Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



Major Professor

Rachel M. Golden

Committee Members

Leslie C. Gay, Allison S. Robbins


Following the Christianization of the crumbling Roman Empire, a wide array of disparate Christian traditions arose. A confusion of liturgical rites and musical styles expressed the diversity of this nascent Christendom; however, it also exemplified a sometimes threatening disunity. Into this frame, the Carolingian Empire made a decisive choice. Charlemagne, with a desire to consolidate power, forged stronger bonds withRome by transporting the liturgy ofRome to the Frankish North. The outcome of this transmission was the birth of a composite form of music exhibiting the liturgical properties ofRome but also shaped by the musical sensibilities of the Franks—Gregorian chant.

This Frankish project of liturgical adoption and the appearance of Gregorian chant raises two important questions: How did the Carolingians transmit and incorporate Roman chant, and why did they feel drawn to this tradition in the first place? This thesis utilizes musicological studies by scholars like Leo Treitler and Anna Maria Busse Burger, epistemological arguments by analytic philosopher Richard Fumerton, and memorial scholarship by Mary Carruthers and Maurice Halbwachs to provide an analysis of Gregorian chant’s emergence. My investigation into the medieval art of memoria reveals that chant was transmitted through the use of the principles of music theory as mnemonic devices. Modal theory itself becomes a mnemonic by creating an abstract musical location in which the singer and listener can meet.

Further, the impulse that drove this project was the desire for a collective memory that would resolve underlying tensions of group identity within 8th- and 9th-century early Christendom. This desire finds its resolution in modal theory itself because the musical location of chant is also a public location where corporate identity is articulated. Finally, I interpret both musical and memorial functions of chant via epistemic scholarship, showing that they both exhibit a remarkable structural similarity to the principles of acquaintance epistemology, thus unifying the questions of “how” and “why” in chant into a single answer. The quest for self-knowledge becomes part of the particular object used to make it—a material testament to a way of knowing.

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