Music in Medieval and Early Modern Wales

Exploration of the music of medieval and early modern Wales enjoys a very prominent profile within the School of Music, where it operates under the wider umbrella of the Centre for Advanced Welsh Music Studies. Research in this area embraces the entire spectrum of sacred and secular music and extends also to early Welsh music theory. A major strand is the music of Welsh bardic culture, including the repertory of the unique harp tablature copied by Robert ap Huw in c.1613, the varied representations of music in strict-metre bardic poetry, and some possible models for musically-accompanied verse. Other strands of research focus on the domestic repertory sung and played in Anglophile Welsh households before 1650 and its relation to changing models of patronage; the sources of the medieval liturgy; Welsh liturgical institutions; and the emergence of sung metrical psalmody in early seventeenth-century Wales.

Sally Harper

Dr Sally Harper coordinates the various strands of research on medieval and early modern Wales through the Centre for Advanced Welsh Music Studies.  Her own interests extend to all aspects of music of Wales before 1650, with particular reference to its wider cultural context. This is an area that had previously attracted little serious scholarly attention, and her ongoing re-evaluation of a very varied body of source material (much of which had been addressed only at a very superficial level in the past, or had effectively remained undiscovered) continues to disprove the assumption that the music of early Wales is too peripheral to warrant serious scholarly attention. Her work has also challenged a number of earlier assertions that lacked proper factual foundation and historical contextualization.

She has written widely on many different topics: early liturgical sources (including the Bangor Pontifical and the Penpont Antiphoner); various aspects of bardic culture (including musical reference within the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym); music in the Welsh household (including Plas Lleweni, near Denbigh); and late medieval and early modern English perceptions of contemporary Welsh music and musicians. Her definitive study of music in early Welsh culture was published in May 2007. 

Paul Whittaker

(Research Fellow of the Centre for Advanced Welsh Music Studies)

Paul Whittaker’s main area of research is an ongoing exploration of medieval Welsh cerdd dant, an important strand of activity within the Centre for Advanced Welsh Music Studies coordinated with Sally Harper. His own work has developed continuously since completion of his pioneering thesis on the Robert ap Huw manuscript (downloadable here) more than thirty years ago. In the last few years he has published on the formation of the manuscript, on the harmonic forms of its musical repertory, and on the related ‘Iolo Morganwg’ source (BL MS Add. 14970). He is now completing a book on the wider interpretation of cerdd dant and is also involved (again under the auspices of CAWMS) with the editing and translating of early Welsh theoretical sources. In the wider sense, his work has important implications not only for Welsh musicology, but also for early harp scholarship at a general level, and for studies of early modern notation and tablature in the West.