Sound at RSA Virtual 2021

In this blog I want to draw attention to all of the fascinating research on early modern sound that is currently available for attendees of Virtual RSA to listen to until 23 May 2021. (I was making a version of this for myself and I thought I’d share it with you all as well! Happy listening!)

Image Credit: Bernard van Orley, Virgin and Child with Angels ca. 1518.


Panel: The Senses in Transnational Religious Encounters, 1550-1700: Knowledge, Bodies, and Objects

Emilie Murphy, University of York: Earwitnesses: Early Modern Anglophone Travellers and the Dissemination of Religious Knowledge

Abstract: In 1611 the Scottish traveller William Lithgow witnessed the Turkish sabbath in Constantinople, and phonetically described the sound of Arabic and Turkish in the Islamic prayer he heard: ‘Haylamo, Haylamo; and after that will sigh grievously, saying Houpek’. Lithgow was not alone in attending to the aurality of the events he witnessed, and this paper investigates transnational acoustic encounters within a wide generic range of anglophone accounts from manuscript diaries and letters, to printed travel narratives c.1550–1650. Sound played a vital role in encounters in the Americas, Europe and the Ottoman Empire, particularly when disseminating knowledge of other faiths, and when making claims about religious truth. Scholars such as Jonathan Sell and Melanie Ord have foregrounded the role of sight and embodiment as signifiers of experience in travel accounts; this paper develops this work and explains the important, but currently neglected role, of aural proof in these narratives.


Panel: Reported Images: Reflections, Shadows, and Projections

Eileen A. Reaves, Princeton University: Sound Reasons

Abstract: What was he thinking, when no one had a telescope like his? Galileo’s verbal description of the entirely unfamiliar telescopic appearance of the moon includes a bizarre comparison of shadowed lunar craters to the deep-blue eyes of a peacock’s tail, and to the mottled and opaque surface of a rare sort of Venetian glass. We might categorize these unhelpful analogies as exercises in Baroque wit: what better way to convey phenomena at the limits of visibility than to evoke the unseeing eyes on a bird and a cracked glass? I will suggest, however, that this curious comparison is about sound, and about the ways in which one sense might supplement the missing data of another. Galileo’s argument complements his experimentation with the graphic record of fleeting sounds and builds on his general interest in the impact and limits of printed images in early modern astronomy.


Panel: Staging Music and Reading Song in Renaissance England

Matthew Zarnowiecki, Touro College: English Polyphonic Song Collections as Literary Anthologies

Abstract: This essay briefly surveys the field of English secular song collections of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. I treat four categories of song collections: printed polyphonic songbooks (e.g. Ravenscroft’s Pammelia, 1609, Dowland’s First Book of Songs or Ayres, 1597, or Byrd’s Musica Transalpina, 1588); printed musical instruction books (e.g. Morley’s Plain and Easy Introduction, 1597); personal or unique manuscript collections (e.g., a collection compiled by John Gamble, NYPL MS Drexel 4257, c. 1600–59); and people, or rather dramatic characters (e.g. Merrythought in The Knight of the Burning Pestle and Ophelia in Hamlet). My interest in surveying these different forms of song collections lies primarily in exploring their kinship with literary anthologies, their stated and implied directions regarding performance, and their stated and implied stances regarding isolated or individual expression vs. communal or group participation in song.

Lucía Martínez Valdivia, Reed College: ‘Early Modern Audiation: Impossible Sound in English Poetry’

Abstract: Audiation is the mechanism through which silently read texts become audible to the mind’s ear, attention to which enables attention to the capacity of silently read text for encountering or producing otherwise impossible sounds in the mind, of realizing the unrealizable. This paper considers a sample of the range of audiation events recorded in and invited by early modern English poetry, focusing first on the presentation of nightingale song in the poems of George Gascoigne and William Strode, and second on John Milton’s descriptions of audiation in acts of silent reading and his attempts poetically to render inaudible, unspeakable heavenly song. These works insist on the ability of the fancy or fantasy to exceed sensory perception, exploiting written text as a medium for the conveyance of sounds both real and impossible—invented or unhearable or unproducible—coming alive only in writing and the silent consumption of it.

Sharon J. Harris, Brigham Young University: Masque Music Metamorphosed in Seventeenth-Century England

Abstract: An account of the development of English dramatic forms across the seventeenth century necessarily includes an account of English music from the same period, but the role of music from court masques is underrepresented in the historical narrative. This paper explores how music from one masque, Gypsies Metamophosed, is fragmented and reappropriated in communal performance venues after the theaters are closed in 1642. Part of a larger study that tracks the influence of the masque genre on the history of early modern English drama, this paper shows that although formal court masques ceased with the reign of Charles I, masque music and dramatic conventions continued to shape domestic substitutes for the theater during the Interregnum and into the Restoration. Using Gypsies Metamorphosed as a case study uncovers the collective dramatic memory located in masque music iterations as they are found in jigs, ballads, plays, and concert music.


Panel: RSA Performing Arts and Theater Seminar

Kathryn Roberts Parker, Newcastle University: Music for Sheep Shearing in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

Abstract: The Winter’s Tale is structured as a tragicomedy between Acts I-III and in Act V, with a highly contrasting Act IV that appears to be on the margins or even separate to the main plot. This characteristic has hindered the amount of analytical work conducted to-date on the music within the play. Despite there being upward of six songs contained in the 1623 Folio, they continually defy classification, or sit noticeably aside from the plotline of the major characters. I suggest that we can determine the dramaturgical purpose of this music if we pay more careful attention to the rural festival that sits very clearly in the middle of the play: a festival of sheep shearing in Act IV which is usually classified as an interlude or relief from the traumatic main plot. My analysis of The Winter’s Tale aims to highlight the significance of the sheep shearing festival celebrated at the onset of summer in early modern England. I will demonstrate how music for sheep shearing generates a sense of communitas between audience and performers that provides a means for Shakespeare and the King’s Men to push the play toward a restorative ending.

Laura Jayne Wright, University of Oxford: Painting Sound: Phonography, Aural Complicity and Shakespeare’s “Silent” Soundscapes

Abstract: This paper redefines our understanding of Shakespeare’s soundscapes in light of unexplored early modern associations between sound, rhetoric, and visual art. Following Puttenham, who termed the description of counterfeit time “cronographia” and the description of counterfeit place “topographia”, I categorize the description of counterfeit sound as “phonographia” and discuss its vital and surprisingly visual effects.

Shakespeare’s visualization of sound in Timon of Athens (1607) is discussed in relation to Marston’s The history of Antonio and Mellida (1599) and Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy (1602), all of which contain largely overlooked scenes (the latter a possible addition by Shakespeare himself) in which a painter is given the impossible task of painting noise. Shakespeare, too, examines the difficulty of painting and writing sound, but, unlike his contemporaries, who insist upon the absurdity of rendering sound on the page, Shakespeare demonstrates that language has the capacity to construct and capture sonic worlds.


