torculus resupinus, gluteus medius: some thoughts on the 2018 Historical Notation Bootcamp

Yesterday afternoon I came across this sentence in the novel I’m slowly working my way through this summer:

“I’m talking nonsense, I know, but I would rather babble away and at least partially express something difficult than reproduce impeccable clichés.”

It made me smile, because in the past week I have had many moments that felt a little like that. It was the week of the Historical Notation Bootcamp, an intensive four-day crash course on the history of music writing in the West that I co-teach with Andrew Hicks. This was our third year of running the program, which is funded by the Beinecke Library, the Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance at Cornell, and the music departments of both institutions; it furnished me with a third annual mid-August occasion to stop and wonder in gratitude at the drive and dedication, curiosity and patience, of the graduate students and colleagues who show up.

We call the event a bootcamp, which can sound a bit gimmicky until you see our schedule. We squeeze in 27 hours of instruction into four days (not including optional extra evening review and Q&A sessions with graduate student tutors): Continue reading

Much Ado about Variants

New article post: Anna Zayaruznaya, “Evidence of Reworkings in ars nova Motets,” Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis 38 (2014, published 2018): 155–75.


Conferences on wide-open themes often sound to me like a thing better in the imagining than in the doing (let’s have a conference on “the feline”! A session on the number 3?), but there’s no way this article would ever have come about if I hadn’t been invited to participate in a symposium on the theme of “Reworkings” (subtitle “Musical re-Elaboration and Cultural Context”) organized by Pedro Memelsdorff in November 2014 at the Schola Cantorum in Basel. Granted, “reworkings” is more specific than cats (if less cuddly), and I learned that an invitation like that is really a question in disguise. What can you say within your domain of expertise and interest about the topic of [conference theme]? I had never thought much about whether or to what extent the repertory I work on had been subject to reworkings. Which is not to say that there isn’t important work on added contratenors and triplum voices added to motets and songs. But there’s also a prevalent rhetoric about the “inessential” qualities of these added voices. As for motets surviving in various systems of notation, we tend to think of these not as reworked, but only renotated, leaving the “essential” elements of pitch, rhythm, and vertical sonority left untouched. That may or may not be right, but even so: motets are remarkably textually stable, mutatis mutandis.

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Welcome to my blog

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. This blog is a new enterprise launched in the Summer of 2018 and it is a work in progress. It lacks many of the things that a good blog would have, but I hope that an infrastructure will emerge as I figure out what it is I like to blog about.

Here are some of the things I hope to accomplish in this space:

  • comment on my own work, providing context and extra or related materials for articles and chapters as they are published
  • write about useful articles or books that I come across in my research
  • muse about the process, as well as the products, of researching and writing
  • talk about hockets. because let’s face it, nothing is better than ho-

So please stay tuned, or follow, or subscribe, or do whatever it is that you like to do. And I’ll plan to post a few times a month. And we’ll just see how this goes. K?