Spotlight Session
Sean Gallagher
French art song, c. 1380-1520: From after Machaut through Josquin

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
7:00-8:30 PM
Online via Zoom

Recorded event will be available two weeks following the live event for ticket holders.

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Blue Heron’s repertoire extends from the 14th century through the 16th and has concentrated particularly on the French song repertoire from Machaut (d. 1377) through the generation of Josquin (d. 1521). In this Session, Sean Gallagher—one of the world’s leading experts on 15th-century music and adviser to Blue Heron’s Ockeghem@600 project—will cast a Spotlight across a century and a half of French songs, giving us a sense of the big picture of continuities and innovations. Opening with the intoxicating complexities of the late 14th-century Ars subtilior, Prof. Gallagher will show how the next generation created a simpler style, exemplified by the catchy melodies and limpid structures of the young Binchois and Du Fay (both born around 1400); how complexity returned in new guise in the songs of Ockeghem and Busnoys (born in the early to mid-1420s), succeeded by another turn to simplicity in the music of Josquin and his contemporaries born in the 1450s.

A fascinating journey across the music and history of the long fifteenth century, enlivened by recorded performances and images of contemporary musical manuscripts.


Sean Gallagher is a music historian and pianist whose research focuses on music and culture in Italy, France, and the Low Countries during the ‘long’ fifteenth century (ca. 1380–1520). He has published articles on an array of subjects and is the author or editor of five books, ranging in topic from plainchant to Mozart: a monograph on the fifteenth-century composer Johannes Regis (Brepols, 2010); Secular Renaissance Music: Forms and Functions, editor (Ashgate, 2013); City, Chant, and the Topography of Early Music, ed. with M. S. Cuthbert and C. Wolff (Harvard, 2013); The Century of Bach and Mozart: Perspectives on Historiography, Composition, Theory, and Performance, ed. with T. F. Kelly (Harvard, 2008); Western Plainchant in the First Millennium: Studies in the Medieval Liturgy and its Music, ed. with J. Haar, J. Nádas, and T. Striplin (Ashgate, 2003). Active as a pianist, he regularly presents lecture/recitals on a variety of topics that span much of the history of Western music.

He is the recipient of a Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Phi Beta Kappa Prize at Harvard for excellence in teaching, and is the first music historian to be inducted into Johns Hopkins University’s Society of Scholars. He has worked closely with leading vocal ensembles, including The Clerks (dir. Edward Wickham), for whose recording Johannes Regis: Opera omnia he served as advisor. He is musicological advisor for Ockeghem@600, a multi-year project with the award-winning vocal ensemble Blue Heron (dir. Scott Metcalfe) to perform and record the works of Johannes Ockeghem. He is currently editing the chansons of Firminus Caron, to be published in the series Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae. He serves on the editorial boards of the series Ars nova: nuova collana (published by Libreria Musicale Italiana) and I Codici di Trento (published by Istituto Italiano per la Storia della Musica).

B.M., M.M. in piano, Peabody Conservatory (student of Leon Fleisher); A.M., Ph.D. in musicology, Harvard University. Former faculty of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University. Visiting professorships at Boston University, Brandeis University, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and Villa I Tatti in Florence.

(necmusic.edu/faculty/sean-gallagher)