Call for Chapters: Music, Myth, and Story in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Throughout this period, stories about music found in classical mythology, ancient history, biblical episodes, bird-lore, and more contemporary anecdotes were all treated as foundations for musical knowledge (of moral or philosophical kind, if less frequently practical or theoretical). Whether treated allegorically or as traces of early history, they were cited to support arguments about the uses, functions, effects, morality, and preferred styles or techniques of music, and appeared in sources including theoretical treatises, defences or critiques of music, sermons, educational literature, and books of moral conduct. As well as these more philosophical or intellectual treatments of musical myths, there were also literary ones. Drama, poetry, and song not only took inspiration from mythological stories, but also created their own plots and narratives which communicated particular perspectives on musics roles and values. The way in which authors interpreted and weaved together these traditional stories can reveal much about changing attitudes to music across the period.


The aim of this volume is to explore the importance of myth and story in shaping and communicating ideas about music in pre-Enlightenment Europe.  Proposals for chapters (of c.7000 words) are invited on any of the following potential topics:

  • the role of myths and stories in defences or praises of music, prefaces to music collections, music treatises, etc
  • methods of interpreting myths and their implications for ideas about music
  • the use of mythology to justify musical practices
  • mythology as a source of inspiration in musical composition
  • the role of mythology in debates concerning ancient versus modern music
  • change and continuity in the repertory of myths/stories about music and their interpretations, including the consequences for concepts of Medieval and Renaissance musical cultures
  • the changing status of traditional myths and stories in the context of empiricism, rationalism, growing awareness of the New World, experimental natural philosophy, etc
  • representations of music in literature and on the stage, and their effects on perceptions of music

Other suggestions related to the overall aims and themes of the collection will also be considered.


Editors: Katherine Butler and Samantha Bassler

Please send abstracts of 350-500 words by 28 February2015 to


Selected chapters will be requested by the end of September

Submission date for papers: 
28 Feb 2015