From the study of French fragments of medieval musical compositions found in Sweden, to fundamental problems in computational chemistry: Catherine Anne Bradley and Erik Tellgren are the Young CAS Fellows for 2020/21.
In the 1990s, archivists and philologists discovered twelve surviving pages of a medieval Parisian music book in Sweden. How did this come about?
Musicologists have not yet studied these fragments, preserved in the Stockholm Riksarkivet -- until now.
Catherine Anne Bradley, an Associate Professor in Musicology at the University of Oslo, has taken on the task, and she is one of two selected Young CAS Fellows for 2020/21.
Nordic collections of fragments of medieval manuscripts
Bradley writes in her application to the Young CAS Fellow Programme, that the initial discovery of one of the fragments of the music manuscript was reported in a Swedish article published in 1996. Musicologists were invited for a private viewing, but despite the importance of the fragments’ contents, they remain almost entirely unknown to scholars of medieval music.
‘These fragments offer exciting new musical evidence that substantially enhances and complicates understandings of compositional activity and technologies of music notation ca. 1300’, Bradley says, explaining why she was drawn to these unexposed musical treasures.
‘The Young CAS Fellow project Scattered Songs in Scandinavia: Fragments from a Medieval Motet Manuscript asks how, why, and when a lavish book of complex compositions travelled from France to Sweden, reflecting more broadly on musical and cultural practices in the Nordic lands at the turn of the thirteenth century into the fourteenth’.
Bradley came to Norway in August 2018, and applied to the Young CAS Fellow programme to build research networks and connections within Scandinavia. She hopes that this fellowship will help her become acquainted with what she describes as the ‘incredibly rich and sizeable Nordic collections of fragments of medieval manuscripts’.
In Stockholm alone, there are seventeen thousand fragments which have music notation on them.
‘At the same time, a Young CAS Fellowship enables me to communicate the significance of these Nordic collections—especially the remarkable motet fragments in the Stockholm Riksarkivet—to a wider international audience’, she says.
Searching for the deepest valley
Erik Tellgren, is a researcher at the Hylleraas Centre for Quantum Molecular Sciences at the University of Oslo. He named his Young CAS Fellow project Global optimization in electronic energy landscapes: finding a needle in a haystack.
What is the needle here and what is the haystack?
‘Metaphorically, the project is about how to find the deepest valley in a mountain landscape full of ridges and valleys. When you can only see your local surroundings, it is hard to tell if the lowest point in a valley is the lowest point in the entire landscape’, Tellgren relates.
Quantum chemistry describes the behaviour of electrons in molecules and materials.
‘A common problem is to calculate the properties of the state with lowest energy---the ground state---as electrons tend to emit any excess energy and "fall down" to this state’, Tellgren explains less metaphorically.
However, an enormous number of electronic states have the lowest energy in their local surroundings, but not necessarily globally among all states, making it difficult to find the ground state even with powerful computers and modern computer algorithms.
‘This project is about finding mathematical criteria for when the best algorithms are guaranteed to find the ground state. It is also about explaining why the present methods work so well in practice’, Tellgren says.
Three gatherings throughout the year
This research funding opportunity was established to help researchers grow their professional networks and create a foundation for collaboration at a critical point during their careers.
A Young CAS Fellow receives a grant of up to NOK 200,000 for one year. The grant is intended to fund the development of research projects, network building, and three gatherings during one academic year.
The programme is a collaboration between CAS and the Young Academy of Norway.