Dr Magnus Williamson
Senior Lecturer

Background

I read music at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating in 1990. After completing my DPhil thesis I was lecturer in music at Somerville College, Oxford, and then at Newcastle University (where I have been since 1997). . My research focuses upon the music of late-medieval and early modern Europe, especially in the sources and contexts of early-Tudor polyphony. My teaching reflects these interests. I teach on several music modules in music history; medieval, renaissance and baroque music; techniques of counterpoint; notation and editing.

I am also active as a performer.  In 1988 I became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, while I was organ scholar at Magdalen College, and won prizes as an improviser, giving recitals in the UK and abroad. More recently, my collaboration with the Early English Organ Project and with the ESRC/AHRC-funded Experience of Worship project has drawn together my academic interests and my background as an improviser and church musician. In 1988 I became a fellow of the Royal College of Organists (with the Dixon Prize for improvisation).

External Roles

General Editor, Early English Church Music (British Academy)

Internal Roles

Head of Research in Music

Director of Postgraduate Studies, School of Arts & Cultures

Previous Posts

Lecturer in Music, Somerville College, Oxford (1995-7)

Director of Music, University Church of St Mary, Oxford (1992-7)

Assisting Organist, Magdalen College, Oxford (1990-1)

Memberships

American Musicological Society; Royal Musical Association; Renaissance Society of America; 
Plainsong and Medieval Music Society

Languages

French; Latin

Research Interests

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries:

  • musical contexts: social, ritual, spatial
  • loss, damage and restoration: reconstructing lacunary polyphony, re-imagining mutilated and lost spaces, melancholy and nostalgia
  • musical sources: manuscripts, chant and polyphony in print; choirbooks and partbooks, provenance and purpose; palaeography, codicology, notation, editing, formats: for instance, the newly-identified Petre Gradual in Newcastle University's Robinson Library
  • change and upheaval, reform, innovation, reaction
  • organ and choral music in early-Tudor England
  • performance, particularly improvisation

Current Work

Since the 1990s I have focused on musical sources and contexts of the late Middle Ages, mainly in Britain, but more recently in France as well. I have several on-going research projects on the soundscape of the pre-Reformation parish, the printing of music books (particularly the oft-neglected but very significant corpus of printed chant books), and the mid-Tudor composer John Sheppard, whose quincentenary more or less falls in 2015, and who is the subject a of a collaborate set of essays I am preparing with an international team of experts. Often mutually antagonistic, but culturally interconnected, Renaissance France and early-Tudor England make for interesting comparisons, not least in their divergent responses to religious change.

September 2014 brought an exciting new departure with the advent of the AHRC funded project, Tudor Partbooks, of which I am the Principal Investigator (with Dr Julia Craig-McFeely of Oxford University and DIAMM as Co-I). More details can be found on the ICMuS Research pages and the Tudor Partbooks Facebook pages. Alongside Julia and me, the core research team comprises Katherine Butler, who works as RA in Oxford, and Daisy Gibbs, who is studying for a PhD at Newcastle.  The project also provides abundant opportunities for postgraduate research students, especially for those interested in sources and polyphonic reconstruction: if you'd like to be involved please contact me.

In 2013-14 I was based in France as a research fellow at the Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours. While in France I completed various research projects on musical life and culture in France, for instance on the diocese of Le Mans (a small territory distinguished in the early sixteenth century as a particularly dynamic market for printed service books).

Future Research

Pipeline projects include:

  • musical cultures and contexts in France from the English invasion to the wars of religion (1420s-1560s)
  • spatial and acoustic experiences in medieval Europe, 1000-1500

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome inquiries from anyone interested in pursuing research on Renaissance musical sources, North European historical contexts, sixteenth-century contrapuntal techniques, keyboard improvisation, editing, and notation. 

Recent esteem Indicators

LE STUDIUM® Research Fellow, Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université François-Rabelais de Tours, France

Palisca Prize for outstanding edition, American Musicological Society (2011)

Major Research Projects

Tudor Partbooks: the manuscript legacies of John Sadler, John Baldwin and their antecedents (AHRC, 2014-17): PI.

Early English Church Music: the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries (AHRB, 2004-7): PI.

NEW: Animating Texts at NU - a large project investigating Digital Technology and the Humanities; led by Professor Jennifer Richards (English Literature), with Professor Michael Rossington (English Literature), and Professor Paul Watson (Digital Institute). We have been awarded a grant of £476,132 by Newcastle University to develop a new field of study, Digital Technology and the Humanities.

This project is titled 'Animating Texts at Newcastle University' (AtNU). Over three years we will be exploring how the digital can complement rather than replace the print edition, exploring different ways of understanding, explaining, and experiencing text as mobile, variable, adaptable, performable, while also helping us to re-imagine the reading experience.

Undergraduate Teaching

Music History from the ninth to the seventeenth centuries, particularly 1400-1550

Historic Compositional Techniques

Dissertation

Edition and transcription

Postgraduate Teaching

Research methods in medieval and early modern studies

Notation and editing 

Performance practices