Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print

By Kate Van Orden | Go to book overview

5. Resisting the Press: Performance

It would be tidy to end here. The Petrarchan books of Ronsard settings discussed in the preceding chapter seem to trumpet the coming sovereignty of the author and a new importance for books of music. They witness French chanson composers turning to the Ronsardian book as the model for a form of lyric publication entrusted not to the voice, but to the codex. Whereas in the 1550s and 1560s singers and composers had resisted Ronsard’s sonnets and instead chosen his chansons and strophic odes for their songs, when the sonnet did finally arrive in printed chansonniers, it was in conjunction with a new attitude toward the book as a mode of publication, almost as if through ink and paper and lead type the voice might be cast in more enduring forms. Ronsard’s poetics of lyric eternity and his turn to Horace and Petrarch may have been prompted by the onset of deafness in his youth, but by the 1570s print publication had clearly gained such credibility for poets that even some composers began to conceive of their oeuvres in the form of quarto partbooks. Bertrand, whose Amoursmises en musique of 1576 is the most bookish of all of the sonnet prints, described his chansons as “mes labeurs tracez sus un papier” (my labors traced on paper), a phrase exquisitely turned toward the solitude of the writing desk, the contemplative quality of Ronsard’s Amours, and the intellectual work of composing counterpoint, but also charged with the physical act of inscribing, of entextualizing his music.

And even so, despite Bertrand’s ample investment in his own writing, in Ronsard’s writerly sonnets, in collecting liminary verse from local poets, and in working up extensive neo-Platonic prefaces that showed his familiarity with the microtonal experiments of Vicentino, despite this textual self-fashioning, the elaborate presentation of these relatively straightforward musical settings shows signs of strain. It evinces the dissatisfaction

-143-

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Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The World of Books 19
  • 2 - Music Books and Their Authors 30
  • 3 - Authors of Lyric 69
  • 4 - The Book of Poetry Becomes a Book of Music 103
  • 5 - Resisting the Press- Performance 143
  • Notes 159
  • Select Bibliography 207
  • Index 233
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