The Italian Lauda: Origins, Features, Connections (organised jointly with TORCH Digital Humanities and Sensory Heritage Network)

Joint session with TORCH Digital Humanities and Sensory Heritage (DHSH) Network and the Early Modern Italian World Seminar.

The lauda, a vibrant expression of popular piety, is a poetic-musical genre that, from the second half of the twelfth century, documented the earliest evidence of singing in the Italian language. Drawing upon melodies of varied origins, it often served to aurally convey texts and concepts — both spiritual and secular — among a largely illiterate population through minstrels, lay confraternities, and preachers. Despite its fluid nature, a significant corpus of laude has been preserved in written form for ritual purposes, sometimes accompanied by musical notation, thus constituting an impressive repository of ‘frozen orality’. This research, aimed at exploring the intrinsic intermediality of the Italian lauda, has recently been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant based at the University of Trento. It focuses on collecting the entire corpus of texts handed down with music up to the mid-1500s, and comprehensively investigating it from an interdisciplinary perspective with digital tools, seeking to better understand the relationship between poetry and music within the popular dimension of past centuries.

Francesco Zimei is Professor of Musicology at the University of Trento. His research interests center around the relationship between text and music within historical contexts and approaches. This methodology has led to important studies on medieval and early Renaissance songs, J S Bach’s self-borrowing processes, and Italian opera buffa, including Lorenzo Da Ponte’s American experience. A former fellow of The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti, and the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University, he was recently awarded a European Research Council Advanced Grant for a five-year project on the Italian lauda.