Dr Brianne Dolce

Fitzjames Research Fellow in Music

I am a musicologist and historian, specializing in the intersections between religious and cultural life between the 11th and 13th centuries, with a particular interest in the role of women in both areas. I am also interested in historiography, and the shaping of medieval musical and cultural history over the long 19th century. My first article, “‘Soit hom u feme’: New Evidence for Women Musicians and the Search for the ‘Women Trouvères’,” was awarded the Jerome Roche Prize by the Royal Musical Association in 2021.

I hold degrees from the University of Michigan, King’s College London, and Yale University, where I earned my PhD in Musicology in 2020. From 2020–2021, I was a Past & Present Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. While I completed my doctoral dissertation, I was a visiting researcher in the History Department and Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies at Ghent University in Belgium, generously funded by the Belgian American Educational Foundation.

Research

At Merton, I am working on my first monograph, titled Alternative Orthodoxies: Religious Culture and the Vernacular Arts in Arras, 1000–1250. This project, stemming from my PhD thesis, posits a relationship between the vernacular musical and literary culture for which the city of Arras is notable in the thirteenth century and an evolving culture of religious dissent in the city, witnessed from the early eleventh century. Arguing that the foundations for Arrageois song were set long before the appearance of the first trouvères, or vernacular poet-composers and musicians, I trace a reciprocal relationship between religious dissent and vernacular song particular to Arras and its surrounding regions. Critical to my study is a combination of historical, musicological, exegetical, and prosopographical investigation, thereby combining approaches and methodologies from across the spectrum of medieval studies.

In addition to this, I’ll be launching a second project while at Merton that turns south to the Midi or Occitania, and considers musical traditions in Latin and Occitan, re-appraising the relationship between musical, sonic, and cultural life in the region and Cathar heresy. I plan especially to focus on women’s voices, both in song as well as in historical records, including those relating to trials for heresy. In exploring the more contextual ways in which women engaged with cultural life in this region, and putting those into dialogue with their own conceptions of belief, I hope to reveal new and compelling interrelations between cultural phenomena–across the divides of Latin and vernacular, or lay and liturgical—and political, social, and religious movements and events.

I am especially interested in fostering cross- and inter-disciplinary connections, both in my own research and in collaborative work. Currently, I serve as the chair of the London Society for Medieval Studies, a cross-disciplinary seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research.

Teaching

I am currently teaching Foundations of Music and Machaut’s Songs for Prelims, and Vernacular Song in the Long Thirteenth Century, Polyphony and Polemic in a Fractured Europe, and Musical Thought and Scholarship for FHS. I enjoy teaching students to work with manuscripts and in archives, and incorporate this into my teaching at Merton as much as possible.

In addition to my teaching at Merton, I teach a course in music paleography at the London International Palaeography School geared towards postgraduate students and archival professionals.

Publications

“‘Soit hom u feme’: New Evidence for Women Musicians and the Search for the ‘Women Trouvères’,” Revue de musicologie, Vol. 106, No. 2 (2020)

“Ways of Writing about Pre-modern musicians,” curated virtual issue of the Proceedings and Journal of the Royal Musical Association, with an introduction by the editors. Co-edited with Dr Lisa Colton, online and open access, 2021.

[Photo of Dr Dolce by Jonathan Self]