The Cultural Context of Medieval Music

By Nancy Van Deusen | Go to book overview

2
Music in a Culture of the Mind:
A Medieval View of Resources,
Material, and Composition

It is not by chance that the story of “Fiordinando” takes place in a forest. The setting of a forest is, in fact, a key factor throughout the story. After the comfortable, commodious, palace—where the prince had, for a time, enjoyed food, drink, cigars, a warm fire, and a good night’s rest—had completely vanished, he finds himself again in the thicket of underbrush, in the darkest, thickest, part of the entire forest. This important chunk is one that we meet from the beginning of the 10th century—in Remigius of Auxerre’s commentary on one of the most important and influential, although difficult to understand, books in the Middle Ages, The Marriage of Philology and Mercury of Martianus Capella. It is difficult today, perhaps, to understand why this work had such medieval currency, written in late Antiquity (that is, the third century C.E.) and quoted, as well as referred to, throughout the Middle Ages. But the reason may very well have been that it works over the same topic as “Fiordinando,” that of uniting material substance with communication. Again, another similarity between “Fiordinando” and The Marriage of Philology and Mercury is that both use primarily the allegorical way of moving, or mode, and both have to do with making connections.

The title The Marriage of Philology and Mercury demonstrates this “marriage” between verbal communication (Mercury, the messenger), and conceptual substance (Philology). (This connection is also the real “point” of “Fiordinando.”) The marriage of Philology and Mercury, however, is also one that occurs within and between songs, music, and words. This overarching concept of marriage or bonding is clear from the beginning lines:

Sacred principle of unity amongst the gods, on you I call,
you are said to grace weddings with your song;

-17-

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