Department of Music

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Henry Parkes

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

I completed my PhD in Musicology at the University of Cambridge (2012). Following a Junior Research Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, I taught for five years at Yale University, where I was jointly affiliated to the Department of Music and Institute of Sacred Music.

Expertise Summary

My expertise is in the musical and religious cultures of early medieval Europe, with special attention to Christian liturgical chant (including Gregorian Chant) and the forms of worship in which that chant was sung. I am fascinated above all by the men and women who created, memorised, disseminated and discussed music in the distant past, by the experiential dimensions of medieval worship (especially the Divine Office), and by the role of writing as both an enabler and an inhibitor of musical creativity in Western Music.

Teaching Summary

As a teacher I cover the full gamut of pre-modern musics, from Antiquity to the Renaissance. I take particular pleasure in using early repertories and practices to challenge students' preconceptions… read more

Research Summary

To date most of my publications have concerned the decades around the year 1000 CE, when Western Music was first flirting with the stave line, just as many other aspects of European culture were at… read more

Selected Publications

As a teacher I cover the full gamut of pre-modern musics, from Antiquity to the Renaissance. I take particular pleasure in using early repertories and practices to challenge students' preconceptions about the Western 'classical' tradition.

Students can expect to modules with a strong emphasis on cultural and social history, in addition to classes on performance, analysis, musical notation and the History of the Book. I am deeply committed to teaching about oral traditions, alternative kinds of musical literacy and knowledge, and anything cultivated on peripheries, margins and borders.

In 2020/21 I am teaching the introductory music history course 'Repertoire Studies 1: Music Before the 20th Century', with units on Renaissance Italy and the history of oratorio. I am also offering second- and third-year modules 'Analysing Early Music' and 'The Social Life of Scores', as well as convening 'Conducting'.

I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA), as accredited by Advance HE.

Current Research

To date most of my publications have concerned the decades around the year 1000 CE, when Western Music was first flirting with the stave line, just as many other aspects of European culture were at this time renegotiating their relationship with writing.

At present I am working on the medieval chant traditions associated with the Divine Office - a repertoire of potentially 40,000 compositions, recorded in sources from the 9th to the 15th centuries - with particular attention to the genre of the responsory. I am busy writing an article on the appearance of these chants in medieval miracle literature from the ninth to thirteenth centuries, exploring the fascinating manner in which authors often paired stories of divine experience with certain kinds of musical activity. I am also piloting a project to record and map the repertory of long responsory melismas known as 'neumata', using machine learning techniques to help locate previously unidentifiable inscriptions of these melodies. Below is a typical page of interest, from 1000 years ago, in which one or more scribes jotted down some of their music in 'neume' notation:

Research

In 2020 I published a critical edition of five early eleventh-century tracts on liturgy and chant, four of them by the celebrated music theorist Bern of Reichenau. The volume, Berno Augiensis Tractatus liturgici, appears in the Belgian series Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis. This project previously spawned articles on the latent tensions in Gregorian chant as experienced by eleventh-century performers (Journal of the American Musicological Society, 2017), and on the possibility of chant reforms around the first millennium as found in the famous Hartker Antiphoner, from St Gallen, Switzerland (Early Music History, 2018).

As well as thinking broadly about musical manuscripts, institutions and traditions in the central Middle Ages, I am interested in specific chant compositions and their creators. I have published chapters on the relationship between music, hagiography and community in compositions for the Anglo-Saxon saints Edmund and Guthlac, with further work in progress on Oswald and the Fleury Office of St Benedict.

On the basis that Christian chant was inseparable from the rituals in which it was performed, I have devoted much of my research to the history of Latin liturgy. In early 2020 I had an article published in a history journal (Early Medieval Europe) on King Henry II of Germany and his relationship to the 'Romano-German Pontifical', an important book tradition of the eleventh and twelfth centuries history which had previously been misdated and (I argue) gravely misinterpreted. Work on that project began with my doctoral thesis, in which I examined making and use of liturgical books (including music books) in the German archiepiscopal seat of Mainz, Germany, between 950 and 1050. These ideas were developed further in my monograph, The Making of Liturgy in the Ottonian Church (Cambridge, 2015), which was published in the series Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought.

The Making of Liturgy in the Ottonian Church

Loosely connected to my current research activities are two further longer-term investigations: one into music and the pre-modern, pre-electric night, a project which is focussed on the endlessly fascinating (yet sadly underappreciated) liturgy of the Night Office, also known as Matins; another on the polyphonic chant elaborations collected in the early eleventh-century Winchester Troper (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Ms 473), of which as many as half may have been cultivated in a nocturnal context.

Department of Music

The University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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