Panel: Hidden Cities: The Material Culture of Public Space in Early Modern Europe

Kate Osborne, University of Exeter: Listen Up: An Early Modern Soundscape for Exeter

Abstract: Recent research on Elizabethan Exeter created a database capturing descriptions of the built and occupied environment at parish level. Using this alongside inventories, administrative documents, contemporary political/functional descriptions of the city and museum artefacts, and inspired by the changed soundscape experienced during Covid-19 lockdown, this paper attempts to reconstruct the city’s Elizabethan soundscape from waits and watchmen to cattle and cathedral. It will highlight the auditory stimuli that enabled Exeter’s Elizabethan inhabitants to navigate time, space and their social world and explore how the city authorities used sound to support their strong desire to maintain good order at a time when the city was growing rapidly. The research will underpin the creation of an interactive auditory map/online city tour and a new way to engage with Exeter’s later 16th century urban public spaces.


Panel: Digitial Humanities Case Studies and Methodologies I

Angela Fiore, Conservatorio; ‘A. Steffani’- C. Veneto; Sara Belotti, Universit� degli studi di Bergamo; and Lorenzo Baraldi, Università degli Studi di Modena-Reggio Emilia: Between Music and Cartography: A Digital Humanities Platform to Represent the Este Historical Soundscape

Abstract: During the 17th century, Modena became an important musical centre thanks to the Este family. The court entertained various relationships with some city institutions, contributing to the construction of the city’s musical identity. Inspired by a collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach to historical research, our project aims at creating a digital platform through which to reconstruct and explore the soundscape of the ducal city of Modena. Thanks to the use of state-of-the-art web development tools and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the platform will feature an interactive search and navigation environment, plus an interactive map with geo-localized objects and events. This will offer the chance to have new points of view to study a city and its historical and spectacular development. Moreover, investigating the soundscape will make possible to rediscover the centers of musical production and musical events from a wide-ranging contextual perspective.


Panel: Seeing, Hearing, and Feigning Sounds: Perception, Performance, and Materiality of Music

Richard Wistreich, Royal College of Music: Putting on Voices: Vocal Impersonation on the Early Modern Stage

Abstract: A most intriguing phenomenon in early modern theatre history was the invention around 1600 of through-sung theatre, in which actors were required to sing, rather than speak their roles. It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this development in terms of its technical innovation. Given the limitations of what were understood as desirable qualities of sung vocal production – essentially, ‘naturalness’ – how did the first opera singers overcome the vocal challenges of orally (and aurally) impersonating fictional characters? Indeed, how did ‘straight’ actors and even fictional characters in narrative literature use their voices to ‘pretend to be someone else’? This paper proposes that singers, actors and storytellers appropriated and subverted to their own ends long-understood secrets of the physiognomical system of classifying human characteristics according to empirical principles, ubiquitous in the early-modern era, and how this offers a key to reconstructing early modern theatre singing and speaking techniques.

Deborah A. Lawrence, Hearing a Renaissance Soundscape Through the Ears of a Blind Musician

Abstract: This paper looks at works of two blind musicians of sixteenth-century Spain: organist Antonio de Cabezón and vihuelist Miguel de Fuenllana, exploring how their music, learned through hearing rather than through written texts and sources, reflects the soundscape in which they learned. Using recent scholarship in the field of psychology that identifies superior abilities among blind musicians today (memory and absolute pitch being among them), I apply some of those findings to a consideration of Renaissance sounds created by musicians dependent on what they heard, rather than what they read, for their music education. Including, and extending beyond explicit application of musica ficta, we can see evidence of other performance practices learned aurally. Cabezón’s finals for modally-designated works that differ from those specified by Santa María in his keyboard treatise are one such example, as is the curious lack of variation sets in Fuenllana’s collection that suggests regional preferences.


Panel: (More Than) Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Preacher: Approaches to Early Modern Spanish Preaching

Juan Vitulli, University of Notre Dame: A Sonic Preacher: Sound, Identity and Performance in Baroque Spain

Abstract: In my presentation, I will study the role of sound as a key factor in the shaping of the Baroque Spanish preacher. Specifically, I will analyze a group of treatises on preaching written in Spain after the Council of Trent in order to show how their authors were aware of the sonic aspects of the cultural practice they were trying to organize and regulate. Sound emerges as a fundamental element in the discourses about sacred oratory and could be linked to intersectional topics such as materiality, liturgy and identity formation. In the arts of preaching I have selected, the sonic played a crucial role in forging what was defined as the Catholic soundscape of Early Modern Europe (Filippi and Noone). This first theoretical approach will lead me to further discussions about the connections between the secular and the religious experiences of sound in Baroque Spain.


Panel: The Sounds of Lament

Roseen H. Giles, Duke University: Epic Laments: Tasso, Monteverdi, and the Madrigal

Abstract: In Il terzo libro de madrigali a cinque voci (1592) Monteverdi included musical settings of laments in epic verse for both Tancredi (the aftermath to his Combattimento) and for the sorceress Armida (who curses her fleeing lover Rinaldo). This paper examines Monteverdi’s earliest settings of Tasso’s epic as musical representations of lament not through the verisimilitude of opera, but through the artifice of five-voice madrigals. Monteverdi’s initial engagement with Tasso’s Gerusalemme catalyzed the composer’s early experiments with the musical lament, a topos which occupied an important space both in opera and in madrigals, and was defined by its subject matter as much as it was by its formal characteristics. The Gerusalemme settings of Monteverdi’s third book of madrigals are some of the most important precedents not only for the laments of the operatic stage, but for the epic laments of the Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi: Tasso’s Combattimento and Rinuccini’s Lamento della ninfa.

Kate Driscoll, Freie Universitat Berlin: Curse, Bark, Wail, Hiss: What do Furious Men Sound Like?

Abstract: This presentation listens to the early modern lament as a “boundary phenomenon” (Comay 2014), subject to its own transcendence of boundaries by male speakers who complicate the genre’s history as a “feminine” form of expression. My key examples are literary figures of madness; namely, Ariosto’s Orlando and Rodomonte, whose “toxic masculinity” in Orlando furioso and its stage adaptations raises issues of political impotence and the (in)compatibility of silent rage and histrionic grief. Bringing literary analysis, masculinity studies, and the history of emotions together with the cultural history of early modern musical theater, I investigate the following questions: how does male lament challenge the symbolic order that associates plaintive vocabulary, and especially its performance for live audiences, with women? As a “manhood act” (Schrock and Schwalbe 2009), how might the gesture of male lamentation reverse structures of subordination both between the sexes and between rival patriarchal systems? When men’s actions make other men cry, what hierarchical stakes are at play that solidify or unsettle orders of authority, dominance, and obedience? My paper engages in critical dialogue with theorists of gender and affect, whose insights create new interpretations of male characters—often defined as “robusto,” “atroce,” and “tanto sicuro”—and their dramatic, tragic “undoings.”

