Musical Values and Practice in Old Hispanic Chant

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Augustine’s judgement in Confessions of music’s moral value, as selectively abbreviated by Isidore of Seville, provides a conceptual framework for understanding early-medieval Iberian musical values. Augustine advocates a devotional focus primarily on text, expressing anxiety about elaborate liturgical music. For Isidore, by contrast, diverse melody leads both faithful and unfaithful towards a transcendent anticipation of heaven, beyond reason-based concentration on text. Examples are drawn from Old Hispanic (“Mozarabic”) chant, whose texts (preserved before 732) are closer to the late-antique context than any other western liturgy. Old Hispanic melodies are preserved in unpitched notation ca. 900. Here, I test the hypothesis that Isidore’s musical values shaped the extant Old Hispanic chant texts and melodies, leading to a new appraisal of how Old Hispanic musical values and practice relate. The methodology developed here has the potential to be applied to other ritual traditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-650
Number of pages56
JournalJournal of the American Musicological Society
Issue number3
Early online date20 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Medieval Studies


  • Old Hispanic chant
  • Mozarabic chant
  • Isidore of Seville
  • Augustine of Hippo
  • Musical values
  • Melodic language


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