Composing Community in Late Medieval Music: Self-Reference, Pedagogy, and Practice.

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Author: Sarah Ann Long
Date: Summer 2021
Publisher: University of California Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,259 words
Lexile Measure: 1560L

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Composing Community in Late Medieval Music: Self-Reference, Pedagogy, and Practice, by Jane D. Hatter. Music in Context. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019. xvii, 281 pp.

Self-reference occurs in a number of pieces written by well-known composers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We normally associate this with textual references in works that mention musicians by name, such as laments, or musical prayers. Jane Hatter's Composing Community in Late Medieval Music explores many of these pieces, as well as a number of others that highlight the act of composing itself. Through analyzing self-referential works in conjunction with their social functions, Hatter uncovers how pieces alluding to composers and their trade were used to construct a sense of community and to promote the idea of the professional composer among several generations of musicians working around 1500. She neatly sums up the importance of these works to those who wrote and performed them by saying, "Self-referential compositions themselves provide evidence for how musicians were involved in the development and transmission of the early modern concept of the composer" (p. 4). This book brings work in confraternity studies by historians and art historians together with Hatter's own detailed musical analyses. The result is an influential narrative that promises to be a useful contribution to the field of early music.

The book consists of eight chapters that unfold across two parts, each part commencing with an introductory chapter explaining the methodology in question (chapters 1 and 5). Part 1, entitled "Music about Musicians," focuses on works containing texts that are self-referential in some way, while part 2, "Music about Music," features works that call attention to the act of musical composition. Of importance here is that while Hatter is discussing communities of composers and singers, she is not proposing that they organized into official guilds or confraternities. Such organizations would have required statutes that regulated the trade and its business practices in addition to providing a spiritual component. Instead, Hatter shows how musicians formed informal communities, and how works with self-referential components publicly promoted a sense of corporate identity while at the same time celebrating the composer as an individual. Historians and art historians have long studied the role of artistic production in establishing and promoting bonds between members of both official and unofficial communities. There are also a number of influential musicological studies on confraternities that are rich in archival detail while at the same time exploring specific musical genres. Hatter's work ventures into new territory. The musicians she studies practice the same trade, but do not need the regulations of a guild, or to officially organize into trade or devotional confraternities. Their interactions are confraternal in nature, particularly as the trade of "composer" gains new currency in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Rob Wegman's ideas about the professional composer are Hatter's starting point here, and she successfully demonstrates how their compositional devices are used to forge a sense of both individual and group identity.' Such devices served the function not only of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A679119009