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Keyboard Playing and the Mechanization of Polyphony in Italian Music, Circa 1600

  • Author(s): Chisholm, Leon
  • Advisor(s): van Orden, Kate;
  • Davies, James Q.
  • et al.

Keyboard instruments are ubiquitous in the history of European music. Despite the centrality of keyboards to everyday music making, their influence over the ways in which musicians have conceptualized music and, consequently, the music that they have created has received little attention. This dissertation explores how keyboard playing fits into revolutionary developments in music around 1600 – a period which roughly coincided with the emergence of the keyboard as the multipurpose instrument that has served musicians ever since. During the sixteenth century, keyboard playing became an increasingly common mode of experiencing polyphonic music, challenging the longstanding status of ensemble singing as the paradigmatic vehicle for the art of counterpoint – and ultimately replacing it in the eighteenth century. The competing paradigms differed radically: whereas ensemble singing comprised a group of musicians using their bodies as instruments, keyboard playing involved a lone musician operating a machine with her hands. By replacing musicians with a machine, keyboard playing amounted to a mechanization of polyphony.

Chapter 1 outlines the mechanization of ars perfecta polyphony through keyboard playing. To illustrate its effects, I analyze several keyboard intabulations in relation to their vocal models, including Marcantonio Cavazzoni's adaptation of the chanson Plusieurs regretz by Josquin, and the intabulation preserved in the Turin Tablature of Rore's Calami sonum ferentes. I show how formal differences relate to changes in agency, script, and sensorimotor experience. Drawing on research in cognition and motor control, I discuss how experiencing polyphonic vocal music through keyboard playing affected how musicians parsed the art form. The remainder of the dissertation examines the relationship between keyboard playing and the ecclesiastical concerto, as exemplified in Lodovico Viadana's Cento concerti ecclesiastici (1602). Chapter 2 investigates the complex material relationship between the vocal partbooks and organ continuo part in printed books of sacred music from the 1590s and early decades of the seventeenth century. I argue that the concerto print served as a virtual site for the convergence of the art of counterpoint and keyboard playing. Chapter 3 proposes that the redesign of the Italian organ in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was a crucial precedent for the "concertato style." The concertato style itself represents a stylization of the model of distributed cognition inherent in the sacred concerto.

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