Doctoral Dissertations

Born-digital dissertations are usually represented by a single pdf. Where an older typescript has been photographed the pdf is split into parts as these image-based files are considerably larger.

[In the interest of saving time recent additions to this resource have not been provided with an abstract. If you would like to type up an abstract and submit it please do.]

Margaret Bent, The Old Hall Manuscript: a palaeographical study (PhD, Cambridge, 1968)

Nearly everything that has been written about the organisation and origins of the Old Hall manuscript (OH) has rested upon certain assumptions about the quiring of the manuscript and the identity of the scribes. These assumptions originate in casual or unscientific descriptions in the writings of Barclay Squire, Ramsbotham and Dom Anselm Hughes, and while many other things have been questioned, new theories have been constantly re-erected on the same foundations. It seemed to me that the only way of testing any of these hypotheses and, should they be found wanting, of seeking substitutes for them, was to start afresh on the manuscript itself.

Margaret Bent Dissertation

Roger Bowers, Choral Institutions within the English Church:- Their constitution and development 1340 – 1500 (PhD, University of East Anglia, 1975)

[Taken from Introductory notes:] This thesis deals with the history of English liturgical choirs between the years 1340 and 1500. It seeks to enlighten the history of pre-Reformation English church music by relating to it the history of the personnel to whom its performance was entrusted.


Bowers 1-3





Alice V. Clark, Concordare cum Materia: The Tenor in the Fourteenth-century Motet (PhD, Princeton University, 1996)

This study takes as its starting point the description of motet composition by Egidius de Murino, who says that the tenor should “concord with the matter” of the motet to be written. The repertory under consideration at this stage is the French tradition of the mid-fourteenth century, mostly transmitted in the complete-work manuscripts of Guillaume de Machaut…


James Cook, Mid-Fifteenth-Century English Mass Cycles in Continental Sources (PhD, University of Nottingham, 2014)

Fifteenth-century English music had a profound impact on mainland Europe, with several important innovations (e.g. the cyclic cantus firmus Mass) credited as English in origin. However, the turbulent history of the Church in England has left few English sources for this deeply influential repertory. The developing narrative surrounding apparently English technical innovations has therefore often focussed on the recognition of English works in continental manuscripts, with these efforts most recently crystallised in Curtis and Wathey’s ‘Fifteenth-Century English Liturgical Music: A List of the Surviving Repertory’. The focus of discussion until now has generally been on a dichotomy between English and continental origin. However, as more details emerge of the opportunities for cultural cross-fertilisation, it becomes increasingly clear that this may be a false dichotomy.

This thesis re-evaluates the complex issues of provenance and diffusion affecting the mid-fifteenth-century cyclic Mass. By breaking down the polarization between English and continental origins, it offers a new understanding of the provenance and subsequent use of many Mass cycles.



Karen M Cook, Theoretical Treatments of the Semiminim in a Changing Notational World c. 1315-c. 1440 (PhD, Duke University, 2012)

A semiminim is typically defined as a note value worth half a minim, usually drawn as a flagged or colored minim. That definition is one according to which generations of scholars have constructed chronologies and provenances for fourteenth- and fifteenth-century music and the people who created it. ‘Semiminims’ that do not match this definition are often portrayed in modern scholarship as anomalous, or early prototypes, or evidence of poor education, or as peculiarities of individual preference. My intensive survey of the extant theoretical literature from the earliest days of the Ars Nova through c. 1440 reveals how the conceptualization and codification of notation occurred in different places according to different fundamental principles, resulting not in one semiminim but a plethora of related small note values.

These phenomena were dynamic and unstable, and a close study of them helps to clarify a range of historical issues. Localized traditions have often been strictly bounded in scholarly literature; references to French, Italian, and English notation are commonplace. I explain notational preferences in Italy, England, central Europe, and the rest of western Europe with regard to these small note values but demonstrate that theorists educated in each of these places routinely incorporated portions of other traditions. This process began long before the ‘ars subtilior,’ dating at least to the time of Franco of Cologne. Rarely were regional traditions truly isolated; the various aspects of semiminim-family note values were debated and adapted for decades across these cultural and geographical boundaries. The central theme of my research is to show how and why the theoretical conceptualization of these myriad small note values is key to understanding the continual merging of these local preferences into a more amalgamated style of notation by the mid-fifteenth century.



