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David Birdsong, Chair 201 W 21St Street, B7600, HRH 2.114A, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5531

Fall 2007


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
38153 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
MRH 2.604

Course Description

Mus 379K-W (Music and visual art in fourteenth-century Italy) is an upper-division writing course designed to provide an opportunity for substantial research, discussion, analysis, and presentation project about the musical life of fourteenth-century Italy. The musical repertory we will focus on, commonly defined as Italian Ars Nova or the Italian Trecento, spans approximately between 1320 and 1420. A relatively large number of musicians composed secular music for the entertainment of their aristocratic patrons and sacred works for the services of the Church. We will study the life and works of these musicians and analyze the significance of their music under several perspectives. The biography of musicians will be put in connection with the communities in which they worked. Besides focusing on musical sources, we will evaluate the significance of music and the social role of musicians in fourteenth-century culture. For doing so we will consider the ways in which musical scenes, instruments, and musicians are depicted in paintings and illuminations, and will analyze the value of music in literary works of the time.

Although great emphasis will be given to musical phenomena, musical training is not a prerequisite. Students with no musical background will be asked to work in related fields that are nonetheless relevant to the understanding of this important repertory of medieval music.

Text: There is no required text book for this class, but you may consider purchasing F.A. Gallo, Music in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985)

Other Readings: will be available through the course BlackBoard site or will be on reserve in the Fine Arts Library. (To access BlackBoard go to and log in with your UT EID)

Course outline

Will follow the calendar of activities


Class sessions will cover all assigned readings and the additional materials relevant to the topic at hand (listenings, scores, images, literary excerpts, etc.). It is very important, therefore, that you attend all class sessions and come prepared to take part to discussions with appropriate questions and ideas. Please, do the readings BEFORE coming to class.

Readings will be available online as .pdf files or on reserve in the Fine Arts Library. Scores and audio files will also be available online. Instruction on how to access the audio files will be provided during the first day of class.

Short take-home writing exercises will be assigned in alternation with stages of the primary writing assignment. Each short assignment will be worth 5 possible points. Late assignments will not be accepted (unless they are caused by an excused absence; see below); if an assignment is turned in late, it will receive 0 points.

Absences. There will be two kinds of absences: excused and unexcused 1. Excused absences are all absences due to out-of-town School of Music ensemble commitments (documented in writing by the faculty director of the ensemble) or for significant medical situations (with a note from the doctor stating that you could not attend regular class activities). 2. Unexcused absences are all other absences - including out-of-town family commitments, being overwhelmed because of an upcoming recital, etc. Each student is allowed three unexcused absences without penalty. For all additional absences there will be a 5 points penalty on the student's grade. Absences during the days of final presentation will count double (10 points).

There will be no midterm exams and no in-class final examination. The time-slot for the final exam for this class (date) will be used for final presentations, as outlined below. You are required to be present and participate in each final presentation. Each absence during final presentation will count as a double absen

Grading Policy

Short assignments - 35 Maximum points
Primary writing assignment - 100 Maximum points
Daily exercises - 65 Maximum points
Total points - 200 Maximum points

From the total points, the following grade equivalency will be determined:

180-200 Points: A
160-179 points: B
140-159 points: C
120-139 points: D
0-119 points: F


List of readings (provisory)

Franco Alberto Gallo, Music of the Middle Ages II (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1985)
Yudkin, The Fourteenth-century in Italy, in Music in Medieval Europe (Upper Saddle Rive, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989), pp. 520-560.
From the New Grove Music Online, articles Ars nova; Italy, §I, 2: Art music: Early secular music; and profiles of composers, plus other relevant articles suggested through the semester.
From the Grove Art online, relevant articles suggested through the semester.
John White, Art and Architecture in Italy, 1250-1400, Pelican History of Art (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1966) (Chapters on 14th cent. painting), pp. 201-279 and 359-383.
New Oxford History of Music, vol. 3 (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1954-1990) Chapter on the fourteenth century in Italy, pp. 31-81
D. Leech-Wilkinson: 'Ars Antiqua - Ars Nova - Ars Subtilior', Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. J. McKinnon (London, 1990), 218-40.
Howard Mayer Brown, 'Trecento Angels and the Instruments they Play', Modern Musical Scholarship: Oxford 1977, 112-40.
Howard Mayer Brown, 'A Corpus of Trecento Pictures with Musical Subject Matter', Imago musicae, i (1984), 189-243; ii (1985), 179-282; iii (1986), 103-87; v (1988), 167-241.
Howard Mayer Brown and Stanley Sadie, Performance Practice, i: Music before 1600 (London, 1989).
Howard Mayer Brown, 'The Trecento Fiddle and its Bridges', Early Music, xvii (1989), 308-29.


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