Mary Channen Caldwell researches early vocal music, specifically song repertories in premodern Europe that explore the boundaries of sacred and secular. Her dissertation from 2013 examines sacred Latin refrain songs circa 1000-1582 and argues for the role of the largely clerical works within festive moments of the calendrical and church year. Her current research continues to reveal intimate connections between sacred song collections of premodern Europe and overlapping temporal cycles (civic and religious), festive liturgies, and devotional song. Current projects include a book-length study of Latin refrains and refrain songs in the high Middle Ages, exploring the repertoire from the perspective of materiality, performance, temporality, and the intersection of the sacred and secular.
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. Prior to her position at the University of Pennsylvania, she held Visiting Assistant Professorships at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts (2013) and at the University of Texas, Austin (2014), as well as an Assistant Professorship in Musicology at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas (2014-2015). Her teaching and research have been supported by the University of Chicago, the American Musicological Society, and the John Anson Kittredge Fund; in 2012 she was awarded both the Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowship in the College from the University of Chicago and the Alvin H. Johnson American Musicological Society 50 Dissertation-Year Fellowship. Caldwell has presented at conferences in Canada, the United States, and Europe, including papers at the national meeting of the American Musicological Society (Autumn 2014 and 2017), the Medieval Academy of America (Spring 2015), and the Renaissance Society of America (Spring 2017).
Recent publications include articles in Early Music History, Plainsong and Medieval Music, and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. She has a chapter in an edited volume published by the Medieval Institute’s Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series and forthcoming chapters on medieval dance and litanic song.