Late medieval music and performance – Andrew Kirkman


Hello my name is Andrew Kirkman, I’m Peyton
and Barber Professor of Music here at the University of Birmingham and basically I work
on late medieval music or renaissance music, depending on your choice – music of the 15th
century. I study all aspects of music and culture at
that period. So I study the style of music. I study historiography, how it’s been received
in recent times. And most recently I’ve finished a book on musical life at the Cathedral Church
of Saint-Omer in northern France. As anyone who works on this field will know, the origins
of all the composers of this period, their development in the earliest stages began in
a maîtrise or a choir school in Northern France, so I’m looking at the developments
of choir boys and what they performed – how they lived, how they were nurtured, how they
were taught and then the career progression after that. Because from that point on you
could enter into any of the great choirs and there was certainly a lot of interest, even
at the very highest level, in getting the best singers that you could and the north
of Europe, northern France and the Low Countries was the incubation chamber of all the musicians
of this period. I also perform music of this period. I’ve
made a dozen recordings now on Hyperion Records with my group the Binchois Consort. Music
by English composers, including John Dunstaple, Walter Frye – we’ve now recorded all of Walter
Frye’s masses. A lot of music by Guillaume Dufay. And other composers like Josquin and
so forth. And all of these recordings really embody aspects of my research. The most recent
group of recordings that we put together including the very latest one – Music for St Katherine
– have been concerned with music and late medieval alabaster, which were great exports
from this country coevally. And celebrated exactly the same things – they were directed
towards saints, as well as to Christ and aspects of Christ’s life. We’ve combined the music with very richly
and sumptuously illustrated programmes. Programme booklets. Including images of these alabaster.
Saints and so forth. And that’s a project which has kind of morphed out into working
with galleries. We have a project, a nascent project with the Castle Museum in Nottingham
where we’re going to put together a little cubicle, as it were, which will involve music,
sound, smells, lights and humidity that people can experience in a confined space or an enclosed
space at any rate. I like to think that what I do besides having
an academic merit does actually engage with patrimony and with local culture and speaks
to a broader public including children and interested amateurs, concert-goers and so
on.

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