Musica Mapped and Unmapped: Medieval Music in and of its Environment

The aim of this project is to examine the ways in which music absorbs, constructs, and dissolves the boundaries of its conceptual and acoustic environments in the High Middle Ages. This includes how music maps and is mapped by its surroundings, both in medieval musical theory and musical case studies, and, more crucially, music’s uncanny capacity to be ‘unmapped’—to complicate and expand the rational, philosophical, and theological conceptual strictures of medieval orthodoxy. The project’s methodology combines close musico-literary readings of medieval manuscripts with larger theorisations of the function, significance, and performance of space through music. Over four years, the project will investigate the role of environmental concepts and metaphors in medieval music theory, as well as four manifestations of music in practice: (1) music in utopic environments and dream visions, (2) music that comments on the environment, (3) music sung while traversing through the environment, and (4) music heard in so-called ‘peripheral’ environments. The project brings more recent critical issues of space and place into dialogue with understudied medieval source material, effecting a shift in the study of these repertories from issues of notation and transmission towards questions of interpretation.

This project is funded by The Swedish Research Council and conducted by PhD Meghan Quinlan.