Sean Curran

Dissertation Fellow
2011-2012
Image of Sean Curran.

In his dissertation in Music, “Vernacular Book Making, Vernacular Polyphony, and the Motets of the La Clayette Manuscript,” Sean Curran examines the social location of music-writing in the thirteenth century when, for the first time, a previously unknown polyphonic piece could be deciphered accurately from the page, and when an explosion in vernacular literary production also enabled written polyphony to circulate to new audiences.  Previous histories have considered the motet an elite genre because of the sonic complexity of its pre-eminent feature, the simultaneous declamation of different texts in different languages.  Mr. Curran examines the testimony of supposedly peripheral sources to explore how this abundant music made sense on new markets beyond its Parisian, clerical origins, and what other kinds of vernacular music were incorporated into it along the way.  In his account, the motet’s musical difficulty had a broader social life than its intractable effect has allowed modern ears to hear.