Towner Fellows Lounge
Thomas Morley, in his influential treatise, A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke (1597), cites a madrigal by Giulio Renaldi, Diuerse lingue, the text of which is drawn from Dante’s Inferno, to illustrate musical response to text. The term reminds us of a group of madrigals written in diversi linguaggi, that is, with multiple characters each speaking in a particular dialect. And it also hints at the well-known phenomenon of Italian madrigals “Englished.” Thomas Morley himself published Italian madrigals in “Englished” versions but he also published them in Italian under the name Tomaso Morlei, such was the passion in England for all things Italian.
This paper asks whether we can recognize national language when we encounter serious polyphony (i.e., not the dialect songs). Can we tell Palestrina from Byrd or, to bring the topic closer to home, Morley from his continental peers? A case in point is a setting of “Laboravi in gemitu meo,” celebrated as one of Morley’s signal achievements and a model example of Elizabethan polyphony, until it turned out to be a light retouching of a setting by Flemish composer Philippe Rogier. Are there recognizable national traits?
A related question concerns national theoretical practices. It may be that Morley’s Introduction presents different and competing theoretical traditions, from notation to the naming of pitches and even the conception of tonal organization. Is he in fact writing in diuerse lingue—English versus continental? Perhaps we should challenge the default assumption of a pan-European theory and a pan-European sound, and listen instead for distinctive languages.
A reception will follow the lecture.
Learn more about our speaker: Jessie Ann Owens, University of California, Davis
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Howard Mayer Brown, who died February 20, 1993, was a distinguished scholar of medieval and Renaissance music and a professor of music at the University of Chicago. As both a practicing musician and musicologist, his work profoundly influenced the study and performance of early music in the United States and Europe. In addition to collecting numerous liturgical books and opera libretti, Brown directed considerable resources to the microfilming of music from the thirteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Brown’s microfilms and his extensive collection of early opera libretti came to the Newberry as part of his bequest, along with many liturgical books, poetic texts, and scores. A book fund established under the terms of the will allows the Newberry to continue collecting in the variety of early modern fields that interested Brown. Learn more about the Newberry’s music collections.
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