Approaching Emotion in the Early Songs of Dufay

presented by

Professor Graeme Boone
Professor of Musicology, The Ohio State University

6.00pm, Wednesday 1 July 2015

Arts Lecture Theatre A1, Building E11

University of New England, Armidale

Refreshments will be served in the foyer from 5.15pm

Streamed live to UNE’s FutureCampus, 211 Church Street, Parramatta


RSVP:  Monday 29 June 2015

Armidale:, ph: 6773 2620

FutureCampus:, ph: 9689 4888


Famously considered, then as now, the greatest composer of his age, Guillaume Dufay (c1397-1474) is admired for the sophistication, diversity, and expressive power of his music, notably in his polyphonic songs.  But the precise nature of his expressivity has never been studied in any systematic manner.  Lacking a developed sense of how music was understood to be emotionally meaningful in his time, how can we trust the effect that his compositions seem to have on us in ours?  The affective dimensions of music were as celebrated and discussed then as they are today, but our modern embrace of music from past times is often colored by assumptions of shared meanings and heritage that belie historical reality.  In this paper, I shall consider ways in which we might reconstruct the emotive universe of Dufay’s earlier songs in the French language (i.e., those composed between c. 1415 and 1435), first by exploring diverse models from Dufay’s time and place that explain, or evoke, how emotion works and how it relates to music, and then by studying his songs themselves, as poetic and musical constructions evocative of a meaningful ‘emotional community’ that is related to but distinct from our own.  The good news is not only that this can be done, but that, in casting light on the affective world of early music, we also illuminate our 21st-century musical sensibilities in new and exciting ways.

Professor Graeme Boone – Biography

Graeme M. Boone was born and raised in San Francisco, receiving his B.A. at the University of California (Berkeley).  He spent several years in Paris, receiving a Premier Prix from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris under Yves Gérard, before returning to the United States to obtain his Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in 1987, with a dissertation on Dufay’s early French songs.  Boone then taught at Harvard for many years as a junior professor before gaining tenure at the Ohio State University, where he has remained since 1997.  Boone’s research of fifteenth-century music has focused on paleography; notation; musical style, language, and chronology; and linguistic and musical prosody.  His monograph Patterns in Play: A Model for Text Setting in the Early French Songs of Guillaume Dufay was chosen as the first in the American Musicological Society ‘Studies in Music’ series.