On Music and Poetry: De Musica et Poetica, 1513

On Music and Poetry: De Musica et Poetica, 1513

On Music and Poetry: De Musica et Poetica, 1513

On Music and Poetry: De Musica et Poetica, 1513

Excerpt

Raffaele Brandolini and his writings are little known to the modern reader, a fate he has shared with any number of Renaissance humanists whose manuscripts line the shelves of Italian libraries. The bare outlines of his career also seem more typical than distinctive: positions held in several major Italian cities, stipends won from princes and clerics, and a literary corpus consisting of poetry, letters, and orations. He specialized in Latin poetry and oratory, genres as dear to his colleagues in Renaissance Rome as they are foreign to most modern sensibilities. The present work combines these interests by offering a discussion of poetry and music, presented in the form of a humanist oration. To Brandolini, music and poetry were subjects of the greatest importance. Yet their importance did not simply arise from — or produce — detached scholarly study and analysis; the subjects were also matters of action, even controversy, and well worth a fight. For Brandolini’s reputation as a poet arose not simply from his studious composition of Latin meters, but from his role as a performer of his own verse, especially that invented on the spot during the banquets that filled the evenings of courts both lay and ecclesiastical. In On Music and Poetry he asserts not only the importance of music and poetry as subjects, but also the value of this particular performance practice to society. He alternates between theoretical discussion and practical examples, ancient society and modern, analysis and advocacy. Humanist studies, he argues, are so important that they deserve a ruling place not only in the realm of scholarship, but also that of leisure and even of entertainment.

Brandolini wrote On Music and Poetry near the end of his life at the request of Giovanni de’ Medici, while Giovanni was Cardinal and papal legate to Bologna. It is apparently an expanded reworking of an earlier piece, “De laudibus musicae et poeseos,” also written for Giovanni, that Giovanni had thought merited expanding into a longer work. Before

M. Quartana, “Un umanista minore della corte di Leone X: Raphael Brandolinus,” in Atti della società italiana per il progresso delle scienze 20 (1932): 464–72, here 465.

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