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Early Music Theory

The core research of this cluster derives from two major AHRC-funded projects: Phase 1 ‘The Complete Theoretical Works of Johannes Tinctoris: A New Digital Edition’, ran from 2011 to 2014 (project value £400K; funding extended by BCU to 2016); Phase 2 ‘Interpreting the Mensural Notation of Music: An Expert System Based on the Theory of Johannes Tinctoris’ runs from 2017 to 2021 (project value £837K): see Funded Projects.

Already acknowledged as a world-leading centre for research into late medieval and early Renaissance music theory, our work combines the highest levels of historical and editorial expertise (Woodley, Dean and Goursaud) in the area with pioneering advances in digital technology (Lewis).

The related Representation of Early Music on Stage and Screen study group (REMOSS, directed by Dr Adam Whittaker) is a collective of scholars and artists interested in how the musical past is evoked or reimagined in novel and exciting ways in stage and screen media. Topics at recent conferences and roundtables have ranged from contemporary British opera, to historical drama on TV and high-fantasy videogame. 

Core themes:

  • Late medieval and early Renaissance music and music theory
  • Latin theoretical writings of Johannes Tinctoris
  • Historical, institutional and intellectual context of music, musical writings and pedagogy, manuscript production, and associated performance implications in the 15th and early 16th centuries
  • Editing of musical and music-theoretical texts, especially as enabled/enhanced by newly developed digital technologies
  • Late medieval musical palaeography and codicology
  • Disseminating a deeper understanding of late medieval musical notation, and its relationship to modern transcribed notations and editions, to non-specialist performers and editors
  • Wider exploration and understanding of early music, its reception, representations, cultural meanings and appropriations in the modern world, especially on screen.

Principal research objectives are to:

  • Maintain and further develop our status as a world-leading centre for late medieval and early Renaissance music theory
  • Continue our pioneering editorial work on the treatises of Johannes Tinctoris, and extend the research into editions of the polyphonic outputs of Tinctoris and his contemporaries
  • Continue developing innovative digital technologies to interpret late medieval mensural notation, as per our current AHRC-funded project, and to evolve new open-source software for free dissemination to specialist and non-specialist music constituencies, supported by public workshops and other inter/national conference presentations
  • To support REMOSS in its continued research into representations of early music on screen, and its development of new theoretical models to underpin this research.

Key Staff

PhD Students and Awards (2014-)

  • Christian Goursaud (2016)
  • Adam Whittaker (2016)