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22.02.06 Long, Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions in Paris and Tournai, 1300-1550

22.02.06 Long, Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions in Paris and Tournai, 1300-1550

The study of medieval confraternities has seen something of a revival recently, with renewed attention being paid to these often elusive and locally-specific institutions. Sarah Long’s Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions in Paris and Tournai, 1300-1550 sheds light on a significant, but often difficult to get at, aspect of the life of confraternities: their liturgical and musical practices. Pairing close analyses of chants and liturgical manuscripts with a deep understanding of devotional literature and lay religion, Long demonstrates the extensive potential of true inter- and cross-disciplinary research, making her book of interest to an audience well beyond those with a musicological disposition. Long explores well-trodden territory in musicology with a fresh eye, all while skillfully navigating the trickier questions of shifting devotional priorities and community makeup. Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions is thus a welcome and necessary contribution to a burgeoning and promising area of study.

Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions focuses on confraternal organizations in Paris and Tournai between the fourteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries, a period that saw considerable transformation in both musical and devotional cultures. Long’s choice of Paris and Tournai is no coincidence; both cities, and indeed the wider regions in which they sat, were flourishing centers of musical and liturgical life throughout the Middle Ages, but particularly during the period covered in the book. Although Long initially treats the cities separately, she reveals networks and links between the cities in the book’s final chapters, throwing light on the movement of people and liturgical practices across northern Europe. With a strong grounding in the manuscript cultures of the confraternities on which she focuses, Long demonstrates the vital role these institutions played in the construction and maintenance of lay devotional life, and how they functioned as catalysts for the composition of new liturgical chants.

The first three chapters of Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions pay careful attention to individual confraternities in Paris and Tournai, their patron saints, and the composition of new plainchant--more specifically, Mass propers and office chants--for these institutions. Throughout these chapters, Long not only compares the chants and liturgies of confraternities--often across numerous manuscripts--but also how these liturgies, frequently newly composed, related to hagiographic or otherwise devotional literature for each confraternity’s respective saint. Each chapter, then, begins with a close study of each saint’s life and legends, before turning to confraternal liturgies and celebrations for that saint. One of the great strengths of Long’s work comes to the fore throughout these chapters: her ability to pair the study of liturgical chant with a broader and more comprehensive understanding of its role in lay religion and devotional practices, illuminating an aspect and area of medieval religious life often thought lost.

Chapter 1, “Confraternities and Popular Devotions to St. Barbara in Tournai,” focuses on the Confraternity of Notaries in Tournai, whose devotions to St. Barbara were highly influential on local practices. Through her study of the Confraternity’s books, Long compares their liturgies for Barbara extensively with other institutions elsewhere, laying bare the relationship between the transmission of hagiographical texts and confraternity practices. Positioning confraternities as important sites not only for lay religion, but also the development of new liturgical practices, Long demonstrates the extent to which an organization like the Confraternity of Notaries could shape local liturgical practices. As such, Long encodes within Chapter 1 some of the most important themes of the book as a whole: the role of the laity in the composition of new plainchant, and the significant role confraternities played in shaping liturgical and devotional life.

Both Paris and Tournai feature in Chapter 2, “Relic Translation and Healing Liturgies for St. Catherine and St. Nicholas in Paris,” where both saints featured in the chapter’s title were venerated by local confraternities. Building on the compositional tactics and processes introduced in Chapter 1, here Long expands our understanding of how chant and devotional texts could be used to create new layers of meaning through confraternal devotions. Focusing on compositional processes, rather than on individual composers, Long highlights in particular the use of contrafacture--i.e., the use of previously-composed melodies as the bases for new textual compositions--to create layers of meanings and intertextual relationships.

Chapter 3, “Historical Narratives and the Importance of Place in Masses for St. Sebastian,” considers the Confraternity of the Bourgeois Archers in Paris and its devotions for St. Sebastian. Showing how this Parisian confraternity thought of Sebastian as a protector against plague, Long reveals how new chant compositions link with the saint’s wider confraternal function. The practice of using old melodies is significant in this chapter, as confraternities composed new texts on chants typically connected with Louis the Pious to align Sebastian with French royal interests, thereby localizing the saint. The Confraternity tactfully focused on Sebastian to unite its community, drawing on his life in order to create parallels between his role as a local saint and protector of France, and the Confraternity’s archers as protectors of the city of Paris.

