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About the project

The project Connecting Medieval Music is a platform for the study of contrafacta in medieval Romance lyric. It constitutes a digital repertory of Occitan and French models and contrafacta, but it also includes all Latin, German, Italian, and Galician-Portuguese contrafacta connected to the Gallo-Romance tradition.

Thanks to its interactive interface, Connecting Medieval Music invites users to explore the connections between lyrics across Europe in their geographical and chronological dimensions.

The project does not only consist of a list of known cases of contrafaction but aims to provide information on the formal and cultural features of each lyric: the circumstances of its compositions, the people involved, the events it mentions, the sources that preserve it, and much more. People, places, events, lyrics, and manuscripts are all linked in an interconnected network that reproduces a layer of Europe's cultural history.


Contrafacta: definition and criteria

Although the term "contrafactum" is well-known in modern scholarship, it may be helpful to clarify how this category is employed in the context of this project. Contrafactum is a contemporary term that describes the practice of reusing an existing melody for a new text, extremely popular in the Middle Ages. The new text usually replicated the syllabic structure and often the rhyme scheme and rhyme sounds of the model. These formal features can be likened to the fossils left by melodies and can help us identify a contrafactum in all those instances in which the musical notation is irremediably lost, as is the case for so many medieval vernacular lyrics. I would have been possible to adopt a "sceptical" definition, according to the status of contrafacta only to works that have survived with music, since only through a direct comparison of the melodies can one verify the musical match. However, this is not ultimately a viable approach, since a contrafactum does not cease to be one after the last existing copy of its melody is destroyed or when the last carrier of its oral tradition dies or forgets it. In the attempt to analyse a phenomenon that is inherently fragmentary, a condition common to all medieval research, it is not possible to limit the research to items that are complete and unscathed by time. The reason is apparent if we look at the Troubadour tradition, that counts only four cases in which both model and contrafactum have survived with music. If we are only allowed to speak of contrafaction in these cases, we would be forced to argue that contrafacta were practically non-existent among Occitan poets – while we know that it was instead a constitutive practice of Troubadour lyric production. 
Another possible approach, preferred by those who are mostly concerned with the metricological aspects of medieval lyrics, is to talk of contrafacta only for texts with matching metrical structures. This approach neglects the musical nature of this technique and overlooks how easily music can adapt to texts with different numbers of syllables. This is why our definition of contrafactum encompasses these cases of "imperfect contrafacta", i.e. lyrics that modify the structure of the model while still reusing a considerable portion of the original melody without however profoundly affect its integrity. Modifications can include the number of lines per stanza, the number of syllables per line, and the genre of the rhymes. This category is considered distinct from that of "intermelodicity", which consists of reusing smaller parts of a melody, integrating them in a new musical context, reconfiguring its modules in a new structure, or significantly altering the model. While intermelodic links are indicated, just as intertextual relationships, we have not not registered them as contrafacta.

The aim of this project is to foster the study of contrafaction rather than providing a fixed canon, not just as a tool for literary and musicological analysis, but as a means to connecting the dots of musical and poetical culture in the European Middle Ages. In this perspective, it is apparent that an inclusive approach has more chances to provide meaningful outcomes. We take on the responsibility of analysing and discussing cases of contrafaction that have not survived with music. We further include in our database (but exclude from ) cases presenting metrical affinities and lyrics that  have been considered contrafacta even when we argue do not fit this terminology, engaging critically with previous scholarship.


Connecting Medieval Music... to what?

In the database you will be able to find much more than contrafacta. This project aims to link medieval songs that used the same music with each other, and to describe, or at least to point to, the literary implication of this musical connections. But it also strives to connect these musical practice with its cutlural and historical context: the people involved or mentioned in these texts; the manuscript sources in which we read them today; other literary works. All of these have their own stories which contributed to weive the cultural networks that we are trying to piece together.

