Colloquium on Archaeomusicological Research

10am – 4pm, Thur May 8
Moore Institute, NUI Galway

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Med Stud logo webOrganised in cooperation with NUI Galway Medieval Studies, Centre for Medieval, Pre-modern and Renaissance Studies (CAMPS) and Classics Dept, and the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP).

In an introduction to the academic background to the concerts and workshops of the 2014 Galway Early Music Festival, eight international speakers cover topics as wide-ranging as evidence for music and instruments in classical Rome, prehistoric instruments in Scandinavia, medieval tuning systems, Old Irish vocabulary for musical instruments, and medieval song and dance performance.

Download Schedule, Abstracts and Bios: .AD-BC Music Archaeology Symposium


SESSION 1 – 10:00 – 11:30
Chair: Dr. Jacopo Bisagni, Classics, NUI Galway 

Emiliano Li Castro
Musical instruments in Etruria and in Ancient Rome

Stefan Hagel
Facts and puzzles about the ancient double pipe

  11:30                                                    TEA BREAK


 SESSION 2: 12:00 – 13:30
Chair: Emiliano Li Castro, Artistic Director of the European Music Archaeology Project

Cajsa Lund and Åke Egevad
Prehistoric soundscapes in Scandinavia: theory and data

Barnaby Brown
What can we learn from Scotland’s sixteen 4-note pibrochs?

13:30-14:00:                  LUNCH

SESSION 3: 14:00 – 16:00
Chair: Maura Ó Cróinín, Chair, Galway Early Music  

Michael Shields
Medieval music from Paradise. A dream tuning for your medieval instrument

Jacopo Bisagni
Medieval Irish instruments and biblical exegesis: some new perspectives

Norbert Rodenkirchen & Wolodymyr Smishkewych
Deciphering an ancient code: reconstructing medieval musical improvisation and Collaboration


 Musical instruments in Etruria and in Ancient Rome
Emiliano Li Castro

Tomba dei LeopardiThe great importance of music in Etruscan civilization is attested by several ancient Greek and Latin authors. This assertion has been confirmed in recent times by various scholars, who also take into account the large number of musical instruments and the wide range of iconographic evidence that have been found at Etruscan sites, clearly showing that almost all the musical instruments that were widespread in the Mediterranean at the time were also used in Etruria on many different occasions, including public and private ceremonies, rituals, and daily life. Finally, many of these instruments were also fully adopted by the Romans.

Emiliano Li Castro is a music producer and contributor to the Italian national broadcasting (Radio RAI) from 1979 and student of Archaeology at the Università della Tuscia in Viterbo. He has published articles on various music archaeological topics and has also organised the international conference La Musica in Etruria (Tarquinia, September 2009), editing its proceedings in 2010. In the same year he started the gathering of the specialised team of European researchers, artists and craftsmen which gave birth to the European Music Archaeology Project in 2013.

Facts and Puzzles about the ancient double pipe
Stefan Hagel

Hagel pipesStefan Hagel will discuss the present knowledge about ancient double pipes, focusing on the Hellenic and Hellenistic world and mainly on questions of types and scales, some of which will be demonstrated on replicas and experimental reconstructions.

Stefan Hagel is Classicist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, with focus on ancient Greek music and metre, including reconstructions of instruments and performance techniques. His most prominent publication is “Ancient Greek Music. A New Technical History”. He also creates scholarly software; his Classical Text Editor received the European Academic Software Award.

Session 2: 12:00-13:30

Prehistoric Soundscapes in Scandinavia: Theory and Data
Cajsa Lunda & Åke Egevad

Cajsa S. with an Iron Age blowing horn and David Coulter with an elkbone trumpet. Project Ruth Ewan and Kunsthal Charlottenborg. Photo, Morten Aagaard. No. 0412This lecture will focus on methods and problems for a selection of archaeological finds in the Nordic countries that are of interest to music archaeology. Some of the finds were clearly made for sound production, such as the lyre, the cow horn with finger holes and the pellet bell. In what contexts were they used and what were their uses and functions? How did they sound? In other cases we are faced with exciting interpretative questions. Is the bone tube with bevelled ends (registered as an artefact with unknown function) a shaft, a bead, an amulet, a needle case, an animal call, or something entirely different?  Is it possible to determine anything? The lecture will have an ethno-archaeomusicological approach. It will be supplemented with demonstrations and performances on prehistoric sound tools but references will also be made to similar medieval finds and to popular as well as traditional present-day sound traditions.

Cajsa S. Lund is a Swedish music archaeologist, connected to the University of Lund in Scania. She ranks as one of the international pioneers in this field of research, especially North-European music archaeology. Her profile is to make the results of her research come alive for the general public.

Åke Egevad is a Swedish musician and instrument-builder who also lives in Scania. He has collaborated with Cajsa S. Lund for many years, both as musician and as reconstructor of archaeological finds of musical instruments and other sound tools, especially those made of bone, horn, wood, and leather.


What can we learn from Scotland’s sixteen 4-note pibrochs?
Barnaby Brown

bagpipeThe Greek philosopher Aristoxenus (fl. 335 BC) wrote that early composers selected a subset from the available notes to achieve an ethical, positive effect. He chastised modern composers for using more notes and defended old composers for using fewer notes. Fast forward twenty-one centuries to the early 1800s, when Scotland’s classical bagpipe music was transcribed, and we find sixteen pibrochs in circulation that use only four notes. These are substantial, elaborate compositions lasting 6-11 minutes. How do they work? What lessons can be drawn from them that are relevant to music archaeology?

