Renowned conductor and scholar Andrew Parrott will be in residence at the...
Renowned conductor and scholar Andrew Parrott will be in residence at the Center for Early Music Studies at Boston University for a full week early in the spring semester, February 1-7, 2014. Mr. Parrott boasts a long and distinguished record of publication, performance, and recording and has made many fundamental contributions to our understanding of the performance of early music through applying rigorous scholarship to engaging and stimulating music-making. Best known in recent years for his meticulously documented study of choral forces in the music of J. S. Bach, his contemporaries, and predecessors (The Essential Bach Choir, 2000)—a book that, together with Joshua Rifkin’s pathbreaking work, must forever change the way we think about the nature of vocal ensembles in the 18th century and before—he has also been a leader in advancing our understanding of performance practice in the music of Monteverdi, especially issues of vocal scoring and high-clef notation. His many recordings reach forwards and backwards in time from the “core” Baroque repertoire and include many landmarks, among them a celebrated reconstruction of late 16th-century Florentine intermedii for a Medici wedding.
While at BU, Mr. Parrott will engage with students and faculty in a range of activities, emphasizing the music of Claudio Monteverdi. He will direct the Marsh Chapel Choir for a Sunday service, participate in a roundtable discussion (with BU faculty including Professor of Musicology Joshua Rifkin and CEMS co-director Scott Metcalfe) of performance practice in Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, work with master’s and doctoral students in the choral conducting program, give a public talk considering general issues of historical performance, meet with graduate students in musicology for a freewheeling seminar open to any topics which engage questions of performing early music, and finally teach a two-day intensive mini-course (available for 1 or 0 credit; also open to students outside BU) on Monteverdi’s Orfeo.
The seven-day residency will be further enriched by a lecture-demo and master class given by the eminent American soprano Emily van Evera, long resident in the UK and a longtime collaborator in Mr. Parrott’s projects.
1:30-3:00 p.m., Sunday, 14 April 2013 (free and open to the public)
Marshall Room, CFA
The Silence of Medieval Singers
Katarina Livljanić (Ensemble Dialogos / University of Paris – Sorbonne)
Benjamin Bagby (Ensemble Sequentia / University of Paris – Sorbonne)
Investigating how the human singing voice might have sounded in plainchant and other ecclesiastical vocal traditions of the Middle Ages, we find ourselves confronting medieval informants whose written words are surrounded by silence. We scholars and performers have access to medieval musical notation but we do not have access to medieval sounds; our perceptions are based on the singing voices of the living but informed by documents created by those long dead, whose sounds we have never heard.
Among the various strands of medieval musicology, the study of the voice is one of the most closely linked with performance practice; medieval texts about the voice and the notation of vocal music can only be fully discussed and understood when they are linked with vocal practice and made audible today. In the investigation of medieval instruments, it is possible to evaluate visual sources, and based on these to make reconstructions of playable instruments; but in the case of the voice, visual sources can only provide us with very limited, external information, such as the number of singers present and their possible relationship to a written source, or hand and facial gestures. And reconstructions? Today’s singers are the only possible reconstructions. We cannot learn, by studying texts and images, how to sing in the way medieval singers did; performances today will always contain an element of conjecture.
However, if we are pursuing a study of medieval singing out of intellectual curiosity, then we can at least examine here a number of examples from the medieval sources, which could help us to enter by various small doors into the huge realm resounding with the many voices of medieval authors, singers and scribes. Our discussion here will try to take this reality into account as we select specific texts and notated elements, examining these for possible hints about the vocal sounds and techniques of some medieval singers.