Ralph Patrick Corrigan, The Music Manuscript 2216 in the Bologna University Library: the copying and context of a fifteenth-century choirbook (PhD, University of Manchester, 2011)


Julia Craig-McFeely, English Lute Manuscripts and Scribes 1530-1630 (DPhil, University of Oxford, 1993)

An examination of the place of the lute in 16th- and 17th-century English society through a study of the English lute manuscripts of the so-called ‘Golden Age’, including a comprehensive catalogue of the sources.




Michael Scott Cuthbert, Trecento Fragments and Polyphony Beyond the Codex (PhD, Harvard University, 2006)

This thesis seeks to understand how music sounded and functioned in the Italian trecento based on the examination of all the surviving sources, rather than only the most complete. A majority of surviving sources of Italian polyphonic music from the period 1330-1420 are fragments; most, the remnants of lost manuscripts. Despite their numerical dominance, music scholarship has viewed these sources as secondary…


post-dissertation discovery_dates.pdf


Karen Desmond, Behind the Mirror: revealing the contexts of Jacobus's Speculum musicae (PhD, NewYork University, 2009)


Lawrence M. Earp, Scribal practice, manuscript production and the transmission of music in late medieval France: the manuscripts of Guillaume de Machaut (PhD, Princeton, 1983)

This dissertation is a study of the seven principal MSS transmitting the musical works of Guillaume de Machaut. The first chapter refines our knowledge of the complex of musical and textual MSS, and the theoretical citations that witness Machaut•s works, as well as the evidence of lost MSS. In chapter two, new observations about the structure and internal. organization of the contents of the larger MSS have revised the current picture. MS Par. fr. 1584 (A} has an index prescriptive of an order not consistently carried out as the MS was copied, usually due to spacing requirements. The index order is compelling chronologically for a group of rondeaux, supporting Hoepffner•s thesis that Machaut•s works follow each other more-or-less chronologically in the MSS. On art historical grounds, Fran~ois Avril has recently placed the MS Par. fr. 1586 (C), formerly thought to be from the 15th century, in the early 1350s. The early date helps to bridge the chronological gap in sources for the polyphonic chanson. Scribal indications and literary evidence now suggest that polyphonic chansons by Machaut were first composed in the 1340s.

Chapter three focuses on the copying of text and music-in the MSS. Regardless of the style of the music, text was always entered first. This was a guiding principle in French MSS throughout the 14th and early l5th century, and bears upon questions of texting in 15th-century sources. Chapter four considers aspects of the transmission of the works, both evidence from the texts of the narrative poems, and readings for musical works. Mechanical copying errors are distinguished from notational problems. Some notational irregularities can be tied to chronological developments, others seem to be designed to facilitate performance by less literate musicians. Particularly interesting are variants in many lais in the MS Par. fr. 9221 (E), copied in the 1390s. Radical rearrangement of the disposition of text and music suggests the intervention of someone actively interested in their performance.

An appendix supplies information on the physical makeup of the principal MSS, and information on the disposition of miniatures among the HSS.


Warwick A. Edwards, The sources of Elizabethan consort music (PhD, Cambridge University, 1974)

The main part of the dissertation is concerned with a detailed investigation of all known sources which contain consort music estimated to have been written during the period 1550 to 1600 approximately. These are over eighty in number (mainly manuscripts) and range in date from c1570 to the mid-seventeenth century. A second volume is devoted to a thematic catalogue in which the entire repertory, listed under individual sources in Volume One, is collected together and classified.






