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Modal Subjectivities: Self-Fashioning in the Italian Madrigal

Susan McClary
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 386
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  • Book Info
    Modal Subjectivities
    Book Description:

    In this boldly innovative book, renowned musicologist Susan McClary presents an illuminating cultural interpretation of the Italian madrigal, one of the most influential repertories of the Renaissance. A genre that sought to produce simulations in sound of complex interiorities, the madrigal introduced into music a vast range of new signifying practices: musical representations of emotions, desire, gender stereotypes, reason, madness, tensions between mind and body, and much more. In doing so, it not only greatly expanded the expressive agendas of European music but also recorded certain assumptions of the time concerning selfhood, making it an invaluable resource for understanding the history of Western subjectivity.Modal Subjectivitiescovers the span of the sixteenth-century polyphonic madrigal, from its early manifestations in Philippe Verdelot's settings of Machiavelli in the 1520s through the tortured chromatic experiments of Carlo Gesualdo. Although McClary takes the lyrics into account in shaping her readings, she focuses particularly on the details of the music itself-the principal site of the genre's self-fashionings. In order to work effectively with musical meanings in this pretonal repertory, she also develops an analytical method that allows her to unravel the sophisticated allegorical structures characteristic of the madrigal. This pathbreaking book demonstrates how we might glean insights into a culture on the basis of its nonverbal artistic enterprises.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92915-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. ONE Introduction: The Cultural Work of the Madrigal
    (pp. 1-37)

    In this highly concentrated verse, the pastoral lover Mirtillo attempts to put into words the contradictory impulses he experiences in but a single moment. Multiple passions—longing, abjection, disbelief, anguish, resignation—assail him from within, finally to condense into the oxymoron of “un vivace morire.” Banished from Amarilli’s presence, Mirtillo hangs suspended between an agony so violent that it ought to bring about his immediate demise but that, because of its very intensity, prevents the release from suffering promised by death. In this brief speech, Giovanni Battista Guarini displays his celebrated epigrammatic style: an economy of means that sketches in...

  6. TWO Night and Deceit: Verdelot’s Machiavelli
    (pp. 38-56)

    It has become customary in musicology to situate the madrigal and music of the sixteenth century within a neoplatonic framework, with particular reliance on the Italian pythagorean Marsilio Ficino.¹ Within that framework, concepts undeniably crucial to Renaissance culture (for example,harmonia) dominate. As we will see in Chapter 8, these concepts rise explicitly to the surface in polemical debates over compositional propriety in the fin de siècle madrigal.

    But a wide range of intellectual contexts coexisted in the sixteenth century, some complementary but others mutually antagonistic. For instance, this same period also nurtured Baldassare Castiglione’sBook of the Courtier(1528),...

  7. THREE The Desiring Subject, or Subject to Desire: Arcadelt
    (pp. 57-77)

    What is desire? Does it emanate from that part of the individual recognized as “the Self”? Or does it spring up unbidden as an independent force and drive the Self in directions contrary to “the will”? And, given that these and still other possible understandings may occur at various times—or even simultaneously, as in Mirtillo’s battle-torn soul—within the boundaries a single human organism, what do they imply with respect to the definition of subjectivity?

    The twentieth century put such questions in the foreground of psychoanalytic theory, which trickled down quite rapidly into the arts and cultural criticism, even...

  8. FOUR Radical Inwardness: Willaert’s Musica nova
    (pp. 78-100)

    Scholars have long acknowledged Adrian Willaert’sMusica nova—a collection of motets and madrigals—as one of the great monuments of Western art. Indeed, musicians and connoisseurs of Willaert’s own time so regarded it, sometimes on the basis of hearsay alone, for it circulated privately for years before Willaert finally consented to its publication; in the meantime, Duke Alfonso of Ferrara resorted to espionage and bribery to have a copy delivered into his hands.¹ Zarlino based much of the modal theory in hisIstitutioni harmonicheon Willaert’s masterwork, and the examples he cites refer his readers toMusica nova.


  9. FIVE The Prisonhouse of Mode: Cipriano de Rore
    (pp. 101-121)

    For all the emotional violence simulated in theMusica novamadrigals, Willaert rarely deems it necessary to step outside the neomodal complex that constitutes his base of operation. Indeed, his success in inhabiting many of its possibilities inspired Zarlino’s theoretical explanations, for Zarlino wrote not in order to pass along a dead tradition but rather to celebrate, codify, and propagate for pedagogical purposes the extraordinary intellectual and artistic accomplishment of his own mentor. Willaert did not so much perpetuate a set of transhistorical procedures as reinvent and thoroughly enliven those ancient categories for the sake of a thoroughly contemporary expressive...

  10. SIX A Coney Island of the Madrigal: Wert and Marenzio
    (pp. 122-145)

    The madrigalists examined thus far—Verdelot, Arcadelt, Willaert, Rore—differ considerably from one another in their priorities, but they share a commitment to conceptual unity. That is, they read their chosen lyrics in ways that allow for a consistent point of view from beginning to end, and although they may respond at times to the particularities of succeeding lines of text, they subsume these responses to the exigencies of their larger allegorical schemata. In this they resemble their much later successors of the nineteenth century who attended to what aestheticians understood in terms of organic metaphors, though in other respects...

  11. SEVEN The Luxury of Solipsism: Gesualdo
    (pp. 146-169)

    In 1995 German cinematic auteur Werner Herzog releasedGesualdo: Death in Five Voices,a documentary of sorts on the composer’s life and music.¹ Rarely has an artist found so ideal a biographer: the filmmaker who gave usAguirre, the Wrath of God; Fitzcarraldo;andNosferatuhere adds yet another mad genius to his gallery of eccentrics. If he had opted for a narrative approach, Herzog would no doubt have cast someone like the late Klaus Kinski in the leading role. Instead, he interviews a wide range of unlikely people: the caretaker of Gesualdo’s ruined castle (truly worthy of a Dracula...

  12. EIGHT The Mirtillo/Amarilli Controversy: Monteverdi
    (pp. 170-193)

    I abandoned Guarini’s Mirtillo at the end of Chapter 1 as he bewailed his separation from his would-be beloved, Amarilli. Indeed, even when I dealt with his travail in the opening chapter, I treated it as the mere pretext for an introductory illustration of modal construction. At last, after six full chapters of neglect, I want to return to him now and examine his plaints—and Amarilli’s responses—in greater depth.

    Monteverdi happened to choose the principal moments in the quarrel between these two characters fromIl pastor fidoas texts for some of his most famous madrigals—madrigals that...

  13. NINE I modi
    (pp. 194-220)

    Music theorists today usually define mode strictly in terms of scale; we teach our undergraduates that Dorian, for instance, comprises the white keys on the piano stretching from D to D. Aeolian (or tonal minor), by contrast, stretches from A to A, with a half step between its fifth and sixth degrees, whereas Dorian has a whole-step interval in that position—difference more easily seen at a glance if Aeolian is transposed down a fifth to D (Fig. 28). Because present-day musicians distinguish between modes on the basis of such details, scalar purity seems crucial to identity. But even the...

  14. APPENDIX: Examples
    (pp. 221-368)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 369-374)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 375-375)