Music and Merchants: The Laudesi Companies of Republican Florence

Music and Merchants: The Laudesi Companies of Republican Florence

Music and Merchants: The Laudesi Companies of Republican Florence

Music and Merchants: The Laudesi Companies of Republican Florence

Synopsis

For all that has been written about Renaissance Florence, we know relatively little about its musical life, it religious life, and the aspirations of its average citizens. This book contributes significantly to an understanding of all of these by documenting and interpreting the corporate patronage of an important Florentine musical repertory over a period of some 200 years. Because the companies were, in many respects, both a microcosm and characteristic manifestation of this remarkable Renaissance city, the author also seeks to explain how mendicant spirituality, guild society, and devotional images and imagination provide the essential context for understanding the function and significance of laudesi practice and repertoire.

Excerpt

A musical score of the past is a highly complex document. When taken at face value, the notes on the page pose one set of questions, but to wonder about the sound world implied by those written notes profoundly alters and broadens the field of inquiry. And in the pursuit of such an ephemeral art-form as music, the older repertoires require that one cast wide the net of inquiry. When nearly a decade ago I came across Liuzzi's facsimile editions of the monophonic lauda repertory, the question of how these songs might have been and might now be performed quickly led to others: just who sang these songs, in what context, who heard them, and what meanings did they hold for their hearers? As I began to haul in my net during the course of year-long research in Florence, I found not the meagre catch that has attended similar efforts among the other late medieval song repertories, but a wealth of primary documents. These documents, primarily confraternity records in the Archivio di Stato, revealed a flourishing musical subculture embedded in, and explicable only with reference to, a rich framework of devotional, social, and artistic activity. In the end, the songs proved to be a catalyst for a different and broader study, for they turned out to be the frozen records of human activity in a city that promoted the virtues of the active life. The laudesi companies and their musicians were far more numerous, diverse, and enduring than the extant music manuscripts alone would suggest, and it is these dynamic and creative entities that captured my imagination and became the subject of this study.

In trying to fit my piece into so large a puzzle as early Renaissance Florence I have relied heavily on a vast body of excellent scholarship that my bibliography can only begin to reflect. I am especially grateful to a community of scholars who have contributed directly to this book through consultation and correspondence, among them Peter Howard, Bill Kent, Gene Brucker, Bill Connell, Elizabeth Pilliod, John Henderson, Diane Zervas, Giorgio Varanini, Iain Fenlon, and Carlo Delcorno. I owe special thanks to Nello Barbieri for his meticulous and thorough job of checking and editing my many transcriptions and translations of primary documents, and to Professors George Buelow, Frank D'Accone, Richard Westfall, and Benito Rivera, who helped see this study into the world as a doctoral dissertation at Indiana University. Only one person, the irreplaceable Dr Gino Corti, could have made sense of certain illegible . . .

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