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Welcome to Harmonia . . . I’m Angela Mariani.
This hour, we’re visiting The Museum of Renaissance Music, or at least, listening to it. Inspired by Neil MacGregor’s [book] History of the World in 100 Objects, music historians Vincenzo Borghetti and Tim Shephard built a new [quote] “paper museum” for anyone curious about music of the past. Their book, The Museum of Renaissance Music: A History in 100 Exhibits, pairs detailed images of 100 artifacts or ‘exhibits’ with essays by expert scholars, grouped into eight thematic ‘rooms.’ These musical objects have fascinating stories to tell, from Japanese-Italian diplomacy and the colonization of Mexico to the reach of the Ottoman Empire. Join us, as we peruse the exhibits and imagine what they heard.
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La Istoria de Purim
Phaia Music | K617174 (2005)
Tr. 3 Dos lid fun Der sreyfe În Venedig; “Song about the fire of Venice” (cut at 4:49)
Ensemble Lucidarium with a Yiddish Purim song about the fire of Venice. Diana Matut highlights Jewish oral traditions in her exhibit in the new book The Museum of Renaissance Music.
The book titled The Museum of Renaissance Music begins with silence, of all things. In its first quote “exhibit,” opening the Room of Devotions, art historian Barbara Baert considers the silence symbolized by the Johannesschüssel, or image of the head of St. John the Baptist on a plate, in the context of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Christian spirituality. As we proceed from room to room, the exhibits present a range of relationships to sound, from dance music to prayer to ambient noise.
Further into the Room of Devotions, we find Bernardino de Sahagún’s Psalmodia Christiana, book of psalms, published in Mexico City in 1583. Its title page features a large woodcut of the crucified Christ. In his essay, musicologist Lorenzo Candelaria notes that the Psalmodia Christiana is the first book of vernacular songs to be printed in the Americas. The psalm texts are written in Hispanicized Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica or Aztec peoples of Central Mexico, sometimes used by Spanish occupiers for their missionary projects. Franciscan priest Bernardino de Sahagún created Psalmodia Christiana for the express use of religious singing and dancing by indigenous converts.
Nuevo Mondo: 17th-Century Music in Latin America
Ensemble Elyma, Gabriel Garrido
Glossa | GCDC80022 (2017)
Tr. 12 In ilhuicac; “In heaven” (1:38)
Gabriel Garrido led Ensemble Elyma on the motet “Sancta Maria in ilhuicac ,” attributed to Hernando Franco, an example of sacred music from colonial Mexico in the Nahuatl language. Inspired by an exhibit on Bernardino de Sahagún’s Psalmodia Christiana in The Museum of Renaissance Music, a new book telling a history of Renaissance music in 100 exhibits edited by Vincenzo Borghetti and Tim Shephard.
Cities themselves also feature as exhibits in this literary museum, and Javier Marin-López’s essay on Mexico City, Tenochtitlan in Nahuatl, provides us with another perspective on the intersection of Mexica and Spanish colonial soundscapes. Part of the Room of the Public Sphere, it features an engraving by Diego Valadés of a bird’s-eye view of Mexico City/Tenochtitlan, printed in 1579 and published as part of Valadés’ account of his missionary activities. As Marin-Lopéz notes, its illustrations package indigenous culture and landscapes using visuals that would have been familiar to his audience of Catholic humanists. The image centers on a teocalli or pyramid chapel in the midst of human sacrifice to the god Huitzilopochtli. At the base of the teocalli, a group of couples are performing a ritual dance to instrumental accompaniment, a practice the Spanish knew as areito from the Caribbean Taíno language.
As we witnessed with Bernardino de Sahagún’s Psalmodia Christiana, substituting these rituals with Christian versions frequently involved musical participation. Valadés describes the remarkable skill of indigenous musicians at choral singing and all kinds of European instruments, instruction that incentivized Christian worship.
