Chapter

Introduction: The Cultural Work of the Madrigal

Susan McClary

in Modal Subjectivities

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780520234932
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520929159 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520234932.003.0001
Introduction: The Cultural Work of the Madrigal

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Beginning with Johannes Tinctoris, who states quite off-handedly and without much further explanation that mode also applies to polyphony, a series of intellectuals—including most prominently Pietro Aron and Heinrich Glareanus, in addition to Gioseffo Zarlino—grappled with formulating theories of modal polyphonic practice. This book explores a repertory too long neglected as a site of crucial cultural work: the sixteenth-century madrigal of Italy. It argues that, from around 1525, the Italian madrigal serves as a site—indeed, the first in European history—for the explicit, self-conscious construction in music of subjectivities. The book attempts to shake loose a version of early modern subjectivity too neatly packaged in recent studies and to encourage a process of historical revision that takes music as a point of departure. Furthermore, it demonstrates how sixteenth-century composers deployed modes in the service of a new cultural agenda that sought to perform dynamic representations of complex subjective states. This chapter deals with Claudio Monteverdi's “Ah, dolente partita,” in which he used the most familiar improvisatory progression in sixteenth-century music: the Romanesca.

Keywords: Italy; madrigal; polyphony; repertory; subjectivity; music; modes; Claudio Monteverdi; Romanesca

Chapter.  14409 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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