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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

EUROCORESChants that Bind and Break: Reflections of Ideology and Identity in Offices for the Saints, from Carolingian to Early modern Europe

Awarded: NOK 3.5 mill.

The NTNU-project «Chants that Bind and Break: Reflections of Ideology and Identity in Offices for the Saints, from the Carolingian era to Early modern Europe» (CBB) was performed 2010-2014 as part of the «EurocoreCode»-programme of the European Science Foundation. «EurocoreCode» aimed to describe various aspects of European identity. Three large international interdisciplinary teams - «Unfamiliarity», «Cuius regio», «Cultsymbols» - approached this topic from various historical and cultural perspectives. CBB was part of the «Cultsymbols»-team which focussed on saints as central figures of European identity. In this context CBB was involved in an intensive cooperation with work groups from Denmark (Copenhagen, ritual studies), Austria (Krems, art history) and Estland (Tallinn, medieval history). During the Middle Ages saints were seen as symbols of their societies' mentality, values and ideals. Saints played therefore a decisive function in the development of regional and supra-regional identities. This identificatory function has long been recognised by research which focussed on historical and hagiographic texts, ecclesiastical architecture, sculpture and painting. The veneration of saints included however also musical artefacts in form of extensive cycles of monophonic latin chants, which were connected to the venerable tradition of Franco-Roman (so called «Gregorian») chant. These chant cycles formed in combination with chanted readings from the saint's life, and the recitation of psalms the numerous so called «offices» or «historiae». Historiae were performed regularly, year after year, often for centuries, on the great feasts of the saints. In academic research the potential of historiae chants for the historiography of socio-political communication was hitherto neglected. The chant-cycles were usually understood as mere liturgical «ornaments». CBB was based on the assumption that this general attitude is superficial, incorrect and based on an anachronistic neglect of the role of ecclesiastical music as part of medieval socio-political communication. In order to correct this view, the present project launched in depth analyses of selected medieval historiae focussing on the study of early representations of regional and supraregional identity in these chant cycles. The studies included the search for glimpses of the socio-political systems and ideals of the lay and clerical elites who helped forge the shape and destiny of the regions of Europe. The project deciphered the ecclesiastical symbolic language and the role of music of relevant historiae from all over Europe: today's Scandinavia, Northern Spain, France, Germany, England, Poland etc. Among the discussed historiae were those in honour of famous sainted rulers (Olaf of Norway, Canute IV and Canute Lavard of Denmark, Erik of Sweden, Louis IX of France, Oswald of Northumbria, Edmund of East Anglia, Charlemagne etc.), patron saints of cities, and many other important saints (among them the patron saints of the great orders: Benedict, Dominic, and Francis of Assisi). The numerous articles and presentations produced during the project-period gave answers to the following main thematic questions: 1. Which musical and linguistic technical means were used in the historiae-chants in order to reflect the meaning of the patron saints for their venerating societies and the shared ideals and expectations of those who participated in these liturgical celebrations? 2. How was violence, warfare and military service, the image of enemies, pain and suffering, and also joy and hope reflected in the historiae chants technically? 3. How did the historiae chants express the changing images and ideals of saintliness and rulership current in the Middle Ages? 4. In which way were historiae connected to the other communicative media involved in the veneration of saints (texts, architecture, the arts)? The answers were given on the basis of a simultaneous discussion of analytical musicological methods. This methodological discussion had to address the difficult question of text-music-interaction in medieval plainchant. It could be made plausible in numerous instances that historiae chants are in fact able not only to articulate, but also to reflect, even to emphazise the meaning of their texts. The project has, thus, demonstrated that historiae-chants must be regarded as integral elements of the hagiographic, ritual, and socio-historical discourse focussing on medieval saints. The music of historiae is a particularly powerful medium due to its ability to place a sensual accent on elements of the text which is sung. The identificatory messages of historiae have, thus, to be understood as at least of the same importance as that of other media, paintings, sculpture, ritual, hagriographic, historical or legal texts. This outcome underlines the relevance of musicological investigation and methodology for studying the social and cultural history of Europe.

Saints' offices are a forgotten part of the self-representation of early European societies. Every significant medieval ecclesiastical institution invested considerable resources not only to the continuous maintenance and performance of the liturgy and it s artistic sheathing by music, but also in the creation of a "proper" (i.e. individual) set of office chants for their most prominent patron saints. This offers a new window on the ideological framework of these institutions. The identities of groups, co mmunities, corporations and localities can be detected by investigating expressions of their changing attitudes to key socio-cultural ideas and values. The chants of saints' offices are a means of identifying these ideas and values, when allied to these g roups and localities. In that sense they can be understood as repositories of important aspects of regional and trans-regional identity. The communicative impact of these chants far exceeds that of other socio-political and hagiographic texts and visualis ations which form the image of a patron. Text and music enhance their message structurally and rhetorically, establishing networks of allusion to other contexts, by citation, and by borrowing from other saints' melodies. Music was a particularly intense e lement in rendering performative and symbolic power to these rituals.

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