Meghan Sommers, Musicology
“Medieval and Renaissance Shawms: A Critique of Modern Performance Technique”
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Morin
Expected Graduation Date: May 2010
Despite prolific use during the twelfth through seventeenth centuries, shawms are rarely included in early-music ensembles, unlike arguably better understood instruments such as recorders. This is likely due to the perceived difficulty of the shawm as an uncapped double-reed instrument, but also because it can be difficult to obtain information and instruction on how to go about playing the instrument. In addition, modern instructional texts are contradictory. Through my research I seek to reconcile these modern instructional texts with historical evidence of performance practice in order to gain a more clear understanding of various performance techniques of the instrument. The primary method of research for this project will be an evaluation and critique of extant modern texts about shawm playing by consulting original medieval and Renaissance documents, art work, and surviving original instruments. Understanding the historical performance practices of music is essential to understanding the very music itself, as well as the nuanced role that music and musicians played in their respective contemporary societies.