Indiana Daily Student

Herlinger commences music lecture series

Libraries may be known for silence, but Monday evening, IU’s Lilly Library came alive with the sounds of Gregorian chants and the words of Jan Herlinger.

The library was host to Herlinger, a visiting lecturer who teaches music at Louisiana State University, as the inaugural installation of the lecture series “Musica est ars sive scientia.”

The lecture series, whose Latin title translates to “music is either an art or a science,” is sponsored by the Medieval Studies Institute and the Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature.

They aim to “encourage collaboration among scholars from multiple schools and departments within Indiana University interested in exploring the relationship of music to the liberal arts and sciences,” CHMTL director Giuliano Di Bacco said on the program’s website.

Guests filed into Lincoln Room at 5 p.m., filling almost every seat. Herlinger mingled among guests, greeting them as they entered.

Herlinger delved straight into his lecture, “Marchetto and Prosdocimo: A Musician and an Astronomer on Music in Medieval Padua,” at the commencement of the hour.

“They inhabited very different worlds,” he said of the two historical figures, but maintained that their mutual connection to music and its tonal structure linked them together. This was the main focus of his discussion.

These connections between astronomy, music and medieval studies is what drew graduate student Usha Vishnuvajjala to the lecture. She studied astronomy as an undergraduate student and is currently pursuing a degree in medieval studies.

“It’s a nexus of two different things that I’ve studied,” she said, and she is interested to learn about how a third aspect, music, can contribute to those fields.

Herlinger spoke slow when he explained Marchetto’s and Prosdocimo’s impacts in the musical world. He discussed in great details the specifics of how they contributed to music writing, enunciation in singing, and the changing idea of tone.

His presentation was interactive for the audience, as well. He played two medieval Gregorian chants during his talk, asking the audience to listen for specifics elements he had earlier mentioned.

When the music started, Herlinger walked into the audience and sat down in the front row to enjoy the listening experience.

Continuing with the lecture, Herlinger indulged viewers with a few laughs. At one point he showed a picture of Prosdocimo’s notes and commented, “It looks much like students’ notebooks today — well, at least before the iPad!”

He underlined the fact that music can be pulled apart in both an artistic way, as with Marchetto’s approach, and disassembled in a scientific way, as with Prosdocimo’s arithmetic approach.

At one point, he showed a slide with a score of music that had been written in an arithmetic, calculated fashion ­— the sheet held bars and mathematical instructions, but absolutely no musical notes.

Herlinger closed the lecture by playing Johannes Ciconia’s “O Podua,” an elaborate, ethereal-sounding Gregorian chant, and remarking that music was, as Vishnuvajjala mentioned, a nexus of many different fields.

“The motto of this lecture series is ‘Music is an art or a science,’” he said. “Marchetto was an (artist) who took a scientific approach, and Prosdocimo was a scientist who took an arithmetic approach.”

Follow reporter Anicka Slachta on Twitter @ajslachta.

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