Med-Ren Music in the 21st Century

I want to draw your attention to a session in the upcoming Medieval and Renaissance Music conference in Maynooth next weekend: Med-Ren Music in the 21st Century. The speakers and their papers are:

Brandi A. Neal: “An Ounce of preventions is worth a pound of cure”: shielding early music from the Alt-Right.

Elizabeth Randell Upton: Music, medievalism and white supremacy: anti-racist pedagogy after Charlottesville.

Samantha Bassler: Music, disability and a 21st -century pedagogy of medieval and renaissance culture.

It’s currently scheduled for 5-6.30pm on Thursday 5 July in the Bewerunge Room. I guess things might change, though, as they sometimes do at conference, so it’s best to check the link to the full schedule available on the conference information page. The overall programme looks exciting. You might think I would say that, since I’m on the committee, but I’ve been on sick leave for several months and out of the loop. My gratitude to Antonio Cascelli, Eleanor Giraud, and Thomas Schmidt for being so gracious about my absence.

Call for Papers – Medieval & Renaissance Music Conference, 5-8 July, 2018, Maynooth, Ireland

We welcome papers and themed sessions on any relevant topic, from performing and recording early music in the twenty-first century, to madrigal studies, sources studies, analytical studies, medieval and renaissance music in Ireland, to mention only a few. In view of recent political events across the world, however, as a committee, we would like to suggest at least one topic and create space to consider the politics around researching, teaching and performing Med & Ren music in a time when racists, white nationalists (not only in the US) and xenophobes feel emboldened. How do we teach Med & Ren music courses that do not appear to be safe havens for white supremacists? That challenge ahistorical views of Med & Ren as all white (male) and Christian? What resources do we need? What stories are we not telling? What does intersectional, postcolonial, and/or anti-racist research, teaching and music-making look like or sound like in our field? What are the structural barriers to inclusivity and diversity in our field, and what can we do to remove them? We feel this is an important topic for our research fields, but it is not intended as a conference theme in any restrictive way and we would like to stress of course, that all themes and topics will be considered with equal interest.

Possible formats of presentation include, but are not limited to:

* individual papers of 20 minutes
* paired papers (60 minutes including QA)
* themed sessions (120 minutes for 4 papers and 90 minutes for 3 papers, including QA)
* round tables
* workshops/ lecture-recitals
* posters
* short 10-minute presentations

Conference languages: German, English, French, Italian, Spanish

All proposals should include:

* title
* indication of format
* proposer’s name
* proposer’s affiliation (if any)
* names and affiliations of any additional participants
* contact email
* AV requirements
* a short bio or bios of the participants (max. 15 lines; this has no bearing on the evaluation but simply for distribution to chairs).


* for individual contributions : c. 250 words
* for sessions with multiple participants: c. 200 words on the proposal as a whole, and c. 100 words on the contribution of each participant.

Deadline for all proposals: 4 December 2017.

Notification of acceptance: by 31 January 2018.

Proposals to be submitted to

General Information
The committee would like to support academic parenting. As such, a room with a fridge will be available as lactation room. The room is located on the first floor of Logic House (accessible via staircases), the same building where the main sessions will take place.

Antonio Cascelli (Maynooth University)
Eleanor Giraud (University of Limerick)
Frank Lawrence (University College Dublin)
Melanie Marshall (University College Cork)
Thomas Schmidt (University of Manchester/ University of Huddersfield)

For information contact:

Using Special Collections for Teaching Music Undergraduates

Studying Music at University is a core module for all first-year Arts-Music students at University College Cork. The module is a study skills and writing course that introduces the various disciplines of music, and covers the history of the subject in third-level education. This year, the students will work in small groups to create public websites, podcasts or vodcasts. I have built in revision of drafts (as well as peer review and peer editing) into the assessment process, so the students will practice writing, evaluating, and revising. I’ve arranged sessions on creating websites with Claire Fennell and Dr Sarah Thelan (Instructional Design), on making podcasts or vodcasts with John Hough (Music), on professional and entrepreneurship skills with Peter Finnegan and Trish Gibbons (Blackstone LaunchPad), and on library and search skills with the subject librarian, Claire O’Brien. Helping students to learn to critically evaluate sources and communicate their evidence-based findings in a clear manner feels more important than ever.

What has me really excited this year is that students will be using primary sources available in UCC Boole Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Elaine Harrington and Emma Horgan found a range of materials, including mentions of music in George Boole’s correspondence, in the UCC Record (a publication covering the early years of the university), as well as printed music (including music by Annie Patterson), and autograph music manuscripts by Seán Ó Riada and Arnold Bax. There’s also the Henebry wax cylinder collection which was recently digitized.

