September 2015 Articles

GSAS: Products of the Past

GSASLast summer, a small manuscript volume of liturgical music and prayers found a new home in Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections. Copied in the 15th century for a nun in the royal abbey of St.-Louis at Poissy, the processional contains the plainchant music for daily Dominican observance and includes prayers and music for special events such as the reception of a new nun into the convent. The book’s portable format—5.25 by 3.5 inches—reflects its use by the convent’s choir and the hours spent holding it as its owner sang the liturgy.

Since the manuscript’s acquisition, History of Art Ph.D. Candidate Nava Streiter has been poring over the manuscript and overseeing work on a website that will feature a full digitization of the never-before-published manuscript and a variety of supplementary educational and illustrative materials.

But Streiter hasn’t been alone in bringing the book back to life: Grace Garrett ’17 helped make the music itself accessible, and Luca D’Anselmi, a graduate student in classics, transcribed the text; Calla Carter ’18 and Connor Cassidy, a Haverford student, programmed the website, funded in part by a Tri-Co Digital Humanities grant; and Kyra Neiman ’17 created a video documenting the project.

Plus, the processional is getting a new lease on its traditional life. Renaissance Choir Director John Andrew Bailey transcribed the first few pieces of music for modern singers, and this spring Haverford Music Professor Tom Lloyd led a choir, recruited from the Chamber Singers and the Renaissance Choir, in a performance of the book’s Candlemas service. That festival, which commemorates the infant Jesus’s presentation at the temple, is traditionally preceded by a candle-lit procession. To capture something of the character of Candlemas, the singers, lanterns in hand, began their performance with a processional into Goodhart Music Room.

In November, the Binchois consort, an English vocal group that specializes in music of the Renaissance and earlier, will be in residence at Haverford College. The group will perform a program of 15th-century polyphonic music; work with several groups and classes, including Haverford Professor Richard Freedman’s Renaissance music class; and, if all goes as planned, conduct a workshop centered around the Poissy manuscript.

To learn more about this project and see the video, visit the Poissy Processional webpage.

The Future of the Past

The destruction of ancient artifacts by Islamic State militants has prompted widespread outrage. To shed light on such threats, Maggie Beeler, a Ph.D. candidate in the classical and Near Eastern archaeology department, worked with colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University on a conference titled The Future of the Past: From Amphipolis to Mosul—New Approaches to Cultural Heritage Preservation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Says Beeler: “The conference is timely because it serves to underscore the urgency of cultural heritage preservation efforts in light of the recent rash of destruction of ancient artifacts, both the intentional destruction of archaeological sites and antiquities in museums at the hands of militants and unintentional destruction resulting from violent conflict in the region.”

Spotlight on Art

Over at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, History of Art doctoral student Amy Wojciechowski, M.A. ’13, is bringing art to life for museum-goers with discussions on Henri Rousseau’s 1906 The Merry Jesters, Viggo Johansen’s 1887 My Friends, Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 Rain, and Édouard Manet’s 1873 Le Bon Bock. This is Wojciechowski’s second position at the Museum; she held a curatorial internship to work on the 2013–14 exhibition Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis. Her research focuses on Polish modernism and the work of the Mloda Polska group.

Hunting Images

To conduct his dissertation research on images of hunting produced in the Umayyad Empire, Alex Brey, M.A. ’11, spent the past academic year in Jordan. During his travels, he met with scholars and visited museums and other sites, including the excavated ruins of early medieval churches and domestic complexes that feature mosaics of predation and hunting. In addition to an internship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Brey has worked on excavations of late antique and medieval sites in Scotland, Jordan, and Israel and participated in on-site research seminars in Turkey (Cappadocia) and Uzbekistan.