Feb 15, 2019, 3:00 PM

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As part of the far-reaching project to assemble a massive library of research materials for writing the Storia della musica, two manuscript copies containing significant selections from Ugolino of Orvieto’s Declaratio musicae disciplinae (ca. 1430) were commissioned by Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706–1784) in the second half of the eighteenth century. One of these manuscripts was copied in 1766 by Renaissance scholar Lorenzo Mehus (1717–1802) from a fifteenth-century manuscript housed in Florence, a source which also contains several texts by English theorist John Hothby. Despite earlier successes with copying theoretical texts of Johannes Ciconia and Girolamo Mei, surviving correspondence reveals a serious row between Mehus and Martini over payment for the copying as well as Martini’s great disappointment with Mehus’s negligent efforts, and the manuscript displays why–textual errors, sloppy reproductions of diagrams and musical examples, and drastically incomplete copying of Hothby’s treatises. The second commissioned manuscript was copied far more carefully in 1783, less than one year before Martini’s death, from a manuscript source borrowed from a cardinal’s substantial library in Rome. While it has been claimed that the source for copying is lost to us, it can now be demonstrated sufficiently from which manuscript it was copied, thereby adding additional important evidence toward the later provenance of that fifteenth-century source of Ugolino’s Declaratio. Martini was aware of Ugolino as a theorist, but both manuscript sources for Martini’s copies do not attribute the treatise to him. This paper explores the commissioning of these copies within the context of Martini’s collecting and copying of music theory treatises, the place of Ugolino’s writings in Martini’s larger history of music, and the oft overlooked value of later textual witnesses.


Evan A. MacCarthy is assistant professor of musicology in West Virginia University's School of Music. He received an A.B. in Classics and music from the College of the Holy Cross, and earned a Ph.D. in historical musicology from Harvard University. His research focuses on the history of fifteenth-century music and music theory, late medieval chant, German music in the Baroque era, as well as nineteenth-century American music. 

His book Ruled by the Muses: Italian Humanists and their Study of Music in the Fifteenth Century explores the musical lives of scholars who sought to revive the cultural and intellectual traditions of ancient Greece and Rome. At the intersection of music, pedagogy, and the revival of classical literature, the book offers the first comprehensive study on the centrality of music as it shaped the language and ideas of other disciplines during the fifteenth century. By advocating for the prominence of musical education in the literary, historical, and philosophical writings of humanists, Ruled by the Muses challenges current views that underestimate the place occupied by music and music theory in different spheres of teaching and learning at Italian courts, cathedrals, and universities.  He is also producing an edition and first-ever translation for the Epitome Musical series at Brepols Press of Ugolino of Orvieto’s encyclopedia treatise on the nature and notation of music (Declaratio musicae disciplinae, written c. 1435). He is currently writing articles on the music manuscript Porto 714, the German-American reception of Franz Schubert's Singspiel Die Verschworenen, and a newly discovered teaching contract involving the lutenist Pietrobono Burzelli (with Andrea Canova), as well as a chapter on musical exchanges for A Cultural History of Music in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, edited by Jeanice Brooks and Richard Freedman (Bloomsbury).

Before coming to WVU, he served on the music faculties of Harvard University (where he was the Harvard College Fellow in music from 2010 to 2012), College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boston University. In 2012-13, he was the Committee for the Rescue of Italian art (CRIA) Fellow at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. Recently he has been awarded grants from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Big XII Faculty Fellowship Program, the Lila Wallace - Reader's Digest Lecture Program, and the WVU Faculty Senate Research Grant Program. He presently serves as the Discipline Representative for Music for the Renaissance Society of America (through 2021) and serves on the Council of the American Musicological Society (through 2021) and the Advisory Board of the Sewanee Medieval Colloquium. He is also a Faculty Affiliate of WVU's Humanities Center.

In 2018, he was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Award from the College of Creative Arts at WVU.