Music and Time: the Work of Notation in the Visual Culture of Medieval Devotion

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This chapter argues that just as images and texts are treated expansively in the context of the visual culture of late medieval religious devotion, and are understood to have multivalent meanings and significances, so should musical notation. Sound and music have lately been integrated into the study of visual culture, as part of an approach to reception that seeks to analyse the multisensory nature of the experience of medieval devotional objects and images. Despite this greater sensitivity to sound, and to the important links between the visual and the aural in medieval religious experience, music is sometimes assumed by scholars trained in the analysis of visual and material culture to enjoy a concrete reality only when the music is sung. Thus, musical notation within visual images is either considered as mere ‘decoration’, and as an evocation of the general idea of ‘music’, or as a record of or a prescription for performance. This chapter will suggest that notation can do similar devotional work to that performed by images and texts, and should be considered more readily as part of the study of the visual culture of late medieval devotion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaterial Cultures of Music Notation
Subtitle of host publicationNew Perspectives on Musical Inscription
EditorsFloris Schuiling, Emily Payne
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780429342837
ISBN (Print)9780367359522
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2022


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