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CMEMS: The Attribution of Creative Work in a Benedictine Context: The Strange Case of Adémar de Chabannes (†1034)



James Grier (University of Western Ontario)


Wednesday, November 3, 2021 - 12:00pm - 1:15pm


Pigott Hall, Rm 252 / Zoom




CMEMS: The Attribution of Creative Work in a Benedictine Context: The Strange Case of Adémar de Chabannes (†1034)

The Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies hosts the weekly Workshop on Wednesdays at 12:00pm (PDT).
This week, Professor Grier will join us via Zoom. For the Zoom link, email For in-person attendance, Stanford members may join us in 260-252 (the German Library). Please bring your Stanford Health Check badge and wear a face mask while in the building. Due to current regulations, we sadly cannot serve our usual lunch at the workshop.
Chapter 33 of the Rule of Saint Benedict forbids monks from owning anything, including books. Does this injunction extend to the fruits of their creative labour? Humility, of course, recurs throughout the Rule, and its observation generated a reluctance among regulars to claim credit for creative productions. And Benedictine monasteries clearly hosted a wide range of creative activities throughout the Middle Ages. The liturgy, the opus dei, for example, occupied an enormous amount of time for all monks, yet many of the liturgical works produced by Benedictines remain anonymous. Adémar de Chabannes, however, monk at Saint Cybard in Angouléme in the early eleventh century, and homilist, historian and monastic musician extraordinaire, provides a strange exception to this practice of humility and anonymity. Léopold Delisle identified several music manuscripts that contain his text hand, and others, including myself, have extrapolated his findings to recognize his music hand in these manuscripts. But a series of signatures in one of them, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS latin 1121, placed discreetly to avoid drawing overt attention to them, provides indirect testimony that he composed a good deal of the music and texts he was copying. From this deduction, I was able to identify some 100 original liturgical compositions by Adémar, of which he wrote both music and text; many of the latter he adapts, of course, from other sources such as the Bible, the appropriate saint’s life and even his own sermons. Adémar, however, eschews any unequivocal claims of authorship, seeking a compromise between personal credit for this creative work and the maintenance of a semblance of humility appropriate for a Benedictine.
About the Speaker:
James Grier, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, is Professor of Music History at the University of Western Ontario. His books include The Critical Editing of Music (Cambridge University Press, 1996; Spanish translation, Ediciones Akal, 2008); The Musical World of a Medieval Monk: Adémar de Chabannes in Eleventh-Century Aquitaine (Cambridge University Press, 2006); Ademarus Cabannensis monachus et musicus, Corpus Christianorum, Autographa Medii Aevi, 7 (Brepols, 2018); Musical Notation in the West (Cambridge University Press, 2021); and critical editions of Adémar’s music in Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis (Brepols, 2012) and of the Office of the Holy Trinity, as practised at Saint Martial in the eleventh century, in De Musicae Cultu (Brepols, 2020). He has also published articles on textual criticism and editing music, music and liturgy in medieval Aquitaine, and studies in the music of Joseph Haydn, Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn and Frank Zappa.