The Codex Manesse – Music Beyond Musical Notation

Finally! After more than two years, it’s time for a new blog post.

Far too much has happened since March 2013 to be contained in a single blog post, so I’ll spare you the details about the things I’ve been up to since then.*

Indeed, the occassion for today’s blogpost is itself a finally!-moment: my first book chapter has just appeared in print as part of a volume on Manuscripts and Medieval Song edited by Helen Deeming and Elizabeth Eva Leach. To celebrate this special moment, I’ve also just added a new page to my blog, outlining a list of my current publications for you to explore.


Music in the Codex Manesse

In my chapter for Manuscripts and Medieval Song, I take a fresh look at some of the full-folio author miniatures contained in the largest collection of medieval German poetry: the Codex Manesse. This beautiful manuscript has largely been ignored by musicologists to date since it does not contain any musical notation. The few notable exceptions to this general neglect include Marc Lewon and especially Dagmar Hoffmann-Axthelm, whose insightful article on the Frauenlob miniature in the Codex Manesse I discovered only a few weeks ago – unfortunately only after my article had already appeared in print.

Despite it’s lack of notation, the Codex Manesse may well have been considered as a musical source, a Songbook, by its original users. The manuscript’s 137 author miniatures emphasise the orality of the song repertoire contained in the volume while making sure to underline the noble status and high, courtly artistry of the various Minnesänger by avoiding a too close association of the poet-musicians with unseemly performance. Instead, the Minnesänger are shown as the authors of their songs, granted ‘authority’ (auctoritas) by their own experience of the situations outlined in the songs.

Much like modern-day hymnbooks (which frequently make do without notation) and CD covers (which rarely insist on an artist’s status as performer), the Codex Manesse could well have been considered a musical source by its users – even without explicit reference to music through notation or the depiction of (instrumental) performance. Indeed, the memories of these songs may not have needed to be notated in the first place – either they were already familiar to the manuscript’s users, or these lyric texts could be ‘brought to life’ with standard melodies or staple melodic patterns without much effort.

If I’ve sparked your curiosity, you’re in luck: fortunately, much of my article can be read on Google Books.


Let’s hope that it won’t be another two years before the release of my next blog post!

Oculi omnium in te sperant, Domine; et tu das escam illorum in tempore opportuno. Aperis tu manum tuam, et imples omne animal benedictione. [Psalm 144, 15–16].


*For those really desperate to know, the last two years have included the submission of my doctorate; teaching, teaching, and more teaching, interspersed with a little bit of marking, pastoral duties, and just a ‘smidge’ of administrative tasks; writing sheer endless applications and attending interviews; organising a second conference and speaking at many more; scrambling to put together some of my research in publishable form; organising a 10-day concert-tour to the UK for the Landesjugendblasorchester Niedersachsen; …).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s