Karl Kügle researches newly discovered music fragments at Koblenz for SoundMe

The church of the former Carmelite convent (Karmeliterkirche) in Boppard on the Rhine.

The church of the former Carmelite convent (Karmeliterkirche) in Boppard on the Rhine.

On 18 and 19 September 2017, SoundMe Project Leader and Principal Investigator of the Utrecht team Karl Kügle paid a research visit to the Landeshauptarchiv in Koblenz (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany). There, he examined a set of fragments of so-called ars nova polyphony. He recently discovered the fragments in a late fifteenth-century manuscript from Boppard (Middle Rhine) now kept at the Landeshauptarchiv.

The host manuscript contains a set of sermons by the prominent German theologian Jordan of Quedlinburg (ca. 1300-1380). The Koblenz copy was used by Heinrich von Montabaur, a Carmelite monk and theologian from Boppard (Middle Rhine). Heinrich was active as a preacher and teacher in the Middle Rhine and Moselle region, in particular the cities of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier, in the second half of the fifteenth century. The Landeshauptarchiv preserves a number of manuscripts that document his activities.

Most of the music of the fragments belongs to the so-called ars nova. The ars nova is a musical style developed in Paris in the decades around 1330. Palaeographical features suggest that the fragments date from roughly that period, too, putting them among the earliest sources of ars nova.

Why did the binder – who probably was active in Cologne around 1480 – choose to work Parisian motets of 150 years ago into a volume of sermons? And where did he get hold of these old music manuscripts in the first place? Had they been in Cologne for a long time? Was the bookbinder trying to evoke the sounds of the past for the late fifteenth-century readers of the host volume, Jordan’s sermons? These are some of the questions that Kügle will pursue in his ongoing research within the SoundMe project.

More detailed results will be delivered by Kügle in a public lecture scheduled 8 March 2018 at All Souls College, University of Oxford, and at an upcoming international conference on fragment research at Magdalen College, Oxford, 19-21 March 2018.