In the final two chapters of the book, Long zooms out to consider the people and networks responsible for the transmission of confraternity liturgies throughout the period. Chapter 4, “Compositional Practice, Networks, and the Dissemination of the Mass Ordinary in Confraternity Sources,” discusses the role confraternities played in the creation of new Mass ordinary chants, and the networks of people and transmission such study reveals. Long tracks connections between confraternities and their local contexts, while both couching them in larger networks and avoiding the temptation to seek individual authors or identities. Close consideration is given to the so-called “Tournai Mass,” a fourteenth-century Mass ordinary compilation that was created for a local confraternity. Rather than focusing on questions of authorship or attribution, as would often be the case for a musical work of this period, Long argues for a more collective understanding of authorship, and maintains the significance of the confraternal context of the Mass’s creation. Most significantly, Long reveals the way that confraternities and their members crafted their own networks of transmission, and “how music in confraternity devotions was influenced by local traditions and by the movement of musicians to different places.” (180)

Continuing the theme of networks, in Chapter 5, “The Role of the Parisian Book Production Community in the Perpetuation of Popular Devotions,” Long considers how the Parisian book trade affected the wider dissemination of Mass chants in the sixteenth century. The confraternity devotions discussed in earlier chapters, particularly those for St. Barbara, the Virgin, and St. Sebastian, return in this chapter, having been included as appendices in printed liturgical books from sixteenth-century Paris. Their appearance in these printed books, which were typically produced for a more general audience, expanded the influence and transmissions of these chants, which then appeared in diocesan missals. Thus, Long demonstrates the extended influence of confraternities and their liturgical practices over a period of hundreds of years, and how confraternal liturgies left a long and lasting impact on devotional life across Europe.

The book itself is beautifully set and easy to navigate. In addition to substantive appendices, each chapter is fitted with extensive tables comparing liturgies, laying out the contents of particular manuscripts, or relaying devotional texts. The inclusion of such information betrays the depth of research, although many readers may find such evidence unnecessary to appreciate the book’s broader arguments.

Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions makes countless scholarly contributions, both in music studies, of course, but also in the study of religious history more broadly. Long unveils the musical, cultural, and liturgical products of confraternities, communities for which such sources often do not survive. In carefully studying the traces of these practices in late medieval confraternities in Paris and Tournai, Long makes an enormous contribution to scholarly understanding of lay musical and liturgical practices. While scholars of a non-musicological disposition might find themselves feeling slightly at sea in sections of the book which provide a close or comparative analysis of music and texts, these analyses are anything but gratuitous, and Long takes care to make clear the larger implications of such archaeological analyses.

A subtle but unifying intervention in the book is Long’s insistence on not focusing on named composers--of which there are many that typically grace the pages of music historical studies of late medieval northern Europe--but on the anonymous figures and collectives whose musical contributions survive, albeit without attribution. The result is that we gain a more meta, and perhaps more accurate, picture of the way that the laity controlled their own worship and devotional experiences, and of the type of music that was most likely heard by them in this period. Relatedly, rather than treating these musical cultures as more quotidian and less worthy of study, Long quietly but impactfully underscores the role of chant and liturgy as a practice experienced by all. Plainchant, as Long shows, was not simply the domain of clerics and monks, but of less visible organizations and people, as well.

The influence of Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions will be most felt, then, in the way that Long shifts our conceptions of authority and agency, revealing the roles of often anonymous contributors who have long been overlooked. In her Conclusion, Long states that: “If we reconsider the role of lay communities as patrons of new Mass and Office composition, we unlock new ways of looking at musical production.” (213) Placing the origins of the laity’s influence on liturgy “in the fourteenth century, and possibly before,” (213) Long transforms scholarly understanding not just of confraternities, but also of how the laity engaged culturally in devotional life. Perhaps most importantly, Long skillfully weaves music into this story, demonstrating just how ubiquitous it was in all corners of late medieval life. In doing so, Long sounds a call for more careful attention to be paid to music, and demonstrates its integral role in the future of cross-disciplinary medieval studies.