Category Archives: Renaissance

Pykini’s parrot

A lively musical culture existed in the second half of the 14th century at the court of Brabant during the reign of Wenceslas I, Duke of Luxembourg (above, right). This abundant musical activity makes it likely that a member of the court chapel, Nicolas de Picquigny, was Pykini, the composer of the much-admired four-voice virelai Plasanche or tost.

The text of Plasanche or tost mentions that the audience will listen with pleasure to the parrot (le papegay). Although parrots are often mentioned in such texts to evoke springtime, and some scholars have guessed that here it is a punning reference to a Pope, archival sources show that Wenceslas had chosen the parrot as his symbol, having had its image embroidered on numerous furnishings with the coats of arms of Brabant and Luxembourg.

The bird was a very appropriate mascot for this duke and poet, who welcomed poets from so many different linguistic regions to his court and was himself fluent in multiple languages. The virelai’s listeners would have had no doubt about the identity of this particular parrot.

This according to “Pykini’s parrot: Music at the court of Brabant” by Remco Sleiderink, an essay included in Musicology and archival research/Musicologie et recherches en archives/Musicologie en archiefonderzoek (Bruxelles/Brussel: Bibliotheca Regia Belgica, 1994, pp. 358–91).

Below, Plasanche or tost performed by The Early Music Consort of London.

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The Vatican’s Top 10

The Vatican has recommended ten pop and rock albums as perfect listening for being marooned on a desert island. The recordings serve as an alternative to the mediocre songs featured at Italian pop festivals and on the radio.

The Top 10 list includes the Beatles’ Revolver, David Crosby’s If I could only remember my name, Pink Floyd’s The dark side of the moon, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Donald Fagan’s The nightfly, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Paul Simon’s Graceland, U2’s Achtung baby, Oasis’s (What’s the story) Morning glory?, and Carlos Santana’s Supernatural. Bob Dylan is excluded from the list because he spawned generations of singer-songwriters who have harshly tested the ears and the patience of listeners with their tormented stories.

This according to “Dieci dischi per sopravvivere ai festival: Prontuario semiserio di resistenza musicale” by Guiseppe Fiorentino and Gaetano Vallini (L’Osservatore Romano CXLVIII/37 [14 February 2010]).

Below, the concluding track from David Crosby’s album.

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Monteverdi and classic philosophy

Claudio Monteverdi’s seconda pratica was a return to basic verbal expression (listening, recognition, and revelation from emotional vocal accentuation).

Monteverdi’s art agrees with poetic expression as defined in Plato’s three forms expounded in the third book of Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. For Monteverdi, musical language is music and the synthesis of text, harmony, and rhythm; the phonetic exposition of continuous thought becomes poetry.

This according to Preparazione alla interpretazione della poiesis Monteverdiana by Nella Anfuso and Annibale Gianuario (Firenze: Centro Studi e Rinascimento Musicale, 1971).

Today is the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s baptism! Above, a portrait from ca. 1630 by Bernardo Strozzi; below, the madrigal Cruda Amarilli, an especially clear example of Monteverdi’s seconda pratica.

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Missa Sancta Trinitas

missa-sancta-trinitas

In 2016 the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance issued Missa Sancta Trinitas (4 vv). (B-Tc A58), a critical edition of the anonymous Missa Sancta Trinitas—which survives only in the manuscript B-Tc A58, housed at the Archives et Bibliothèque de la Cathédrale de Tournai—together with a critical edition of the four-part motet Sancta Trinitas.

The edition, part of CESR’s Le corpus des messes anonymes series, was prepared by Anne-Emmanuelle Ceulemans.

Above (click to enlarge) and below, the Sanctus from the Mass.

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Instrumentarium de Chartres

chartres-cathedral-rose-window

Built during the 12th and 13th centuries, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Among the cathedral’s precious treasures dating from the 12th through the 16th centuries are the statues of the Portail Royal and its three stained glass windows, the largest collection of stained glass from the 13th century, and several hundred 16th-century bas-reliefs in the choir. These unique elements contain 312 catalogued depictions of 26 musical instruments representing a veritable history of French instrument making from the High Middle Ages through the Renaissance.

Preliminary research led to a 1966 proposal by Julien Skowron to reconstruct some of the instruments depicted in the cathedral’s visual arts; six instruments were built, and in 1977 the Instrumentarium de Chartres was born. Today the collection of some 40 string, wind, and percussion instruments comprises the most complete and most played instrumentarium in Europe; it also serves an important pedagogical function for the curious of all ages who enjoy hands-on experience with the collection. The success of the project attests to the fine medieval and Renaissance artistry that makes modern reconstruction of this rich historical collection possible.

