Fresh insight into ‘identity and locality’ in early European music

Published 27 May 2010

musicA major musicological conference at the University of New England has resulted in a book that demonstrates – in the words of its editor, Jason Stoessel – “the quality and vibrancy of music research in Australia”.

Identity and Locality in Early European Music, 1028-1740, published recently in the UK and the United States by Ashgate Publishing, comprises ten essays, seven of which are by Australian scholars. The international contributors are from Canada, the UK, and Hong Kong.

In launching the book at UNE, the eminent Australian musicologist Dr Rex Eakins said that it was a product of the 29th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia, which was held at UNE at the end of September, 2006.

Dr Eakins, who lectured in Music at UNE from 1985 to 2007 and played a major role – together with his colleague Dr Stoessel – in organising the 2006 conference, said that the book had been envisaged right from the planning stage of the conference. Dr Stoessel thanked Dr Eakins as the main instigator of the conference, saying that “without Rex this project would not have eventuated”.

In his Preface to the book, Dr Stoessel explains that “a limited number of papers [from the conference] were selected, and authors were asked to contribute chapter-length essays examining the issues and findings outlined in their papers in greater depth and extent”. The resulting essays examine the influence of local or regional identity on music from medieval plainchant in Aquitania and the Iberian Peninsula to the music of Renaissance Augsburg and Baroque Naples and Dresden.

The interaction of issues of personal and local identity is explored in an essay by Rosalind Halton on the role of Roman and Neapolitan copyists in the transmission of Alessandro Scarlatti’s serenata Venere, Adone et Amore. An essay by James Grier, Professor of Music History at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, based on his invited keynote address at the 2006 conference, discusses the strategies used by the eleventh-century monk Adémar de Chabannes in adapting old musical traditions and “forging” new ones in a creative attempt to elevate the local saint – St Martial of Limoges – to apostolic status.

Jason Stoessel lectures on music history, musical cultures and music theory at UNE. His primary research focus is Western European polyphonic song and its cultural context in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. His own contribution to the book examines the relationship of the composer Johannes Ciconia to the early humanist culture of Padua. An essay by Reinhard Strohm, Professor of Music at the University of Oxford, UK, titled “Late-medieval sacred songs: tradition, memory and history”, was presented in Armidale as a public lecture – the 2006 Gordon Athol Anderson Memorial Lecture – during the conference.

“Good editorship involves attention to detail as well as people management,” Dr Eakins said, commenting on Dr Stoessel’s “faultless” achievement in this respect and adding that Identity and Locality in Early European Music, 1028-1740 represented “a major achievement on many levels”.

Clicking on the image displayed here, taken from the cover of the book, reveals a photograph of Dr Jason Stoessel at the book launch earlier this month.