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Margot Fassler. Gothic Song: Victorine Sequences and Augustinian Reform in Twelfth-Century Paris.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. xxi, 487 pp.

Fuller, Sarah

At first encounter, the principal title, Gothic Song, is likely to arouse both visual images of lofty stone cathedrals and monastic churches, and aural images of "ars antiqua" polyphony-organum, conductus, and motet. These remarks justify the title to a reasonable degree, but some attention might yet have been directed toward previous linkages between the "Gothic" and other musical repertories, such as Ernest Sanders' contention that the thirteenth-century motet was the genre within which "medieval man ... achieved a quintessential embodiment of the Gothic spirit." Fassler presents a remarkably coherent story of how the Augustinian canons at the Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris cultivated the new sequence as an instrument of their political and religious goals. Its narrative component are impressively interdisciplinary in nature, ranging across liturgy, the politics of cathedral and cloister in twelfth-century Paris, the clerical reform movement spearheaded by the Augustinians, exegesis of sacred texts, intertextual connections, and musical analysis. The intersections among these diverse planes reveal the Victorine sequence repertory as an exemplary case of art in the service of institutional purposes.



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Columbia University
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January 22, 2015