Department of Music Lecture: "Reconstructing a Newly Discovered Motet on St Nicholas"

Jared C. Hartt, Barker Professor of Music Theory, Oberlin Conservatory of Music (Alumni Feature)

This alumni feature is in celebration of WUSTL MUSIC’s 75th Anniversary. 

Two large fragments of a rotulus have been recently discovered in a manor house in Dorset. The fragments preserve four early fourteenth-century motets of English provenance. One of these motets, Naufragantes visita/ Navigatrix inclita/ Aptatur, previously unknown to modern scholars, combines numerous unique features, beautifully illustrating and adding to the remarkable degree of compositional innovation present in fourteenth-century English motets. The four-voice motet often features four different simultaneous texts and uses a complex method of text exchange. The poetic texts plead both to St Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, and to the Virgin Mary, the star of the sea, to intercede as protectors and guides of seafarers. Its cantus prius factus, Aptatur, used in thirteen musically distinct motets on the Continent, is found now for the first time in a motet that definitely originates in England. Because of damage to the rotulus, however, the motet does not survive in full. In this presentation, through an exploration of the motet’s melodic, harmonic, textual, and formal characteristics, I demonstrate not only how Naufragantes/ Navigatrix exemplifies remarkable compositional innovation, but I also offer a complete musical reconstruction of the motet, thereby allowing for the possibility of performance of this remarkable discovery.
Jared C. Hartt is the Barker Professor of Music Theory at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he just began his fifteenth year of teaching. In 2007, he earned his PhD in Music Theory from Washington University in St Louis under the direction of Robert Snarrenberg and Dolores Pesce. Hartt’s research interests include the music of Guillaume de Machaut and his contemporaries, and the motet in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century England. He is the editor of A Critical Companion to Medieval Motets (Boydell, 2018), the co-editor (with Lawrence Earp) of Poetry, Art, and Music in Guillaume de Machaut’s Earliest Manuscript (Brepols 2021), and with Margaret Bent and Peter M. Lefferts he recently co-authored The Dorset Rotulus: Contextualizing and Reconstructing the Early English Motet (Boydell, 2021).

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