About the Project

Chants, Hypertexts, and Prosulas is a resource for the understanding and identification of a small, but significant poetic and musical genre of the European Middle Ages, that of liturgical prosulas. Prosulas are short texts that were added to pre-existing melismas (long melodies) of chants for mass and office between, primarily, the tenth and the fourteenth centuries. These small texts add new content to the chant and change its style. The example below shows how the melody on the word "alleluia" is reworked by adding a new text "Allevatus dominus." With the addition of the new text, the melody remains the same, while its style changes. The free-flowing, florid contour of the alleluia becomes a syllabic entity in which almost every note is associated to a syllable of the new text. The composer also created an assonance between the words "Alleluia" and "Allevatus", so that the syllables "Al-" and "-le-" are placed on the same notes.

This example is taken from a manuscript now at the Biblioteca Capitolare in Benevento (ms 40) and displays the characteristic script and notation, the so-called Beneventan script and notation, that were used in a large region of southern Italy and Dalmatia during the Middle Ages.

Prosulas in Beneneventan manuscripts are extraordinary documents of the cultural dynamism of a region where Romans, Lombards, Normans, Franks, Jews, and Muslims intersected at different times and with different roles. Traces of these intersections can be detected in the melodies and texts of many liturgical chants, including prosulas. These also reflect new waves of devotional culture after the turn of the second millennium in that they incorporate texts focusing more closely on the New Testament or the Life of Saints, thus making the content of chants more 'human,' closer, almost tangible in language and imagery, to the believers of the second millennium.

Women also participated in the creation and reception of the new genre, as the manuscripts Benevento, Biblioteca Capitolare, 35 and 39 demonstrate.

This website, which is currently under construction, is intended as a complement to my forthcoming book Chant Hypertexts: Prosulas for the Proper of the Mass in Beneventan Manuscripts, but it can also be used independently. When completed will be searchable and will provide images from manuscripts as well as transcriptions in modern notation.

The website is currently under construction. Come back soon!