2020/2021

Scattered Songs in Scandinavia

Fragments from A Medieval Motet Manuscript

Humanities

Principal investigators

profile image illustration

Catherine A.
Bradley

Associate Professor
University of Oslo (UiO)
Year at CAS

Abstract

Preserved in the Riksarkivet in Stockholm are two sets of parchment fragments (fr. 5786 and fr. 813), comprising a total of three bi-folios—double-page spreads—extracted from the same medieval music manuscript. This music manuscript was probably produced in Paris in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century and these three bi-folios represent all that survives of what was evidently a fairly sizeable and lavish book, expertly copied and highly decorated with flourishing in coloured inks.

Although what amounts to just twelve pages of this book remains, their musical contents and the very fact and circumstances of their survival in Sweden are of enormous significance to scholars of music history and medieval Scandinavian culture. Nevertheless, the motet fragments—and in particular their musical contents—have not yet received sustained study.

How and why did this book of motets, which has the appearance and contents of a deluxe and expensive Parisian manuscript, make its way from France to Sweden before the sixteenth century? Were there highly-skilled singers in Sweden who could have read this kind of notation and performed this very intricate and complex musical polyphony? And, if so, at what kind of institution were they based?

These are questions Catherine A. Bradley seeks to answer as a Young CAS Fellow.

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