Angel Song: Medieval English Music in History  book cover
1st Edition

Angel Song: Medieval English Music in History

ISBN 9780367229962
Published February 7, 2019 by Routledge
214 Pages 1 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

Although medieval English music has been relatively neglected in comparison with repertoire from France and Italy, there are few classical musicians today who have not listened to the thirteenth-century song ‘Sumer is icumen in’, or read of the achievements and fame of fifteenth-century composer John Dunstaple. Similarly, the identification of a distinctively English musical style (sometimes understood as the contenance angloise) has been made on numerous occasions by writers exploring the extent to which English ideas influenced polyphonic composition abroad. Angel song: Medieval English music in history examines the ways in which the standard narratives of English musical history have been crafted, from the Middle Ages to the present. Colton challenges the way in which the concept of a canon of English music has been built around a handful of pieces, composers and practices, each of which offers opportunities for a reappraisal of English musical and devotional cultures between 1250 and 1460.

Table of Contents


Introduction ‘Merrie England’, Cultural Memory and the Writing of English Musical History

Chapter 1 ‘The greatest musical curiosity extant’: ‘Sumer is icumen in’ and the Canon of English music

Chapter 2 Anglicus angelicus: Was English Music Political?

Chapter 3 Authorship, Musicianship and Value in Medieval English History

Chapter 4 Who was John Dunstaple?

Chapter 5 Negotiating Identity in Medieval English Music: Anxiety and Ethnicity

Chapter 6 Contenance angloise: A Reappraisal


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Lisa Colton is a Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Huddersfield, where she is also director of the Centre for the Study of Music, Gender and Identity. Her research interests focus on early and contemporary music from historical, critical and analytical perspectives. Lisa Colton’s publications have included articles on medieval motets, manuscript sources, Judith Weir and Lady Gaga. She has co-edited two essay collections: Gender, Age and Musical Creativity (with Catherine Haworth), and Sources of Identity: Makers, owners and users of music sources before 1600 (with Tim Shephard).


"Angel Song offers a fresh perspective and a number of exciting new directions in both content and methodology. Colton’s research is meticulous and she makes interpretive arguments clearly and persuasively" - James Maiello, NABMSBA journal

 "A masterful account of the medieval history of English music" - James Cook, Music and Letters, 2017

 "Colton shows how a re-evaluation of primary source material can chip away at long-held assumptions about English music and medieval musical culture"  - Samantha Blickhan, Early Music, 2018

"Angel Song is as much a book about the practice of musicology as it is about one specific musicological topic, and will prove to be an invaluable learning text for young scholars working on medieval sources, no matter what their provenance may be"  - Samantha Blickhan, Early Music, 2018

"Angel song constitue à la fois un bilan historiographique précieux et un enrichissement du regard porté sur la musique anglaise débarrassé des questions nationalistes passées."

— Hugo Perina, Sehepunkte, 2021