Karen Desmond


Karen Desmond is a musicologist and medievalist whose research focuses on the intellectual and aesthetic experience of music in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. She holds a Ph.D. in musicology from New York University, and was a visiting Lecturer in Musicology at University College Cork from 2011 to 2013, and a contract researcher at the University of Cologne from 2012 to 2013. In 2013 she was awarded a one-year NEH Research Fellowship for her monograph on novelty and change in early fourteenth-century music, titled Greedy for New Things: Novelty in Early Fourteenth-Century Music.

She is currently a Banting Fellow (SSHRC) at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University. Her Banting project examines the emergence at the beginning of the fourteenth century of a new style of music (known as the ars nova), situating it within descriptions of newness, invention, and discovery found in medieval writings on literary composition, rhetoric, philosophy, science, and mathematics. She also plans to use text-mining tools, and techniques such as topic modeling, to trace how novelty was characterized by medieval writers, across large libraries of digital texts, and to to analyse the ars nova music repertory in terms of its innovative elements using software recently developed at the Schulich School of Music for the analysis of large datasets of music.

Desmond’s translation of an important music theory treatise–Lambert’s Ars musica, edited by Christian Meyer–will be published April 2015 by Ashgate (Royal Music Association Monographs 27). She has published articles in Journal of Musicology, Plainsong and Medieval Music, Early Music History, and Musica disciplina, with a second article in Journal of Musicology forthcoming, and book reviews for Notes, The Medieval Review, Early Music, Speculum and Plainsong and Medieval Music.