Song and Competitive Citation

My review of Yolanda Plumley’s book The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut (OUP, 2013) has recently been published in Plainsong and Medieval Music, who have graciously provided a link to download a free PDF, available here:

http://journals.cambridge.org/repo_A96Lprdo/QRX3U

The citation and first paragraph of my review follows:

Karen Desmond. Book review of The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut by Yolanda Plumley (Oxford University Press, 2013) in Plainsong and Medieval Music 24 (2015), pp. 99-103.

Anyone who listened to BBC radio broadcasts from the 1950s to the 1980s should remember the popular game show My Word. The last segment of the show featured the two team captains, Denis Norden and Frank Muir, competing to tell the best story that would explain, and end with, a famous phrase or quotation supplied by the game show host. Listeners delighted in the anticipation of the catchphrase, for as the clock ran down, it seemed that the phrase became more and more incompatible with the story unfolding. Norden and Muir endeavoured to outdo each other’s displays of erudition, constrained by the generic requirements of the show’s format, the imposed time limit on their story’s length, and the need for the story to end with the supplied quotation. Such competitive composition, or ‘poetic jousting’ as Yolanda Plumley terms it, between medieval poets and composers, is at the centre of her new book on fourteenth-century song, The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut. In it, through a virtuosic display that traverses almost a century of song, and considers almost 350 works (as listed in the ‘Index of Cited Compositions’ at the end of the book), Plumley examines the circumstances in which, and the processes by which, fourteenth-century faiseurs plucked material from other contexts and ‘grafted’ it—to use Plumley’s horticultural metaphor, derived from the medieval verb enter (p. 10)—into new works.

Jennifer Saltzstein on the Refrain

My review of Jennifer Saltzstein’s new book The Refrain and the Rise of the Vernacular in Medieval French Poetry published last year (2012) by Boydell & Brewer has been published in Speculum (July 2014). The link to a PDF follows as does the first paragraph of my review: https://www.academia.edu/8136544/Book_Review_of_Jennifer_Saltzstein_The_Refrain_and_the_Rise_of_the_Vernacular_in_Medieval_French_Poetry_Boydell_and_Brewer_2013_in_Speculum_89_July_2014_pp._824-826

Jennifer Saltzstein’s revisionist study of refrains in the music and poetry of medieval France examines why specific refrains were invoked in specific compositional contexts and within specific communities. The results of this study bring into question the long-held assumption that surviving refrains are the remnants of a lost repertoire of orally transmitted popular song. Through her examination of refrain transmission and distribution, Saltzstein instead relocates refrain quotation within the literate traditions of their clerical poet-composers in order to reveal “an intellectual framework for the practice of refrain usage that has largely been overlooked, namely, the conception of auctoritas in medieval writing” (29).