Saturday, November 23, 2013

Anne Stone (Associate Professor of Music, CUNY Graduate Center)
Medieval Song in New York City

December 6, 2013
7.30 p.m.

English Studies Conference Room of the Graduate Center, CUNY (room 4406)
A wine and cheese reception will follow the presentation and question time.

This paper will serve both as a pre-concert talk for the Anonymous 4 concert “A Virgin Unspotted: Medieval and Traditional Christmas Songs for Mary,” and also as a broader meditation on the history and cultural significance of the decades-long tradition of performing medieval music in New York City. In recent years it has become a commonplace of early music scholarship to exclaim over how little we know about what medieval music sounded like; the history of the early music revival is thus a history of modern fantasies about medieval sound. New York has been a particularly active hotbed of the “invention of medieval music” (to quote the musicologist Daniel Leech-Wilkinson), since the founding of The New York Pro Musica in 1952 by Noah Greenberg, and the Waverly Consort in 1964 by Michael Jaffee. In the course of my talk I’ll play recorded examples of each group and discuss how their different approaches reflect our changing expectations for medieval music. I will focus on two issues in this discussion: programming, that is, the choice of pieces that are arranged to make up the concert; and something I will call sound manufacture: the choices of timbre, texture, vocal quality, and instrumentation that together create the sound-world cultivated by the ensemble.