The Musical World of a Medieval Monk

Adémar de Chabannes in Eleventh-century Aquitaine

The Musical World of a Medieval Monk

James Grier documents the musical activities of Adémar de Chabannes, eleventh-century monk, historian, homilist and tireless polemicist for the apostolic status of Saint Martial, patron saint of the abbey that bore his name in Limoges. Adémar left behind some 451 folios of music with notation in his autograph hand, a musical resource without equal before the seventeenth century. He introduced, at strategic moments, pieces familiar from the standard liturgy for an apostle and items of his own composition. These reveal Adémar to be a supremely able designer of liturgies and a highly original composer. This study analyses his accomplishments as a musical scribe, compiler of liturgies, editor of existing musical works and composer; it also offers a speculative consideration of his abilities as a singer; and finally, it places Adémar's musical activities in the context of liturgical, musical and political developments at the abbey of Saint Martial in Limoges.


 Reviews:

"To have identified a substantial body of music composed by and copied in the hand of this eleventh-century monk represents a breathtaking synthesis of research that few medievalists would have deemed possible several decades ago. To be able to date much of the music and its copying to a six-month period in the year 1029 is simply stunning. And to have such a musical 'aeuvre' accessible from someone in the first half of the eleventh century is unprecedented. If anyone doubts that real history can be as captivating as the best fiction, come meet Adémar and read this book"
- Journal of the American Musicological Society

"Beginning in 1990, James Grier has produced more than a dozen articles and a previous book...that each brought something of Adémar's musical activities and their milieu...To have identified a substantial body of music composed by and copied in the hand of this eleventh-century monk represents a breathtaking synthesis of research that few medievalists would have deemed possible several decades ago...to have such a musical oeuvre accessible from someone in the first half of the eleventh century is unprecedented. If anyone doubts that real history can be as captivating as the best fiction, come meet Adémar and read this book."
-Rebecca A. Baltzer, Journal of the American Musicological Society

"The book is a thorough and scholarly documentary of the musical activities of a highly talented but ethically flawed Benedictine monk."
Columba Kelly, O.S.B., St. Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad

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