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Medieval Song and the Sounding of World, Body, and Imagination

Sarah Kay, New York University and Concordian Dawn, Ensemble for Medieval Music

September 28, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · Taplin Auditorium

LUDUS, A Collaborative Humanities Project; Program in Medieval Studies

LUDUS and the Program in Medieval Studies present “Medieval Song and the Sounding of World, Body, and Imagination:” a lecture-performance by Sarah Kay and Concordian Dawn.  

“Almost everything we might wish to know about the sound of medieval music is lost to us,” warns Daniel Leech-Wilkinson. Through the double medium of discursive speculation and live performance, Sarah Kay and Concordian Dawn set out in this lecture-performance not to know medieval song – we agree that is not possible – but to relive some of its affective realities, which we locate not in the objective worlds of time, place, or historical circumstance, but in dynamic interactions between body and world inflected by imagination. The sounds of this song are conjured not just by birds and fountains, but by celestial beasts and alluring sirens. Some of these sung texts represent the singing subject captivated by beauty, others struggling between life and death, others at the limits of a dream world, or ecstatic with joy.

LUDUS is a Collaborative Humanities Project from the Humanities Council.

Sarah Kay bio:

Currently Professor Emerita at New York University and a Life Fellow of Girton College Cambridge, Sarah Kay has taught French and Medieval Occitan at the universities of Liverpool, Cambridge, and Princeton, as well as at NYU. Her many publications range widely over medieval literature in French, Occitan, and Latin, especially in relation to medieval and modern thought. Her most recent book, Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera, was published by Cornell in 2022 together with a companion website that hosts experimental performances by Christopher Preston Thompson and Concordian Dawn of many of the songs discussed in her book.

Concordian Dawn bio:

Concordian Dawn specializes in twelfth- through fourteenth-century vocal repertoire, drawing on primary source material and focusing on socio-philosophical similarities between texts from centuries ago and the mindset of modern society. In so doing, Concordian Dawn produces a musical experience accessible to contemporary audiences, relating the human condition of the past to the familiar experiences of the present. The ensemble’s “mesmerizing” (Early Music America) debut album, Fortuna Antiqua et Ultra (MSR Classics), was released in December of 2021 to critical acclaim, and in July of 2022, Cornell University Press published a collaborative book-recording project between the ensemble and medieval studies scholar, Sarah Kay, entitled Medieval Song from Aristotle to Opera. Since its inaugural concert in 2012, Concordian Dawn has performed regularly on the east coast and annually with Gotham Early Music Scene, NYC. The ensemble has given performances and led workshops and lectures for Princeton University, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Universities of California-Berkeley and Davis, Bard College, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, and the Medieval Academy of America, among others.

Details of Concordian Dawn:

Concordian Dawn, Ensemble for Medieval Music

Amber Evans, soprano

Clifton Massey, countertenor

David Dickey, recorder and countertenor

Thomas McCargar, baritone

Niccolo Seligmann, vielle

Christopher Preston Thompson, artistic director, tenor and medieval harp

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