Eugenio Refini, New York University: On the Rocks: Emotional Conflict and Vocal Diffraction in Baroque Laments

Abstract: Images of fire and ice, life and death, rage and resignation populate the emotional palette of early modern laments. Indeed, the lamenting character moves – often frantically – from one extreme of the spectrum to the other, displaying a variety of emotions that seem to belong to different personalities and which, paradoxically, entail different voices. In some cases, poets provide composers with texts that lead the musical settings through the psychological (and physiological) ups and downs of the lament; in other instances, it is up to the composers to find ways to play such emotional dynamic out. This paper explores a few early seventeenth-century laments in order to identify rhetorical and musical devices through which the monodic lament is, in fact, made polyphonic. It also explores how such polyphony is achieved and exposed through performance practice. Case studies include works by Marino, D’India, and Carissimi.


Panel: Spaces of Privacy III: Functions, Practices, Symbolism

Sarah Hendriks, Trinity College Dublin:  Sound and Silence: Private Space in the Seventeenth-Century British Home

Abstract: In the seventeenth century, domestic architecture in Britain began to change. New homes had a greater numbers of rooms and a more conscious transition between shared and private spaces within the home (Cooper, 1999).

Unfortunately, the architectural record alone is rarely sufficient to pinpoint where these transitions took place and what classified spaces as shared or private. Neither can it reflect the duality of a space that is one day shared, another private, depending on the time and activity.
Using musical performance as a case study, this paper argues that privacy in domestic architecture is best understood by examining the activities taking place within it. Through an analysis of the type and location of musical activities in the home, this paper provides a different lens through which to view aspects of domestic privacy, and considers when, how, and why some architectural spaces are considered private, but not others.


Panel: Street Life in the Rome of Barberini

Bonnie Gordon, University of Virginia: Sounding the Piazza

Abstract: The 1658 coronation of Leopold the First invaded Rome with celebrations that included a service, a feast, a concert and a joust called to order by drums which “will serve to awaken the hearts of the most erudite to celebrate the glories of this house, just as the drum wakes up the most vile among soldiers, not only the most generous soldiers, but all the leaders of the militia.” This paper listens to the spectacles that turned Rome’s piazza’s into stages during the long seventeenth century. Focusing especially on castrato singers and drums, I argue that these productions acted as laboratories for technical knowledge and as early modern incantations of virtual reality. I position the castrato’s voice at the nexus of Rome’s theatrical, musical and mechanical culture; they participated in almost every aspect of sacred and secular ritual, and often performed alongside a variety of ingenious artifices designed to ravish the senses.


Panel: RSA French Literature Seminar II: Women Writers, Women in Writing

Kathleen Loysen, Montclair State University: Material Voices: Women’s Printed Caquets in Early Modern France

Abstract: The first lines of Le Plaisant quaquet et resjuyssance des femmes (1556) exemplify the tensions that existed in the first century of print culture:

“Lisez lecteurs ce quaquetage
Vous orrez femmes caqueter.”

My paper will explore those tensions, studying the impulse to preserve the sound of the human voice “speaking” on the printed page. This text, along with other sources such as Le Debat des lavendieres de Paris avec leur caquet (1600), seems to preserve anonymous oral matter (sayings, songs, gossip) in print, and thereby raises questions regarding authorship, transmission practices, and orality and print in early modern France.

I will analyze how such texts, with their blend of literary structure, the materiality of the printed page, and their multivalent use of words indicating both bookishness and orality, provide a example of how unofficial discourses circulated in an age that was adapting to new technologies for information dissemination.

Panel: Digital Mapping and 3D Modelling of Pre-Modern Built Environments

Nicola Camerlenghi, Dartmouth College: Towering over Rome: 3D Mapping the City’s Network of Surveillance and Power

Abstract: This project—still in its initial stages—combines scholarly and computational methods to create a 3D map of sixteenth-century Rome’s most prominent vertical features: the towers, bell towers, repurposed ruins, and hills that dominated the skyline. The raw data is derived from a handful of detailed panoramic views of the city from the mid-sixteenth century that is then assembled to create a 3D-GIS map of the city. The ultimate goal is to explore the interconnectedness of sight and sound, topography and movement in the city by analyzing acoustics, ballistics, and defensive systems.


Panel: Music and Musicians in Rural and Urban Contexts

Elizabeth G. Elmi, Independent Scholar, L’arboro captivo fa captivo fructo: Pastoral Politics in Lyric Song of Late Fifteenth-Century Southern Italy

Abstract: In the late-fifteenth century, the Kingdom of Naples was a complex geo-political territory encompassing an expansive range of rural and urban spaces throughout southern Italy. In this context, the Aragonese crown worked systematically to centralize power by divesting feudal barons of their lands and, consequently, forcing them to relocate from the rural provinces into the urban capital city. Such circumstances gave rise to a nostalgic and often embittered focus on rural, wild, and untamed settings in the production and transmission of southern Italian lyric. This paper argues that the pastoral and naturalistic imagery and aesthetics that characterized musical and literary works from the Aragonese-ruled Kingdom of Naples had clear political implications. In particular, it considers the notated Neapolitan song repertory alongside Iacopo Sannazaro’s Arcadia as contrasting, yet complementary, examples of a cultural impulse to both lament and reassert the local aristocracy’s rural cultural identity, lost to a destabilizing foreign power.

Joseph Nelson, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, “Noise and Fury Signifying Nothing”: Music, Noise, and the Landscape of London’s Urban Poverty, 1600–1850

Abstract: Orlando Gibbons’s The Cries of London I and II (c. 1610) emulates the cries of vendors in marketplaces, providing a rare glimpse into the sonic landscape of early modern London, its street markets, and its working people. The texts and melodies employed here by hawkers and street vendors to advertise their products record lower-class people’s voices lost to history. This music takes on new meaning when placed in the context of scholarship on sound and urban geographies. Using The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) and recent scholarship on London’s street markets to show the distribution of markets and areas of industry, I locate sites of street cries such as those in Cries of London and charting the sonic territories of the city. I then use works by visual artists and writers such as Laroon, Hogarth, Pepys, and Mayhew to provide further detail about the environment of London’s streets and the people encountered by those writing about street life. In these works of art, music, and literature, the voices of those anonymous street people lingered long after they passed into history. By mapping these sonic territories, I hope to illustrate how their labor and voices marked London’s pre-industrial soundscape.

Michael Gale, Open University, The Life and Work of Walter Cheyney (d. 1601), Elizabethan “Singingman”

Abstract: If the central narratives concerning Elizabethan musical culture tend to focus upon famous instrumentalists with court positions and composers who sang in the Chapel Royal, what of the multitude of provincial figures who also engaged in the practice and production of music? Walter Cheyney occupies one such musicological footnote; Peter Le Huray (1967) included Cheyney in his long list of musicians for whom “no information has yet come to light”, but a good deal of Cheyney’s biography can now be reconstructed. This paper explores the ecclesiastical institutions in Winchester where Cheyney worked, his social and professional networks, and the duties he may have undertaken, shedding new light on both his career and that of his nephew, the Jacobean organist-composer William Wigthorpe. More importantly, this study shows that a careful trawl of provincial institutional and administrative archives may yet reveal a good deal more about the early modern music profession.


