Plainsong and Medieval Music

Novi modulaminis melos: the music of Heloise and Abelard

David Wulstan c1


Recent developments have uncovered the early correspondence of Heloise and Abelard. This discovery has allowed the identification of a number of ‘lost’ lyrics by Abelard and has revealed that Heloise, too, was a lyricist of great stature. This article reviews some of their works and touches upon their connection with the ‘goliardic’ tradition, the Carmina Burana, and their influence upon Walther von der Vogelweide and other poets. The sequences and liturgical dramas of Heloise survive with music of an individual style. The dramas, moreover, are of notable originality: they influenced the later history of the genre (including the Carmina Burana Easter dramas) to a considerable and enduring extent.