Organizer: Evan MacCarthy (UMass, Amherst)
Visual and literary representations of medieval music-making, from decorative paintings and sculptures for the interiors of homes, churches, and courts to vividly written accounts of banquet dances, urban processions, or liturgical song, signaled an understanding of musical culture shared by artist and beholder, author and reader. The performative touch of medieval music immediately calls to mind the resounding images of a hand depressed on the keys of an organ, the joined hands of dancers afoot, or the labored tuning of a plucked or bowed instrument. The anticipation of sounds yet to be heard is often adeptly captured in these moments of contact between performers and each other or their instrument. Images painted in books and on panels or carved in stone also portray the immersive sonic spaces of much medieval singing, where singers read and breathed over each other’s shoulders, while singing from a shared choirbook of plainchant or polyphony held by one singer or displayed on an elevated lectern. From the musical angels of Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece to the choirboys of Luca della Robbia’s Cantoria for the Florence Cathedral, many artworks also depict the hands of musicians touching another musician with gestures now understood as marking musical time within the late medieval system of musical mensuration, which by the end of the fifteenth century had begun to deploy the term “tactus” (touch) in place of “mensura” (measure). For the sub-theme Touching Sounds, we invite abstracts for papers concerning late medieval music and music theory, dance, art history, and/or literature, which explore sonic or musical moments of physical or metaphorical contact and touch.