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Sounding Objects

Sounding Objects: Musical Instruments, Poetry, and Art in Renaissance France

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 255
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  • Book Info
    Sounding Objects
    Book Description:

    Drawing on music treatises and archival sources as well as poems, paintings, and engravings, this unique study aims to enrich our understanding of the interplay of poetry, music, and art in this period, and highlights the importance of musical materiality to Renaissance culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2819-9
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-23)

    In French Renaissance poetry musical instruments operate self-reflexively, as metaphors for writing. The musician’s bow functions like the poet’s quill, and instruments are apt stand-ins for poetic styles and genres: the lute for amatory verse, the flute for pastoral, the trumpet for epic. As readers untutored in the daily sights and sounds of sixteenth-century music making, we easily forget that the efficacy of musical instruments as poetic images in this period derived from their physical characteristics, their acoustic properties, and the uses that players made of them, as well as from literary custom. Poets’ allusions to these material objects express...

  6. 1 Of Strings, Trumpets, and the Future of French Poetry
    (pp. 24-56)

    The soundscape of sixteenth-century French poetry is largely an indoor one that resonates with the gentle strumming of the lute, lyre, and guitar. These plucked-string instruments (especially the lute and lyre) receive more substantive attention from poets than any others, including the trumpet and flute. We find entire poems addressed to the lute, lyre, and guitar, but not to winds of any kind, nor even to bowed strings such as the violin and viol. Given this emphasis on plucked strings, we might be surprised that the harp is not favoured either. But in Renaissance France this instrument never regained the...

  7. 2 Musical Rivalries
    (pp. 57-93)

    When Panurge, in François Rabelais’sTiers livre(1546), expresses his preference for the ‘rustic bagpipe’ in comparison with ‘lutes, rebecs, and courtly violins,’ he displays his folly.¹ For as Sebastian Brant had already warned inThe Ship of Fools(1494),

    If bagpipes you enjoy and prize

    And harps and lutes you would despise,

    You ride a fool’s sled, are unwise.²

    More than any other musical instrument of the time the bagpipe was susceptible to crude implications, fodder for licentious and scatological humour.³ On one hand, the instrument’s shape calls to mind male genitalia. In an anonymous pastoral poem, ‘Une bergere...

  8. 3 Musical Instruments, Governance, and Oratory
    (pp. 94-130)

    We think of Renaissance emblems – with their titles, mottoes, epigrams, pictures, and commentaries – primarily as graphic entities, to be read and viewed.¹ When the topic of an emblem is music making, however, it acquires an auditory dimension as well: imagined or remembered sound. We find a sampling of music emblems in books produced during the first phase of French emblematic production, between 1530 and 1570, especially the cluster printed in Lyons circa 1550.² Many of the early music emblems meditate on the art of governance. In particular, they dispense advice related to the uses and abuses of eloquence among those...

  9. 4 The Anatomy of the Lute
    (pp. 131-161)

    Lashed to the mast of his ship, could Odysseus see the Sirens as well as hear them? And was the sight of their music making as enticing as the sound of it? Clément Marot, in an epigram titled ‘D’Anne,’ characterizes female musical performance as an activity that brings visual, along with auditory, pleasure to the spectator:

    Lors que je voy en ordre la Brunette,

    Jeune, en bon poinct, de la ligne des Dieux,

    Et que sa voix, ses doigtz, et l’Espinette

    Meinent ung bruyct doulx, et melodieux,

    J’ay du plaisir et d’oreilles, et d’yeulx.¹

    Marot’s choice of spinet playing as...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 162-168)

    The oldest musical instruments of European fabrication that have survived intact date from the sixteenth century. From the Middle Ages and early Renaissance there remain only very durable small instruments (whistles, bone flutes, rattles) and fragments of larger instruments.¹ Wind instruments decline quickly, because wooden bores warp and metal becomes brittle.² Stringed instruments mature with age, but they are also subject to alteration at human hands. The idea of preserving instruments in their original state was not a priority in early modern Europe, unless they were particularly exotic or ornate. Rather, it seemed advisable to rebuild instruments so that they...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 169-212)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-230)
  13. Index
    (pp. 231-241)