Panel: RSA Musicology Seminar I: Italian Music

This entire panel will likely be of interest to early modern sound scholars, and particularly:

David E. Cohen, Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Asthetik, Frankfurt: Marsilio Ficino and Italian Renaissance Music Theory

Abstract: This paper considers Marsilio Ficino’s original thought in music theory, relating it to certain contemporary developments in that field.
Northern Italy between 1482 and 1558 witnessed a music-theoretical revolution reflective of contemporaneous practices in composition and performance: the ancient “Pythagorean” tuning system, in which certain important note-combinations sound rather harsh, was replaced by what we call “just intonation,” in which those same concords sound “sweet” and harmonious.

Ficino’s technical discussions of music theory have heretofore been studied chiefly in his commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, where only the Pythagorean system is in view. This paper contextualizes and explains the contents of an insufficiently noticed letter of c.1484, in which Ficino effectively anticipates the advent of just intonation while also introducing other innovative music-theoretical ideas. I then consider the possible relation of Ficino’s thinking there to his own activities as a composer and performer, and to aspects of his philosophical thought.


Panel: RSA Musicology Seminar II: Early Modern Composition and Performance

This entire panel will likely be of interest to early modern sound scholars.


Panel: Thinking the Renaissance with Ali Smith: Climate, Art and Law

Seth Herbst, United States Military Academy: John Milton’s Musical Afterlife

Abstract: Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet of novels are haunted both by Renaissance literature and by soundscapes—music, birdsong, voices. Inspired by her echoic treatment of language’s musical return, this essay considers some early modern literary material that resists this kind of cyclical, seasonal haunting and asks: Why has Milton been so infrequently adapted into music? The straightforward answer to the Milton and music “problem” is genre: unlike Shakespearean drama—the basis for innumerable musical settings—Miltonic epic is too unwieldy for ready musical adaptation. But Milton did write dramatic works—the Mask and Samson Agonistes—which have also received relatively little musical attention. I propose that Miltonic style itself—in its syntactic involution, Latinate diction, and propulsive meter—poses special challenges for musical adaptation. This talk consider Handel’s Samson (1743) and Krzystof Penderecki’s Paradise Lost (1978) in order to explore the ways poetic style might be literary and (anti)musical.


Panel: Kinetic Images in the Early Modern World II: The Art of Devotion

Sophie D’Addio, Columbia University: Opening, Closing, Revealing, Concealing: Painted Organ Shutters as Moveable Images

Abstract: When closed, painted organ shutters conceal and protect the precious pipes of the instrument, and when opened, they provide a visual accompaniment to the sound emanating from it during the unfolding of the liturgy. Many of the subjects that decorate organ shutters respond to their inherent dialogue between opening and closing, thereby expressing and embodying notions of passage and revelation, respectively on their exterior and interior sides. Moreover, when the organ was played, the coupling of image and sound would have imbued the interior representations with a sense of enlivenment and animation, capable of stirring the emotions of viewers within the multisensory experience of the mass. This presentation will explore the ways in which artists responded to and capitalized upon the performative associations of the format and musico-liturgical context of organ shutter paintings, considering examples from Italy and Spain to colonial Latin America.


Panel: English Reformation Attitudes Toward Music

Anne Heminger, University of Tampa: “Raucous” and/or “delectable”: Rethinking Henrician and Edwardine Attitudes towards Religious Music

Abstract: Erasmus famously characterized late medieval English liturgical polyphony as an “incessant clamour of diverse sounds,” while the polemicist John Bale called pricksong and faburden “the very sinagog of Sathan.” Although such statements have often been taken as indicative of early reformist attitudes toward music in sixteenth-century England, this paper argues that the overwhelming majority of those writing about religious music at this time not only took for granted its continued use in worship, but viewed it as foundational for both liturgical and domestic devotional experience. Indeed, while acknowledging its potential dangers, reformers stressed music’s importance as a communicative medium. Even those critical of music, moreover, admitted its value; Bale himself employed Latin-texted chant in his evangelical play God’s Promises, in part relying on his own fondness for music. This paper thus complicates the relationship between religious music and reformist writings on the subject in the early English Reformations.

Samantha Arten, Washington University in St. Louis: The “Ballad Controversy” Revisited: Anti-Ballad Sentiment and Praises of Music in the Tudor Period

Abstract: In the early 1560s, following the coronation of Elizabeth I, a current of cultural anxiety surrounded ballads, producing attacks on music in general as immoral. Hyder Rollins wrote in 1919 of a “ballad controversy” made up of a single antagonist (Thomas Brice) and four “praise of music” writings (three of them literally called “commendations of music”) by Henry Spooner, Thomas Churchyard, Nicholas Whight, and Richard Edwards, which were published in response to Brice’s anti-ballad sentiment. These works continue to be discussed as a group in the scholarly literature. In this paper, I will problematize the straightforward narrative of a 1561–63 “ballad controversy” and show that controversy over ballads was located not in the laus musicae topos but instead in the first wave of printed collections of metrical scriptural paraphrase, and that this controversy originated not in the 1560s but dates back to c. 1535.

Joseph Mann, Independent Scholar: On the Defensive: Music and the Puritan Orthodoxy of the Interregnum

Abstract: Before the Interregnum, Puritan writers on music railed against its immoral uses more often than they wrote in praise of it. After the rise of the Commonwealth, however, Puritan thought (both Presbyterian and Independent) was no longer politically oppositional, and their approach to music changed accordingly. This paper explores how Puritan authors writing on music quickly shifted to a defensive posture in support of psalm singing against the new oppositional voices of the Quakers and other dissenter sects. It also reveals that Puritans made this transition for the political purpose of supporting the establishment of a new religious and cultural orthodoxy in England, the orthodoxy envisioned by the Parliament and its new Commonwealth government. In doing so, this paper adds a new facet to our understanding of Protestant thought in the seventeenth century and how that thought was influenced by politics.


Panel: Changes in Visual and Material Culture as Revealed in Early Modern Printed Music Treatises

Susan Forscher Weiss, Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University: Turning and Tuning: Revolving Theories Revealed in Renaissance Music Theory Treatises, 1480–1580

Abstract: Manuscript and printed music texts contain numerous diagrams as aids to understanding theoretical concepts. Perhaps the most identifiable of these pedagogical tools was the inscribed hand, an image that serves as the backdrop for this presentation. Of all other images intended to explain the grammar of music, the circle emerged as the most significant, particularly as it represented changes in the conceptualization of musical space, from hexachord to octave. On rare occasions, these circles became interactive, early forms of analog computers or cheap cousins of the astrolabe. The layered paper or parchment wheels could be turned to calculate answers to a variety of questions in many disciplines. In music, the earliest extant volvelles appeared in a music textbook printed in Nuremberg in 1563. This paper aims to answer questions as to the significance of these moveable images as augurs of newer ways of thinking about tuning and temperament.

