Session 16 (Themed Papers): Musical exchanges across the corrupting sea I

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 11.00-13.00, Room 219 | Chair: Luisa Nardini (University of Texas at Austin)

Session Abstract

In the decades following Fernand Braudel’s La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II (1949), the Mediterranean slowly but increasingly gained a central role in historiographical discourse. Historians and anthropologists have long debated whether and how the Mediterranean can be considered a coherent cultural area, encompassing different civilizations, religions, economies, etc. Finally, in 2000, Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell published their monumental monograph The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History and suggested a new model for understanding the Mediterranean as a collection of interdependent microecologies contaminated by a network of mutual interactions.

In the musicological field the Mediterranean has been considered mostly by ethnomusicology and world music studies, whereas historical musicologists have focused mainly on local case studies (particularly Italy and Spain). Only recently, scholars, such as Bohlman, have emphasised the importance of interactions, relationships, and contaminations between different cultures sharing the same sea.

This session investigates the Mediterranean as a geographical and cultural space for musical exchanges, showing how different cultures interacted in the Medieval and Early Modern period, and enduring traditions were generated, which eventually came to affect our contemporary image of this region.

Introduction. Historical musicology and the Mediterranean | Alexandros Maria Hatzikiriakos (I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies)

Too vast to be understood, too variegated to be clearly explained, the Mediterranean is a slippery concept. In the ongoing historiographical and anthropological debate, some scholars deny its existence as a conceivable culture area, others, on the contrary, claim that is this very inconsistency that defines the identity of the Mediterranean space. Despite its importance, historical musicology has seldom participated to this debate. As an introduction to this panel, my paper will investigate how to rethink the idea of Mediterranean as a useful tool for Medieval and early modern historical musicology, also discussing the epistemological, cultural, and political reflections engendered by a Mediterranean turn in musicology.

Franciscan music across the Mediterranean | Lucia Marchi (De Paul University)

The missionary commitment of the early Franciscans generated a number of musical exchanges across the Mediterranean in the 13th and 14th centuries. These exchanges began with the trip of their founder to the Holy Land, which inspired some musical moments in Francis’ later biography. The cult of the five proto-martyrs of Morocco (1220) in Portugal had significant implications. The lauda Onne homo ad alta voce invokes the fragment of the Cross brought to Cortona by brother Elia, after his Syrian sojourn, in a form that possibly derives from the Arab-Andalusian zajal through the mediation of Jewish medieval poetry.

The power to measure. Relocating the origins of mensural notation in Arabian sources | Giulia Accornero (Harvard University)

In his Historical Facts for the Arabian Musical Influence (1930), George Farmer stated that, in a forthcoming (but never published) book devoted to mensural music, he would show the influence of Arabian music theory in the Western world at the dawn of musica mensuralis. In this paper I examine the significance of Farmer’s historiographical interest, and the support his arguments received from scholars and performers from the Arabic-speaking world. This leads to a reconsideration of the role musical notation played in both the construction of Western art music and the politics of ethnic discrimination in early 20th-century colonial North Africa.

Pasolini’s late films and the musical construction of the Mediterranean | Giuliano Danieli (King’s College, London)

Pasolini’s Mediterranean (or pan-South) is an anti-hegemonic mental space where the peripheries of the worlds converge, a transnational and transhistorical arena where subaltern cultures are contaminated, de-contextualised and re- semanticised. I explore this idea as emerging in Pasolini’s mythological and medievalist films, set in places like Naples and Africa. In particular, I show how folk and early music are crucial in Pasolini’s construction of the Mediterranean. These repertoires feature prominently in Edipo, Medea and Decameron. By applying postcolonial and Marxist theories to audiovisual analysis, I navigate Pasolini’s discourse on folk-early music and the pan-South and I examine the ambivalence of Pasolini’s ‘mediterranean’ soundtracks. These are post-modern musical pastiches celebrating fluid cultural exchanges among “meridional” subalterns by mixing music from different traditions; nevertheless, these pastiches are often informed by Orientalist stereotypes, schizophonic gestures and problematic power relations, from which issues of commodification and cultural grey-out arise.