Il Nuovo Proteo: Observations on behaviour, interaction, and performance in early modern Italian music

Rózsa, László (2022) Il Nuovo Proteo: Observations on behaviour, interaction, and performance in early modern Italian music. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This dissertation aims to examine how the early modern discourse on behaviour and interaction emerging in Italian courtly circles influenced contemporary musical practice and debates thereof. The broader cultural context is drawn from courtesy books, written by authors arching from Baldassare Castiglione to Torquato Accetto, which not only reveal multi-layered moral concerns and complex systems of etiquettes, but also provide an intriguing ground for tracing significant ongoing aesthetic transformations during the era concerned.

In Part One of the thesis I begin the discussion by setting out an overview of the culture of courtesy books; I reflect on issues relating to their production, their literary form and the epistemological connotations thereof, and in particular their readership. Subsequently, I provide a reading – latently governed from a musical perspective – of key volumes from the genre, in which I trace the core behavioural tropes of the courtier. I am particularly interested in how these tropes fare against the virtue ethical system of the time, and I argue for the growing importance of simulation and dissimulation within this dialogue. My examination culminates in the creation of a theoretical model I label as the continuous conversational performer – a metaphorical equivalent of the late sixteenth-century courtly participant, whose behavioural matrix is governed by a reinterpreted system of tropes and virtues.

In Part Two I embark on my quest to seek connections between the behavioural patterns originally closely associated with the nobility and musical discourses of the time, including contributions by practising professional musicians. I project the gained knowledge from Part One onto various musical theoretical and aesthetic exchanges (including the Galilei-Zarlino debate), and I argue that the skills and values of the continuous conversational performer manifest themselves in methods of delivery within musical performance. At the heart of this section is the inner perspective of the musical performer, where I introduce the notion of performative mindsets – a theoretical framework that reflects on multiple strands of communicative strategies emerging from the different approaches to the potential role of the musical performer in the era concerned.

Part Three is dedicated more directly to musical practice, and I explore how the behavioural matrix of the continuous conversational performer may have played out in various practical scenarios and musical environments. The protagonists of this section are primarily associated with the courts of Ferrara, Florence, Mantua, and Rome, and with the so-called ‘new music’ of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. My central focus here is on examining texts written by professional musicians that explicitly deal with a broad range of matters relating to performance. I offer novel insights into Giulio Caccini’s musical interpretation of the Castiglionian notion of sprezzatura; I examine the toolbox of expressive singing through the lens of courtly behavioural ideals; and, finally, I argue that ultimately the tropes and virtues of the continuous conversational performer come to full fruition in the newly emerging genre of court opera.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: Butt, Professor John and McGuinness, Dr. David
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82887
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 May 2022 16:05
Last Modified: 18 May 2022 16:09
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82887

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