Participant Info

First Name
Mary Channen
Last Name
University of Pennsylvania
Website URL
music, musicology, medieval musicology, song, refrain, repetition, lyric, devotional music, liturgical music, ritual, dance, dance studies, hagiography, gender studies
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Mary Channen Caldwell’s research on music in Europe ca. 1000-1600 engages with the complementary disciplines of historical musicology and medieval studies and is driven by interests in the cultural, ritual, textual, and material aspects of music and its production, reception, and transmission. Across her research and teaching, Caldwell employs methodologies that recognize the importance of notes on the page (incomplete as they are in premodern sources) while seeing these abstract reflections of music as part of complex systems of cultural meaning and history. While music is always at the core, her writing and teaching connect with a range of interrelated disciplines, including manuscript studies, gender studies, literary theory, theology and exegesis, liturgiology and hagiography, dance and movement studies, and theories of time and temporality. Published and forthcoming articles on a range of topics related to these interests appear in Early Music History, Plainsong & Medieval Music, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Journal of Musicology, Revue de musicologie, Music & Letters, and Speculum, as well as in edited volumes.

Caldwell’s first book, Devotional Refrains in Medieval Latin Song (Cambridge University Press, 2022), offers a critical approach to the Latin refrain—a repeated segment of text and music—and its conjoined songs, bringing renewed attention to an understudied corpus of over 400 Latin vocal works from the high and late Middle Ages. In this book, Caldwell explores for the first time the Latin refrain as a vibrant and multidimensional part of the varied landscape of medieval song, arguing for the importance of Latin song traditions within the devotional as well as quotidian lives of clerical, monastic, and educational communities across Europe. While previous scholarship on medieval Latin song has tended to elide the refrain in the interest of reportorial and music-theoretical approaches, Caldwell prioritizes the return of text and music as an epicenter and generator of lyrical, melodic, and cultural meaning. Her second and current book project focuses on music for and about a contested figure in medieval popular devotional, St. Nicholas. She is also working on questions of Latin song and gender; dance and sound; and is co-editing with Dr. Anne-Zoé Rillon-Marne a volume titled Latin Song in the Medieval West (Liverpool University Press).

At Penn, Caldwell is the co-director with Mauro Calcagno of a concert series between the Department of Music and Penn Libraries called “Music in the Pavilion” ( In 2018, she co-organized an interdisciplinary symposium titled “Gothic Arts” with colleagues in Art History and History, which brought together scholars from within and outside of the United States (

Caldwell received her PhD in Music History and Theory from the University of Chicago in 2013 and a Bachelor of Music degree from the School of Music at Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada) in 2006. Her teaching and research have been supported by the University of Chicago, the American Musicological Society, the John Anson Kittredge Fund, the American Philosophical Society, and the NEH. In 2021, Caldwell was awarded the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Caldwell presents regularly at conferences and symposia in Canada, the United States, and Europe, including papers at the national meetings of the American Musicological Society and the Medieval Academy of America.

Recent Publications

Journal Articles

“Dancing in Silence in Premodern Europe.” postmedieval, special issue on Legacies of Medieval Dance edited by Kathryn Dickason (forthcoming 2023).

“‘To His Beloved Friends…’: The Epistolary Art of Song in Medieval France.” Textus & Musica, special issue edited by Océane Boudeau, Luca Gatti, and Fañch Thoraval (forthcoming 2023).

“Multilingualism, Nova Cantica, and the Cult of St. Nicholas in Medieval England and France.” Speculum (forthcoming 2023).

“Against the Dangers of the Night: The Compline Versicle Custodi nos domine and its Tropes in Medieval France.” Journal of the Alamire Foundation (forthcoming 2023).

“‘I Have Trodden the Winepress Alone’: The Voice of Christ and the Mystical Winepress in a Thirteenth-Century Latin Song.” Revue de musicologie 108, no. 1 (2022): forthcoming.

“Conductus, Sequence, Refrain: Composing Latin Song across Language and Genre in Thirteenth-Century France.” The Journal of Musicology (2022): forthcoming.

“Troping Time: Refrain Interpolation in Sacred Latin Songs, ca. 1140-1854.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 74, no. 1 (2021): 91-156.

“Singing Cato: Poetic Grammar and Moral Citation in Medieval Latin Song, ” Music & Letters (advanced copy published 2021).

“Cueing Refrains in the Medieval Conductus.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 143, no. 2 (2018): 273-324.

“A Medieval Patchwork Song: Poetry, Prayer and Music in a Thirteenth-Century Conductus.” Plainsong and Medieval Music 25, no. 2 (2016): 139-165. 

“‘Flower of The Lily’: Late-Medieval Religious and Heraldic Symbolism in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS français 146.” Early Music History 33 (2014): 1-60.

Book Chapters

“Texting Vocality: Musical and Material Poetics of the Voice in Medieval Latin Song.” In Ars Antiqua: Music and Culture in Europe, c. 1150-c. 1330, edited by Gregorio Bevilacqua and Thomas Payne. Speculum Musicae vol. 40, 33-70. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020.

“Litanic Songs for the Virgin: Rhetoric, Repetition, and Marian Refrains in Medieval Latin Song.” In The Litany in Arts and Cultures, edited by Witold Sadowski and Francesco Marsciani. Studia Traditionis Theologiae, 143-174. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020.

“‘Pax Gallie’: The Songs of Tours 927.” The Jeu d’Adam: MS Tours 927 and the Provenance of the Play, edited by Christophe Chaguinian. Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 87-176. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2017.

Book Chapters (under review) 

“Revisiting the ‘Clerical Dance Song’ in Medieval Europe.” Tanz al Musik: Zwischen Klang und Bewegung, edited by Martina Papiro, Christelle Cazaux, and Agnese Pavanello. Basler Beiträge zur Historischen Musikpraxis. Basel: Schwabe (under review as of May 2022).

“Is Medieval Choreomusicology Possible?” In The Routledge Companion to Choreomusicology: Dialogues in Music and Dance. Edited by Samuel N. Dorf, Helen Julia Minors, and Simon Morrison. New York: Routledge (submitted; expected 2023).

Encyclopedia Entries

with Timothy McGee. “Dance.” Oxford Bibliographies in “Medieval Studies.” New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming 2021). DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396584-0121

“Musical Hagiography in Western Europe with Reference to the Cult of St Nicholas of Myra,” in “Holy Persons.” Edited by Aaron Hollander and Massimo Rondolino. In Encyclopedia of the Global Middle Ages, Bloomsbury/ARC-Humanities Press, 2021.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
British Isles, England, France, Western Europe
Expertise by Chronology
Medieval, Pre-17th century
Expertise by Topic
Book History, Literary History, Material Culture, Religion