Session 5 (Free Papers): Music theory

Monday, 5 July 2021, 17.00-18.30, Room A224 | Chair: Adam Knight Gilbert (University of Southern California)

Absalon, Fili mi (1540) according to Christoph Bernhard’s poetics | Cassiano Barros (Santa Catarina State University)

Around 1657, the German musician Christoph Bernhard (1627-1692), in his Tractatus compositionis augmentatus, proposed that training in musical composition should be carried out by imitating works produced by composers publicly recognized as authorities in the genres of musical discourses practiced at that time, namely, Stylus gravis, luxuriante communi and luxuriante theatralis. To each of these styles, he relates a series of composers whose works could be easily accessible for study and, among them, he mentions Josquin des Prez (ca. 1450- 1521) as a model of the gravis style, also called old or ecclesiastical style. Considering that this style would serve as a basis for the learning and improvement of the two categories of the luxuriante style, the study of Josquin’s works could reveal the principles of the art to the beginning composers of the seventeenth century, and, as well, it shows us the possibilities of reading and relating this repertoire and this poetics in the 21st century. Although the treatise is later than the repertoire to which it refers, considering that Bernhard’s choice reflects the poetic tradition between the generations that separate one from the other, for which Josquin’s music remains as a model, the reading key proposed by Bernhard can help us understand this repertoire, if not for what gave it value in its own production time, at least for what of that value was preserved approximately a century and a half later. In this sense, this paper proposes to analyze, as a case study, the motet Absalon, Fili mi first attributed to Josquin des Prez in Kriesstein’s Selectissimae necnon familiarissimae cantiones… (1540), though its authenticity is disputed in modern scholarship, according to Christoph Bernhard’s poetics, to identify the characteristics and qualities that perpetuated the recognition of Josquin as an auctoritate and which served as a reference for composition training in Bernhard’s time. After all, returning to Bernhard’s idea that luxuriante styles were based on the gravis one, we can infer that even what, in principle, would represent a kind of rupture in the historical narrative, would have as its foundation the very tradition to which it was opposed.

I Flauti Omnitonum | Cesar Marino Villavicencio (São Paulo Research Foundation)

Published in Rome in 1555, the title of Nicola Vicentino’s treatise could be translated as: “Ancient music adapted to modern practice, with an explanation and examples of the three genera and their nature, and the invention of a new instrument, in which is contained the most perfect music, with many musical secrets.”

Vicentino’s objective was to restore the full power of ancient music, which at that time referred to the music of Ancient Greece. The practical results of this “revival” render a music aesthetic that goes beyond our usual diatonic compositions to genres as the chromatic and enharmonic that can be compared to a kind of “period avant-garde”. Named by Vicentino as musica reservata, it was considered as a sort of higher-class music, of a sweet nature (dulcibus) appreciated by educated ears.

In practical terms, chromatic and enharmonic compositions present melodic progressions that use microtonal shifting, maintaining the harmony pure and, consequently, for its performance, it is necessary to have more sounds available than those produced for diatonic tempered music. Whilst keyboard instruments approach these genres through the building of “split” keys, in unkeyed wind instruments, such as recorders, the intonation can be reached through the use of finger techniques.

This paper presents on-going research made at the Research Group on Renaissance and Contemporary Music (GreCo) that focuses on the application of chromatic and enharmonic techniques in a Renaissance recorder consort, exposing the theoretical and technical approaches used to prepare the musical examples that make part of our presentation.

“Extremely dissonant and not to be used in counterpoint”: The diminished fourth and augmented fifth in the shadow of Zarlino | David Gallagher (Independent scholar)

Among the many musical practices censured by Gioseffo Zarlino in his first treatise Le istitutioni harmoniche (1558) was the use in simultaneities of the diminished fourth and augmented fifth, which could indeed be heard as extremely dissonant in most sixteenth-century tunings. Yet the treatises published three years earlier by Nicola Vicentino and Juan Bermudo had explicitly permitted at least some such intervals; and there are earlier hints of tolerance too. So which view was more representative of polyphonic practice at that time?
One obstacle to an answer is the imponderable extent to which relative pitch notation was still intentionally incomplete in sources of the mid 1500s (Vicentino and Bermudo were both champions of completeness). Knud Jeppesen’s 1920s identification of c.30 apparent diminished fourths and augmented fifths in Palestrina’s simultaneities was disputed on these grounds—even though many of his examples were from publications of the 1580s and beyond that may have aimed at complete notation. The avoidance of diminished fourths and augmented fifths in 1540s repertories was a major motivation for the so-called “cautionary sign” hypothesis propounded by Frank D’Accone and especially Don Harrán in the 1970s; and although demonstrably deeply flawed, their hypothesis is well-nigh impossible to disprove. However, as this paper will show, the obverse of Harrán’s reasoning gives rise to a method for assessing the likelihood that such intervals were in fact intended in sources where relative pitch notation is presumably incomplete. Application of this method to prints and manuscripts of c.1540–60— including music by Palestrina, Zarlino’s teacher, Willaert, and Vicentino’s Afro- Portuguese adversary, Vicente Lusitano—suggests probable fairly wide acceptance of diminished fourths and augmented fifths in simultaneities.