Fragments and Reconstructions: the written traces of polyphonic liturgical music in medieval Worcester and beyond

Speaker: Karen Desmond (Brandeis University) @demontibus

As many as 58 distinct codices of polyphony survive from thirteenth-century England, yet only one is complete: the remainder are fragments, mostly reused as parchment pastedowns and flyleaves in later book bindings. Worcester Cathedral houses the largest number of these fragments, familiar to musicologists under the moniker “The Worcester Fragments.” This talk first outlines what is known and knowable about the copying of polyphonic music in England from the surviving fragments. I then focus on the liturgical genre of the Alleluia, and what can be reconstructed of its polyphonic performance practice from the scraps that remain.