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CHAPTER 20. POPULAR MUSIC IN FLORENCE, 1475-1540. THE LATE RENAISSANCE.

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CHAPTER 20

POPULAR MUSIC IN FLORENCE,

1475-1540


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THE LATE RENAISSANCE

  • Strictly speaking, the word renaissance means “rebirth,” but it also connotes “recovery” and “rediscovery. Nineteenth-century historians invented the term to describe the great flowering of intellectual and artistic activity that occurred first in Italy and then elsewhere in Europe during the years 1350-1600. What we in music call the “late Renaissance” occupied the years 1475-1600.


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CHARACTERISTICS OF LATE RENAISSANCE MUSIC

1. development of the expressive, indeed rhetorical, power of music, as a result of

a. new interest in the text shown by the humanists

b. desire to intensify the meaning of the text through music generally

2. growing sense that music might not only be for religious solace and salvation but also for personal enrichment and entertainment

3. invention of music printing, which allowed for the dissemination of music to a much wider segment of the population

4. shift in the perception of music as a discipline among the sciences to one among the fine arts

5. growing perception of the composer as a special sort of human being—an artist—one worthy of special honors and financial rewards


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ART MUSIC AND POPULAR MUSIC

  • Historians dub the fifteenth century in Italy the quattrocento (Italian for what we call “the 1400s”). Much of the learned polyphony (Masses, motets, and chansons)—what we might call “high art music”-- written in Italy during the quattrocento was composed by northerners, many from the Burgundian lands. Native Italians, however, cultivated musical forms and styles that approximated what we might call “popular music.” Much of this music was not written down in complicated, learned notation, but improvised on spot according to long-standing oral traditions.


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THE CARNIVAL SONG

  • In Florence during carnival season (immediately before Lent) masked groups of men and boys would go through the streets singing a type of song appropriate for these revels, specifically called a carnival song (canto carnascialesco). Often the text of the carnival song was full of sexually explicit references. Once such song is the Canto de’ profumieri (Song of the Perfume Sellers), the text of which is by Lorenzo de’ Medici (the Magnificent) who controlled Florence from 1469 until his death in 1492.


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The beginning of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Canto de’ profumieri

Typical of the carnival song, the music is homorhythmic and thus homophonic. The chords are almost all what we would call “root position” triads, likely a clue that this piece was originally an improvised bit of street singing that only later came to be preserved in written notation.


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THE LAUDA

  • The secular carnival song had its sacred counterpart in the lauda. A lauda (Italian for “a song of praise”; pl., laude) was a simple, popular sacred song written, not in church Latin, but in the local dialect of Italian. The lauda was usually sung by members of a confraternity, a society of laymen devoted to one or another aspect of Christian faith.


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SAVONAROLA

  • The most famous, or infamous, writer of laude was Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498). Savonarola was a fanatical Dominican monk who, by 1497, had gained control of the government of Florence. Savonarola was a religious purist who insisted that all objects of worldly pleasure, including music books, musical instruments, cards, dice, chessboards perfumes, pictures, and the like, were rounded up and burned in what came to be called a bonfire of the vanities. Ultimately, after he lost control of the government, Savonarola himself was burned in a bonfire in central Florence.


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The beginning of Giesù sommo conforto with text by Girolamo Savonarola

Like the carnival song Sian galanti di Valenza, this lauda is comprised exclusively of what we would call root position triads, perhaps a suggestion that the music for it was originally improvised.


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Savonarola instituted the “bonfire of the vanities” to rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.


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THE FROTTOLA rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.

  • The term frottola (pl., frottole) was a catch-all word used to describe a polyphonic setting of a wide variety of strophic Italian poetry. The frottola began life as poetry sung to an improvised string accompaniment most often played on a lira da braccio. It flourished in Italy between the years 1470 and 1530. Like the carnival song and the lauda, the frottola usually consists of several stanzas of verse in Italian.


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An Italian rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.lyra da braccio of 1563 now preserved in Vermillion, South Dakota

It has five strings and two drone strings off the fingerboard. Instruments such as this were used to accompany singers of the frottola.


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JOSQUIN’S rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.EL GRILLO

  • Perhaps the best known of all frottole today is El grillo (The Cricket; c1500) by Josquin des Prez. It is primarily homophonic and comprised of root position triads. As to the meaning of the text, perhaps it alludes to sexual activity in the heat of summer, perhaps to the singer Carlo Grillo, or perhaps it is simply a fun song about a cricket.


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The beginning of Josquin des Prez’s frottola rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.El grillo consists entirely of root position chords


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The text of Josquin’s rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.El Grillo


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THE EARLY MADRIGAL IN FLORENCE rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.

  • In the sixteenth century the madrigal, like the frottola, was a catch-all term used to describe settings of Italin verse. The sixteenth-century madrigal is invariably through composed (new music for every line of text), rather than strophic—each line and phrase of text must receive its own special musical setting, something not possible with strophic form. The madrigal was generally chosen to be the recipient of a more lofty style of poetry than the frottola; indeed the madrigalists took their texts from the finest poets in the Italian language, their favorite being Francesco Petrarch.


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TEXT EXPRESSION IN THE MADRIGAL rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.

  • The chief aim of the madrigal was to express the poem as vividly and intensely as possible. Madrigal composers engaged in text painting in music; the music overtly sounds out that meaning of the text, almost word by word. Text painting (also called word painting) became all the rage with madrigal composers in Italy and later in England. Even today such musical clichés as sighs and dissonances for “harsh” words are called madrigalisms.


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JACQUES ARCADELT’S rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.IL BIANCO E DOLCE CIGNO

  • Jacques Archadelt (c1505-1568) composed the first important collection of madrigals when he published his Primo libro di madrigali d’ Archadelt (First Book of Madrigals by Arcadelt) in 1538 or 1539, which was reprinted more than fifty times by the end of the century. Opening Arcadelt’s Primo libro di madrigali is his Il bianco e dolce cigno (The gentle white swan). It has moments of text painting in music, among them the sudden chord shift on “weeping” (“piangendo”) and the seemingly endless imitation on “a thousand deaths a day” (“di mille morti il dì”).


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ORAZIO VECCHI’S rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.IL BIANCO E DOLCE CIGNO

  • Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605) paid homage to, or perhaps parodied, Arcadelt’s famous madrigal with his own setting of Il bianco e dolce cigno (1589). Here there are so many instances of word painting that the madrigal almost becomes an example of “cartoon music,” using an extreme expressive device to convey the meaning of nearly every poetic image.


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The beginning of Orazio Vecchi’s madrigal rid the city of objects of personal adornment and enjoyment. Eventually, the citizens of Florence rid themselves of Savonarola by subjecting him to the same fate. This anonymous painting shows the burning of Savonarola and two of his followers in 1498.Il bianco e dolce cigno, which exhibits a clear instance of text painting: on the word “cantando” the upper two voices break into florid singing.


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