I am a historical musicologist who, for most of his active career, specialized in music of the period 1420-1520. In recent years I have expanded the sphere of my research interests to include Ars Antiqua polyphony, roughly from the period 1160-1320. Although both periods fall under the broad category of “the Middle Ages,” you could scarcely find two more different musical cultures in European history. The two periods present very different challenges for the scholar and musician, differences that force us to ask tough questions as to what we understand music to be, what we expect it to accomplish, and how it affects us as performers and listeners.
Not every graduate student comes to Princeton with a background in Medieval music history or the intention to become a specialist in that period. Yet even for those with interests in other periods, seminars on Medieval music may be as enlightening as it would be, say, to spend a year in a foreign country, to learn its language, and to come to understand its riches, contradictions, and absurdities. I speak from experience here, since I am a Dutchman who took postgraduate degrees at the Universities of Manchester and Amsterdam, then became a Research Fellow at Oxford, and finally moved to Princeton University. If there is one thing I regret about my career, it is that I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know more countries as intimately as I have in England and the US. The experience of living here has enriched my life in ways that I hope Medieval music might enrich yours.
The analogy of residence in a foreign country is appropriate: you get to know a country by visiting places and meeting individuals, both of which may force you to reconsider whatever generalisations or prejudices you might have been led to accept at home. As much as possible, I like to bring the encounter with history back to that level of concreteness, the level where historical actors don’t always do the things you’d expect them to. Historical materials—documents, treatises, musical sources—offer innumerable opportunities for concrete encounters, if only we can step away from the sweeping historical interpretations rehearsed in our survey course textbooks. In my seminars as well as in my published research, I tend to pursue opportunities of that kind, sometimes with surprising or even paradoxical results. Doing so, for me, brings an element of adventure to the encounter with history. It’s one reason why I love my job.
The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe, 1470–1530 (New York: Routledge, 2005; paperback edn. 2007).
“Ockeghem, Brumel, Josquin: New Documents in Troyes,” Early Music, 36 (2008), 203–18.
“The Other Josquin,” Tijdschrift van de Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 58 (2008), 33–68.
“Johannes Tinctoris and the Art of Listening,” Studies on Renaissance Music in Honour of Ignace Bossuyt, ed. Pieter Bergé and Marc Delaere (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2008), 279–96.
“The Testament of Jehan de Saint Gille (†1501),” Revue de musicologie, 95 (2009), 7–36.
“Roads Taken and Not Taken in Medieval Music: The Case of False Counterpoint,” Vom Preis des Fortschritts: Gewinn und Verlust in der Musikgeschichte, eds. Andreas Dorschel and Andreas Haug, Studien zur Wertungsforschung, 49 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 2008), 142–60.
“The Creation of a Musical Élite in Early Modern Europe,” Institutionalisierung als Prozess – Organisationsformen musikalischer Eliten im Europa des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts , eds. Birgit Lodes and Laurenz Lütteken, Analecta Musicologica, 43 (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 2009), 103–14.
“Tinctoris’s Magnum Opus,” ‘Uno gentile et subtile ingenio’: Studies in Renaissance Music in Honor of Bonnie Blackburn, ed. Gioia Filocamo and Mary Jennifer Bloxam (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 771–82.
“‘’Tis not so sweet now, as it was before’: Origins and Significance of A Musical Topos,” Musik des Mittelalters und der Renaissance: Festschrift Klaus-Jürgen Sachs zum 80. Geburtstag, eds. Rainer Kleinertz, Christoph Flamm, and Wolf Frobenius, Studien zur Geschichte der Musiktheorie, 8 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2010), 513–39.
“The State of the Art,” Renaissance? Perceptions of Continuity and Discontinuity in Europe, c.1300–c.1550 , ed. Alexander Lee, Pit Péporté, and Harry Schnitker (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 129–60.
“Publication Before Printing: How Did Flemish Polyphony Travel in Manuscript Culture?” Books in Transition at the Time of Philip the Fair. Manuscripts and Printed Books in the Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century Low Countries, ed. Hanno Wijsman, with Ann Kelders and Susie Speakman Sutch, Burgundica, xv (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010), 165–80.
“Blowing Bubbles in the Postmodern Era,” Enduring Reflections: Histories of Metamorphosis, ed. Nils Holger Petersen (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 217–31.
“Fremin le Caron at Amiens: New Documents,” Bon jour, bon mois et bonne estrenne: Essays on Renaissance Music in Honour of David Fallows, eds. Fabrice Fitch and Jacobijn Kiel (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2011), 10–32.
“Isaac’s Signature,” Journal of Musicology, 28 (2011): 9–33.
“Obrecht and Erasmus,” Journal of the Alamire Foundation, 3 (2011): 109–23.