David Fallows, Roert Morton's Songs: a study of styles in the mid-fifteenth century (PhD, Berkeley, 1973)



Peter Martin Lefferts, The Motet in England in the Fourteenth Century (PhD, Columbia University, 1983)

The history of polyphonic music in late medieval England is difficult to reconstruct on account of the paucity of intact sources, the concomitant lack of a substantial number of complete pieces, and the difficulty with which the surviving repertoire can be associated with any specific institutions or social milieu. Nonetheless, there are significant scattered remains, and this study endeavors to examine in detail one important genre, the motet…



John Milsom, English Polyphonic Style in Transition: a study of the sacred music of thomas Tallis (DPhil, Oxford, 1983)



Adelyn Peck Leverett, A Paleographical and Repertorial Study of the Manuscript Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio, 91 (1378)(PhD, Princeton University, 1990)

This dissertation is an anaiysis of Trent 91, one of the series of fifteenth-century musical manuscripts known collectively as the Trent Codices. Trent 91 contains a large repertory of sacred music, most of it anonymously and uniquely preserved. The following study defines, for the first time, that repertory’s pivotal place in the larger context of musical developments during the Renaissance.




Gilles Rico, Music in the Arts Faculty of Paris in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries (DPhil, University of Oxford, 2005)

In the thirteenth-century, the city of Paris witnessed the birth of the University, the gradual penetration of the new philosophical paradigm of Aristotelianism and the emergence of a new theoretical discourse dealing with the measurement and notation of musical time. Scholars have attempted to find correlations between these three distinct phenomena. Focusing on music theory sources and on other indirect testimonies, they have never satisfactorily approached the central question of the teaching of music in the Arts faculty of Paris. The objective of the present study is precisely to explore this terra incognita.


Nicholas Sandon, The Henrican Partbooks Belonging to Peterhouse: A Study, with Restorations of the Incomplete Compositions Contained in Them (PhD, University of Exeter, 1983)

This dissertation examines Cambridge, University Library, Peterhouse mss 471–474, four partbooks from a set of five copied late in the reign of Henry VIII, which contain seventy-two pieces of Latin church music.



Uri Smilansky, Rethinking Ars Subtilior: Context, Language, Study and Performance (PhD, University of Exeter, 2010)

This dissertation attempts to re-contextualise the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century musical phenomenon now referred to as the Ars subtilior, in terms of our modern understanding of it, as well as its relationship to wider late medieval culture. In order to do so I re-examine the processes used to formulate existing retrospective definitions, identify a few compelling reasons why their re-evaluation is needed, and propose an alternative approach towards this goal.


Robert Snow, The Manuscript Strahov D. G. IV. 47 (PhD, Illinois, 1968)


Jason Stoessel, The Captive Scribe: The context and culture of scribal and notational process in the music of the ars subtilior (PhD, University of New England, 2002)

The extant scribal record of the music of the ars subtilior is considered in terms of the reception of this musical style within particular cultural contexts. The first part of this study re-examines the two principal sources (F-CH!564 and I-MOe5.24) of a partially shared ars subtilior repertoire and concludes that, despite the presence in part of a repertoire ostensibly composed north of the Alps (c. 1380-1395), these manuscripts were compiled in or close to major centres on the Italian peninsula (Florence and Pisa/Bologna/Florence respectively). These conclusions form the background to the second part of this study that identifies cultural tendencies/influences in the notation of musical rhythm in the ars subtilior repertoire.



Brian Trowell, Music under the later Plantagenets (PhD, University of Cambridge, 1960)

Caveat: some parts of the pages are quite pale and difficult to read. We hope to replace this with a better copy taken from Prof. Trowell's personal annotated copy at some time in the near future.



Jean Widaman, The Mass Ordinary Settings of Arnold de Lantins: A Case Study in the Transmission of Early Fifteenth-century Music (PhD, Brandeis University, 1988)

Arnold de Lantins, a composer widely represented in the musical sources of the 1420s and 1430s and a singer in the papal chapel from 1431 to 1432, stood at the forefront of stylistic developments of the early fifteenth century, yet his music is hardly known among music historians and performers today. Although he was one of the first composers to link the Gloria and Credo by motto beginnings and to write a complete, musically unified Mass cycle, few of his Ordinary settings are available in modern transcription and little has been written about them.



Magnus Williamson, The Eton Choirbook: Its Institutional and Historical Background (DPhil, Oxford, 1997)

The Eton Choirbook (Eton College Library, MS 178) is one of the most important English musical codies surviving from the century before the Reformation. Its significance derives from its size and quality; from its value as a source of unica; and from its unbroken association with its host institution, one of the foremost royal foundations of the late Middle Ages.



List of dissertations

Author Title University Degree Year