Julie Cumming

Julie Cumming

Robert Lehman Visiting Professor
Musical sources for the origin of the Italian madrigal
(September-December)
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Biography

Julie E. Cumming is professor at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University. She received a BA in Music and Medieval Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University (1980), and a PhD (1987) in Music and Medieval Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Motet in the Age of Du Fay (Cambridge, 1999). Her current work looks at fifteenth- and sixteenth-century compositional process, historical improvisation, and computer-aided analysis. She was the principal investigator of a Digging into Data Challenge Grant, “Electronic Locator of Vertical Interval Successions (ELVIS): The first large data-driven research project on musical style” (2012-2014; http://elvisproject.ca/). She is the co-leader (with Ichiro Fujinaga, PI) of a Canadian Partnership Grant, “SIMSSA: Single Interface for Music Score Searching and Analysis” (https://simssa.ca/), and co-investigator on “Early Modern Conversions” (Paul Yachnin, PI, http://earlymodernconversions.com/). She received the Schulich School of Music Full-Time Teaching Award (2007), McGill’s David Thomson Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Supervision (2015), and the Northeastern Association of Graduate School’s Graduate Teaching Award, Doctoral Level (2017). 

Project Summary

Iain Fenlon and James Haar (1988) convincingly found, largely on the basis of musical sources, that the madrigal originated in Florence in the 1520s, and traced its roots to the chanson and motet (overturning Einstein’s claim that the madrigal evolved out of the frottola). However, no one has ever done a detailed musical comparison of the three genres (motet, chanson, and madrigal) in the period. I will trace stylistic similarities and differences among the three genres, using traditional analytical approaches as well as computer-aided analysis and feature extraction, using software developed by my team at McGill. I will identify the appropriate chanson and motet repertories for comparison with the early madrigal, and examine Florentine musical sources as material witnesses to generic exchanges. I also want to restore the five-voice madrigal to the history of the early madrigal, and show that the usual narrative from simple four-voice homorhythm (Arcadelt) to complex five-voice polyphony (Willaert, Rore) is an oversimplification.

In addition to working on the early madrigal I will also be writing a short history of the Renaissance motet, and working on an article on the use of corpus studies for the study of two-voice polyphony in the Renaissance.