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Music and Ideas in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Music and Ideas in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

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    Music and Ideas in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
    Book Description:

    During the great upheavals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Europe was divided over ideas about religion, science, education, economy, and government. The Church fought the Reformation, scholars formed into competing universities, and trade became increasingly internationalized. Musicians and musicologists of the time could not ignore the contending factions, and the general ferment of ideas ran parallel to thinking about music, as well as strongly affecting its practical composition and performance. As a result, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries present a special opportunity to study the relationship between music and ideas. _x000B__x000B_Music and Ideas in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries shows Claude V. Palisca--one of the preeminent musicologists of our time--at the height of his powers, discussing the relationships between musical style and intellectual history, the influence of humanism on the revival of music theory, the competing notions of style, and the intermingled effects of rhetoric, poetics, religion, and science. Palisca's discussions demonstrate how this period's musical thought was penetrated by many aspects of culture, including religious reform, secularization, the emergence of vernacular literature, documentary historiography, the rise and decline of neo-Platonism, Aristotelian poetics, the scientific movement, the revival of rhetoric, and openness to emotional experience. This summation of Palisca's life work was nearly finished in 2001, when Palisca died. It was brought to completion by Thomas J. Mathiesen.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09207-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Thomas J. Mathiesen

    Claude v. palisca’s life as a scholar was dominated to a great extent by his view of music as a branch of knowledge. For him, music was much more than an art, a collection of compositions created across the centuries to serve various purposes, ranging from the enhancement of mundane social functions to the most profound expression of the individual spirit. He was, of course, deeply involved with music as an art and commanded a vast knowledge of repertoire, which was displayed in his many specialized articles, his popular textbook on Baroque music, and above all his multiple editions of...

  2. I Musical Change and Intellectual History
    (pp. 1-12)

    Currents in musical practice flow—from time to time—with the tide of intellectual history, but the ways in which peoplethinkabout music, as distinct from the musicalpracticeof composing and performing, correspond more closely with general intellectual trends. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries present a special opportunity to study the relationship between music and ideas because it was a time when the general ferment of ideas and thinking about music often ran parallel, strongly affecting as well the practical composition and performance of music.

    Aspects of this period’s culture familiar to historians touched music deeply: humanism, religious...

  3. II Universal Harmony
    (pp. 13-28)

    How music relates to the world at large has perennially fascinated philosophers and musicians. Is music a reflection of a universal harmony ruled by numbers? Is its appreciation a step in the ascent to the ultimate truth, a knowledge of God? Is it a wordless language that speaks the ineffable, a natural medium to express emotion, or an agent for moving the affections? Is it an imitation of nature, as is said of some other arts? Or is it simply a gift to humankind for our delight and to relieve us of boredom and care? Music was each of these...

  4. III Sense over Reason: The Anti-Theoretical Reaction
    (pp. 29-48)

    So writes Nicola Vicentino (1511–ca. 1576) in the first paragraph of his iconoclastic treatiseL’Antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica, published in 1555. If the ancient Greek writers disagreed so vehemently, he implies, how could a modern composer learn anything practical from them? Vicentino thereby excuses the brevity of his treatise’s preliminary “Book on Music Theory” in which he dismisses much of Boethius’sDe institutione musica, the source of his knowledge of the Greek musical debates, as “of no value whatsoever in our practice.”² The treatise’s following five long “books” are devoted to that practice.

    With this approach, Vicentino...

  5. IV The Poetics of Musical Composition
    (pp. 49-70)

    Musica practicawas a broad category in the education of a Renaissance musician. It usually began with instruction in singing, reading musical notation, and playing an instrument. Technical matters such as intervals, scales, modes, and organization of musical time were taught from a practical standpoint. These were applied to instruction in improvisation, which might be impromptu embellishment of written music, invention of counterpoints to a written melody, making up melodies and harmonies on a keyboard or lute over a given bass, devising spontaneous variations on a tune or air, creating an accompaniment to a song, or improvising a prelude or...

