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Unit information: Medieval Music Palaeography in 2020/21

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Unit name Medieval Music Palaeography
Unit code MUSI20123
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Hornby
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will introduce students to the editorial challenges presented by medieval musical notations. The students will be actively engaged with the interpretation and transcription of medieval music throughout the course.


Students will gain familiarity with and experience of reading primary sources of medieval music. They will look closely at, analyse and transcribe some medieval notations.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, a successful student will:

1. Use the correct nomenclature for medieval musical notations and the conventional palaeographical terminology

2. Understand and articulate key issues related to the transcription of music written in early notational systems

3. Make accurate, critical transcriptions of medieval music

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Details

  • Weekly transcription assignments x 8, of which the best five marks contribute 50% of the unit mark. ILO 2-3
  • Final portfolio submission of palaeographical analysis of the manuscript(s) studied, together with (optionally) a set of transcription exercises from those manuscripts (determined in consultation with the unit convenor). Where no transcriptions are undertaken, the portfolio submission will total 2,500 words; the word limit is lower when there is transcription also (to be determined by the unit convenor, depending on the complexity of the transcriptions to be undertaken). 50% of the unit mark; ILO 1-3.

Reading and References

Bent, Margaret, ‘The Grammar of Early Music: Preconditions for Analysis’, in Tonal Structures in Early Music, ed. Cristle Collins Judd (Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998)

Hiley David, ‘Notation’, in Western Plainchant - A Handbook (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1993), pp. 340-401

Levy, Kenneth, ‘On the origin of neumes’, Early Music History 7 (1987), pp. 59-90

Rankin, Susan, ‘On the Treatment of Pitch in Early Music Writing’, Early Music History 30 (2011), pp. 105-75

Rastall, Richard, The Notation of Western Music: an introduction (London, Melbourne, Toronto: J.M. Dent, 1983)

Treitler, Leo, With voice and pen: coming to know medieval song and how it was made (Oxford University Press, 2003)