Los Ministriles in the New World
Navona | NV5875 (2012)
Tr. 16 Dios itlaconantzine; “Dearest mother of God” (2:27)
Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla
Tr. 30 Deus in adiutorium meum a 8 (1:56)
Piffaro performed the motet “Dios itlaconantzine” by sixteenth-century Mexica composer Francisco Hernandez and a Deus in adiutorium by Spanish colonist and Puebla cathedral maestro Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, to accompany Diego Valadés’ sixteenth-century depiction of Mexico City, from the new book The Museum of Renaissance Music.
Next on Harmonia’s tour through this book, we have a pair of quote exhibits on relationships between Japan and Catholic Europe during the Renaissance. David R. M. Irving writes about a hanging scroll painted in Japan around 1600, part of the Room of Instruments, featuring the image of a Japanese woman, richly dressed in red, playing a vihuela da mano in a leisurely pose. The painting’s style and subject both suggest the influence of the Jesuit order, which established missionary institutions in Japan beginning in the mid-sixteenth century. As in the Spanish colonies in the Americas, European musical training was an essential part of acclimating converts to Church rituals. The language barriers between the missionaries and locals meant that the Jesuits relied on visual imagery to teach religious doctrine. They eventually employed Japanese painters to produce religious images, and these painters also created secular artworks like this vihuelist, signed by a painter called Nobukata who seems to have worked in Nagasaki.
Milan, Narvaez: Music for Vihuela
Naxos | 8.553523 (1996)
Luis de Narváez
Tr. 20 Conde Claros; “Count Claros” (3:10)
Christopher Wilson, vihuela, with diminutions on “Conde Claros” from Luis de Narváez’s sixth libro del delfin, published in 1538.
Another aspect of the Japan-Europe cultural exchange from this time period, again from the book called the Museum of Renaissance Music, can be found in the travels section of the quote “Room of the Public Sphere.” “News from the Island of Japan” is a broadsheet printed in Augsburg in 1586 that describes the visit of four young men from Japan, Christian converts and students at the Jesuit seminary of Arima. Portraits of the four youths, in matching European outfits, fill the four corners of the sheet, and the likeness of their Jesuit tutor sits in the center above the text.
In her essay accompanying this visual “exhibit,” Kathryn Bosi notes that the group, Mancio Itō, Michele Chijiwa, Martino Hara, and Giuliano Nakaur, were acting as ambassadors to the Pope, sent by their Jesuit chaperones so that they could testify to the quote “wonders of Europe” upon their return to Japan. These youths were already skilled players of European instruments including organ, harpsichord, and guitar, and performed for hosts in Spain and Italy. Cities and churches, in turn, welcomed them with grand musical performances in their honor. In Venice, they are said to have heard an impressive mass for four choirs by Andrea Gabrieli.
A New Venetian Coronation, 1595
The Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh
Signum Classics | SIGCD287 (2012)
Tr. 9 Gloria a 16 (5:02)
Paul McCreesh led the Gabrieli Consort and Players on a 16-part Gloria by Andrea Gabrieli, thought to have been part of the mass for the visit of the quote four “Japanese princes” to Venice in 1585, illustrated in the new book called The Museum of Renaissance Music, edited by Vincenzo Borghetti and Tim Shephard.
In this museum’s Room of Sacred Spaces, we find the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence. This exhibit, narrated by Indiana University musicologist Giovanni Zanovello, walks us through a map of the space and its sounds. We might hear a resident Servite friar speaking or chanting mass in a private chapel, or singing laude, vernacular devotional songs, in the nave. If we happened to visit on a Saturday morning in the late fifteenth century, we’d hear elaborate polyphony in celebration of the ladymass, the friars’ weekly offering to their spiritual patroness.
