Harvard University Department of Music



Main Publications

<music, authorship & the book>

<Music_discipline and arms>


CLICK HERE: Full Listing of Publications, Productions, Discography

Recent and Upcoming Blog Posts, Podcasts, Events, and Talks

29 July
“The Paradox of Progress,”
Conversations with Kate Lecture Series at the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, Sonoma, CA

28-29 July
Beethoven Quintet for Winds and Piano and Schubert Octet, Valley of the Moon Music Festival, Sonoma, CA

6 July
Interview by Lou Francher, San Francisco Classical Voice. Interview can be found here.

28 June
Keynote lecture: “Music Printing and Mobility in Early Modern Europe” delivered at the conference “Lasting Impressions: Music and Material Cultures of Print in Early Modern Europe,” Univesität Salzburg

9 June
“Romanticism Now: 19th-c Music on Period Instruments” Berkeley Festival of Early Music and Exhibition, Berkeley

16 April
“The Chansons Turquesques of Charles Tessier (Paris, 1604),” the Alexander Lecture Series, Stanford University

30 March
“Race, Empire, and Global Music History: Forms of Evidence,” response paper presented at the conference Race, Empire, and Global Music History, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA23

23 March
“French Chansons in Cinquecento Italy” presented at the roundtable on Genre Bending in Italian Performative Culture, Renaissance Society of America, New Orleans

Kate van Orden
Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of Music
Historical Musicology
Music Building 204S
Office Hours

Research Interests
My research favors the ephemeral and works to recover histories only marginally legible in the documents of high culture. My first book, Music, Discipline, and Arms in Early Modern France (Chicago, 2005), studied French military nobles and the regulating force of music in their culture of physical action. It considered everything from fencing and pyrrhic dance to equestrian ballet and won the Lewis Lockwood Award from the American Musicological Society.
My most enduring scholarly interest is the French chanson. Easy to sing and delightful to hear, it was the popular music of its time. From the outset of music printing, the chanson was a mainstay of the market for polyphony and arguably the first musical genre to be conditioned by the cultures of print. In a series of publications that began with an edited collection on Music and the Cultures of Print (New York, 2000) and is rounding out with two books, I locate chansons amid the textual worlds that were transformed by printing. Materialities: Books, Readers, and the Chanson in 16th-c. Europe (Oxford and New York, 2015) tracks printed songs into the musical lives of amateurs, bibliophiles, professional musicians, educators, and school children. Turning around two axes—collecting and reading—it shows how music printers pitched chansons at an expanding consumer base and recovers from the sources a range of reading practices tied to various levels of literacy. Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2013), recounts the rise of the composer as author during the sixteenth century. At the same time, it argues that the market for lighter, less authoritative genres like the chanson undercut any one-to-one correlation between being printed and compositional fame.

My new research project, “Songs in Unexpected Places,” tracks the French chanson into Cinquecento Italy as an opportunity to theorize the musical performance of ethnicity in early modern Europe by concentrating on migratory contexts like that of Rome, where cross-cultural encounters threw identities into high contrast.

I see classes as opportunities to experience music together and confront unfamiliar values in real time. For instance, my general education course on California in the 60s works from the precept that listening to “feel-good” surf rock, “mind-blowing” acid rock, and “zen” minimalism exposes us to a series of countercultural attitudes prevalent among the Woodstock generation. For fans of the Renaissance, I teach a course in which students learn to play the viola da gamba using early lesson books and partbooks. Here contact with a historical instrument, the physical behaviors it imposes on the player, and the community built by consort playing create a uniquely early modern experience in the classroom. If you’re currently in one of my classes, just remember that my favorite course is inevitably the one I’m teaching at the moment.

After receiving a Ph.D. in Music History and Theory at the University of Chicago in 1996, I held fellowships at the Warburg Institute in London and the Columbia Society of Fellows in the Humanities. I taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1997 until I joined the Harvard faculty in 2013. In 2016, I was named a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow in recognition of my recent book, Materialities.

My work has been supported by two AAUW Fellowships (1994, 1999), two President’s Fellowships from the University of California (1999, 2006), and a fellowship from the ACLS (2010). From 2003-2005, I held a Studium Fellowship from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, which allowed me to work at the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours, France, and in 2017-18, I was a Marta Sutton Weeks Senior Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. National awards include the Paul Pisk Prize, the Noah Greenberg Award, and the Lewis Lockwood Award, all from the American Musicological Society, as well as the Nancy Lyman Roelker Prize from the Sixteenth Century Society for my article titled “Female Complaintes” (Renaissance Quarterly, 2001) and the Richard S. Hill Award from the Music Library Association for my discovery, with Alfredo Vitolo, of a large Renaissance music library, the Pagliarini Collection (Early Music History 2010). International distinctions include the bi-annual book award from the Society for Renaissance Studies for Materialities (2015) and the Medal of Honor from the city of Tours, France (2016), for outstanding contributions to our understanding of the Renaissance.

I currently serve on the editorial boards of Early Music History, Saggiatore Musicale, Oxford Bibliographies, and the series The New Cultural History of Music; I was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Musicological Society from 2008 to 2010. My service to scholarly societies includes acting as Discipline Representative for Music for the Renaissance Society of America (2012-14) and serving on the Board of Directors of the American Musicological Society (2012-14).

As a performer, I specialize in historical performance on the bassoon. After studies in Amsterdam and The Hague, I began my career performing and recording with early music ensembles such as Les Arts Florissants (dir. William Christie), Collegium Vocale Ghent (dir. Philippe Herreweghe), Anima Aeterna (dir. Jos van Immerseele), and La Petite Bande (dir. Sigiswald Kuijken). Since returning to America, I have performed primarily with Tafelmusik (dir. Jeanne Lamon), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (dir. Nicholas McGegan), and American Bach Soloists (dir. Jeffrey Thomas), and have appeared at the London Proms, Utrecht Festival, Salzburg Festival, and in concerts across the North America and Europe. You can hear me on Sony, Virgin Classics, Glossa, Teldec, and Harmonia Mundi and as a soloist on a recording of Michel Corrette’s Les délices de la solitude on ATMA Baroque (2006) with Les Voix Humaines, Montreal.

In my research, the exchanges between history and performance go both ways—not only can history inform performance, performance inflects my writing of history. The most spectacular intersection of these ways of knowing came during my research for Music, Discipline, and Arms, which enabled me to reconstruct the famous equestrian ballet performed for the engagement of Louis XIII in 1612. With an army of musicians, costumers, horses, and riders, we gave the work its modern premiere at the Berkeley Festival of Early Music in 2000 to the acclaim of the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. You can read an interview about the ballet HERE, in the Los Angeles Times,” and you can watch a brief video here [video clip]. It was revived in 2002.