L’Homme chrétien armé: The Christian Armed Man
This first-place winner was a beautiful, scholarly, and richly rewarding investigation into the L’Homme armé masses beginning in 1450, the L’Homme armé song itself, and by extension a beautiful meditation on the relationship of secular culture to sacred music. Exceedingly well-researched, this paper offered twelve bibliographic sources in the context of 42 footnotes of citation and clarification. This paper was a revelation, a deep meditation, and a profound joy to read. The author carried their reader through the research, the texts, and the impacts in a stunningly clear, comprehensible, and beautiful way, employing a seemingly natural writing style that is among the highest this judge has seen in undergraduate work. The selection of source material, the careful balancing of multiple authors, the synthesis of their arguments into one narrative through-line, and all in as rich and clear a “voice” as seems possible, this paper reveals the author to be not just a master of musical history investigation, but a masterful composer of voices from the past into a profoundly present-focused meditation on what the implications are or could be for contemporary Christian worship. The scholarly research in this paper was wonderful, but the writing itself was exquisite: from the introduction of a theoretical soldier walking out of a bar into a historically accurate encounter with his culture’s acoustic mass, the paper both informs, reveals, and delights the reader along the way with a refrain and a melody that make the reader wish the song would go on and on. Despite being the investigation of a medieval music mystery, the paper brilliantly deploys contemporary references to Taylor Swift, Bob Dylan and a Christian worship lyric that compared Jesus to “a sloppy, wet kiss” to create the astonishing double effect of delighting the reader as it informs them. The scriptural pattern of Proverbs suggests that “more knowledge creates more sorrow”; this paper manages to make you wiser while also making you happier, and does so in a manner that seems both deft and effortless. The author is encouraged to keep researching, writing, and publishing whenever and wherever possible, for the finished product is remarkably refreshing, illuminating, and deserving of a wider audience.