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Unit information: Courtly Music in the Renaissance (1400-1600) in 2016/17

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Unit name Courtly Music in the Renaissance (1400-1600)
Unit code MUSI39002
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Scott
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Everywhere a royal or noble went they were accompanied by music, be it sacred or secular. How did Renaissance patrons use music? This course will look at the varied ways in which royalty and nobles used music in Renaissance Europe. Music was a vital component of warfare and religious practice but these patrons cultivated music excessively, competing with each other and attempting to attract the most important musicians of the day to their courts.

This course will begin by looking at Italian courts, focusing on the famous Medici court at Florence, the Papal court in Rome, and the Este court in Ferrara. We will examine how composers, such as Dufay and Josquin, attracted court patronage and look at the different music female and male nobility cultivated. In the second half of the course we will look at English courts from Henry V, to Henry VIII, and Elizabeth. Each monarch used music in a different way, whether it was to pray in the field after success at Agincourt, because of the love of Catholic music in a Protestant country, or as a composer. Fortunately, some important manuscripts survive, with sacred and secular music, which means we can look at the music the Medicis might have listened to ($?The Medici Codex')and also the music Henry VIII allegedly composed ('The Henry VIII Songbook'). The study of courtly culture in these important centres will reveal much about the production and consumption of music at this time.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this unit students will:

  • demonstrate general knowledge of a wide range of courtly music in England and Italy, 1400-1600
  • demonstrate knowledge of the context in which courtly music originated
  • demonstrate general knowledge of the different function and contexts of courtly music
  • have a detailed understanding of the music produced and consumed in specific courts, and be able to compare and contrast with other courts and more general practice
  • demonstrate the ability to research and present a substantial essay in a standard musicological format, including the ability to comment in technical terms on pertinent musical examples
  • Have a general understanding on present and previous scholarship as well as ways forward
  • argue effectively and at length (including an ability to cope with complexities and to describe and deploy these effectively)
  • display to a high level skills in selecting, applying, interpreting and organising information, including evidence of a high level of bibliographical control
  • describe, evaluate and/or challenge current scholarly thinking
  • situate material within relevant contexts (invoking interdisciplinary contexts where appropriate).

Teaching details

10 classes of 2 hours each. The teaching methods will include lectures, small group discussion, class discussion and student presentations.

Assessment Details

ONE coursework essay of ca. 3,000 words (50%) and a 2-hour examination (50%)

Reading and References

  • John Adamson (ed.), The Princely Courts of Europe: Ritual, Politics and Culture under the Ancien Régime, 1500-1750 (London, 2000).
  • Roger Bray (ed.), The Sixteenth Century. (Blackwell History of Music in Britain). (Oxford, 1995).
  • John Caldwell, The Oxford History of English Music, Vol. I (OUP, 1991).
  • Lewis Lockwood, Music in Renaissance Ferrara (Oxford, 1984).
  • David C. Price, Patrons and Musicians of the English Renaissance (Cambridge, 1981).
  • Richard Sherr, Music and Musicians in Renaissance Rome and Other Courts, Variorum Collected Studies Series (Aldershot, 1999).