Sercambi's Novelliere and Croniche as Evidence for Musical Entertainment in the Fourteenth Century
Questions that continually vex performers and musicologists when performing early music are the most basic ones: How was the music performed? Who performed the various genres and in what c~ntext? What was the role of instruments in vocal performances? Surviving manuscripts preserve the musical repertoire but typically offer little information concerning performance practice. Specific instrumentation rarely was indicated, leaving us with only a blueprint of the music that surely had a lively and varied performance history. To understand the performance practice of early works, one must return to the place of origin and survey the cultural landscape. Documents available to modem musicians include accounts of historical events, payment records from institutions, treatises and instruction books, re-creations of social occasions in the form of dialogues, pictorial evidence, and works of imaginative literature. To create a more complete picture of musical entertainment in fourteenthcentury Tuscany, I will discuss evidence found in two texts by Giovanni Sercambi, II Novelliere, a narrative work modeled on Boccaccio's Decameron, and Le Croniche, an historical account of events in and around Lucca. In particular, I will focus on activities and entertainments described in the cornice of Sercambi's II Novelliere. I
In any discussion of medieval Italy, one must remember that it was not a single unified place but only a geographic expression composed of many different city-states, duchies, republics, and so on. The social, cultural, and political situation in Lucca, for example, differed from that of Florence. Local practices are also retlected in musical repertories, but a glance at the major Florentine musical sources indicates that a shared musical tradition existed.