  6. V Humanist Revival of the Modes and Genera
    (pp. 71-98)

    It remains a question whether the church modes functioned in secular polyphonic music as they did in the sacred sphere. In the late Middle Ages, composers began to write sacred motets for three and more voices on plainchant melodies assigned to the tenor part, which was the backbone of the composition. Mass movements and eventually entire Masses were similarly tied to plainsong. Since these plainsong melodies were identified with particular modes, the modality of the chant lent some of its characteristics to the polyphonic composition. There was less reason for composers to observe the conventions of the modes in secular...

  7. VI Humanist Reaction to Polyphony
    (pp. 99-106)

    At the very time when leading practitioners and theorists claimed that polyphonic music had achieved perfection, critics were assailing it as ineffectual, incomprehensible, and unsuitable for places of worship. Some wanted a return to plainchant; others yearned for a music that could awaken devout thoughts and feelings, stirring congregations to spiritual fervor. These and other viewpoints clashed in the Council of Trent, which was convened by Pope Paul III to meet the challenge of the Protestant Reformation and reform the Roman Catholic Church from within. The Council and its commissions met sporadically from 1545 to 1563 and considered among other...

  8. VII Theories of Monody and Dramatic Music
    (pp. 107-130)

    We tend to attribute musical change to composers: they create the scores performers transmute into living sound. But for the momentous shift in musical practice and style around 1600, most of the credit must go to those musicians who were primarily performers. Inspired by the writings of the humanists and musical amateurs, they experimented with new forms, styles, and genres, communicating with the public more directly than the professional composers, who were mainly trained and employed in religious institutions. In close touch with those they entertained, performers responded to pleas for a simpler and more stirring music. They engaged this...

  9. VIII Music and Scientific Discovery
    (pp. 131-160)

    The concerns of the practicing musician intersected those of the acoustic scientist in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at three particular points in a musician’s work: when building an instrument, when tuning, and when inquiring into the effect of sounds and music on the hearing and feelings of listeners. As a result, musicians and composers took more than a purely theoretical interest in the science of sound. Likewise, problems arising in the practice of music stimulated some of the earliest investigations and experiments in the mechanics and physics of sound.

    Scientists and philosophers for centuries had been asking questions that...

  10. IX Ancient and Modern: Styles and Genres
    (pp. 161-178)

    While scientists and music theorists debated the limits of consonance, composers ventured beyond its domain into dissonance to express the emotional texts favored in the second half of the sixteenth century. Cipriano de Rore, Giaches de Wert, Luca Marenzio, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, and Claudio Monteverdi, to name the most famous, knew and respected the rules of counterpoint; they also understood the expressive value of breaking them.¹ They defied them not to be iconoclastic but to wrest from the harmonic surprises the forceful expression demanded by the poetic texts they set in their polyphonic madrigals.

    The musical crisis brewing in the composition...

  11. X Theories of the Affections and Imitation
    (pp. 179-202)

    Beginning around the middle of the sixteenth century, composers increasingly bent their creative efforts towards moving the affections. Nicola Vicentino was an early champion of this goal. In setting secular poetry, he wrote in hisL’Antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica(1555): “the composer’s sole obligation is to animate the words and, with harmony, to represent their passions—now harsh, now sweet, now cheerful, now sad—in accordance with their subject matter.”¹ In the 1530s and 1540s, Jacob Arcadelt and Adrian Willaert had already demonstrated this skill in their madrigals. When Francesco dalla Viola, himself a composer, publishedMusica nova...

  12. XI Music and Rhetoric
    (pp. 203-232)

    Growing sensitivity to meanings and sentiments in texts led musicians to look to poetry and oratory as models of communication. Poetry moves listeners and readers through images, rhythm, and sound, as well as through the sense of its verses. Oratory draws from an arsenal of devices and ornaments to move an audience while persuading it through logical arguments. A composer can fashion images with melody, harmony, and rhythm, as a poet does with words and their sound and rhythm, but conveying literal meaning is largely beyond music’s power. Like a poet or orator, a composer invents ideas and elaborates or...

  13. Appendix of Principal Treatises Cited
    (pp. 233-242)