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Kügle, Karl

Kügle, Karl


Karl Kügle, born in Braunschweig, Germany, in 1956. Ph.D. from New York University. Professor of Musicology at Utrecht University.

Fellow (1 September 2014 – 30 June 2015)

Sounds of Sex: Erotic Late-Medieval Song from the Low Countries in European Context

Research Question

Some songs in the so-called “Gruuthuse manuscript”, compiled in Bruges in the early 1400s, exhibit unmistakable sexual allusions. Why do we find such “uncourtly” songs next to highly sophisticated narrative and devotional poetry, and courtly-love songs? And is this a phenomenon particular to Flanders, or were such seemingly brusque juxtapositions part of late-medieval culture on a European scale?

Project Description

A small but significant corpus of songs with Middle Dutch texts in the so-called “Gruuthuse manuscript” (Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 79 K 10) exhibits unmistakeable allusions to sexuality. Frequently deploying sonic metaphors (singing, musical instruments, bird song), such songs, texts, and related images are not unique to the Low Countries but can be found throughout late-medieval Europe. These songs up to now have never been studied synoptically, i.e., as part of a shared European cultural heritage. Combining musical, textual, visual, and material evidence, my project maps the musical “discours amoureux” of the later Middle Ages from an interdisciplinary and trans-national perspective, and integrates the sonic, visual, verbal, and symbolic rhetoric of sex in Low Countries song with European late medieval cultural history and aesthetics.

Selected Publications

1) “Glorious Sounds for a Holy Warrior: New Light on Codex Turin J.II.9.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 65:2012, 637-90

2) “De ordinatio van het ‘Gruuthuse’-liedboek en de Europese muziek omstreeks 1400 [The ordinatio of the ‘Gruuthuse’ Song Book and European Music Around 1400].” Het Gruuthuse-handschrift in woord en klank: Nieuwe inzichten, nieuwe vragen [The Gruuthuse Manuscript, its Texts and its Music: New Insight, New Problems] (with an introduction and summaries in English). Ed. by Frank Willaert. Ghent: Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde [Royal (Belgian) Academy for Dutch Language and Literature], 2010, 81-112

3) “Two Abbots and a Rotulus: New Light on Brussels 19606.” Quomodo cantabimus canticum? Studies in Honor of Edward H. Roesner. Ed. by David Butler Cannata, Gabriela Ilnitchi Currie, Rena Charnin Mueller and John Louis Nádas. Miscellanea 7. Middleton, Wisconsin: American Institute of Musicology, 2008, 145-85

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