chapter
38 Pages

Italian Music and Lyric Poetry of the Renaissance: Michael A. Keller

Despite the spectacular work of Emil Vogel, Alfred Einstein, Fran~ois Lesure and Claudio Sartori in the bibliography of the field, many fundamental questions remain unanswered concerning the Italian Renaissance madrigal and particularly the body of poetry and poets which supplied the texts for the music. Here is the situation. From approximately 1450-1650, several hundred anthologies of lyric poetry, principally sonnets, madrigals, canzoni, and terze rime, were written and published in Italy. When the project began, we believed that there might be as many as 100,000 poems in this literature with a multiple of this number of variants. After some research conducted by our Italian co-directors preparing a collated first-line index for about a dozen incipitari, we have revised that estimate upward to perhaps 500,000 poems. We believe that there may be as many as 50,000 musical settings of this literature, well documented by Einstein et aI., as musical entities, but not so well connected to the body of literature from which the texts for the music arose. Literary scholars have been aware for a long time that the Renaissance literary style depended heavily upon imitation and parody, especially in lyric poetry, as a creative technique, and as a charming or even ingratiating ingredient directed to readers, especially readers who were or might become patrons. So, imitation and parody of one poem or more usually, of a line or phrase of one poem in another, is a norm in this literature.