Medieval Multimedia

Like modern communication supports, medieval music manuscripts convey ideas through design. Some are monuments of multimedia design: they include not only music, but symbolic poetry, elaborate manuscript layout with eye-catching visuals, and sometimes allegorical illustrations. These are not just works of art, but oGen expensive communication supports commissioned to have a specific impact on a specific audience. Their motivations are diverse: political campaigning (Roman de Fauvel), bling and personal branding by wealthy individuals (Codex Chantilly), extravagant wedding giGs to cement an alliance (Cyprus Manuscript). Others yet are collective works of a fashionable young urban generation (Codex Montpellier) that use a distinctive juxtaposition technique whose design structure is curiously analogous to today’s “starter pack” memes—and whose esthetic was as incomprehensible to the previous generations as memes are to today’s older generations.

This course takes students through the musical, poetic and visual elements of these multimedia manuscripts and analyze their communication strategies.

We will investigate which strategies made some of them exclusive, and why the structure of medieval society could make it more sensible to design ultra-luxury products for a limited but powerful audience, than more accessible products for a wider audience. Many of these medieval musical manuscripts make extensive use of scientific lingo and imagery as a communications tool—just like today’s marketing. We will study how their oGen flashy use of scientific novelties in medieval mathematics (fractions), physics (magnetism), astrology and cosmology would have dazzled medieval audiences and established trendsetting credibility.