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Haines (2015 Congress)

Abstract of Paper Presented at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, May 2015)
John Haines (Faculty of Music and Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)
“Medieval Astrological Songs”

John Haines (Faculty of Music and Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)

“Medieval Astrological Songs”

Abstract of Paper Presented at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, 2015)

Session on Session on “Magic Sung, Spoken, Inscribed, and Printed”
Co-sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the Societas Magica
Organized by Frank Klaassen (University of Saskatewan)

2015 Congress Events Announced and 2015 Congress Events Accomplished

[Published on 22 March 2015]

Twenty-seven notated songs on astrological themes survive from the Middle Ages that have come down to us in some thirty manuscripts.  These range from liturgical books such as the Saint-Gall troper (Saint-Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 338) to literary miscellanies such as the Vatican manuscript (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. MS Lat. 300).  Interestingly, the majority of the manuscripts date from the earliest period of medieval music notation, from the ninth to the eleventh centuries, rather than later as one might expect.

The codicological context of these songs tells us something about how they were perceived by their medieval codifiers.  Items found alongside the songs include Martianus Capella’s Marriage of Mercury and Philology, various works of astrological prognosis including a treatise on Egyptian days, and the Guidonian hand.  Many of the songs, such as the popular “None aprilis,” are mnemonic verses for computus, that is, the calculation of the date of Easter, for which astrological knowledge was essential.  Others relate more directly to astrology, such as “Ex oriens Chelas Aries,” the so-called “Song of Martianus” (“Versus Martianii”).  A few relate more directly to the music of the spheres, as for example “Vite dator” (which one manuscript calls a “Pythagorean conductus”) or “Heu, quam precipti” from Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.

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Website Editor’s Note:

Abstracts of other Papers by our Associate John Haines at our Co-Sponsored Sessions appear here:
Haines (2014 Congress) and
Haines (2013 Congress)

Earlier papers by John Haines in our Co-Sponsored Sessions, before our custom of publishing the Abstracts, appeared here:
2009 Congress Events and
2008 Congress Events

We thank him for his contributions to our events!

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