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The Political and Religious Role of Musical Traditions

Press Release No. 109/2016
10 August 2016
Music scholars from five countries, including Heidelberg researchers, collaborate on European "Sound Memories" project

How did the concept of a "musical past" develop between the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Age? This question is the focus of a European research team that includes music scholars from Heidelberg University. The researchers from five countries will use a series of case studies to also explore the deliberate deployment of older music in the service of various political and religious agendas. The project, entitled "Sound Memories: The Musical Past in Late-Medieval and Early-Modern Europe" (SoundMe), is being funded in the amount of approx. 1.2 million euros by the HERA European funding initiative. Approximately 180,000 euros have been allocated to the Heidelberg team. The funding period is three years.

"Based on new types of notation for polyphonic music, a new form of large-scale, retrospective music collections arose in 13th-century Paris in which repertoire was canonised. We want to examine how musical traditions up to the 16th century were exploited in various political and religious contexts by the cultivation of 'old' or even archaic styles and repertoires", explains Prof. Dr Inga Mai Groote of the Heidelberg University Department of Musicology. The Heidelberg working group will focus particularly on examples from Protestant Germany, where older repertoires such as Gregorian chant were still used quite deliberately in spite of innovations in the liturgy and musical practice.

Joining Prof. Groote on the international research team are scholars from the universities of Cambridge (Great Britain) and Prague (Czech Republic) as well as the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. Prof. Dr. Karl Kügle from the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands) is serving as project coordinator. The working groups from the five countries will meet regularly in workshops. The Ascoli Ensemble of The Netherlands will provide artistic support by performing the works from the repertoires related to the project.

The Humanities in the European Research Area" (HERA) funding initiative is a consortium of 23 European research funding organisations, including the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. HERA is committed to strengthening the humanities in the European research area. The "Uses of the Past" call for proposals solicited projects exploring the influence of the past on shaping the present and the future. Another important area of investigation is the role that individuals, institutions and societies attribute to this "exploitation" of the past. Sound Memories is one of only 18 projects to receive funding out of the over 600 applications submitted. Research work started on 1 July 2016.

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