Luther in Rome
Concerto Romano, Alessandro Quarta
Christophorus | CHR77361 (2012)
Tr. 7 Giesu sommo conforto; “Jesus, highest comfort” (2:43)
Obrecht: Missa De Tous Biens Playne / Missa Cela Sans Plus / Missa Fors Seulement
A:N:S Chorus; Janos Bali
Hungaroton | HCD32319 (2005)
Missa De tous biens playne
Tr. 21 Credo: Credo in unum Deum – Patrem (1:35)
We first heard an anonymous 16th-century lauda “Giesu sommo conforto” on a text by preacher Girolamo Savonarola, performed by Concerto Romano and Alessandro Quarta. After that, Janos Bali led the A:N:S Chorus on the opening of the Credo from Jacob Obrecht’s Missa De tous biens playne, music you might have heard in the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence. It’s all part of our tour of the book called The Museum of Renaissance Music, which explores the history of Renaissance music in 100 objects.
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Early music can mean a lot of things. What does it mean to you? Let us know your thoughts and ideas. Contact us at harmonia early music dot org, where you’ll also find playlists and an archive of past shows.
You’re listening to Harmonia . . . I’m Angela Mariani.
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Mid Break Music Bed:
Los Ministriles in the New World
Navona | NV5875 (2012)
Tr. 24 Paradetas Dulce Jesus mio (excerpt of 2:42)
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We’ve been listening our way through The Museum of Renaissance Music: A History in 100 Exhibits, a book curated by Vincenzo Borghetti and Tim Shephard bringing us music history through objects, which in turn have inspired our musical choices this hour.
Next, we visit the Ottoman Empire. In the book’s Room of the Public Sphere, we are greeted with a map of the Eastern Mediterranean, with green dots marking the travels of French Naturalist Pierre Belon du Mans. In the 1540s, he visited dozens of cities between Dubrovnik and Alexandria, collecting plant and animal specimens as he went. As historian Carla Zecher writes in her essay, Belon was particularly interested in music, and his 1553 travelogue includes detailed descriptions of sound. In Greece he heard services chanted in Orthodox monastaries, and womens’ ritual lamentations at funerals. In Constantinople he noted the singing of the enslaved as they loaded cargo in the ports, Dervishes playing the ney, a reed flute, and women playing the çeng [cheng], a square harp. He was impressed by how far into the countryside the calls to prayer carried from the minarets. In Egypt, he compared the antiphonal Qu’ranic recitation emanating from mosques to Catholic priests chanting the psalms back home.
Harem: Les fêtes du serailles
Pera Ensemble, Werner Ehrhardt
Ludi musici | LM002 (2007)
Tr. 20 Benefsezar Pesrev (3:22)
Pera Ensemble performed a “Pesrev,” from the collection of Ali Ufki, formerly Wojciech Bobowski, a Polish musician captured by Ottoman forces, who, after a period of enslavement, remained in Constantinople working as a diplomat and musician, and converted to Islam. His writings are rare documents of the oral traditions of Ottoman court music. A pesrev is part of a fasil, a traditional court suite.
Back in the Room of instruments, we find a photo of a kös, a Turkish kettledrum. This one survives from the seventeenth century and is held at the Badisches Landesmuseum. Its hide drumhead is secured by a latticework of thin leather straps over a copper bowl, evenly textured by the artisan’s hammer. This highlights the Ottoman sounds that became increasingly familiar to Western Europeans as Janissary music, that of the mehter or military band of the sultan’s elite infantry corps. Musicologist Kate van Orden writes that this particular kös was probably a trophy acquired by Polish forces during Kara Mustafa Pasha’s siege of Vienna in 1683. Mehter ensembles played continuously during battle both for signaling and morale, but also provided music for daily ceremonies at the households of the sultan and regional governors.
Harem: Les fêtes du serailles
Pera Ensemble, Werner Ehrhardt
Ludi musici | LM002 (2007)
Tr. 18 Neva Ceng-i Harbi (1:16)
Pera Ensemble with Neva Ceng-i Harbi, a 16th-century attack march of the Janissaries collected by Ali Ufki. The traditional role of the kös, a Turkish kettledrum on display in Kate van Orden’s exhibit in the book called The Museum of Renaissance Music.
