Masked Mysteries Unmasked: Early Modern Music Theater and Its Pythagorean Subtext

Masked Mysteries Unmasked: Early Modern Music Theater and Its Pythagorean Subtext

Masked Mysteries Unmasked: Early Modern Music Theater and Its Pythagorean Subtext

Masked Mysteries Unmasked: Early Modern Music Theater and Its Pythagorean Subtext

Excerpt

It is the masque as phenomenon that has inspired my curiosity, interest, and research, and that finally led to the writing of this book. My first acquaintance with it was made as I was doing research into English harpsichord music of the seventeenth century. Studying musicalia from the period, I was increasingly puzzled by the many pieces with the word “masque” included in their titles or headings. I was soon to learn that these masques had been splendid theater shows enjoying great fame and prestige in their own time. Normally they were mounted at court by and for the royal family and the courtiers. The verbal texts of the masques were written by leading poets. Impressive and spectacular scenery, stage machinery, and costumes comprised the visual part of the performances and were usually designed by the famous architect, Inigo Jones. The music was provided by the many royal composers, singers, and bands, while international leading choreographers created the dances.

The number of musical pieces obviously originating from masques, both in a variety of manuscripts and in publications, spoke of an evident popularity, not only of the shows themselves, but most definitely also of their music. It struck me as intriguing, then, that the masques had attained only a very peripheral position within music history. Equally intriguing seemed the fact that the large body of existing research on this genre—be it within the scholarship of literature, theater studies, art history, or musicology—had almost entirely overlooked the significance of music within the unified intermedia text of the masque. It has been a special challenge for me to focus on this interplay between music and the other arts in action.

The overriding intention of this study has been to acquire an undertanding of the phenomenon of the English court masque, to gTasp more of its meaning. I believe that this book will show that the genre was quintessentially music theater, in which the various forms of music were not only integral and indispensable parts of its form, but where the existence and the powers of music represent the very foundation out of which this theatrical form grew. This understanding in its turn provides a key to the further search for the meaning of the genre.

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