With suitcases packed
The research project I have been talking about in my previous posts (La Obra Musical Renacentista) has now come to an end. As usually happens in research, it has left us with new hypotheses and objectives that we hope to take on board in the next research project of the Contrapunto team (www.contrapunto.uva.es). Taking advantage of the end of the project, which also coincides with the end of my sabbatical year, I would like to tell you about some of my experiences and impressions at Oxford.
After 27 years as a lecturer and researcher in Spanish universities, being able to enjoy a sabbatical year in Oxford awoke in me expectations that were both, shall we say, extensive and intense. As a researcher and coordinator of research teams, and before taking on any new projects, I wanted to share my experiences with colleagues and teams in the vanguard of international musicology. In this sense, Oxford and its university, as well as the MALMECC project in particular, have turned out to be extremely enriching.
Oxford is a highly evocative city. It is vibrant with knowledge looking to be shared and transferred through a myriad of seminars, conferences, and informal meetings. I will mention just one example: the Seminars in Medieval and Renaissance Music convened by Margaret Bent; they are essential occurrences during term time that enable colleagues in the field to get together for very fruitful meetings.
My collaboration with MALMECC, too, satisfied all my aspirations. MALMECC shares fundamental objectives with La Obra Musical Renacentista and, by extension, with the Contrapunto team and with my own research agenda. Both projects are interested in examining ‘other’ sources, environments, and types of music that are seldom visited in general music historiography. Both challenge established scholarly practice by using and reconciling diverse methodological frameworks when tackling the object of study. What is more, and an aspect which is really vital, both address culture in general, not just music; one at the end of the Middle Ages and the other at the start of the modern period. This has brought about a fluid exchange of information, theorizing methodological frameworks and strategies, between the MALMECC team and myself.
My personal involvement with the MALMECC project began at the conference that the MALMECC team organized in September 2019, Music and Late Medieval European Court Cultures (information concerning the participants and contents can be found at [http://www.malmecc.eu/conference/]. My presentation was about the symbolic courtly song Nunca fue pena mayor as an example of European emotive intertextuality. I continued working on this song and others in Oxford, which will soon give rise to two articles – which are now merely waiting for the relaxation of library restrictions following the Covid-19 outbreak which will once more permit me access to a few items of secondary literature that still need to be consulted.
CC BY NC SA http://www.museibologna.it
The most enriching aspect of my collaboration with the MALMECC team came about in their periodical seminars in which I met up with the group of inspiring researchers who are part of the project or collaborate with it. It is a multidisciplinary team of musicologists, art historians, general historians, and literature historians interested in recognizing the ‘other’ courts, their creations and interrelations. I recall that in one of these seminars, while Uri Smilansky was presenting his work, the serene expressions on the faces of the Bolognese students of Giovanni da Legnano as depicted on their teacher’s tomb came to my mind, and how different that was from our vibrant and lively seminar debate. It is undoubtedly true that we take away knowledge, but we also take away many enriching experiences.
I would not like to finish without emphasizing the rich musical life of the city of Oxford, something which has both satisfied my spirit and left me wanting more. One thing that has attracted my particular attention is the great sensibility towards music that many, many people here possess (or at least those with whom I came into contact), in a city where I have lived as a researcher but also as a mother of three children attending school.
In conclusion, I can sincerely attest that I leave the University of Oxford with my suitcase full of new knowledge and ideas for new projects, and with the firm resolution to keep up the links created during my stay for a long time to come – despite having had to cope unexpectedly with the COVID-19 pandemic, an extraordinary and distressing situation that has only slightly lessened the intensity of the experience of having worked there for an unforgettable academic year.
Soterraña Aguirre Rincón
Profesora Titular in Musicology
University of Valladolid (Spain)