Public Research Seminar: Dr Adam Whittaker - Mapping pitch and rhythm in medieval music theory

Public Research Seminar: Dr Adam Whittaker: Mapping pitch and rhythm in medieval music theory

Public Research Seminar Series

Date and time
26 Oct 2021 (3:30pm - 5:00pm)



Free - registration required

Public Research Seminar: Dr Adam Whittaker (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire)
Sounding musical space on the silent page: mapping pitch and rhythm in medieval music theory

For centuries, music theorists have grappled with the thorny issue of how to conceptualise, explain, and represent musical space, both in terms of pitch and rhythm, in primarily text-based forms. The conceptual and aural complexities of pitch and rhythm meant that explaining primarily aural phenomena in diagrammatic and written forms led to numerous different systems, some of which became widely adopted and some of which did not. This is especially true of treatises from the late Middle Ages, where music theorists adopted a wide variety of strategies in their texts. Exploring how individual authors and, in some cases, scribes, approached such complex material can give us an insight into the pedagogical logics which underpin many music theory texts, and into the readerships for such material. This talk will consider the range of strategies deployed in two manuscripts housed in the Bodleian library: Bodley 842 and Bodley 515. By considering each of these on its own terms it is possible to gain an insight into how late medieval theorists conceptualised musical space for the silent page.


Adam Whittaker is Head of Pedagogy at RBC and is an internationally recognised scholar in musicology and music education. His work in musicology focuses on medieval and Renaissance music theory manuscripts, paying particular attention to the role of musical examples in these sources. He has given invited talks on this work at the Bodleian Library, Heidelberg University, and All Souls College (Oxford). His work has been published in leading academic journals and book publications, including Early Music History and British Journal of Music Education. He co-edited the Recomposing the Past: Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen (Routledge, 2018) collection and is currently a co-investigator on the AHRC Network ‘Representing Classical Music in the Twenty-First Century’. In 2019, Adam was the Albi Rosenthal Visiting Fellow in Music at the Bodleian Library.

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