European Ars Nova, ERC Advanced Grant 2017, Multilingual Poetry and Polyphonic Song in the Late Middle Ages

The aim of the project ArsNova is to study for the first time, through an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, the corpus of poetry in Latin, Italian and French, set to music by the polyphonists of the so called Ars Nova, a label conventionally used to indicate the most sophisticated forms of sacred and secular polyphony created primarily in France and Italy during the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries – one of the highest artistic expressions of medieval culture. Most Ars Nova polyphonists were clergymen or monks working in the main cultural centres of Europe, at the service of high prelates, lords and rulers who used music also as a means of personal and institutional propaganda. Nevertheless, many poetic texts set to music follow the great tradition of Romance love poetry and apparently have nothing to do with morals or politics. But what kind of love are they about, exactly? The social status of Ars Nova polyphonists and their ties to ecclesiastical institutions suggest that the language of love poetry expresses the values of caritas, the theological virtue that guides rulers and inspires them to pursue the common good. Thus, the poetic figure of the lover becomes a metaphor for the political man, and love poetry can be used as a device for diplomacy, as well as for personal and institutional propaganda. From this unprecedented point of view, the project will develop three research lines in response to the following questions:
What is the nature of the relationship between poetry and music, and what are the features of the dialogue between the various poetic and musical traditions, considered in relation to their respective contexts of production?
To what extent does Ars Nova poetry take part in the ‘soft power’ strategies exercised by the European political class of the time?
Is there a connection between the multilingualism of the manuscript tradition and the perception of the Ars Nova as a European, intercultural repertoire?
The project provides for the implementation of a database conceived as a working tool that ensures the quality and reliability of the results of the three research lines, and also as a meeting point where all researchers can share the partial results of their work, making them available to the whole team.
European Ars Nova: Multilingual Poetry and Polyphonic Song in the Late Middle Ages (ArsNova)
1 January 2019 - 31 December 2023
ERC Funding
€ 2,193,375