Mary Channen Caldwell

Mary Channen Caldwell

Assistant Professor of Music


Room 327, LERNER CENTER/6313


Mary Channen Caldwell’s research on vocal music in Europe ca. 1000-1600 engages with the complementary disciplines of historical musicology and medieval studies. Caldwell is especially interested 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, dance studies, gender, literary theory, theology and exegesis, liturgiology and hagiography, and theories of time and temporality. Publications on a range of topics related to these interests appear in Early Music History, Plainsong & Medieval Music, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Music & Letters, the Journal of Musicology, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and the Revue de musicologie, as well as in edited volumes. In Caldwell’s first book, Devotional Refrains in Medieval Latin Song (Cambridge, 2022), 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. Caldwell explores in this book for the first time the Latin refrain as a vibrant and multidimensional part of the varied landscape of medieval song, arguing for the importance of Latin song traditions within the devotional as well as quotidian lives of clerical, monastic, and educational communities across Europe. While previous scholarship on medieval Latin song has tended to elide the refrain in the interest of reportorial and music-theoretical approaches, Caldwell prioritizes in Devotional Refrains the return of text and music as an epicenter and generator of lyrical, melodic, and cultural meaning. Her second book project in progress focuses 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” (; returning after a hiatus due to COVID-19 in spring 2023). 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 ( She has previously 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 

Gender, Sexuality, and Early Music: 20 Years Later 

Music and Sounds of Difference in the Global Middle Ages 

Singing in Many Tongues: Multilinguality in Medieval Song, Lyric, and Drama 

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 

Performers: Musicians and Dancers 

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


Devotional Refrains in Medieval Latin Song. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022. 

Saintly Song: Musical Hagiography and the Medieval Cult of St. Nicholas (in progress) 

Latin Song in the Medieval World: Creation, Circulation, and Performance, co-edited with Anne-Zoé Rillon-Marne (proposal submitted for review). 

Articles (forthcoming and published) 

“Multilingualism, Nova Cantica, and the Cult of St. Nicholas in Medieval England and France.” Speculum (accepted with minor revisions May 2022).  

“Against the Dangers of the Night: The Compline Versicle Custodi nos domine and its Tropes in Medieval France.” Journal of the Alamire Foundation (forthcoming, 2022). 

“‘I have trodden the winepress alone’: The Voice of Christ and the Mystic Winepress in a Thirteenth-Century Conductus.” Revue de musicologie 108, no. 1 (2022): 3-40.  

“Conductus, Sequence, Refrain: Composing Latin Song across Language and Genre in Thirteenth-Century France.” The Journal of Musicology 39, no. 2 (2022): 133-178.   

“Singing Cato: Poetic Grammar and Moral Citation in Medieval Latin Song,” Music & Letters 102, no. 2 (2021): 191–233.  

“Troping Time: Refrain Interpolation in Sacred Latin Songs, ca. 1140-1853.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 74 no. 1 (2021): 91-156. 

“Cueing Refrains in the Medieval Conductus.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 143, 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 History 33 (2014): 1-60.  

Articles (under review and in progress) 

“Multilingual Song in Medieval Europe.” Philomusica On-Line (Proceedings of the conference Musica e letteratura al tempo di Dante, October 21-22, 2021) (proposal accepted and in progress). 

“Listening to Devotional Dance in the European Medieval Ages.” postmedieval, special issue on Legacies of Medieval Dance edited by Kathryn Dickason (proposal accepted; article drafted). 

“The Circulation and Sounding of Letters and Songs in Medieval Europe.” Textus & Musica, special issue edited by Océane Boudeau, Luca Gatti, and Fañch Thoraval (under review as of April 2022). 

Book Chapters (published) 

“Texting Vocality: Musical and Material Poetics of the Voice in Medieval Latin Song.” In Ars Antiqua: Music and Culture in Europe, c. 1150-c. 1330, edited by Gregorio Bevilacqua and Thomas Payne. Speculum Musicae vol. 40, 35-72. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020. 

“Litanic Songs for the Virgin: Rhetoric, Repetition, and Marian Refrains in Medieval Latin Song.” In The Litany in Arts and Cultures, edited by Witold Sadowski and Francesco Marsciani. Studia Traditionis Theologiae, 143-174. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020. 

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

Book Chapters (under review and in progress) 

“Revisiting the ‘Clerical Dance Song’ in Medieval Europe.” Tanz al Musik: Zwischen Klang und Bewegung, edited by Martina Papiro, Christelle Cazaux, and Agnese Pavanello. Basler Beiträge zur Historischen Musikpraxis. Basel: Schwabe (under review as of May 2022). 

“Is Medieval Choreomusicology Possible?” In The Routledge Companion to Choreomusicology: Dialogues in Music and Dance. Edited by Samuel N. Dorf, Helen Julia Minors, and Simon Morrison. New York: Routledge (submitted; expected 2023). 


Encyclopedia Entries 

with Timothy McGee. “Dance.” Oxford Bibliographies in “Medieval Studies.” New York: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396584-0121 

“Musical Hagiography in Western Europe with Reference to the Cult of St Nicholas of Myra,” in “Holy Persons.” Edited by Aaron Hollander and Massimo Rondolino. In Encyclopedia of the Global Middle Ages, Bloomsbury/ARC-Humanities Press, 2021: