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Logos Seminar- Capturing sounds, designing notation, writing music
February 1, 2018 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Presenter: Professor Susan Rankin
Systems of musical notation invented in the early middle ages form a basis for later western notations: from these to the twenty-first century the line is unbroken, even if the needs of later periods were not like those experienced between 800 and 900. How the makers of those early notations heard musical sound, into what separate elements they chose to break it down, and which elements were then recorded in writing are questions of relevance to anyone interested in those ways in which makers of music communicate their ideas.
It was between 800 and 900 that musical notation was first invented and developed into a complex system. The extent to which these notations were rendered capable of carrying subtlety of meaning is striking. Exploration of early neumatic notations leads to an explanation of why a variety of musical scripts emerged during the ninth century – a period which has hitherto remained obscure in histories of musical notation, despite its supreme interest.
Professor Susan Rankin is Professor of Medieval Music at the University of Cambridge. From a first publication on a fifteenth-century manuscript, her scholarly work has moved back in time: she has just finished a monograph on musical notation in the ninth century. Between these two extremes, she has written on medieval manuscripts and musical notations, with St Gallen and Winchester as central points of interest, and on music as an element of ritual. A special focus has been the palaeography of early medieval musical sources, and she has edited facsimiles of two Sankt Gallen tropers and the Winchester Troper, demonstrating how the earliest European repertory of two-part polyphony can be recovered.