From the heads and tails of individual notes to the foreheads and feet of song stanzas, medieval musical writings are replete with body parts. Sometimes the terms are used by convention, or in the service of simple mnemonics. But in other cases, the reasons for acts of musical anthropomorphization are less clear. Tracing the rhetoric of musical animation from the treatises into the realm of musica practica can give us fresh insight into some of the best-known songs of the later middle ages. Beyond this, the rhetoric of songs alive offers a useful alternative to the “work concept”—a musical ontology whose applicability before the Renaissance has been repeatedly called into question. The “creature concept” of song can serve as a powerful (if whimsical) tool for describing and analyzing musical things that are perishable but autonomous, subject to change and growth, and capable of doing work in the world.
Anna Zayaruznaya, an Assistant Professor of Music at Princeton University, is interested in the relationship between music and its texts in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Her research brings the history of musical form and notation into dialogue with medieval literary theory, the history of ideas, and iconographic and codicological trends. Recent papers and publications have focused on the motets of Guillaume de Machaut and Philippe de Vitry, Milanese chant, Isorhythm, and musical resonances in the poetry of John Gower and Jean Molinet. Currently she is working on a book that explores the roles played by the monstrous and hybrid in fourteenth-century musical aesthetics.
Cosponsored by the Cultural Studies Program, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, and French and Italian Department.