Different visualizations for different research

According to the specific goals, the map visualization can be adjusted to show different types of information. As default, only green pins appear of the map: these are "Creation events", marking the place of composition where (1) a model, (2) a contrafactum, or (3) a song wth metrical affinities, was composed. By clicking on a pin, the network connecting the model and contrafacta appears. A blue pin also appears underneath: by clicking you can access all information about the created work.

Clicking on the Filter icon the left sidebar, it is possible to change the visualized entities by selecting one or more of the following checkboxes:

  Creations of literary works: displays all the place of composition of works, including those which are not models or contrafacta.

  Productions of manuscript sources: places of production of manuscript sources.

  Authors' activity: displays all places associated with any event related to the life of the authors.

  Other historical events: displays all biographical, political, military, religious, events that are linked to any entity in the database.


Manuscript sources

All sources can be search thorugh their full shelfmark (e.g. "Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 865").The main songbooks of the Romance tradition are also referred to with the siglum that identifies them within their respective repertories. Scholars in the field thus need to keep in mind that the same siglum can refer to different manuscripts according to the repertory (i.d. the language of the text involved) and that  a same manuscript can have a different siglum in different repertories (this usually correspond to distinct sections within a miscellaneous or composite source).  A full list of manuscritps cas be found in the page Sources.



The fluctuating nature of Medeival spelling constitute a challenge for a digital project and its users. We have followed widespread standards in order to allow users to find what they are looking for. 


For the incipits of the lyrics, the spelling follows that of the bibliographic repertories relevant to each corpus, with modifications made only when necessary. However, is common practice among medieval scholars to refer to the repertory numbers, which provide univocous identifiers. It is reccomended to use this identifier when referring or searching for a specific lyric. The repertories for both incipts and ids are:

Occitan:  BEdT

French: Linker

Galician-Portuguese: LPGP and CSM

German: MF

Conducti: CPI

Works from other repertories are occasionally used in this project, including liturgical works (Cantus) and the contrafacta in the Jeu de Saint'Agnès (SA).

People and Places

As a general rule People and Places are named in their original language. Authors' names follow the spelling used in the above mentioned repertories whenever possible. The project uses "Appellation", entities that record different spellings, nicknames, and alternative ways of referring to a person (or any entity). This is meant to facilitate users' experience. For a full list of available entities, visit the pages People and Places


Main bibliographic sources

The information available on Connecting Medieval Music comes from hundreds of sources, but the foundational basis for the Occitan repertory is the BEdT, which provides accurate information on the metrical relationships, place and date of composition of Occitan lyrics. We have followed BEdT, except where more recent research was available. The more useful resource for the integration of notices on troubadours was the Dizionario biografico dei trovatori (Guida - Larghi 2014). Linker 1979, checked against the bibliography by Raynaud - Spanke 1955, constituted the basis for the information regarding the French repertory.

As with all research on contrafacta in medieval Romance lyrics, this project is built upon the foundational works by Friedrich Gennrich and Hans Spanke.

A full list of the cited scholarly works is available on the Bibliography page. References regarding single items (works, people etc.) are specified at the bottom of the sidebar.


The digital platform

The Connecting Medieval Music platform uses MedMus – DH-DW extension for medieval music, literature, and cultural heritage, created by Stefano Milonia.

DH-DW (Digital Humanities-Data Workbench) is a Drupal-based software created by Steve Ranford (University of Warwick) and Steven Jones (ComputerMinds), first built for the project, directed by professor Micheal Scott.

The MedMus platform has also been adopted by the project Prosopographical Atlas of Romance Literature, with which we have had a data-sharing agreement.

The musical transcriptions, available for the Occitan repertoire and for a small number of French works, are embedded from  MedMel: The Music of Medieval Vernacular Lyric – Connecting Medieval Music's sister project.


The onthology

MedMus data model implements an extended version of the CIDOC-CRM especially crafted for medieval literary and musical works. 

Data model



Principal investigator: Stefano Milonia (University of Warwick)

Collaborators: Samuele Maria Visalli (Università di Roma Sapienza), Ermes Faillace (Università di Roma Sapienza), Giulia Boitani (University of Cambridge).

Contact: stefano.milonia[at]