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James Grier
University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario N6A 5B8 Canada)
The Foundations of Musical Literacy in the Medieval West, 800-1100: Oral and Written Transmission in Early Plainsong

Gregorian chant, or plainsong, was the liturgical chant of the medieval church, in which capacity it was sung throughout Western Europe, in one form or another, from at least the eighth century until its suppression by the Second Vatican Council in 1964. The proposed project will investigate the origins of plainsong, and the means by which it was disseminated in Western Europe during the Central Middle Ages. Plainsong was among the first medieval musical repertories to be recorded in writing, and historians have come to regard the use of visual materials for the preservation of information as one of the distinguishing characteristics of Western culture in general. By applying principles of textual criticism to the earliest extant chant manuscripts, I shall reconstruct the scribal procedures by which they were created, show precisely how musical notation was used to preserve and transmit plainsong, and greatly enrich our understanding of the musical practices that lie behind them.

[Grant products][Media coverage]

Project fields:
Music History and Criticism

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2009 – 6/30/2010