Listening to the Past, Listening in the Past

Emma Dillon

in The Sense of Sound

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199732951
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932061 | DOI:

Series: The New Cultural History of Music Series

Listening to the Past, Listening in the Past

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This chapter is an exposition of the methodology of the book. It begins with analysis of a thirteenth-century motet, exploring the relationship between text and sound, and argues that the motet’s hallmark sound – the supermusical – in which words are obscured in performance, provided an ethical challenge to its listeners. It then offers a mode for ‘listening’ to such sound based on medieval attitudes to the voice and modern ideas of dialogic listening, in which musical sound may be understood in conversation with other kinds of sound. It further notes the problems attached to recovering medieval sound. This chapter draws on medieval writers such as Augustine, Donatus, Aelred of Rievaulx, and modern writers such as Bakhtin to establish a model for holistic listening to the motet. It then proposes four soundscapes against which to situate the sound of the motet: the city, charivari, the sound of madness, the sound of prayer.

Keywords: Motet; courtly love; Augustine; Aelred of Rievaulx; Bakhtin

Chapter.  13662 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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