Department of Music Launches Study Group in Historical Music Notation

October 01, 2018

The Department of Music is pleased to announce a study group in historical music notation, Ars Nota, which meets weekly on Columbia’s campus to sing medieval and Renaissance music from facsimiles of original sources. The group, which is open to anyone interested in attending, aims to foster a supportive and communal learning environment around the practical task of sight-singing from the music manuscripts and early printed part books that form the basis of modern editions and musicological scholarship. Each meeting is devoted to learning one piece of music, usually a work of European polyphony composed between 1300 and 1600 (think chansons, motets, and madrigals). The session begins with group leader Russell O’Rourke (PhD Candidate in Historical Musicology) giving a short lesson on the day’s notation from a handout he prepares for each meeting. Then, he leads the group in learning each voice part together—first the rhythms, then the notes. Finally, the parts are combined; by the end of the session, the group is usually able to sing through the entire piece. In the process, group members will come to know medieval and Renaissance music with a lived-in familiarity, while discussion of relevant features of the musical style will help them place a wide range of works in their music-historical context.

No previous experience with historical notation is needed. While the lessons do assume some knowledge of modern music notation, people of all skill levels are encouraged to join. (Listeners are welcome, too.) Anyone interested in attending a session should write to Russell (rjo2114@columbia.edu) to be added to the email list. The group will meet in the Fall 2018 semester on most Tuesdays from 6-8pm.