Sasha Zamler-Carhart  bio • composition • contact 
Traditional and Non-Western Music

Sasha finds inspiration in the study of traditional folk music, both Western and non-Western. From his original training as a socio-linguist he has retained the methodology of fieldwork, data collection and analytic observation, but changed the purpose so that the output is creative rather than descriptive.

Thematic areas of interest include oral polyphony, text-setting strategies, ornamentation and musical rhetoric, as well as parallels between non-Western musical practices and historical Western practices.

Geographic areas of interest include France and Italy, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Polynesia and Africa. Though he has traveled to all those areas to hear traditional music, his own field research has concentrated largely on Africa.

His first fieldwork focused on the urban culture of the Bamiléké city-states of Western Cameroon and the social setting of musical practice (2003). This was the inspiration for the madrigal comedy The Death of the King of Bandjoun (2006).

The second fieldwork (2004) focused on the complex polyrhythms of the Baka Pygmies of Northeastern Gabon, a practice reminiscent of 15th-century isorhythmic compositions. This idea found its way into I Fioretti in Musica (2010).

The third fieldwork (2006) focused on the music of the Antandroy people of Southern Madagascar, which is remarkable for its non-metric polyphony, long parallel dissonances and psalmodic character. This influenced the composition of Sponsus (2012).

Western Early Music

Sasha taught medieval music for five years at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague (Netherlands) and founded the Ascoli Ensemble, a vocal ensemble dedicated to the performance of rare 14th- and 15th-century music, especially fragmentary or newly discovered repertoires and music from the Low Countries.

In 2009 he reconstructed polyphony contained in a newly discovered 14th-century Italian manuscript (MS Ascoli Piceno Montefortino 142) and directed the first modern performance of the music. Listen to a reconstructed anonymous Salve Regina from the Ascoli fragments:

Read the corresponding article International Style and Medieval Italian Music: A Flemish Motet in the Ascoli Piceno/Montefortino Fragments, co-authored with musicologist Michael Scott Cuthbert (MIT).


Sasha taught Latin for musicians at the Royal Conservatoire for three years and is frequently consulted by musicologists and performers on questions of medieval Latin, including for CD and program booklets. His areas of interest include musical Latin of all periods, medieval Latin poetry, and correlations between Latin rhetorical style and musical style.

He is the author of several editions and critical translations of medieval Latin texts. A particular interest of his is Latin texts of the Ars Subtilior repertoire. Some editions are downloadable below (please note: reproduction prohibited except by permission.)

A translation of two Philippe de Vitry motets (Vos qui admiramini and Impudenter circumivi) and three motets of the Ars Subtilior period (Musicalis sciencia, Alma polis religio and Apollinis eclipsatur). (pdf)

A translation and critical edition of two motets by John Dunstable (Gaude virgo salutata and Preco preminencie). (pdf)

A translation of the Ars Subtilior motet Inter densas from Codex Chantilly. (pdf)

© 2018 Sasha Zamler-Carhart. All rights reserved.