plainchant."

Readers impatient for dance will want to turn directly to the second section, which features five essays on "Interpreting the Repertory." Cathy Ann Elias opens this section with "Music on the Run in Italian Novelle: Plagues, Devotional Movements, and Intimate Gatherings Away from Home." Given the limits of reconstructing historical performance practices, particularly the practices of amateurs, using surviving noted music alone, Elias fruitfully turns to Italian literary sources before 1600 and their depiction of secular performance practice by amateurs that could include instruments and voice, as well as dance and storytelling. She emphasizes the oft- overlooked importance of improvisation, as well as memorization, in an informal, spontaneous performance tradition open to adaptation to the possibilities of the particular circumstance. In "Dancing in the Street: Fourteenth-Century Representations of Music and Justice," Eleonora M. Beck examines scenes of music making (including, in some cases, dancing) in literature and in art, specifically in narratives and frescos, demonstrating their use as propaganda by governments wishing to show the good, just, peaceful, prosperous life of harmony that they provide their citizens. In contrast, Beck detects in representations of injustice a notable absence of music or strongly negative images such as the violent scene in the fresco Mal Governo by Ambrogio Lorenzetti where "injustice is represented by the willful abduction and assault of the dancing women." (177)

We return to more of a focus on music with "Apres vos fais: Machaut Reception as Seen through the Chantilly Codex (F-CH 564)" by Elizabeth Randell Upton. Upton explores this manuscript, which she tells us was likely copied soon after 1400, to identify the audiences of French composer Machaut (ca. 1300-1377) in the period directly following his death, and to ascertain how long his compositions remained familiar and influential.

Returning to dance and music in "Reading (into?) Renaissance Dance: Misura in the Service of Dramaturgy" [sic], Nona Monahin explores fifteenth-century Italian aristocratic social dances wherein the choice of musical meter and tempo serve to underscore dramatic elements, which in turn emphasize stereotypical courtly gender roles, while simultaneously entertaining both those dancing and those watching the dances. She provides a particularly revealing example of a potentially satirical dance that turns these social codes on their head. Herself a dancer and choreographer, Monahin usefully concludes her essay by directly addressing performers of these social dances today. Jennifer Nevile closes this section of the volume with her intriguing essay on "Dance and Identity in Fifteenth-Century Europe," where she explores how fifteenth-century Europeans identified the geographical origin of various dances and the social importance of such distinction between regional dance styles in regard to definition of communal identity, taking into consideration a host of elements, including choreographic structure and style, movement qualities and gestures, style of accompanying music, and costume.

The third part of the volume, a loose collection of five essays, is devoted to "Reevaluating the Repertory." Contributor William Peter Mahrt, an active music director as well as musicologist, traveled with singers through Gothic cathedrals of southern England, testing how the design of their different architectural spaces met specific acoustical requirements of the sung liturgy, and perhaps of the polyphonic repertory as well. Presenting his findings in his thoroughly absorbing essay "Acoustics, Liturgy, and Architecture in Medieval English Cathedrals," Mahrt walks us through the medieval cathedral and explains how differences in architectural spaces reflect differences in the music performed within them and its liturgical function. In "'Haec est nimis': A Trope-Transcription Puzzle," Greta-Mary Hair shows how examination of scribal writing practices within a particular manuscript (BnF 903, which was produced ca. 1025) can help solve technical problems that arise in the tricky transcription of this melody. In "Compositional Method and Inspirational Guesswork: Reconstructing the Latin Motets of Martin Peerson (ca. 1572-1651)," musicologist and musician Richard Rastall approaches reconstruction of Peerson's incomplete motets from the perspective of musical mechanics and style, laying out strategies as how to narrow down possible choices to select the best solution. Rastall clearly states the impossibility of a perfectly accurate reconstruction (we will, indeed, never know the true original), but lays out an approach for a reconstruction that is nonetheless valid and informed, with the added benefit that along the way, no matter what the result, we gain deeper knowledge of the music. Dance historian and choreographer Barbara Sparti contributes "Dance and Historiography: Le Balet Comique de la Royne, an Italian Perspective." Sparti questions the assumptions of modern scholars about this spectacle, places the work (which was performed in Paris in 1581) in its historical context, and offers constructive suggestions for fresh, new scholarly examination of this Balet.

G. Yvonne Kendall opens her essay, "Mutanze, Divisions, and Diferencias: Variation Form in Late Renaissance Dance," with a fundamental observation: "Dance does not exist in a vacuum. Any study of source contents for la danza will be incomplete without making reference to its partner discipline--la musica. The conjunction of the disciplines of music and dance has vital implications for both, particularly in the areas of form and performance" (323). Working with sixty-six choreographies and over seven hundred tunes, Kendall studies the relationship between dance and music in sixteenth-century variations, defining the variations and identifying their dance types. Kendall closes with an apt conclusion not just to her piece, but to the entire volume: "the results prove that understanding the conjunction of these two arts [dance and music] has vital implications for both in the areas of transmission history, form, and performance" (338).

On the whole, this multifaceted volume of engaging scholarly work serves as a fitting tribute to the legacy of Ingrid Brainard and an inspirational springboard for future dialogue and collaboration between scholars and scholar-performers.

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Author Biography

Marilyn Lawrence

New York University