Structure and Society: Understanding the Context of Medieval Music

As I am now about halfway done with my first week of research, I am gaining more of an idea of the background information necessary to guide my research goal. I have mainly been reading source materials and taking notes on what I feel may be applicable to my research and to my understanding of the time period. The majority of my sources so far have been print books, reference books, and journal articles. I have been reading information on the changes to music and society brought by the Ars nova. In addition, I am looking at the works and impact of composers Guillaume de Machaut and Philippe de Vitry and the different forms of motets during that time. My main obstacle for the next few days will be finding relevant source materials that provide more than just the same information and perspectives that I have already read. While the availability of sources is slightly limited by the time period (14thcentury), I feel like there will still be sources I can find.

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Initial Research and Some Faltering First Steps – “Producing an Album”

I never thought that my research was going to be easy. However, I did think that I could get the hang of the recording software I was using by watching a couple instructional videos and flipping through the pages of the books my music teacher loaned me. I thought the majority of my research would be done in the studio, honing my performance techniques and strategies to fit my audience and purpose. However, when I began to install and play around with ProTools, I realized that post-production would be the least of my worries this summer. I first learned that Avid, the company who licenses music software like Sibelius and ProTools, is extremely cautious about security. I even had to run to Guitar Center to purchase a third-party USB which held important authorization codes for ProTools. Then, when I went into my basement studio to experiment a little bit with my new recording apparatus, it took me a long time to figure out basic tasks such as adding a track and recording one track over another. The controls for ProTools are vastly different than Logic and GarageBand, the software I am already familiar with. However, this is just an added bonus! Learning ProTools will allow me to communicate on a higher level with fellow musicians and recording engineers, and I can’t wait to dive farther into my research. In order to surmount my current ignorance, I will be watching in-depth instructional videos about ProTools on and consulting my mentors in person about strategies that they use when they make use of the software. I think this project will lend itself to a healthy mix of both improvisation and structured learning to make discoveries about a new way to record and transmit my music.

The Evolutionary Benefits and Purpose of Music

The Question

I remember sitting in the car with my father on a long eight hour journey back from William and Mary, scrolling through playlist after playlist of music on Spotify. A question suddenly occurred to me; what is the purpose of music?  How can seemingly random pulses of air hitting our eardrums prompt such emotional responses, serve as a uniting force within society, and become an integral part of daily human life? Music has been around, in some shape or form, since the time humans started to communicate. I realized that there must be some bigger reason as to why it exists and is still so prevalent in our culture today.

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In Summary: Choral Interpretation of Tolkien’s Elvish Verse

Well, the summer is over and so is my project. Finally.


In my proposal I set out to compose a piece of choral music two to three minutes in length, using the text of one of the songs that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote into his epic novel The Lord of the Rings. All being said and done, the finished piece is just a hair over three minutes long, and the text I decided to use is known as the Ambar-metta, which translates into English as “world’s-end” or “end of the world.” It was originally quoted by Elendil, an outcast on the isle of Númenor, when he fled the island shortly before it was Sodom-and-Gommorah’d by the Valar (the gods of Middle-earth) for being full of corruption fraught by Sauron. However, Elendil and a small band of his followers were still faithful to the Valar, who took pity on them and deposited them safely on the shores of Middle-earth. The Ambar-metta was recited a second time by Aragorn, descended from Elendil after forty generations and the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor, during his coronation ceremony following the destruction of the One Ring. In both of these instances, the Ambar-metta is sung amidst a context of overwhelming grief and loss of life, and yet the words carry hope for a future brighter than the tragedies that have just occurred. I attempted to bring across this mood in my composition.

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