PI: Francesco Zimei
PI’s host institution for the project: University of Trento
Partner institution: Gran Sasso Science Institute
Duration: 60 months

The lauda, a vibrant expression of popular piety, is the poetic-musical genre that from the second half of the twelfth century marked the birth and the spread of singing in the Italian language. It was based on melodies of varied origins, but mostly functional in orally conveying – through minstrels, lay confraternities and preachers – the dissemination of texts and (not only spiritual) concepts among a largely illiterate population. Despite this ‘volatility’, a good corpus of laude has been preserved in written form for ritual needs, sometimes with musical notation, forming an impressive repository of ‘frozen orality’. While realizing the importance and vastness of this heritage, scholars for over a century have been mainly engaged in alternatively considering it either from a literary or a musical point of view. Therefore, no systematic research has yet to shed light on the specific nature of the phenomenon, its dynamics of creation and transmission and all indicators that make it a reliable mirror of society, culture and mentality in medieval and early Renaissance Italy. The LAUDARE project aims to approach the Italian lauda in its intrinsic intermediality by collecting the whole corpus of texts handed down with music up to the mid 1500s and comprehensively exploring the dynamics of composition and transmission of poems and related tunes according to the mechanisms of orality. An open access database, making searchable the entire corpus, will allow wide-ranging surveys such as the territorial impact of a text and/or its musical setting as well as the diffusion of melodic patterns and text formulas. The results will be collected in a specific volume. Other expected outputs are a handbook, at least ten open access articles, three workshops and two international conferences with proceedings, one of which will have involved related disciplines such as medieval and religious history, linguistics, palaeography, iconography, anthropology, and urban studies. In short, many peculiar features make LAUDARE an extremely innovative and ambitious project. In particular:

  1. It will allow for the first time a comprehensive approach the Italian lauda making entirely available and searchable the whole corpus – still largely unknown – of thousands of surviving texts handed down with music between c.1160 and the mid 1500s;
  2. It will restore historical significance and dignity to the nature and functionality of medieval and early Renaissance sung poetry;
  3. It will greatly broaden the sphere of action of orality and performance studies today generally applied only with respect to current phenomena;
  4. It will provide an innovative method and technology for comprehensively investigating text-music relationships and their impact in space and time; 
  5. It will bring to light a considerable amount of unknown data and information about several aspects of Italian culture and society of the past centuries.