Daniel Muzzulini, Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology (ICST), Zurich University of The Arts (ZHdK) Zürch: The Origins of Descartes’s Circular Pitch Diagrams

Abstract: René Descartes’s 1618 Compendium musicae (extant in a 1628 copy by Beeckman) included four circular representations in which the whole circle represented an octave, while smaller intervals are shown according to a linear scale based on interval size, e.g., an equal-tempered semitone occupied a twelfth of the circle. The circle serves to represent musical intervals and scales in a manner that accounts for the perceptual phenomena of octave similarity and interval size. Late medieval precursors of Descartes’ drawings have been rediscovered recently. Early one-octave diagrams for just intonation as well as others of a helicona and a volvelle appeared in a treatise by Zarlino (1588). These instruments will be turned into an audio-visual application for the current presentation. They are all semantically and visually similar to those in Descartes’ treatise, but the visualization of a hexachord system within 5-limit tuning using concentric circles seems to be Descartes’ invention.

Michael Dodds Dodd, UNCSA: Circularity and Epistemology in Early Modern Music Theory: Antonio Fernandez’s 1626 Transposition Volvelle

Abstract: Beneath the seventeenth-century transition from modes to keys lies a longer shift from ladder-like to circular conceptualizations of tonal space. Tonal circularity is present in music theory as early as Ptolemy. In words and images, ancient and medieval music theorists invoked circles in symbolic, logical, and conceptual ways. Especially intense expressions of tonal circularity are volvelles, revolving paper wheels that allow musical patterns to be transposed against a fixed background of pitches. In Arte de musica (Lisbon, 1626), Portuguese theorist Antonio Fernandez includes a volvelle presciently reflecting central concerns of seventeenth-century music theory: stimuli and constraints in fashioning circulating temperaments; transposability of tonal structures within an ever-widening tonal compass; and privileging of major and minor triads. Fernandez’s volvelle furthers the long-standing analogy between musical and cosmological space, echoing a shift from speculative science to science based on observation and measurement.


Panel: Singing Stars, Hymns of Blood, and Atom Poems: Debating the Art and Science of Perception

David Kendall, La Sierra University, Riverside, CA:  “Thy Hearing is Mortal…”: Human Sensory Perception in Dante’s Heavenly Journey

Abstract: The notion that the regular movements of the heavenly bodies are based on simple mathematical principles and that these same principles govern musical intervals and pitches, making the celestial motions a kind of music (musica mundana), was a long-standing and accepted scientific fact when Dante wrote his Commedia in the early 14th century. Why these sounds were not audible to human ears was debated, with scholars presuming that it was because the planets and stars are moving too quickly, or are too far away. However, when Dante undertakes his heavenly journey in the Paradiso, he has the opportunity to speculate, not only about hearing, but about general human sensory perception in the heavenly spheres. What results is a highly sophisticated speculative essay on the potential power of human perception when special divine aid is rendered, and the limits of human perception when such aid is withheld.

Jill Walker Gonzalez, La Sierra University: “Blood-drops did force their passage out”: The Science of Samson Occom’s Hymns

Abstract: Although best known for his Sermon at the Execution of Moses Paul, eighteenth-century Mohegan preacher Samson Occom also penned a number of hymns, some of which are still sung today. In one hymn, “Throughout the Savior’s Life We Trace,” Occom focuses on Jesus’ blood in both the physical and symbolic sense, paying particular attention to Jesus’ sweating of blood that Luke describes in his gospel. This paper will explore the possible ways that Occom could have perceived Jesus’ divinity in this biblical passage through both his religious education and his understanding of science. For although the diagnosis of hematidrosis was unknown at the time, its existence was documented in Renaissance art and writing, most notably in a text by Leonardo da Vinci.


Panel: RSA Arts and Architecture Seminar: Northern Europe and the British Isles

Jessica Sara Sternbach, Temple University, Tyler School of Art: The Pastoral Paradox: Encountering the Pastoral in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Interiors

Abstract: The pastoral is an ancient poetic mode associated with the countryside and world of music-making shepherds that was revived and thrived in music, literature, and art throughout the seventeenth. In the second half of the seventeenth century, the pastoral mode can be seen updated and modified in the hands of Dutch patrons and artists, who refashioned this classical mode to explore shifting aspects of Dutch identity. Dutch poems, plays, and songbooks took pleasure in reviving a genre that brought with it allusions to love, romantic intrigue, and escapism. This paper examines the paradoxical encounter between the pastoral and the elegant Dutch interiors through seventeenth-century Dutch music paintings.

Like their literary counterparts, Dutch artists, like Frans van Miris in The Duet (c. 1658), infused the pastoral with an air of elite status, enhanced by the country estates of the Dutch upper classes. The characters are no longer resting languidly under laurels on Mount Parnassus, but rather play in the salet, beneath the bows of a landscape painting hung just behind the male figure. The sounds of the babbling brook are replaced with the ripple of the harpsichords keys beneath the lady’s fingers.


Panel: Women and Music in the Early Modern Catholic Liturgy

Alanna Ropchock Tierno, Shenandoah University, Women in the Early Modern Nuptial Mass: A Case Study of the 1579 Fugger Wedding

Abstract: Early modern women who did not enter a convent likely experienced another life-altering moment in a church: they were married during a nuptial liturgy. Despite the prevalence of weddings in Renaissance life, scholars tend to emphasize the celebratory festivities over the actual marriage ritual. Moreover, the nuptial ceremony offers an ideal platform for studying intersections of gender, liturgy, and music. This paper will examine a Catholic wedding that occurred in Augsburg in 1579 and involved members of the Fugger family. An extant choirbook presented to bridegroom Octavian Fugger preserves the polyphonic music from the Mass, which was celebrated according to the Augsburg rite rather than the new Tridentine rite. When contextualized within Reformation and Counter-Reformation nuptial liturgies, the 1579 Fugger wedding reveals both changes and consistencies in the sixteenth-century perception of married women from the Biblical era and their own epoch.

Christine S Getz, University of Iowa: A Tini Print for Santa Maria Segreta in Milan

Abstract: During the seven years they were in business together, Aurelia de Giudice Tini and Giovanna Bonibelli Tini printed at least two volumes of sacred music for Santa Maria Segreta in Milan. As D’Amico (1994) and Curatolo (1991) have shown, Santa Maria Segreta served one of the largest residential populations in the city and was home to two popular Marian confraternities. It further had been renovated to include a loft for sermons and concerts. This paper argues that the Tini widows, who worked and resided near Santa Maria Segreta, forged strong ties with its officials and prepared Gallo’s Sacri operis musici (1598) for use in its Marian confraternity of the SS. Sacramento e S. Annunciata. It further demonstrates that the Sacri operis musici ascribed ownership of certain individual compositions contained to performers from institutions throughout the city, a mode of mapping performance that was quickly adopted by the Tini’s competitors.

