Session 7 (Themed Papers): Confraternities and the urban soundscape I

Monday, 5 July 2021, 17.00-18.30, Room 217 | Chair: Tess Knighton (ICREA / Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Session Abstract

A group session is proposed based on the research project “The Contribution of Confraternities and Guilds to the Urban Soundscape in the Iberian Peninsula, 1400-1700” (CONFRASOUND) (MINECO PID2019-109422GB-100), directed by Tess Knighton. The devotional and musical practices of confraternities and guilds in the later Middle Ages and Early Modern period have attracted the attention of historical musicologists working in, above all, the Italian cultural context. Relatively little has been done in this respect for the Iberian Peninsula, with a handful of notable exceptions (Robledo, Pacheco, Bejarano Pellicer), although it is clear that these organisations also contributed in a transformative way to the urban soundscape there on a daily basis. Different aspects in terms of research materials, approach, methodology and digital tools are presented and discussed by the six members of the working team, with a brief introductory presentation by the project director. The project aims to cover a number of different urban centres and environments to facilitate analysis across larger issues relating to the urban soundscape, such as performative topography, acoustic spaces and communities, social and political life, devotional practice and religious belief, as well as the density of musical experience and its sensory and emotional impact on the inhabitants of the city. The urban centres under consideration include Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Granada, Braga and Prague, to give an insight into Iberian practice beyond the Peninsula itself. The six papers offer new archival research with regard to a broad typology of confraternities and draw on a range of analytical methodologies including digital cartography.

Introduction | Tess Knighton

Brotherhoods and soundscapes in the processions of redemption of captives in early modern Valencia | Ferran Escrivà-Llorca (Valencia International University)

The religious orders of La Merced (1218) and the Holy Trinity (1193) had, almost from the beginning, a fourth vow of redemption of captives. These two orders had important convents in Valencia that were the scene of numerous events of liberation and mercy of slaves coming mainly from Barbary.

These convents housed brotherhoods that had as one of their missions, the collection of money for the rescue of prisoners. These had a very significant role during the redemption celebrations, such as the masses and, especially, the processions of captives. The documentation, descriptions and artistic examples reveal a diverse soundscape in which psalms, Te Deum and motets predominate, but are also mixed with the “noises of music”, ringing of bells, cheers of people. Furthermore, these sources also reveal disputes for the control of space (physic and sonic).

In terra aliena: Singing Catholic brotherhoods in Imperial Prague | Erika Honisch (Stony Brook University)

In 1647, Adam Michna concluded the dedication of his Czeská Mariánská Muzika (Czech Marian Music)—comprising vernacular hymns suitable for use by Czech- speaking Marian brotherhoods—with a triumphant assertion: “now we may with gladness sing the songs of our Lord in our land.” With this unmistakable reference to Psalm 136 (137), Michna cast the preceding centuries as a kind of Babylonian captivity, in which Bohemia’s Catholics were as strangers in their own land, silent when asked by their captors to sing. Michna knew very well that most Czechs had not been silent: “literary brotherhoods” (lay brotherhoods of musically literate men, mostly Hussites) had sung plainchant and polyphony in Bohemian and Moravian towns and parish churches for some 200 years before the Catholic victory at White Mountain in 1620. What Michna might not have known was that Prague’s Catholic confraternities had found their own voices beginning in the 1580s, their devout and occasionally belligerent sounds amplified by powerful foreign patrons at the Imperial court.
This paper focuses on these new brotherhoods, delineating some of their musical activities, and comparing their organisational structures, membership, and religious aims, to those of the beloved and indigenous literary brotherhoods. Noting the foundational role played by Spanish nobles (for example, ambassador Juan de Borja and his successor Guillen de San Clemente) in establishing these institutions, I argue that Catholic brotherhoods such as the famously musical Imperial Corpus Christi Confraternity (founded in 1580) and the Confraternity of the Rosary (founded in 1588)—strangers in someone else’s land—point to the early and long-lasting influence of Spanish piety on the religious practices that Michna was ultimately to inherit.

The confraternal movement in Braga in the 16th and 17th centuries: Devotion, music and power | Elisa Lessa (Universidade do Minho)

The confraternal movement in Braga dates back to the Middle Ages with the existence of at least two confraternities: the confraternity of São João do Souto, whose documentation can be traced back to 1186, and that of Santíssima Trindade, founded in 1381 in Braga Cathedral. Yet it was from the end of the sixteenth century and throughout the 17th century that these associations developed most fully. This paper aims to identify and analyse devotional celebrations through references to music in the statutes and regulations of the main confraternities and brotherhoods in Braga between the years 1500 and 1700. The festive celebrations of patronal feasts and other important moments of the liturgical calendar will be discussed as practices of sociability and power in which the musical investment was of particular importance. The brotherhoods of the Misericordia and Santa Cruz, and the confraternities of São Francisco Xavier, Santíssima Trindade and S. João do Souto are the focus of this study.