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  • Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MALMECC (Music and Late Medieval European Court Cultures: Towards a Trans-Disciplinary and Post-National Cultural Poetics of the Performative Arts)

MALMECC Report Summary

Project ID: 669190
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MALMECC (Music and Late Medieval European Court Cultures: Towards a Trans-Disciplinary and Post-National Cultural Poetics of the Performative Arts)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Late medieval European court cultures have traditionally been studied from a mono-disciplinary and national(ist) perspective. This has obscured much of the interplay of cultural performances that informed “courtly life”. Recent research has begun to reverse this, focusing on issues such as the tensions between orality, writing, and performance; the sociocultural dimensions of making and owning manuscripts (musical and otherwise); the interstices between musical, literary and visual texts and political, social and religious rituals; and the impact of gender, kinship, and social status on the genesis and transmission of culture and music. These “new medievalist” studies have significantly enhanced our understanding of the cultural meanings of singing, listening, and sound in late medieval times.
Taking a decisive step further, MALMECC systematically explores late medieval (c. 1280-1450) court cultures and their music synoptically across Europe. The project is a large-scale comparative study focused on the role of music in courtly life. It removes music from its customary “splendid isolation”, instead embedding it within a multidisciplinary framework encompassing all the arts as well as politics and religion. England, the Low Countries, Avignon, Bohemia, south-eastern Germany/Salzburg, Savoy, northern Italy, and Cyprus have been selected for study as vibrant sites of cultural production which have been relatively neglected due to prevailing discursive formations favouring “centres” like Paris and Florence. Approaching the midpoint of the grant period, the MALMECC project is bearing first results, revealing the complex ecology of late medieval performances of noblesse in unheard-of depth while at the same time throwing the unique qualities of each court into distinct relief.
The MALMECC approach provides new insights into late medieval cultures and the societies that produced them. Today, this contributes directly to Europeans’ understanding of the often enigmatic artefacts they see in museums, or the equally obscure pieces of medieval music that they hear in concerts and on recordings. By reconstructing cultural practices and the performances that shaped and surrounded these pieces, MALMECC also reveals submerged cultural links across Europe. These preceded – and thereby have the implicit potential to transcend – the boundaries of today’s nation states. In this way, MALMECC contributes to the formation of new European trans-national and post-national, but also regional (cross-border) identities, for example in the former duchy of Savoy (now divided between Switzerland, France, and Italy), or by highlighting the links between Hainault (in modern Belgium) and England. By making the cultural communities of the past visible again through our research, MALMECC provides unique opportunities for today’s Europeans to re-connect with their heritage, and understand and re-negotiate their own identities and histories better. From an academic point of view, the project is important because it develops an innovative research paradigm for historical “art” research which, it is hoped, will be transferable to other periods of history and regions of the globe.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The MALMECC project began in January 2016 and transferred to Oxford in September 2016. As soon as recruitment was completed, the team launched into an intensive period of knowledge exchange, both within the team and with selected external experts. This exploratory phase, designed to establish a common base of knowledge and a shared sense of purpose and project identity for the team, culminated in the project workshop, ‘Methodological Innovation in Late-Medieval Studies’, at Wadham College (27th-28th April 2017). Bringing together some of the most innovative medievalists active today, the workshop helped the MALMECC team to consolidate its approach. It also encouraged and inspired the researchers methodologically as they embarked on the next phase of the project, dedicated to individual sub-projects (one per team member) under the common umbrella of the MALMECC approach. These sub-projects focus on Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England, and the complex relationships between fourteenth-century England, the Low Countries, and France (Slater); the court of Pilgrim of Puchheim, prince-archbishop of Salzburg, and his court poet, the Monk of Salzburg, 1380-1400 (Murray); the relations between the households of cardinals, their home regions, and the papal curia in Avignon during the early decades of the Schism, 1380-90s (Masson); and the role of arts and ecclesiastic politics in the courtly life of Savoy, northern Italy (Milan), and Cyprus, 1380-1450 (Kügle).
In addition to hosting and maintaining a lively website, the team are conducting a series of international ‘study days’ in the current, research-driven phase of the MALMECC project. Each study day explores one of the main themes of the MALMECC research in particular depth. The first of these, on ‘Cultural production and ecclesiastical courts’, took place in Oxford (16th-17th February 2018). Several more will follow, including two deliberately held on the Continent (Berlin, Liège) in order to make MALMECC as visible as possible across Europe, and emphatically connect the MALMECC project, here understood as an Anglo-Saxon enterprise, with the important historical research traditions of the French- and German-speaking worlds. The team is also planning a series of short project videos, and intends to enhance project visibility internationally through collaboration with further local partners in other European countries, strengthening the overall impact of the project on the Humanities across the full range of the European Research Area (ERA).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

At the time of writing, the central research phase, dedicated to the individual sub-projects, is well under way. We are building on the results obtained in the preparatory phase, in particular the impact of our project workshop, which opened up new methodological avenues for each team member. We are preparing a series of journal articles and monographs to be published in the upcoming years, in addition to an essay volume focused on the possibilities of transdisciplinary research in the Humanities. The project conference in Oxford, scheduled for autumn 2019, will act as a major focus for this, and will provide a key opportunity to discuss and critically assess methodological issues including the transferability of the MALMECC approach to other geographical regions and periods of history. Following the success of the project workshop, where we experimented with a discussion-intensive format otherwise not practiced in the Humanities, we are now bringing our experimental format to collaborating institutions on the Continent. This creates potential for generating long-term paradigm shifts in the culture of Humanities research across Europe, using first-hand experience and the sharing of innovative practice.
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