Session 33 (Round Table): Interactions between local and international music traditions, c. 1400–1600

Thursday, 8 July 2021, 09.00-10.30, Room A224

Session Abstract

The roundtable will lay basis for discussion about historiographical challenges of early-modern musicology today. In particular, narratives dealing with ‘centres’ and ‘peripheries’ have been debated for a long time, but they continue to present epistemological issues. While current scholarship is aware of the need to revise traditional views about geographic centres (e.g., ‘Western European Music’), musical styles (e.g., ‘Franco-Flemish polyphony’), or music circulation (e.g., the Low Countries/Italy axis), concrete ways to tackle them still need to be found.

Our session examines case-studies which offer possible avenues and methodologies in order to nuance the centre/periphery paradigm and, consequently, to have a more inclusive understanding of Renaissance music history. It will illustrate how recent databases can lead to reconsiderations about datation of Central European sources (Hlávková) and about the ‘centrality’ of Spanish composers and their relationships with other European regions (Ros- Fábregas). Codicological analysis will also reveal under-researched connections between Castile and Silesia at the turn of the sixteenth century (Gancarczyk) and roads of transmission will be analysed to emphasise the vivid musical exchanges which took place in Switzerland (Groote). By focusing on the interactions between local and international traditions in the Low Countries, the roundtable will also nuance the dominance of this region in the sixteenth century (Burn) and question its dominant musical styles in the fifteenth century (Louviot).

Moving in time. Centre/periphery concept, dating and interpretation of music manuscripts in Central Europe | Lenka Hlávková (Charles University, Prague)

In the traditional narrative of music historiography, some regions of Latin Europe are understood as central and some as peripheral ones, if we focus on the transmission of polyphonic music. One important aspect for relevant interpretation of sources and their historical contexts is of course their dating according to current tools, i.e. databases of watermarks. In my contribution I would like to illustrate the dependence of our historical imagination and changing contextualization of music sources on the example of the Bohemian manuscript Codex Speciálník. Since the research by Dobroslav Orel from the beginning of the twentieth-century, the dating of this collection of polyphony oscillated between the mid sixteenth-century, early seventeenth-century and last decades of the fifteenth century. The last update of the Speciálník watermarks proposes new possibilities, how to understand ways of transmitting polyphony in Central Europe before 1480.

Local and international interactions in Hispanic sources of polyphony | Emilio Ros-Fábregas (CSIC-Spanish National Research Council, IMF- Institució Milà i Fontanals of Research in Humanities, Barcelona)

The “Spanish” reception of international repertory continues to be considered isolated from its dissemination and interaction with local traditions. A longue durée perspective (illustrated with examples from ca. 1500 to early 17th century), taking into account large number of manuscript and printed books in the database Books of Hispanic Polyphony IMF-CSIC (, provides evidence to question the cliché about the overwhelming presence of Morales, Guerrero and Victoria in Spanish territory and to propose, instead, a different perspective in which diverse repertories interact differently in different regions of the Hispanic world. The “Spanish Road / Chemin des espagnols”, a military route used also for trade and traveling from Spain, through Milan, to Brussels (1567-1633), will be considered also as a possible key venue for local and international musical interactions in Spain and Central Europe.

Distant or close traditions? Two manuscripts in comparison: Segovia and Warsaw 5892 | Paweł Gancarczyk (Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences)

The manuscripts Segovia and Warsaw 5892 were written towards the end of the 1490s in two locations distant from each other –Castileand Silesia. In spite of the geographical distance they share many codicological and repertory features. What can we learn about the musical culture of Europe by comparing these manuscripts? How to account for the sometimes startling similarities between Segovia and Warsaw 5892? The paper will make a minor contribution to the research into the two manuscripts, as well as initiating a discussion on the subject of the “centre/periphery” issue in music ca 1500 and in modern historiography.

Circulation of repertory and local interactions: thoughts on some “Swiss” sources | Inga M. Groote (Institute of Musicology at the University of Zürich)

Switzerland is located centrally in Western Europe, but usually not considered as a major center in the late-medieval and early-modern musical landscape (a part, perhaps, from the collections left by wealthy patrons like the Ammerbach family in Basel). The geography of cultural contacts in these times is nevertheless characterised by intense exchange of repertory, notwithstanding the particular situation which affected the institutional use and transmission of sacred music after the Swiss reformation movements. Sources from the first decennies of the 16th ct. attest to a vivid circulation and reception of repertory from the western and northern regions (as is the case with Southern German polyphonic songs in the ms. 30/31 of the Fundaziun Planta in Samedan) and local responses to‚ international‘ repertoire (like the collected repertory and compositions by Clemens Hör, today preserved in Zurich). These manuscripts will be discussed witha focus on the patterns of transmission, like the influence of travels in the biographies of previous owners or the practice of copying after prints.

Interactions between local and international traditions in the Low Countries in the early sixteenth century | David Burn (KU Leuven)

A nuanced understanding of centres and peripheries in renaissance music history requires examining both whether the peripheries were really peripheral and the centres really central. Responding to the latter side of the equation, the present paper investigates Low Countries musical sources, both manuscript and printed, from with first half of the sixteenth century with an eye to local versus international traditions. The results reveal that the Low Countries were not the unified dominant centre that they are frequently portrayed to be. On the one hand, they, like other regions, had their local traditions that were not exported; and on the other, they, like other regions, were not immune from absorbing outside influences.

Re-centering fifteenth-century simple polyphony in Europe: The example of the Tongeren Manuscript | Manon Louviot (KU Leuven)

‘Simple’ polyphonic practices in the Middle Ages have been discussed in scholarship and their wide geographical distribution in Europe acknowledged since the 1980s. Yet, they tend to remain at the periphery of traditional historiographical narratives. This paper offers preliminary thoughts on how to fill in this historiographical gap based on one case study: a fifteenth-century rapiarium (B-Br IV 421), which originates from a monastery in Tongeren and which features song concordances, as well as stylistic and notational similarities with, among others, Central European sources. By doing so, this paper also aims at opening avenues for re-centering marginalised musical styles within a shared European culture.