Barnaby Brown is dedicated to revealing the ancient artistic traditions of Scotland’s music. Brought up in Glasgow, he champions the classical music of the Highland bagpipe and leads the revival of its ancestor, the triplepipe. A regular guest of the Edinburgh International Festival and frequent facilitator of intercultural collaborations, Barnaby was a lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for five years. In October 2012, he began full-time research at the University of Cambridge funded by the AHRC project ‘Bass culture in Scottish musical traditions’ (


Session 3: 14:00-16:00

Medieval music from Paradise.  A dream tuning for your medieval instrument
Michael Shields

EarlyMinden_Teuling300It is widely assumed that medieval musicians tuned their instruments using a Pythagorean temperament, leaving some musical intervals completely pure, but others quite impure or sour: fifths and fourths are tuned pure but thirds and sixths, wide. However, the actual music of medieval polyphony often moves elegantly in intervals of thirds and sixths, and researchers have sought documentation that non-Pythagorean tunings were used for this music: tunings that tempered some fifths to make some of the commonly used thirds pure and sweet. So far hard evidence of this was lacking before the late 16th century. Here I present a far earlier (1404) diatonic tuning scheme with pure thirds, easy to tune and well suited for medieval, renaissance and even some baroque music. The excited North German author presents it being sung in paradise by a chorus of birds and claims it is utterly pure- a mathematical impossibility, since his temperament makes the intervals C-E and G-B pure by tempering the fifths F-C, A-E and F-Bb. It turns out that this temperament is favoured by some modern viol consorts, who rediscovered it by trial and error.

Michael Shields lectures in German at NUI, Galway and researches mainly in the field of comparative medieval studies. Recent work with a musicological dimension includes a comparison of Middle High German Sangspruchdichtung  with the Romance Sirventes; an examination of the semiotics of pilgrimage and place in 14th-century flagellant songs; presentation of new ‘hidden’ polyphony in a dance song by Oswald von Wolkenstein; and a survey of the surviving evidence for 13th- and 14th-century German dance songs and their performance.


Medieval Irish Instruments and Biblical Exegesis: some new perspectives
Jacopo Bisagni

Muiredach close-upMusical instruments (especially chordophones and aerophones) feature prominently in both Medieval Irish literature and art. By focusing on a small number of select case-studies, this paper will explore the way in which the verbal and visual representation of musical instruments in Medieval Ireland relates to learned religious discourse on what we could call ‘Biblical organology’ (i.e. the study of the musical instruments mentioned in the Bible), with particular reference to the Early Medieval Pseudo-Jerome text known as Epistula ad Dardanum.

Jacopo Bisagni studied Classics, Celtic linguistics and Indo-European linguistics at the University of Pisa, Italy, and was awarded a PhD at NUI Galway in 2008 for a thesis entitled ‘Amrae Coluimb Chille: a Critical Edition’. He has taught widely in early Irish, Latin language, and historical linguistics, and his research area ranges from Celtic and Indo-European linguistics to Medieval Irish monastic literature. More specific research interests include Latin/Old Irish bilingualism and code-switching, the reception of Classical literature and themes in Early Medieval Ireland, and Medieval Irish organology. Jacopo is currently a lecturer in Classics at the National University of Ireland, Galway.


Deciphering an Ancient Code: Reconstructing Medieval Musical Improvisation and Collaboration
Norbert Rodenkirchen, flute and Wolodymyr Smishkewych, voice

Cantiga_flute 4cmThe medieval transverse flute (also known as Schwegel or fife), a cylindrical tube with six finger holes, is the original form of the transverse flute, as used in ancient times as a shepherd’s instrument and to accompany poetry recitals. The flute has always remained the instrument closest to the human voice and has therefore distinguished itself through its almost vocal quality. This has enabled authentic essential elements of medieval music to be recreated on the flute ever since. In addition, further information is available to the modern performer-scholar from existing or reconstructed instruments, through iconography and its careful, critical study, and by examining poetry and music which has remained from earlier times. In this lecture, medieval music specialists Norbert Rodenkirchen (flute) and Wolodymyr Smishkewych (voice) explain how they bring medieval musical repertoire back to life on the basis of the limited information available from original sources and material evidence. In this discussion Rodenkirchen and Smishkewych will explore how—by means of imagination, experience, and cumulative knowledge—singers and instrumentalists interact through improvisation, tuning, and timbre to recreate elements essential to “transcoding” for present-day listeners, this ancient code of very early musical performance.

Norbert Rodenkirchen, who studied flute and Baroque traverso with Hans Martin Mueller and Günther Hoeller at the Staatliche Musikhochschule Köln, has been the flute player of Sequentia since 1996 and also works regularly with the French ensemble Dialogos directed by Katarina Livljanic.. From 2003 to 2011 Norbert Rodenkirchen was artistic director of the concert series “Schnuetgen Konzerte – Musik des Mittelalters“ in the medieval museum of Cologne where he founded Candens Lilium, a project ensemble – specializing in medieval music from the Rhineland. Additionally he has given workshops on medieval instrumental improvisation at international festivals. In 2012 he released his own third CD, Hameln Anno 1284 / Medieval flute music on the trail of the Pied Piper on the label Christophorus/ note1.

Spanish-Ukrainian tenor Wolodymyr Smishkewych is a native of New Jersey, USA. He has specialized in medieval song, chant, and new music since the 1990s.  A sought-after pedagogue in medieval, contemporary, and world vocal music, he has lectured at universities in the United States, South America, Canada, and Europe. He recently joined the faculty of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, Ireland as director of the MA in Ritual Song and Chant. He is a member of Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music and of Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices, and has performed at major festivals through Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, and South America. He has recorded for Sony/BMG, Harmonia Mundi USA, ExCathedra, and Focus records.  He lives in Ireland with his partner, historical keyboardist Yonit Kosovske, and their three children.