Instrumentarium de Chartres is an open-access online presentation of this collection, presenting images of the original artworks and the newly reconstructed instruments, and many other resources for scholars, performers, and the general public.

Above, a rose window from the cathedral that includes several images of instruments (click to enlarge); below, a brief demonstration of some of the instruments.

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Charles Butler and “The bees’ madrigal”

Butler's bees

Charles Butler’s The feminine monarchy, or, The history of bees first appeared as a small duodecimo in 1609; it was reprinted, with considerable additions and alterations, as a quarto in 1627, and again in 1634. Though it was intended merely as a bee-keeper’s manual, its beauty and insight render it worthy of a place among the renowned works of nineteenth-century poetry.

While in most matters the work is extraordinarily accurate, it becomes questionable when Butler turns to music. His account of a certain point in the hive’s life cycle might be thought to credit bees with the powers of a masterful composer. Butler’s depiction of this event—which he refers to as “the bees’ madrigal”—appears to present a carefully constructed four-part chorus.

This according to “Charles Butler and the music of the bees” by Gerald R. Hayes (The musical times LXVI/988 [1 June 1925] pp. 512–515). This issue of The musical times, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Above, some of Butler’s notations from the later, enlarged edition (note that verso and recto considerations result in part of the notation appearing upside-down). Below, a performance of the work.

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Iberian early music studies

 

Iberian Early Music Studies

In 2015 Reichenberger launched the series Iberian early music studies with New perspectives on early music in Spain, edited by Tess Knighton and Emilio Ros-Fábregas.

The volume brings together research by scholars—both well established and of younger generations, both Spanish and from all over the world—that offers new perspectives on many aspects of early musical culture on the Peninsula, whether regarding the Ars Nova or the Counter-Reformation, music historiography or analysis, early improvisation techniques or imitatio in Renaissance polyphony, or questions of performance practice or ambassadorial musical networks, making an important contribution to establishing and sustaining a valuable discourse with the broader European context.

Below, a selection from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the subject of one of the articles in the inaugural issue.

 

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Madrigals and bees

Giovanna_Garzoni_Still_Life_with_Bowl_of_Citrons

 

Many are the creatures of the air, water, and earth that inhabit the verses of Italian madrigals, sonnets, and canzoni.

The poets of the 16th and 17th centuries—Torquato Tasso, Giovanni Battista Guarini, and Giambattista Marino, to mention the most famous—found an erotic metaphor in the bee, which is both sweet and stinging.

There are also the little parasites that annoy and explore the desired body. All the animal species are represented in this repertoire: insects, fish and crustaceans, snakes, small mammals and ferocious predators, singing birds, and fantastical beasts.

This according to “Hic sunt leones: Animali e musica nella Sicilia nel Cinque e Seicento” by Giuseppe Collisani, an article included in Res facta nova: Teksty o muzyce współczesnej VI/15 [2003] pp. 51–68).

Above, a 17th-century Italian bee in a painting by Giovanna Garzoni; below, Giovanni de Macque’s Ne i vostri dolci baci; the work’s text includes the bee metaphor.

 

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L’amorosa caccia

L'amorosa caccia

In 2014 Ut Orpheus issued L’amorosa caccia: 24 five-voice madrigals by Mantuan masters (Venezia 1588/1592), edited by Stefania Lanzo.

All of the Mantuan composers represented in this new edition were distinguished professional people, working within the church, at court, or in the Basilica Palatina di Santa Barbara, and music lovers of noble birth from the area who were connected to the Accademia degli Invaghiti.

The realization in score of the madrigals has made it possible to bring to light this collection, establishing its musical value and proving the remarkable mastery of madrigal writing of these 24 musicians and offering the opportunity to highlight each one’s different skill as a composer.

Below, a sequence of Italian madrigals.

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The Henry VIII book

Henry VIII Book

In 2014 DIAMM facsimiles published The Henry VIII book, a full-color facsimile of GB-Lbl MS Add.31922, which contains many works by Henry VIII of England.

This new edition presents over 260 full-color page images plus an 85-page introduction by David Fallows, who examines the book with fresh eyes and shares considerable new information about the content and context of this manuscript.

Below, two of King Henry’s works for recorders.

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