Processional Chants in Early Medieval Iberia: Liturgy, Melody, Continuity 2017-2020

About the Project

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust from January 2017 until June 2020, Processional Chants in Early Medieval Iberia endeavors to shed light on Old Hispanic processional practices - when, where and how they happened, and any continuities within the Iberian Roman liturgy after 1080.  

Processions are integral to medieval liturgy and much is known about them within the Roman sphere. This project introduces ritual movement into the discourse about Old Hispanic chant, enriching and broadening our understanding of a European (yet non-Roman) liturgy whose texts date back at least to the 7th century. All but two dozen of the thousands of extant Old Hispanic chant melodies are preserved only in unpitched notation (neumes), and many of their texts, melodies, and ritual uses remain entirely unexplored. This is partly because of the methodological challenges posed by the notation, and partly because of Iberia’s peripheral status in most musical and liturgical scholarship. Few have studied the Old Hispanic liturgy (Donovan 1958, Pinell 1998, León 2011 symposium) practised across Christian Iberia until ca 1080, and its dynamic use of ritual space has been considered even less frequently. Yet such physicality was a major component of medieval liturgy, particularly in processions. How and when were Old Hispanic processions used? How did they interact with the architecture? How did melody structure and pace them? And what continuities are there with later Iberian Roman liturgy? By engaging with these questions, this project opens up a new sub-field of liturgical scholarship, bringing the physical aspects of a neglected medieval liturgy into dialogue with textual and musicological concerns.

Project Goals

Our collaborative network builds three strands of research based on the tripartite expertise of our three principal investigators: Dr. David Andrés Fernández (strand 1: processional chants and practices), Prof. Emma Hornby (strand 2: Old Hispanic musical language), and Prof. Carmen Julia Gutiérrez (strand 3: melodic continuity in pre-modern Iberian chant). These strands combine our complementary knowledge bases and methodological approaches.

Our preliminary work lays the groundwork not only for three collaborative articles but also for discussions with a group of external experts. These scholars are specialists in musicology, historically-informed performance, liturgy, architecture, philology, and notation, and have interests in procession-laden parts of the repertoire, including hymnody, Marian devotion, and Easter. Sharing work through peer-reviewed publication is slow; traditional conference papers, however stimulating, do not invite close engagement with others' research. Instead, we are utilizing an alternative model: external experts use our preliminary findings as the spring-board for presentations that they will subsequently develop into edited volume chapters for publication. The hypotheses and knowledge shared by these external experts contribute to our growing understanding of early Iberian processions. We approach the Old Hispanic processions as an integrated team of colleagues, not a loose network. The resulting edited volume will consist of material that has been workshopped intensively by the project team, rather than the more usual approach of loosely connected essays on a relatively broad theme.  By pooling our resources as a trio and, more widely, with these scholars, we will firmly establish the extent and character of Old Hispanic processional practices.

Expected Outcomes

Each of the three strands of collaborative research will result in the publication of a peer-reviewed article. Utilizing our initial findings, invited external experts will build on our research in relation to their own areas of expertise, resulting in a volume of essays about Old Hispanic processions. 

Strand 1: Led by Andrés Fernández, we identified where and how Old Hispanic processions took place as well as identifying specific processional genres and chants. By interrogating manuscript rubrics (via digital images) and pertinent Iberian writings (including published church council records and monastic rules) we explored the following: textual features; formal structure; and practicalities of movement and action within the architectural space. Developed collaboratively by the three members of the team, the resulting draft article established where and how Old Hispanic processions were used. This article functions as the project's preliminary findings. It has been sent, in polished draft form, to the project's external experts for feedback and as a launch pad for their own related research.

Strand 2: Our identification of processional genres and specific processional chants leads to an exploration of the sound world of Old Hispanic processions. Led by Hornby, our second collaborative article compares the melodic language of processional chants with that of the other Old Hispanic liturgical genres already studied. This strand builds on Prof. Hornby's knowledge of Old Hispanic melody, developed since 2009 in AHRC- and ERC-funded collaborative research. The computer-assisted analytical methodology (CEAP) matches notation patterns. Hornby has now identified melodic shapes and strategies associated with cadences and phrase beginnings, some of which are characteristic of particular genres or of manuscript clusters, differentiated chronologically or geographically. Further, she has developed a method for exploring how each melody paces its text delivery (and thus “reads” it in tandem with medieval Iberian prayers and biblical commentaries). Prof. Carmen Julia Gutierrez, with her expertise in the transmission of melodic repertoires and in Spanish medieval sources, actively participates in the writing of this second article as well.

Strand 3: Gutiérrez leads on the third article, in which we seek evidence of melodic residues of Old Hispanic processional chants within later repertoires. This article attempts to reconstruct the survival of the processional melodic repertoire through comparative studies with later processional repertoires.

We shared a draft of the first article with eleven experts from Europe and North America. Using this article as a starting point, these experts are presenting their research to the project team (via Skype). After the presentations, each external expert will decide whether to develop their ideas into chapters (in English or Spanish) over the following year, for publication as a bilingual collection. As well as a detailed introduction, written by the three collaborators, each principal collaborator contributes a chapter summarising the three strands of the project.  Where our collaborative journal article is in Spanish, the chapter is in English, and vice versa, in order to maximise the linguistic reach of the work. 

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