Saagar Asnani

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Saagar is a PhD student in Musicology and Medieval Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His research joins together the disparate fields of musicology and sociohistorical linguistics in an attempt to think historically about the multifarious relationships between music and language. Saagar’s work centers on vernacular musico-poetic traditions in medieval Europe, particularly in France, Occitania, Catalonia, and Italy, analyzing how people have created sounds – notably through language, poetry, and song – in order to reach a more holistic understanding of historical figures in their social, political, artistic, and linguistic contexts. Currently, Saagar is thinking about how dialectal variation in medieval France was exemplified within music manuscripts (via register, orthography, morphology, phonology, and lexis) thereby allowing scholars to more accurately construct histories of the French language(s); in addition, he hopes to demonstrate how linguistic knowledge can be applied to musical genres such as troubadour canso and vernacular polytextual motets in order to unearth the intertwined nexuses of identity, authorship, historicity, and language of lyrical works written in the High Middle Ages. Saagar has a deep fascination with material history and the chemistry of inks used in medieval book-making; in the past few years, he has given a number of demonstrations on how to make ink like a medieval scribe.

In addition to being a scholar of music, Saagar is also a dedicated violist, playing in the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and studying under Jonathan Vinocour of the SF Symphony. He also enjoys the creative work of writing program notes to accompany UCBSO orchestral performances. Since 2018, he has published numerous translations of poetry in UPenn-based DoubleSpeak Magazine, from both French and Korean into English. When not poring over a manuscript, Saagar finds joy in cooking for friends and family, learning new languages, and reading poetry.

Saagar earned his MA in Musicology from Berkeley in 2022, and his BA with honors and high distinction from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019, where he majored in Music, French, and Biology and minored in Chemistry and Global Medieval Studies. Saagar received the Clifton C. Cherpack Prize in French Studies in his graduating year and his honors thesis in music dealt with the usage of language as a compositional tool in the motets of Guillaume de Machaut.