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Richard Freedman: The lost voices project: Theory and practice in the 16th century (and today)

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Richard Freedman presents a talk on his research followed by a public lecture on CIRMMT and the Digital Humanities.

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  • Seminar
When Jun 21, 2014
from 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM
Where A-832, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke Street West.
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**NB: This talk is on a Saturday.**

This talk will run from 2:00-3:00pm and be followed by another public lecture by Richard Freedman on CIRMMT and the Digital Humanities from 3:00-4:00pm.


The sixteen volumes of Nicholas Du Chemin's Chansons nouvelles series (containing in total about 400 four-voice settings of French secular poetry) afford some excellent opportunities to engage modern musicians in the challenges of working with early printed music books, and with the poetry and music they contain.  These books appeared at a critical phase in the story of French music printing (which was newly opened to commercial competition in 1549) and in the musical scene itself, as Du Chemin became an arbiter of important new fashions in music and poetry that were emerging in the 1550's.  Yet the full richness of the Du Chemin series remains largely unexplored by musicologists on two counts:  large portions of it have never appeared in modern notation or score, and the final five books of the series survive in an incomplete state (with two of four original voice parts missing).  

Thanks to a partnership between Haverford College (USA) and the Centre d’études supérierures de la Renaissance (France), we have created a digital image archive of the original sources, professionally engraved modern editions of the music, and extensive scholarly commentary on the music. Working with an international team of experts on Renaissance style, we have assembled a thesaurus of musical devices drawn from theoretical and practical literature of the period, and modern day scholars, too.  These in turn provided the basis of a controlled vocabulary of commonplace features observable throughout the Du Chemin repertory.

Since 2012, a dozen graduate students active across North America have compiled a database of some 11,000 instances of these patterns as they appear in over 200 of the Du Chemin chansons (each piece was analyzed at least twice by different students).  We also reconstructed dozens of chansons (in competitive versions by students and scholars working independently, albeit using the same thesaurus).  All of this work is freely available on a dynamic web site that allows scholars, teachers, students, and performers to search, compare, collect, and comment on the repertory (privately, or in public conversation).



Richard Freedman is John C. Whitehead Professor of Music at Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia where he teaches a wide range of courses on music, history, and culture.   His research on French and Italian music of the sixteenth century in its cultural contexts has appeared in leading scholarly journals, and in two books, The Chansons of Orlando di Lasso and their Protestant Listeners: Music, Piety, and Print in Sixteenth-Century France (Rochester, 2001) and Music in the Renaissance (W.W. Norton, 2012). Other writings appear in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and in the Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages.  

His digital project on the chanson albums of Nicolas Du Chemin combines his interests in the Renaissance chansons with some new tools for the study of musical texts, including an image archive, modern critical editions, reconstructions, and tools for collaborative research.  It is undertaken in partnership the Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours, and is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.  

Freedman has been a visiting scholar at The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, and at Wolfson College, Oxford. He is also a frequent pre-concert speaker for the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

From 2004 to 2007 he was Director of Haverford’s John B. Hurford ‘60 Humanities Center.  He is currently Director of the Tri-Co Digital Humanities Project, and is Digital and Multimedia Editor for the Journal of the American Musicological Society.

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