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Chapter 2 is concerned with how the calendrically oriented refrain song repertoire outlined in Chapter 1 plays out in the moment of performance; namely, how singers and listeners might have understood songs and refrains as a form of religious narrative and how the refrain interacts with the experience of narrative time in performance. Chapter 2 considers the temporality of strophic Latin song itself and ways in which the refrain interacts with the linearity and circularity of poetic and musical time both separately and together. Songs that most compellingly bring together the experience of calendrical time with the musical and poetic experience of time in song are narrative works that paraphrase or retell familiar biblical and hagiographic stories, the focus of a series of case studies in Chapter 2. The case studies in this chapter These case studies, which showcase songs about the Nativity, the Resurrection, and saints’ lives (specifically those of St. Katherine and St. Nicholas), emphasize how the refrain operates within the devotional temporalities articulated in each individual work, at times interjecting or interrupting, and at other times integrating musically, poetically, and grammatically into the narrative flow.
Chapter 1 contextualizes the performance of the refrain song within the feasts and seasons of the church and calendar year, situating the repertoire within in a pluralistic temporal framework. The Latin refrain and refrain song are identified as inherently seasonal and calendrical forms of musical expression, emerging out of broader clerical and monastic interest in musically amplifying specific periods of the year. In addition to examining the calendrical ordering of refrain songs across manuscript sources, this chapter considers how festive calendrical time was disciplined and reframed through song and refrain. This analysis is informed by the textual witnesses of Eudes Rigaud’s thirteenth-century Regestrum, and song collection prefaces attributed to Johannes de Perchausen and Bishop Richard Ledrede in the Moosburger Graduale and Red Book of Ossory, respectively. The chapter closes with a case study of refrains and refrains songs for the New Year (January 1), a highly contested day in the medieval year that fused popular and devotional rituals and, consequently, invited condemnation as well as musical and poetic accretions. Musico-poetic celebration of the New Year involved one refrain in particular, “annus novus,” leading to a dense network of associations between theological texts, devotional songs, and festive rituals.
Chapter 5 identifies the refrain as an axis between Latin and vernacular song, focusing on what the concentration of contrafacts in three unique manuscripts (the St-Victor Miscellany, Engelberg Codex, and Red Book of Ossory) reveals concerning the interpenetration of song cultures and their languages across Europe. Refrain songs in these notated and unnotated sources feature parallel forms of scribal evidence and intervention that illustrate long-standing interactions between Latin and vernacular refrains through contrafacture and offer insight into the multilingual communities behind the Latin refrain song repertoire. Two of the three sources - the St-Victor Miscellany and Red Book of Ossory - transmit only unnotated songs, moreover, while the Engelberg Codex lacks notation for six of its nine marginally annotated songs. This chapter suggests that the vernacular fragments, or refrains, behave in many ways like musical notation; knowledge of the melody attached to a given vernacular text (typically a refrain) enables the musical realization of the Latin poem. Independently of one another, the St-Victor Miscellany, Engelberg Codex, and the Red Book of Ossory treat the Latin and vernacular refrain in similar ways by using the refrain to initiate formal links across language and generate musical meaning in the absence of notation.
Chapter 4 explores the memorial aspects of the Latin refrain and its circulation between genres and among works, demonstrating how the Latin refrain and refrain song participate in an extensive, and at times complicated network of textual and musical borrowing, reworking, and repetition. These intertextual and intermusical networks include refrains that are reworked from other genres, most often chant; refrains that are employed structurally across different songs; and refrains that are recycled more freely among songs. Although relying on the written side of the Latin refrain’s transmission, these forms of intertextuality are underpinned by the lived experiences of the individuals and communities who performed, remembered, and wrote down Latin song and refrain; singers, scribes, and compilers are the unnamed agents driving the recycling of Latin refrains. Chapter 4 concludes with a case study of two fourteenth-century sources from an Austrian abbey that considers how the inscription of refrains within this monastic community evidences an evolving, living practice of remembering, singing, copying, and reusing Latin refrains.
Chapter 3 focuses on the implications of the refrain for performance, reappraising its role as a marker of responsorial song. The chapter argues that the refrain in devotional Latin song brought individuals and communities together in the moment of performance through the acts of remembering together, responding collectively, and worshipping communally. Drawing on the rhetoric, grammar, form, and musical texture of Latin refrain songs, this Chapter illustrates how poets and composers embedded ideas about performance, community, and communal participation in their compositions. Crucially, the songs themselves define communities rooted in the structures of the church; singers and songs belong to nested and hierarchical communities of clergy, choir, and laypeople, the power relations of which are determined in some cases by rank and in others by age. The efforts of the scribes and compilers who worked within these communities contribute additional layers of information to the meaning and performance of refrains, with rubrication and textual cues offering rare insight into specific contexts for the refrain song’s responsorial performance. Chapter 3 also suggests a relationship between the refrain song’s implicit choreographic identity and the discourses of community conveyed by the refrain.
The Introduction defines the refrain in medieval Latin song and distinguishes it from the intertextual French refrain by virtue of its necessary repetition within and across songs. Identifying the refrain as a formal feature of Latin song across genre (conductus, versus, cantilena, etc.) that inflects manuscript transmission, function, and interpretation, the Introduction also considers the historiography of the Latin refrain and refrain song, including its long-standing connection to clerical dance. The Introduction provides an overview of manuscript sources for Latin refrain songs, revealing approaches to compilation and ordering in manuscript sources that foreground the refrain. This is followed by a section on theoretical approaches to the refrain from the perspective of music and rhetoric, offering which offers a broader repertorial and cultural contextualization. The Introduction also considers questions of authorship and performance in relation to the Latin refrain song, looking to manuscript evidence and the internal evidence of the songs themselves for information on who created, copied, sang, listened to, and potentially danced to this repertoire. The Introduction concludes with outlines for Chapters 1-5.
Chapter 6 picks up on several threads that run throughout the previous chapters, including community and performance, refrains and collective memory, the mobility or mouvance of refrains, and the question of place and locality for the performance and dissemination of Latin refrain songs, and puts them into a broader cultural and historical context. Chapter 6 also points to further contexts for the refrain song outside the scope of the book, as well as possible avenues of interpretation and research for songs and refrains that were not discussed, such as secular refrains. The chapter also briefly discusses the afterlives of Latin refrain songs, from the late medieval carol and the rise of print culture to modern recording practices.
Throughout medieval Europe, male and female religious communities attached to churches, abbeys, and schools participated in devotional music making outside of the chanted liturgy. Newly collating over 400 songs from primary sources, this book reveals the role of Latin refrains and refrain songs in the musical lives of religious communities by employing novel interdisciplinary and analytical approaches to the study of medieval song. Through interpretive frameworks focused on time and temporality, performance, memory, inscription, and language, each chapter offers an original perspective on how refrains were created, transmitted, and performed. Arguing for the Latin refrain's significance as a marker of form and meaning, this book identifies it as a tool that communities used to negotiate their lived experiences of liturgical and calendrical time; to confirm their communal identity and belonging to song communities; and to navigate relationships between Latin and vernacular song and dance that emerge within their multilingual contexts.