I’m very grateful to Dr Jill Rogers for alerting me to Elaine Harrington’s enthusiasm for bringing students in to the archives. When I began lecturing at UCC in 2005, I was informed there were no music-related holdings in Special Collections or Archives available for use by music students. Several collections were catalogued and made available while I was away on my fellowship (2011-14) but until I contacted Elaine Harrington and Emma Horgan, I had no idea of the extent of our holdings.

Elaine’s interview with Shush! Sounds From UCC Library explains more about Special Collections and the ways she collaborates with UCC academics to bring undergraduate and postgraduate studies in to the reading rooms.

Lady Gaga cakes, continued

Gaga has released a new album, Joanne, and the fan cake tributes continue. (I’ve written about these on my blog, in print, and now as a UCC op ed.) Gaga’s changing image is all part of her play with authenticity, and multifaceted identity performativity. For this album, Gaga’s costuming appears to be Americana with a twist.

Throughout Gaga’s stardom, she has encouraged her fans creativity. There is a tradition of fan cakes referencing Gaga costumes, and this continues. Bradley’s Baking Bible came up with this fun cake that nod to previous Gaga looks and tops them off with the new pink hat that she’s been wearing to write and promote Joanne.

Gaga’s pink hats are by Gladys Tamez, and are tweaked versions of her hats named for iconic women—Marianne Faithfull and Bianca Jagger.

#Joanne is here! We’re celebrating every @ladygaga album right back to #TheFame in our #LittleMonsters Cake! ⚡️ Video link in the bio! 💃

A photo posted by Bradley’s Baking Bible (@bradleysbakingbible) on

Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Funding Schemes Open

The Irish Research Council has opened several postdoctoral funding schemes: the Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme offers 1 or 2 year fellowships (you cannot apply for both); and the first call for the CAROLINE (Collaborative Research Fellowships for a Responsive and Innovative Europe) scheme which is part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Cofund Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme. Both schemes are open to researchers across all academic disciplines.

The CAROLINE scheme seeks “research relevant to the themes of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for shared economic prosperity, social development, and environmental protection” and includes intersectoral collaboration between academic institutions, NGOs, and international organisations.

The Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowships are for people who had “fulfilled all the requirements for the award of a doctoral degree, including a viva/thesis defence, within the five-year period between 31st March 2012 and 31st March 2017.” CAROLINE is aimed at “experienced researchers … defined as those who are in possession of a doctoral degree or have at least four years of full-time equivalent research experience.”

Applicants must apply by 30 November 2016. If you’re interested in one of these schemes, please get in touch with your intended host institution and intended mentor/scientist-in-charge soon as host institutions will have internal deadlines for reviewing drafts and completing the necessary endorsement paperwork.

Joy in the archives

My archive trip was great fun and, as is often the case, productive in ways that I was not anticipating. I was looking for material relating to two different patrons: Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, and Felice Orsini Colonna. I didn’t find so much on the cardinal—I think there are probably better places to look—but I came away with some wonderful material pertaining to Felice. So, that’s all good. In addition, I read several letters from sixteenth-century musicians. The letters were catalogued in the inventory, so not really a discovery, but I don’t think anyone has published on them yet. Anyway, I have plenty of work to do, and I am already working out when I can return.

In a previous blogpost, I wondered how Felice Orsini Colonna had learned to run a household and to perform her identity as a Roman noblewoman. Not long after that post, I heard from a fellow scholar that Cardinal Sforza had entrusted Felice to the care of Giovanna d’Aragona—Felice’s future mother-in-law. So, in my recent visit to the archives, I decided to look for useful tidbits of information in the daily letters Felice wrote to her mother-in-law when they lived in separate cities. They had shared interests, and I imagined their letters must have been full of information about this or that writer, or musician. In fact, the letters I read (not all of them; I couldn’t see everything I wanted to see in a fortnight) were entirely taken up with relating the health of Felice’s children, and asking after her mother-in-law’s own health. Of course, this could have been in part down to their correspondence not being private (thanks, Valeria De Lucca!), as much as it could be related to the relationship between the women, or between grandmother and grandchildren, and to the very real and understandable concerns over health given the standard of medical care (not to mention the cultural importance given to male heirs).

I did eventually find the kind of information I sought, but in a different place: in Felice’s letters to Cesare Gallo, her husband’s secretary. In those letters, she thanks Gallo for sonnets that he sent her; she sometimes mentions artists, and on one occasion a musician. I didn’t get through all of this correspondence either, but I made a good start.

The other reason this trip was so joyful was that I brought my daughter and my mother with me. Introducing my daughter to real Italian food and gelato was a pleasure. Some researchers who are parents are able to travel for weeks without their young family. I could not bring myself to do it, even though I knew our daughter would thrive with her dad, as he’s more than capable, and I knew that I really wanted—needed, even—to do this work. I couldn’t have done any of that work without my mother coming to provide childcare, and I’m very grateful for that. So, thank you, Mum, for your labour, and thanks to my daughter for being a fun travelling companion.