Barbara Swanson, Dalhousie University, Spiritual Slavery to Mary in Seventeenth-Century Spain: The Case of Fisher Ms. 376

Abstract: Fisher 376 is an early modern manuscript compendium that begins with a dedication from “a slave (esclava) of the virgin Mary” to a house of religious women. Although the specific religious community is unknown, the dedication suggests that the manuscript patron was affiliated with a practice widespread throughout Spain by the seventeenth century—spiritual slavery to Mary. The subsequent section of Marian liturgies in Fisher 376 (including a complete cycle of Marian votive offices) resonates with such practices. This paper will contextualize the liturgical obligations of Fisher 376’s religious women by comparing their practices with a 1623 devotional manual for spiritual slaves of Mary at the convent of Santissima Trinidad (Madrid). This paper will further explore and contextualize the language of spiritual slavery in seventeenth-century culture, in particular, the servitude or enslavement of the body as a perceived condition for spiritual freedom.


Panel: Rhetoric and the Arts: Music, Visual Imagery, and Memory

Online discussion session: This session explores the ways in which early modern rhetoric enabled connections between language and the arts. A rhetorical analysis of thirteen of Claudio Monteverdi’s madrigalian settings of Torquato Tasso’s poetry reveals that the composer consistently responded to the expressivity and increased formal freedom typical of Tasso’s poetry by making greater use of musico-rhetorical figures. Rhetorical theory provides access to Elizabethan understanding of the visual arts as forms of communication and persuasion, as is evident in examples of portraiture, narrative imagery, and household objects. The fourth canon of rhetoric–the art of memory, as represented in Italian memory arts manuals–enables a physical approach to cognition, as the body becomes the center of organizing memory, through such techniques as walking in a mind-palace and seeing and touching imaginary people.


Panel: RSA Rhetoric Seminar

Jean David Eynard, University of Cambridge: Parrhesia redux: The Musical Rhetoric of the Free Speech in Milton’s Defence Tracts

Abstract: Recent scholarship has highlighted the significant role of parrhesia as a rhetorical tool of free speech in seventeenth-century England. Yet little attention has been paid the importance of this figure in early modern music theory, where it indicated ‘an intermixing of a certain dissonance with the other harmonizing voices’ (Burmeister). This paper demonstrates that early modern writers often capitalised on the musical connotations of parrhesia to excuse their criticisms, reassuring readers that ‘after this harsh discord [they will] touch upon a smoother string’ (Milton), or asking for permission to use ‘discord to sweeten the Harmony of the approaching close’ (Hobbes). This paper brings new light onto this interdisciplinary phenomenon through a rhetorical analysis of Milton’s defence tracts, showing how he skilfully mimics the musical use of parrhesia, solecisms, and similar rhetorical effects in order to present his own criticisms as ‘justified discords’, while simultaneously debasing his opponent’s as mere noise.


Panel: RSA Italian Literature seminar: Dante

Paolo Scartoni, Rutgers University: The Reason of Music: Musica Speculativa and Dante’s Illustrious Vernacular

Abstract: My paper focuses on the role of music in Dante’s linguistic theory and poetics. It takes as its point of departure the basic assumption that throughout the Middle Ages, music and grammar play parallel roles in the study and evaluation of poetry: as two sides of the same coin, they participate in the intellectual practice of poetic criticism. I argue that Dante rethinks and complicates the grammar/music paradigm traditionally applied to poetic analysis, and extends it to the study of language in general. I will first show how the debate over the primacy of grammar or music in poetic criticism permeates the Middle Ages. Then, I will situate Dante’s linguistic and poetic theory within the context of this debate, paying particular attention to Augustine’s De Ordine and De Musica. Ultimately, I will demonstrate that musica speculativa occupies a prominent place in Dante’s reflection.

Panel: Sequestration and the City: Confinement, Exclusion, and Enclosure in the Mediterranean World

Nathan Kent Reeves, Northwestern University: Music, Mobility and Galley Servitude in Spanish Naples

Abstract: Throughout the early modern period, Spanish overseers of the port city of Naples maintained a galley fleet that provided military protection to its harbor and patrolled the coasts of the wider kingdom. These ships relied on rowing labor from enslaved men (from north Africa, west Africa, and Ottoman Turkish lands) and local convicts, identified collectively as galeotti. During the winter harboring months many galeotti were expected to supplement their rations through a trade, craft, or skill like playing a musical instrument. Despite their condition of state servitude, galeotti who were musicians supplied a form of specialized labor that was valuable both on and off the galleys. Drawing from archival research at the Archivio di Stato di Napoli, literary accounts, and musical media, I demonstrate that the Mediterranean galley was a fluid, contingent space, in which movements of unfree musical labor were intertwined with those of social, political, and aesthetic power.


Panel: Constructing Identity and Religion in Africa

Janie Cole, University of Cape Town, Missionaries, Diplomats and Musical Contacts in Sixteenth-Century Ethiopia

Abstract: Drawing on 16th– and 17th-century travelers’ accounts, Jesuit documentation and indigenous sources, this paper explores the earliest recorded musical contacts and exchanges between Ethiopia and Latin Europe during the early modern age of exploration. First, the earliest documented encounter between a Portuguese embassy and the court of Emperor Lebna Dengel in 1520 shows the use of European music and instruments for diplomacy and gift-giving, and the local faranji community. Then, encounters between Jesuit missionaries and communities in Feremona and Gorgora from 1557 unveil the Jesuit musical art of conversion, which employed music as both evangelical and pedagogical tools, blending indigenous and foreign elements. These contacts offer views on the spread of Portuguese courtly and Jesuit liturgical musical traditions, instruments, performance styles and ceremonial practices along Portuguese routes of discovery, giving broader insight into the role of music in constructing identity, religion and cultural hierarchies in East Africa.

Cara Stacey, North-West University: Music as Archive: The early history of the eMaswati

Abstract: The contemporary kingdom of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) has a complex and turbulent past. A small land-locked country in southern Africa, this place is known for its mass-participatory cultural events such as the ‘Umhlanga’ and ‘Incwala’, each ceremonially commemorating and performing the history of the Swazi nation. The precolonial history of this region connects early migration into southern Africa with political skirmishes in the kaTembe region of southern Mozambique, the Mfecane and finally, the unification of a Swazi ‘nation’ under the first modern king, Ngwane III. Oral literature documents numerous ancient kings and their movements in search of land, rain and prosperity before this time. With a contemporary cultural sphere which so values nationalistic ritual, song, and praise, this paper asks what we can know about and through music in the formative period of eSwatini before 1750, before the birth of the modern Swazi nation.


Panel: RSA History Seminar: Northern Europe and the British Isles

Elizabeth A. Weinfield, The Juilliard School: Music, Business and Belonging in an Early Modern Antwerp Salon

Abstract: In the seventeenth century, Antwerp’s merchant class was primarily comprised of Jewish immigrants from Portugal and Spain; they were business savvy, exploiting networks of shared culture and language to facilitate deal-making. In the case of the musically-prodigious Duarte family, a mastery of music combined with their status as conversos engendered a sense of cultural belonging that meant survival in spite of tenuous circumstances, and ultimately both intellectual and professional flourishing. Like it did for English Royalists, also in exile in Antwerp during the English Civil War, the home functioned as a semi-official space for these convergences.

The Duartes, however, exploited the exclusivity of their social-religious community to subvert the notion of nationhood, at once challenging the idea of converso merchants as wandering, nation-less minorities and complicating a gentile claim to national heritage. I show how music, and specifically women making music in the salon, enabled these interstitial and interracial dependencies.


