IMC 2012: Sessions

Session 199: Interpreting the Robert ap Huw Manuscript

Monday 9 July 2012, 13.00-13.45

Moderator/Chair:Lauren Moreau, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Speaker:Bill Taylor, Independent Scholar, Strathpeffer

The Robert ap Huw manuscript (British Museum Add. MS 14905) contains the earliest body of harp music from anywhere in Europe. The pieces were composed by harp players in Northern Wales in the 14th and 15th centuries, transmitted aurally for several hundred years, written down in the 16th century, and then copied in the early 17th century. This strange and beautiful music is a fragment of a vast lost repertoire known to the medieval Welsh bards. Scarcely thirty tunes survive, yet they present many hours of performable music. The basis of this music acknowledges an ancient system of compositional formulæ, made up of contrasting chords notated in a binary fashion, providing a skilful manipulation of tension and resolution. Bill Taylor will introduce the manuscript, explaining how to interpret the tablature and how to execute the fingernail techniques required to perform the music.