While most of the artifacts that fill the so-called “rooms” that make up this book-as-museum date back hundreds of years, those in the “room of revivals” testify to the different ways that Renaissance culture has been interpreted by and for more recent audiences. Among its exhibits are Renaissance-style illustrations of scenes from Wagner’s Meistersinger of Nuremburg on the packaging of early twentieth-century beef stock and the 2009 to 2011 video game series Assassin’s Creed.
Samantha Bassler writes on an earlier example of revival — the London Madrigal Society, founded in the 18th century. Still active today, it originated as an antiquarian society dedicated to the study and performance of “ancient music” — at one point defined by the Society as music more than 20 years old! At the center of this exhibit is an English contrafactum of Palestrina’s motet Sicut cervus, “O God thou art my God.” Held in the Madrigal Society’s library, it was initially created in the late 17th century by Henry Aldrich, eventual dean of Christ Church, Oxford.
Henry Aldrich: Sacred Choral Music
James Morley Potter, The Cathedral Singers of Christ Church Oxford, David Bannister, The Restoration Consort
Convivium Records | CVI052 (2019)
Henry Aldrich, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Tr. 4 O God, thou art my God (7:24)
Henry Aldrich’s adaptation of Palestrina’s Sicut cervus, “O God thou art my God.” James Morely Potter led the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church, Oxford, with The Restoration Consort and David Bannister, organ.
The final “exhibit” in the book called “The Museum of Renaissance Music” is a wax figure of Anne Boleyn, curated by Linda Phyllis Austern. This Anne was created around 1984 for a display at Madame Tussauds London wax museum. She appears seated, holding a lute, beside standing figures of two other wives of Henry the Eighth, all in elaborate Tudor dress. Austern writes about how music has shaped the legend of Anne Boleyn, and how the lute has become a symbol of her courtly accomplishments. In addition to her storied powers of enchantment, it hints at the oft-repeated myth of Anne composing a “swansong” in the Tower shortly before her execution.
Anne Boleyn’s Songbook: Music & Passions of a Tudor Queen
Alamire, David Skinner
Obsidian | OBSID-CD715 (2015)
D. 1 Tr. 2 Venes regrets, venes tous (1:54)
Clare Wilkinson sang the anonymous “Venes regrets, venes tous; Come regrets, come all” with Jacob Heringman, lute. From a songbook owned by Anne Boleyn, now Royal College of Music manuscript 1070. Part of our exploration of The Museum of Renaissance Music: A History in 100 Exhibits, a new collection on the material history of Renaissance music edited by Vincenzo Borghetti and Tim Shephard.
We’ll step out of the museum now to sample our featured recording: tenor Karim Sulayman and guitarist Sean Shibe mix old, new, and traditional in their album Broken Branches, released with Pentatone in May 2023. The duo draw on their experiences as early music and classical performers and members of the Lebanese and Japanese diasporas, respectively. Tracks range from Dowland and Monteverdi to Sephardic and Arab tunes to Britten and Takemitsu.
Karim Sulayman & Sean Shibe
Tr. 5 La mia turca (2:16)
Tr. 2 Sufi Dance (2:18)
Karim Sulayman and Sean Shibe with Claudio Monteverdi’s “La mia turca; my Turkish girl,” then Shibe solo on Jonathan Harvey’s 1997 “Sufi Dance.” Both pieces are from their 2023 Pentatone release Broken Branches.
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Harmonia is a production of WFIU and part of the educational mission of Indiana University.
Support comes from Early Music America: a national organization that advocates and supports the historical performance of music of the past, the community of artists who create it, and the listeners whose lives are enriched by it. On the web at EarlyMusicAmerica-dot-org.
Additional resources come from the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
We welcome your thoughts about any part of this program, or about early music in general. Contact us at harmonia early music dot org. You can follow us on Facebook by searching for Harmonia Early Music.
The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Chelsey Belt.
Thanks to our studio engineer Michael Paskash, and our production team: LuAnn Johnson, Aaron Cain, and John Bailey. I’m Angela Mariani, inviting you to join us again for the next edition of Harmonia.
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