Panel: Political Ceremonies and Rituals: Global Perspectives II

Arne Spohr, Bowling Green State University: Representations of Blackness in Württenburg Court Festivals, 1600-1750

Abstract: Most early modern German states did not own any African colonies and were not directly involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade, yet their court cultures displayed a strong interest in sub-Saharan Africa and blackness. Focusing on the Württemberg court as a case study, my paper explores visual and sonic representations of blackness in festival culture, with a particular emphasis on the clothing, musical instruments and repertoires, and actions of fictive and real black African performers. Courtly imaginings of blackness shifted from the earlier poeticized notion of the “noble African,” often enacted by nobility and members of the Ducal family (e.g. at the baptism of Prince Friedrich in 1616), to later constructions of blackness, in which real black African performers were stylized as luxury “objects” in Turkish clothes. After the 1690s, black performers evoked Ottoman luxury and military power that nevertheless had been subjugated by the Holy Roman Empire.


Panel: Otium cum dignitate: Leisure and Amusement of Early Modern Elites I

Consuelo Gómez, UNED: Otium nobile: The Honest and Noble Otium of Recreational Mechanics.

Abstract: The aim of this proposal is to examine how the Early Modern technical literature defined a clear distinction between practical and recreational mechanic, giving to the mechanical devices (automatons, musical clocks, hydraulic organs, mechanical toys, etc.) a new value as exponents of material culture, linked to a new way of understanding the “noble recreation”.

From this approach, I will study the importance given to mechanical recreation in order to arouse “intellectual surprise”, ennobling those who contemplated it through concepts such as curiosity and diletto. I will also analyze the process by which mechanical devices became part of the scenography of Early Modern cultural and social spaces: gardens, chambers of wonders, curiosity cabinets, court theatres or libraries, from their consideration as objects linked to the new social and cultural uses of the nobility in the Early Modern Period.


Panel: Otium cum dignitate: Leisure and Amusement of Early Modern Elites II

Cory M. Gavito, Texas Woman’s University: Learning, Playing, and Teaching the Guitar at the Jesuit Colleges for Nobles in Italy, 1650–1700

Abstract: While it is well known that music-making was an important skill in the repertory of courtly customs advocated in Castiglione’s Il libro del cortegiano, the musical practices of Italian elites remains to be adequately studied. In this paper I fill in some of these gaps by focusing on the accounts of learning, playing, and teaching the guitar at the Jesuit Colleges for Nobles in Italy. I focus primarily on the Jesuit Colleges in Parma and Bologna, where several notable guitar maestri were hired to teach lessons. I consider the significance of this musical training during the 1660s and 1670s, a time during which noble students were enrolled in guitar lessons at the Jesuit Colleges in record numbers. But it was also a time when the musical talent of the boys, along with other arti cavalleresche, became increasingly integrated into the civic and courtly ceremonial life of Parma and Bologna.


Panel: RSA History Seminar: Early Modern England

Amy Louise Smith, Lancaster University: Protest Song, Political Engagement, and the Community in Rural England, c.1600-40

Abstract: A culture of defamation flourished in early-modern England as print, popular music, and performance broadcast libelous material. In the city, verse libels criticized elite figures and contemporary politics. In rural communities, this utilizing of sound and action has been described as ‘folk justice’, wherein community members corrected or censured their neighbors. However, this paper will argue that verse libel served a greater purpose than just musical vigilantism. Libel was an integral part of rural community relations, bringing together diverse members of the parish, such as constables, vicars, landowners with workers and copyholders. This was local political culture. Libel was an experiential and performative way of communicating with your peers and superiors, as well as forming community bonds. I shall address the socio-political importance of libel using a case study from rural Yorkshire. This paper will offer a different perspective on societal regulation in early-modern England, and show how libelous song provided an outlet for peoples’ frustrations, and also served as a medium of political expression after official channels of complaint failed.


Panel: Transformative Objects: Foreign Artifacts and Local Identities II

Jessica Stair, Brown University, Inscribing the Hand: Mapping and Memory in Colonial-Era Nahuatl Manuscripts

Abstract: The open-palmed hand was a common mnemonic device for acquiring knowledge throughout the early modern period. More broadly, it was associated with authority, action, intellect, and creativity. Its pictorial form appeared in myriad books pertaining to subjects as diverse as the cosmos, religion, music, mathematics, and alchemy. In colonial Mexico, friars used the hand as a tool for teaching indigenous neophytes Christian doctrine, as seen in a printed indigenous-language book featuring numerous depictions of mnemonic, open-palmed hands. The image was employed by indigenous communities, as well, within different contexts where the hand took on new valences. This paper considers the representation of such hands within two Nahuatl-language manuscripts made by indigenous peoples of Central Mexico who sought to preserve community history and land. Through an analysis of memory and mapping this paper discusses the ways in which this potent image was invoked and transformed to suit local purposes.


Panel: Balladworthy News and Newsworthy Ballads, 1550-1750: A Shared European Heritage?

Angela J. McShane, University of Warwick: News and No News: The Topical Ballad in Seventeenth-Century England

Abstract: This paper interrogates a historiographical trend that posits the ‘news-ballad’ as the main means of disseminating political information to ‘the people’ before it was replaced by the news press. Contemporaries undoubtedly referred to ballads as containing ‘news’, though it was always deemed unreliable, even laughable, but they more frequently noted the appearance of a ‘new ballad’, implying that the publication of a ballad was itself newsworthy. Drawing upon a mixture of ballads on affairs of state – military, execution, and political songs – the paper offers some nuance to this debate, at least as it operated in England, and shows how most topical ballads, often working in tandem with the prose news-press, functioned to persuade rather than to inform, using the unique power of song to choreograph and mobilise emotion and memory. 

Jan-Friedrich Missfelder, Universität Basel: Always Already New(s): Layers of Time in Early Modern German Ballad Broadsheets

Abstract: Early modern German news media laid strong emphasis on the newness of the content they had to offer. Newe Zeitung(new message) featured commonly in titles of printed broadsheets, written and printed newspapers and ballads. But newness proved to be a temporally flexible category depending on the rhetorical, social and performative structure of the respective medium. In ballads, the specific interplay of text and melody, the use of contrafacta and the common practice of re-issuing of well-known songs in different contexts created complex temporal relations and “layers of time” (Reinhart Koselleck) that defined what counted as “new” and as “news” in early modern German ballads. The proposed paper seeks to investigate the multiple temporalities inherent in the semantics of “newness” in order to analyse the media-specificities of “newsworthiness”.

