Since the mid-18th century, scholars have been accustomed to thinking of musical works of art as embodied in their notation. The restrictions of print culture on the publication of critical editions has perpetuated and entrenched this line of thinking. But with the vastly increased resources afforded by digital humanities, Italian songs from the time of Christopher Columbus aims to create a critical edition of the late-15th- and early-16th-century repertory of Italian and Latin songs known as frottole that displaces this notion and relocates the object of study in music as a sounding work of art.
While members of the research team for this project are rigorously evaluating, analyzing, and critiquing the materials and resources in this new edition, thereby providing users with expert editorial perspective,
our goal is not to establish a single authoritative version of a given sounding text, nor to render texts in modern notation, but rather to provide users with experiences and tools to make sense of the music, poetry, and sources for themselves. Our unique perspective provides scholarly information to a wide audience of users who may or may not be able to read music notation.
Isabella d’Este’s tutor, Mario Equicola, wrote in his Libro de natura de amore that the ancient Greeks valued silence over speaking words that, once said, could never be revoked. These ideas, he wrote, are imitated in the impresa of
“la prudentissima Isabella da Este di Mantua marchesa, con tucte le pause della musica pratica, le quali ne admoniscono et quasi ad viva voce ne dicono: ‘Ad tempo taci ‘: Seneca commanda ad Lucilio sia tardiloquo; non essere cosa alcuna megliore che`l silentio Menandro scrive; Hesiodo ne prega la lingua servemo como thesoro; Tullio Quinto suo fratello exhorta che diligentemente habia in custodia la lingua.”
the most prudent Isabella d’Este, marchesa of Mantua, with all the rests of musica practica [that is, music as practiced, as opposed to music theory], which admonish and almost aloud say: “at times, hush.” Seneca commanded Lucilius to be slow to speak; Menandro wrote that there is nothing better than silence; and Tullio V exhorted his brother to diligently keep his tongue in check.
Mario Equicola, Libro de natura de amore (ms) (Biblioteca Italiana, 2003), V: 4.
Anne MacNeil has taken Equicola’s interpretation of Isabella’s musical impresa as the title for the film Ad tempo taci: Songs for Isabella d’Este in order to draw attention to the juxtapositions of sound and silence that run throughout the various artworks associated with the marchesa and her husband Francesco II Gonzaga.
❧ Link to the IDEA Video Archive here
POPP: Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints explores what it means to read the arcane notation and page designs of 16th-century music. With a focus on the frottola (song) books of the first music printer, Ottaviano Petrucci, POPP illustrates applications of 16th-century music theory, pedagogy, and printing practices to this repertory, together with research about the history, performance practices, and patronage of these songs and the people who created them. This project was a learning exercise, enabling the POPP Team to learn how to design databases that would respond to questions about history and aesthetics. The data sets are purposefully small, and the Data Trials demonstrate proof-of-concept.
Much of what we do in IDEA is to build bridges across disciplines, creating projects where scholars, artists, and performers in a variety of fields contribute their expertise toward a common goal. Thus, IDEA’s research teams include Italian scholars as well as Americans, experts in Italian literature, ceramics, archival studies, early printing, music history, and performance. The research that has gone into Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints encompasses a variety of materials as well; seven Collections comprise our database: a documents Archive, Events, Library, Objects, People, Places, and Repertory. In the DH Press visualizations, data records are classified by Collection, a classification that is often used to sort, filter, or color-code information.
❧ Link to POPP: Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints here