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Research into the effect of music on courts and cities in 16th-century Europe

By Unknown -, Stadtbibliohek Nürnberg; municipal library Nuremberg, Public Domain,

An OU academic has received funding to explore the effects of music on the soundscapes of courts and cities across Europe and the people who worked and lived in these different environments at the turn of the 16th century.

Dr Helen Coffey, Lecturer in Music in the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has received £59,000 from The Leverhulme Trust for the project Music and Empire: Instrumental Sounds in the World of Maximillian I, the main outcome of which will be a book to be published after the project ends in September 2021.

The legendary emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) forms the basis of this study, being a significant patron of music who travelled extensively throughout his reign. The territories he inherited, as Regent of the Netherlands, Archduke of Austria, King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor, dominated the map of early modern Europe, and his travels through these and other lands meant that his musical experiences were possibly more diverse than any other monarch at this time. Yet this project will also look beyond Maximilian to his family, acquaintances and subjects, and the instrumentalists who performed for them.

The project will investigate the music people heard in European cities and courts; the role of instrumental sounds in these different environments; what it was actually like to work as a musician circa1500; and the extent to which we can fully understand sensory experiences of the past.

Dr Coffey said: “This will not be merely a study of a single ruler, but of several individuals and communities who were connected with Maximilian and his court. From accounts written by those who performed and heard music in various court and civic environments, a vivid picture can be formed of the role of instrumentalists in a number of European communities at that time.”

Read more about OU research in Music

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