Reconsidering Contrafacts

Practices of Contrafacture in Monophonic Song (1150–1550)

When: 20 June 2024 (week 9), 10am-7pm
Where: Committee Room, Faculty of Music
Convenor: Philip Wetzler

Looking at different repertories of monophonic song between 1150 and 1550, the aim of this workshop is to explore different approaches to the widespread spectrum of practices and concepts of contrafacture: composing new texts for pre-existing melodies. The fact of a song being a contrafact will not be taken as a result but as a starting point for further inquiries. In this workshop we will encounter similarities, analogies, and differences between different regions, languages, genres, and times between 1150 and 1550, looking at Trouvère, Sangspruch and Minnesang, religious song (geistliches Lied), Meistersinger and puy societies.

The schedule will be split into two parts: the first half is reserved for presentations of individual papers with a following discussion, in the second half we will collectively examine and interpret further selected case studies. Anybody interested is welcome to attend the presentations and take part in the discussions. If you want to attend or if you have questions, please email Philip Wetzler.

The workshop is generously funded by the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst e.V.

Preliminary schedule with provisional titles

  • 10:00 – 10:30 Coffee/Tea
  • 10:30-11:00 Introduction
  • 11:00 – 11:45 Joseph Mason, Satire, allusion, erasure: approaches to contrafacture in trouvère songs of war
  • 11:45 – 12:30 Philip Wetzler, From Contrafact to Practices of Contrafacture: Middle High German Sangspruch and Practices of Contrafacture
  • 12:30 – 13:30 Light Lunch Break
  • 13:30 – 14:15 Anna Wilmore, Ludic Lyrics: Play and Piety in Marian Contrafact
  • 14:15 – 15:00 Agnes Rugel, “geistlich lieder, doch in weltlichen weysen”. How practices of contrafacture structure the landscape of religious songbooks in late medieval Germanspeaking areas
  • 15:00 – 15:30 Tea/Coffee Break
  • 15:30 – 17:00 Collective Discussion of Case Studies
  • 17:00 – 17:30 Tea/Coffee Break
  • 17:30 – 18:30/19:00 Collective Discussion of Case Studies
  • 19:00 Dinner (self-paying)

Image from the Hohenfurt Songbook (Hohenfurter Liederbuch), fol. 65r, Hohenfurt / Vyssí Brod (Bohemia), Stiftsbibliothek Ms. 8b

Interfaith Harmony: Singing from Manuscripts

10 February 2024, 11:15-12:00, organised by the Oxford Interfaith Forum  as part of the One World Family Festival at the Ashmolean Museum.

Venue: Cast Gallery, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St, Oxford. OX1 2PH.

Shofar player opening Psalm 80, with the caption ‘Sing a new song unto the Lord’ in a Psalter manuscript from the German convent of Medingen, ca. 1500, Bodleian Library, MS. Don. e. 248, fol. 145v

This event will begin with music from medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. The performance will also feature songs in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, and English for all to join, and will be interspersed with the sound of shofar and shell horn.

Music list: Shofar: Call to celebrating unity; ‘Cantate domino’ (Bodleian, MS. Don. e. 248, 247v); ‘Cantate domino’ (Giuseppe Pitoni); ‘Lumen ad revelacionem’ (MS. Lat. liturg. e. 18, 8r); Shell horn: Call to preserving nature; ‘Every part of this earth shall holy be for us’ (round by Stephan Vesper); Sea weed horn: Call to peace; ‘Hinema tov’ (round, orally transmitted); Horn: ‘Üsküdar’a gider iken’; ‘Victime paschali’ & ‘Christ ist erstanden’ (Bodleian, MS. Lat. liturg. f. 4); ‘Dona nobis pacem’ (round, orally transmitted).

This follows on from previous events organised by Henrike Lähnemann and Andrew Dunning ‘Singing from Manuscripts’. Click here to learn more about singing from Medieval Sources in the Bodleian Library.


Manuscripts Live: Singing from Medieval Sources in the Bodleian Library

Building on the success of Gregorian chant workshops  with manuscripts from the Bodleian Library (Singing Together, Apart 1  and Singing Together, Apart 2 ), a group of Oxford medievalists are offering insights into working with manuscripts during lockdown. Meet some of the manuscripts from the Abbey of Medingen, recently digitized through the Polonsky German project, and sing along to chants from the Easter period.  A special focus was on the ‘Exsultet’ which attracted some of the most colourful illumination of the manuscripts as well as detailed devotional instructions in Latin and Low German on how to sing it both out aloud and “on the harp strings of the soul”. Read more on Savouring the Exultet at Medingen in this blog post by Innocent Smith OP for the Polonsky German manuscript digitisation project.

Andrew Dunning, R.W. Hunt Curator of Medieval Manuscripts, showed the Medingen manuscripts at the Bodleian Library live via visualiser from the Weston Library; Zachary Guiliano, Chaplain of St Edmund Hall, Henrike Lähnemann, Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, and Nick Swarbrick, Gregorian chant instructor, and Connor Wood, Organ Scholar at St Edmund Hall, formed a Schola in the Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East, the library of St Edmund Hall, and commented on the manuscripts, the music, and their theological significance. Two graduate students working on the Easter prayer books, Carolin Gluchowski and Marlene Schilling, pointed out some of the special nuntastic features of the manuscripts.

This was part of the IMC Leeds Fringe Events but open to all manuscript and music enthusiasts! Music downloads for the event: Nunc dimittis (audience sings the ‘repetitio’ Lumen ad revelacionem gencium as congregational responses); Exultet (audience sings the congregational responses); Victime paschali laudes (audience sings the ‘Christ ist erstanden’ as congregational response and the question of the disciples Dic nobis Maria…)

Exultet iam angelica turba celorum…

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Lat. liturg. f. 4, fol. 20r – view the full manuscript on the Polonsky German website

Website Medingen Manuscripts

Recording of the first Polonsky German Workshop “Singing Apart, Together”.

Instruction for the Medingen Provost when during the ‘Exsultet’ to put the incense into the Easter candle, Bodleian Library MS. Lat. liturg. e. 18, fol. 36v