Mary Channen Caldwell


Assistant Professor of Music


327, Music Building


Mary Channen Caldwell’s research on repertoires of European vocal music ca. 1100-1600 engages with the complementary disciplines of historical musicology and medieval studies and is driven by interests in the cultural, ritual, textual, and material aspects of music and its production, reception, and transmission. Across her research and teaching, Caldwell employs methodologies that recognize the importance of notes on the page (incomplete as they are in pre-modern sources) while seeing these abstract reflections of music as part of complex systems of cultural meaning and history. While music is always at the core, her writing and teaching connect with a range of interrelated disciplines, including manuscript studies, ritual studies, literary theory, theology and exegesis, liturgiology and hagiography, and theories of time and temporality. She also continues to cultivate a secondary research area in premodern movement and dance studies. Publications on a range of topics related to these interests appear in Early Music HistoryPlainsong & Medieval Music, and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, as well as in edited volumes, including one published by the Medieval Institute’s Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series. In Caldwell’s current book project, Divine Refrains: Inscription, Performance, and Temporality in Medieval Latin Song and Refrain, she offers a critical approach to the Latin refrain—a repeated segment of text and music—and its conjoined songs, bringing renewed attention to an understudied corpus of over 400 Latin vocal works from the high and late Middle Ages. Organized around three heuristic frameworks—inscription, performance, and temporality—she explores for the first time the refrain as a vibrant and multidimensional part of the varied landscape of medieval Latin song. Divine Refrains argues for the importance of the Latinate song tradition within the devotional as well as quotidian lives of clerical, monastic, and educational communities across Europe, the shared language allowing for wide dissemination. Her second book project, Saintly Song: Musical Hagiography and the Medieval Cult of St. Nicholas, will focus on music for and about a contested figure in medieval popular devotional, St. Nicholas. 

At Penn, Caldwell is the co-director with Mauro Calcagno of a concert series between the Department of Music and Penn Libraries called “Music in the Pavilion” ( In 2018, she co-organized an interdisciplinary symposium titled “Gothic Arts” with colleagues in Art History and History, which brought together scholars from within and outside of the United States ( Prior to her position at the University of Pennsylvania, she held Visiting Assistant Professorships at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts (Autumn 2013) and at the University of Texas, Austin (Spring 2014), as well as an Assistant Professorship in Musicology at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas (2014-2015). Caldwell received her PhD in Music History and Theory from the University of Chicago in 2013 and a Bachelor of Music degree from the School of Music at Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada) in 2006.

Courses Taught

Graduate Seminars

Singing Saints and Singing of Saints: Musical Hagiographies, ca. 900-1600 

Gothic Notes: Music, Manuscripts, and Notation in the 13th Century 

Sonus—Vox: Medieval Perspectives on Sound and the Voice 

Festivity, Devotion, and Seasonality in Premodern Vocal Music


Undergraduate Seminars

Recording the Middle Ages: The Reception of Medieval Music from LPs to Mp3s 

Hearing (in) the Middle Ages

Sounding the Middle Ages 

Writing Sound: Signs and Symbols of Music in Pre- and Early Modern Europe 

Anonymous: History’s Most Prolific Composer

Introduction to European Art Music

1000 Years of Listening

Selected Publications

“Cueing Refrains in the Medieval Conductus.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association143, no. 2 (2018): 273-324.

“A Medieval Patchwork Song: Poetry, Prayer and Music in a Thirteenth-Century Conductus.” Plainsong and Medieval Music 25, no. 2 (2016): 139-165. 

“‘Flower of The Lily’: Late-Medieval Religious and Heraldic Symbolism in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS français 146.” Early Music History33 (2014): 1-60. 

 Book Chapters

“Litanic Songs for the Virgin: Rhetoric, Repetition, and Marian Refrains in Medieval Latin Song.” In Litany in the Arts and Culture, edited by Witold Sadowski and Francesco Marsciani. Studia Traditionis Theologiae. Turnhout: Brepols (forthcoming). 

“‘Pax Gallie’: The Songs of Tours 927.” The Jeu d’Adam: MS Tours 927 and the Provenance of the Play, edited by Christophe Chaguinian. Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 87-176. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2017.


Review of Catherine A. Bradley and Karen Desmond, eds. The Montpellier Codex: The Final Fascicle: Contents, Contexts, Chronologies.  Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music. Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, 2018, The Medieval Review(2018).

Review of Margot Fassler, Music in the Medieval West. Series: Western Music in Context: A Norton History, Walter Frisch, ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013), College Music Symposium54 (2014).

CV (file)