Session 20 (Themed Papers): Musical exchanges across the corrupting sea II

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 14.30-16.30, Room 219 | Chair: Lucia Marchi (De Paul University)

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.

Atmeydanı. The stage of sound and power in 16th-century Ottoman court festivals | A. Tül Demirbaş (University of Bern)

Throughout history, the court festivals organized by the rulers have been the most important events of the period. These events were not only an element of entertainment and celebration but also demonstrations of the social, political, economic, and cultural characteristics of the period. This presentation will focus on the Ottoman court festivals held in Istanbul in the 16th century, which is considered the most brilliant period of the Ottoman Empire, and, through selected examples from written sources and miniatures, intend to examine how sound represents power in the most historical place of the city for centuries.

“They trample with filthy feet on the disciplines and liberal arts”: Music, cultural supremacy, and the image of the Turk | Nicolò Ferrari (University of Huddersfield)

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 stands as a watershed moment in European history. The trauma caused by this event determined a drastic change in the perception of the Turks, who started to be portrayed by humanists as new barbarians and destroyers of culture. In this paper I discuss how music was influenced by this cultural propaganda, examining the ways in which the Turks were depicted in musical works and treatises. This will shed a light on the role played by music in helping to craft a notion of European moral and cultural superiority.

“Ad laude, gloria et commemoracion del cessar della pestilentia”. The Corpus Christi procession in the Republic of Dubrovnik | Tin Cugelj (University of Bern)

The Republic of Dubrovnik observed the feast of Corpus Christi since the beginning of the fifteenth century, and as in other cities, it was a mixture of both religious and secular overtones. Moreover, in Dubrovnik, it was associated with the ending of the plague in 1437, and hence bore a memory of a traumatic event and resembled an expression of eternal gratitude to God. By analysing historical accounts of the feast, this paper will compare its auditory elements to those in other Mediterranean cities (such as Venice and Barcelona), contextualise the Dubrovnik procession with others, and answer questions concerning repertoire and performance practice.

Musical crossroads in the eastern Mediterranean: The polyphonic singing traditions of the Ionian Islands | Giuseppe Sanfratello (University of Catania)

This paper introduces the first systematic investigation of the polyphonic singing traditions orally transmitted in the Ionian Islands: Corfu, Zakynthos, and Kefalonia, that have played a crucial role throughout history thanks to their strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea.

Nowadays, the current state of the Ionian tradition is mainly represented by the Byzantine liturgical chant along with the urban musical practices (i.e. the ariettes of Kefalonia, the kantades spread over all three islands, and the arekies of Zakynthos), transmitted primarily by means of oral tradition, by historical sound recordings, musical manuscripts, and recent transcriptions. It seems that this musical ‘idiom’ was somewhat influenced by a ‘migrant’ musical tradition imported by Cretan refugees who fled their island in 1669. For this reason, it is described as “Cretan-Ionian” idiom. Therefore, this study sheds new light on the musical crossroads and mutual interactions and/or influences between the Ionian Islands and other different musical cultures sharing the same sea.