Tess Knighton

Tess Knighton

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


Tess Knighton holds MA and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge and is an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. From May 2011 she has been an ICREA Research Professor, until May 2020 at the Institució Milà i Fontanals (CSIC), and subsequently at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She held a Marie Curie Foundation grant (2012-6) for a research project on the urban musics of early modern Barcelona, and from September 2020 holds a Spanish government grant (I+D) on the contribution of confraternities and guilds to the urban soundscape in the Iberian Peninsula, 1400-1700. Her research interests embrace music and culture in the Iberian world from the 15th to the 17th centuries, and she has published widely in this field. She is Series Editor of the Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music series for The Boydell Press, and forms part of several editorial and advisory committees in Spain and in Europe.

Research interests

My research focuses on various interrelated aspects of music in the Iberian world in the long 16th century: music and ceremony; music in the urban context, inlcuding perspectives of sensory and emotional hiustory; the impact of music printing on the diffusion of musical repertory; and music historiography. Analysis of music and ceremony focuses on public display as well as private devotions; placing music in the context of court ceremonial reveals patterns of self-identity and image-making. Study of the urban musical experience of different social groups highlights the relationship between music and the institutional complex and urban societal interaction. The impact of music printing on the diffusion and accessibility of music is studied through extant inventories to reveal how European editions were transmitted to the centres of the book trade and the extent of musical literacy. Received ideas of Renaissance Iberian music are challenged and historiographical filters analyzed.

Selected publications

- Knighton T 2020, review of Laurenz Lütteken, Music of the Renaissance. Imagination and Reality of a Cultural Practice (trans. James Steichen (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2019) 248p, in Review de Musicologie 106/1, pp. 220-224  

- Knighton T 2020, 'Música, ceremonia y espacio en el Jaén del Condestable Iranzo (m. 1473)', Boletín del Instituto de Estudios Giennenses, 221, pp.13-39.

- Knighton T & Skinner D (eds) 2020, Music and Instruments of the Middle Ages (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press).

Selected research activities

Several major international conferences were postponed from 2020 to 2021, although some took place on-line, and most of my publications scheduled for 2020 are still waiting to see the light of day, even where proofs are done and dusted. While being able to work at home, it is frustrating not to see research in print or even, as yet, in digital form. Archive research has been limited since the Covid lockdown in March, although I have been able to work in the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat for reduced hours and with restrictions on access to material. The award of a three-year MINECO I+D research grant entitled 'The Contribution of Confraternities and Guilds to the Urban Soundscape,1400-1700'  definitely helped to disperse the prevailing gloom, and meetings with the members of the research group - and  those of other advisory and editorial boards through Zoom or equivalent have been productive and, it must be said, are easier to organise without travel. The reduction in time and energy resulting from not having to travel to conferences and seminars enabled the relatively rapid editing of a collection of essays on medieval music dedicated to one of the major leaders in the field over the last 40 years: Christopher Page.