Thanks, also, to other parents for blogging about how to fly with a car seat. In case it helps someone else: I used bungee cords to attach the FAA/TÜV-approved car seat to a lightweight, collapsible hand trolley. I packed our clothes into one large suitcase with good wheels, and had our carry-on items in a small rucksack. When my daughter was too tired to walk during the travel, I wore her in a buckle carrier. It was manageable. More than that, it was liberating, even, to find that I could balance work and family that worked for us.

The staff of the archive were enormously helpful, informative, and welcoming. I am so glad to have met them.

Now I’m back home, and the new semester is starting in two weeks. I have a lot of material to sift through in my research time, and I’ve plenty of writing to do. It’s good to have found my archive feet again.

Nifty Tool for Setting Writing Targets & Strategy

This past week, I discovered an online ‘flexible planning tool for writers & students’: Pacemaker. I’ve created a plan that (if I stick to it) should mean I can finish a draft of a monograph chapter by the end of August while still taking a couple of weeks of holiday. I took the basic ‘Rising to the Challenge’ strategy and then tweaked it to suit the time I have available (not as much as I’d like, given the quality of work I’d like to produce). I’m only a few days in, and I’ve found it really motivating so far. I’m exceeding my writing targets (I do expect to slow down, alas), and I’ve discovered that I know more than I thought I did about the topic and this relatively new material. So, that’s a nice confidence boost.

I’m also preparing to head in to the archives next week and I’m feeling a bit nervous. My spoken language skills feel very rusty. I know they will return given a little time. The staff of this particular library are among the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve ever met, so it will all be OK. If I was better prepared for the practical side of things (it’s a long time since I’ve experienced temperatures above 22C, let alone above 30C), I’d probably be less nervous. I do have positive feelings about this trip too. I’m excited. It turns out that I really, really enjoy sitting in a quiet library to read and figure out other people’s account books and letters.


‘Return’ is the theme of the summer for me (not in the equivocal sense!). I’ve worked out how to turn my doctoral dissertation into a book, and I seem to have the stomach for writing it now, too, so I’m returning to some familiar material and of course taking quite a new angle. I’m heading to Italy to do some archival research—back to Italy, back into archives after what feels like a long break. I’ve also been revisiting one of the primary sources I began to look at during my Marie Curie fellowship. (One of the chapters I’d planned to include in a monograph on music & eroticism in 16th-century Rome that I think will fit better in the villotta book.) I’m racing to have my introduction, sample chapter and book proposal ready to send off by the time teaching resumes in early September. Gulp.

UCC Excellence Scholarships for Masters and PhD Students

If you’re applying to the UCC MA in Music and Cultural History, or for a PhD at UCC, you should also apply for an Excellence Scholarship. The scholarships cover EU tuition fees and are tenable for the duration of the student’s chosen postgraduate course.

Applicants must have at least Second Class Honours (Grade 1) or equivalent in their first or subsequent degree and must have already applied for their chosen postgraduate course. A referee’s report will be required as part of the application process.

The scholarship deadline for MA applicants is 10 April, 2016. PhD applicants can apply until 17 April, 2016.

For scholarship information and application forms, see:

The one-year MA in Music and Cultural History is a progressive alternative to conventional postgraduate courses in musicology, and it draws on the diverse expertise of internationally renowned scholars to combine the very best of traditional and contemporary scholarly practice.

During the course you will be presented with the opportunity to acquire and develop core musicological skills, including research techniques, the critical editing of music, and the close reading and analysis of musical texts. You will also engage with some of the most exciting developments in recent music scholarship, including:

explorations of politics,
gender and sexuality in music
race and ethnicity in music
(dis)ability in music
the interaction of music with other media
musical globalisation
the manifold issues in today’s popular music and culture, and
the new links being formed between musicology and other disciplines such as film studies, cultural studies, postcolonial theory, and philosophy.

In 2016-17, the taught modules will include sound studies, multidisciplinary debates in ethnomusicology and musicology, performance studies, the body in creative arts practice, music and popular culture, and music and cinema.

Read the rest.

Purity in Early Music

Following the Women, Music, Power conference, I received an email from Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a freelance arts journalist who contributes regularly to the New York Times. She saw an interesting story in my work on purity and early music vocal practice in the disconnect between the way early music singers describe singing and the sound they make, and the way critics describe early music voices. She took the idea and ran with it, interviewing numerous singers and directors, as well as me, and the result is a rich and critical investigation. ‘Early-Music Ensembles: Praised as Pure, but Seeking More’ is a really thoughtful exploration of purity as the main adjective to describe women singers of early music. The article is published online already (link above), and will be in the print version of the New York Times on Saturday, 23 Jan. 2016.

As da Fonseca-Wollheim notes, ‘The lexicon of praise for female singers of early music can be narrow, with purity a recurrent concept’. I hope that this lexicon will now become richer.