Siv Brandtzæg, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: Singing the News of Disasters in Early Modern Europe

Abstract: Topical songs concerning major disasters – earthquakes, storms, plagues and fires – constituted a popular print genre in early modern Europe. ‘Disaster ballads’ (if we may call them that) had many enduring traits that were common across national borders: Factual details about the event; an appeal to the emotions; the moralistic interpretation of disasters as divine portents, as well as the use of well-known melodies. The disaster ballad as a genre traversed geopolitical and linguistic borders, but it has yet to be investigated as a pan-European tradition. This paper will delineate the common features of the genre, whilst also pointing to fundamental national differences. The discussion will highlight how ballads depicted domestic vs. international news on disasters; it asks whether their role was mainly journalistic, consolatory, entertaining or moralistic, and it suggests some meeting points between these early songs and cultural expressions produced in the wake of disasters of our own time


Panel: Representations of Women and Girls in Performance

Samantha Chiu-Yang Chang, University of Toronto, Idleness and Performance: Women’s Self-Portraits in Early Modern Europe

Abstract: Consideravit semitas domus suæ, et panem otiosa non comedit. (Proverbs 31:27)

The study of early modern women painters centers on a series of self-portraits by Catharina van Hemessen, Sofonisba Anguissola, Lavinia Fontana, and Artemisia Gentileschi. In these works, the painters present themselves in the act of painting, writing, and music-making. Instead of idle hands, the painters’ fingers stand poised over the keyboard as in Anguissola’s Self-Portrait at the Keyboard (Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte) or steadying the paintbrush over the canvas as in Anguissola’s Self-Portrait at the Easel (Łańcut, Muzeum Zamek). These performative self-representations differ from the passive poses and gestures found in portraits of women. What purposes do the active and inactive hands serve in women’s portraiture? This paper offers a close reading on women’s gestures and examines the strategic and shared vocabulary of women painters in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Deanne Williams, York University: Girl Masquers in the Sir Henry Unton Portrait

Abstract: This paper examines a detail in the 1596 Tudor Portrait of Sir Henry Unton. The detail depicts his Unton’s wedding and portrays girl performers participating in a wedding masque. The girls walk in procession, two by two, making a circle around a broken consort of six musicians. Led by the goddess Diana, designated by the moon depicted on her crown, the girls are dressed in sparkly silver tunics with flowing green skirts patterned in red, wearing tiaras and carrying bows and floral garlands. This is a very rare visual record of girls performing a masque, and this paper shows how it can teach us a great deal about the conventions, traditions, and symbolism of the medieval and early modern girl player in England, from the medieval plays of Candlemas and the Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Stuart court masque.

Sarah C. E. Ross, Victoria University of Wellington, Women’s Songbooks and Voices of Complaint in Seventeenth-Century Scotland

Abstract: Early modern “female complaint” has been considered almost entirely in terms of Ovidian traditions, and mostly in terms of male-authored poems that ventriloquise woeful women. Lynn Enterline and others have emphasised the female character effect generated through humanist practices of imitatio, schoolboys voicing Hecuba and Niobe in a transferral of identity across gender binaries. But how did women, excluded from the humanist schoolroom, learn the rhetorical conventions of female complaint? This paper focuses on one extraordinary archive of complaint texts owned and performed by girls and women: manuscript songbooks produced in domestic settings in early modern England and Scotland. It explores the songbooks of Elizabeth Davenant and Anne Twice in England, and Lady Margaret Wemyss in Scotland, examining these volumes as evidence of girls’ musical tuition and socialisation into complaint conventions, considering the vocality of women’s complaint song and the interplay between embodied prosopopoeia and performance.


Panel: Book Tools and Print Gadgetry

Earle A. Havens, Johns Hopkins University: The Ephemeral Renaissance: Making, Reading, Annotating, and Keeping Single-Sheet Imprints

Abstract: Early modern printed ephemera often invoke visions of occasional broadside poems, rustic penny ballads, and tabloid reports of monstrous births in the countryside. Many are illustrated with cheap woodcuts that may seem barely relevant to their subject matter. Perhaps less familiar to scholars are single-sheet imprints designed to serve a variety of near-term, and longer-term, documentary, legal, administrative, and even public display functions. Extant examplars of such print productions as confraternity charters, imperial circular letters, papal indulgences, marriage charters, &c., are often otherwise unrecorded in available catalog records, or are known to survive in but a handful of copies. Their composite functions of documentary communication, official inscription, and archival preservation often militate against traditional notions of ephemerality and popular/vernacular “cheap print.” They also resist normative lexical and interpretive reading practices through the nature of their pro forma materiality, both as elaborate paper tools and as functional forms of paperwork.


Panel: Performing Women in Early Modern England and Scotland: Voice and Authorship

Michelle O’Callaghan, University of Reading: “Good ladies, help to fill my mourning voice”: Performing Affective Communities

Abstract: This paper will consider how the vocative openings to Surrey’s female-voiced complaints, first published in Songes and Sonettes, addressing ‘happy dames’ and ‘good ladies’, reverberate across ballads in Elizabethan England. These addresses proved so popular because of their use of the rhetorical figure of apostrophe to create a responsive form. Apostrophe is related to prosopopoeia in that it too is a mode of bodying forth in which the speaker gives life to addressees, transforming them into potential interlocutors. In these complaints, apostrophe moves the audience to action, dramatizing performative communities, and opening out the authorship and acoustics of these complaints to other participants. The rich acoustics of ‘O happy dames’ and ‘Good ladies’ in Songes and Sonettes created a space in which auditors were invited to become co-performers in the song, brought together by affective bonds, moved by the same passions, and therefore capable of sympathy.


Panel: New Perspectives in Renaissance Studies

Deneen Maria Senasi, Mercer University: ‘Signifying Nothing’: Silence and Space in The Duchess of Malfi at Blackfriars

Abstract: This essay explores the dramaturgy of early modern silence in John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, focusing in particular on the material conditioning of the unspoken and the unspeakable. In that context, I argue that silence constitutes not an absence but a remainder, the “rest” of the interiorized dramatic subject for whom the unspoken and the unspeakable must be made to signify. Examining printed editions highlighting its “private” performance at Blackfriars, I consider how such privacy resonates with the play’s fixation with the interior spaces of the bodies and minds of its characters. Suffused with whispers, echoes, and secrets amplified by Blackfriars’ enclosed spaces, Webster’s play confronts the question of whether silence can speak for itself, engaging in dialogue with the spoken word that is the playwright’s principal instrument. A signification of “nothing” that like the voice of the Duchess after death, shapes the tragic action of the play.


Panel: Figures of Polyglossia in English Early Modern Culture II

Josefina Venegas Meza, King’s College London: Textual representations of foreign accents in early modern comedies

Abstract: During the early modern period, dialect comedies that capitalised on foreign accents for comic purposes were on the rise. Early versions of the plays (quarto and folio editions) usually featured semi phonetic spellings to depict the pronunciation of foreign words and foreign accents. Many of these spellings are lost in modern standardisations of the texts, even though they serve as useful tools to guide actors and directors in the portrayal of such polyglot characters. Furthermore, these spellings reflect the perception that the English had about these specific foreign languages, on many occasions inaccurate.

William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (1598) and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610) depict Spanish characters and use their native tongue, as well as their accented English as a comic device. Therefore, I will establish how original spellings on the text provide an insight into the multilingual soundscapes that would have filled early modern stages.

Key words: foreign accents, pronunciation, comedy, spelling.


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