My research focuses on vocal music written or performed in early modern Italy, especially dialect songs such as the villotta. I have a particular interest in issues of gender, sexuality and eroticism in relation to sixteenth-century Italian song. I am currently engaged in various writing projects that have their origins in my doctoral research. These include articles on early modern masculinities, especially in relation to class and status, and articles on the modern performance of innuendo-laden dialect song.
In addition to my research in music of early modern Italy, I am working on gender and music in the present. I currently have two writing projects in this area: one on contemporary composers and canons, that looks at images of male and female contemporary composers on publicity shots, websites, CD covers and liner notes in the light of recent sociological and anthropological research into hair styles. My second mini-project concerns a entry on gender in Irish pop music for the Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland.
I demonstrate the challenges to male authority contained in some of Castellino’s songs and relate these to Ercole’s feelings of vulnerability in the face of his wife’s religious sensibilities and resolute Frenchness. I argue that by fashioning a rustic other through patronage of Castellino and the Paduan playwright Ruzante Ercole could also fashion a noble self, and that Ercole’s probable sponsorship of Castellino’s book allowed him to display an ability to contain criticism and to exhibit masculine power.
I examine the language used to describe sexual representations in present-day scholarship and in the sixteenth-century. I draw upon the work of the art historian Bette Talvacchia and augment her discussion of decency in relation to sexual representation by referring to Giovanni Della Casa’s Galateo. I posit that the potential for different responses to sexual representation is related not only to the content of the representation but also to the social status of the viewer and the context of the viewing. I apply this to texts relevant to musicology, especially Antonfrancesco Doni’s Dialogo della musica.
I discuss music and poetry associated with the cleric Girolamo Fenaruolo, exploring the different types of friendship mentioned, and the symbolic nature of a gift of a music book. If the gift of a book between friends is a token of the friend’s body, as Alan Bray has argued, what (if anything) might it mean for the book to be a collection of songs that the friends are to sound with their bodies?
I demonstrate that sprezzatura, the ability to be two things at once (skilful and unskilful, decent and indecent), is related to the ability to construct two things at once: the categories of high and low. I analyse dialect songs by Antonino Barges and Perissone Cambio associated with Domenico Venier’s literary ridotto which reflect both of these aspects of sprezzatura. Barges’s dialect songs depend upon metaphors that simultaneously conceal and reveal sexual content and suggest gynosodomitical relations while Perissone Cambio’s artful word setting exposes sexual obscenities otherwise hidden in the text. Both composers violate Pietro Bembo’s discrete stylistic categories for vernacular poetry by setting "low" dialect texts in learned polyphony.
I study gender identities, shamefulness and the history of memory by examining the repercussions of a shameful event (bigamy) in the history of two elite Florentine families, the Della Casa and the Rucellai. Since later members of these families, the maternal uncle and nephew Giovanni Della Casa and Pandolfo Rucellai, were the dedicatees of secular vocal music from opposite ends of the conventional hierarchy (Rore’s madrigals and anonymous dialect song), I wish to test the history of memory theory with respect to their own conduct and to seek connections between life and music. This will result in an article.
Recent sociological studies show there are fewer restrictions on certain elements of physical appearance for women than men in modern British and U.S. society. The smaller range of variation in male composers’ images associates them with stability, while the greater variation in female composers’ images associates them with instability. A reading of concert reviews and interviews demonstrates the impact of these presentations of identity upon the contemporaneous reception of the composer. Moreover, the comparatively "unruly" female composers might not sit easily with musicology’s disciplinary requirements, which value the stable and constant over the unstable. This will initially result in an article but there is considerable scope for expanding this to a larger-scale research project.
This project extends my theoretical and contextual work on mid-cinquecento musical eroticism, gender, decency and nobility in relation to the villotta to encompass other vocal genres in northern Italy, and will result in a monograph. Musical eroticism encompasses equivocal texts that employ a vast erotic lexicon and part-writing that infringes conventional contrapuntal procedures. I favour a New Historicist approach to music, which views all culture as text for analysis and attempts to understand that culture both from an ‘indigenous’ viewpoint and an external, analytic position; to this end I draw upon diverse theoretical perspectives, including Bakhtinian heteroglossia, to scrutinise the multivocality of equivocal poetry and its musical settings. I will analyse a corpus of secular madrigals and Song of Songs settings associated with Ferrarese courts and Venetian and Venetan academies, and demonstrate that erotic musical transgressions in madrigals were adopted from the so-called ‘lighter’ genres such as the villotta and villanesca. I will show that a similar erotic and musical language appears in the chansons associated with the court of Renée de France in Ferrara. Finally, my examination of Song of Songs settings by composers associated with Ferrara and Venice will demonstrate the use of music-theoretical transgressions in Italian sacred music and demonstrate their association with the erotic.
The following “projects” are still coalescing into fully fledged works-in-progress: rather, they are ideas-in-progress.
I read music theoretical works, poetry and accounts of music-making for Cinquecento concepts relating to the “musicking body”. I am interested in exploring post-structuralist and feminist ideas of the body in relation to these models. This specifically arises from my unhappiness with McClary’s model of performance in which the performers apparently lack agency. This idea is very much in its development stage.
This is concerned with Farinelli the movie rather than with Farinelli the historical figure. Specifically, I am interested in exploring ideas of the character of Farinelli (body and singing voice) as a cyborg or otherwise posthuman body (drawing on Donna Haraway) or (and?) the fragmented body (drawing on Lacan). Farinelli's singing voice was born at Image et Son and IRCAM by merging the voices of a countertenor (Derek Lee Ragin) and a soprano (Ewa Godlewska). Thus, this is a posthuman voice of sorts. As my students complain each year, there is no attempt to lip-sync with the musical performances; this choice highlights the idea of the fragmented body.
This paper analyses certain of Rore’s madrigals in light of the findings of Laurie Stras and Bonnie Blackburn that Cinquecento music theory assocaited certain contrapuntal practices with certain erotic practices; frequently, composers use these contrapuntal practices to highlight double entendres in a text.
An examination of Brian May’s performance of “God Save the Queen” from the roof of Buckingham Palace during the jubilee celebrations.
The sound editing of many recordings produces a spacing of musicians that is impossible to realise in an ‘unplugged’ performance.
Last updated January 2007. Page maintained by Melanie L. Marshall. The views expressed here are my own, and not those of the University College Cork.