chapter  1
24 Pages

The Lascivious Career of B-Flat

WithBonnie J. Blackburn

In 1547 the Venetian writer and poet Andrea Calmo portrayed a sexual encounter in musical imagery:

So that by opposites I am just like an organ: milady pumps the bellows and gives wind to the pipes, my ‘will’ works the stops, and I play the octaves, fifths, thirds, and tenths, solmizing with the square b [b-quadro], and when, after too much playing, because the instrument is wearied, we turn to the soft b [b-molle], all of a sudden we both begin a counterpoint, and in this manner, slowly and a little bit at a time, we come to compose the finest madrigals in the works of Adriano, Verdelot, and Arcadelt, in such a way that I scatter my sweet rhymes, as Sannazaro says, ’twixt holes and hollows, feeding my flocks in shadows and in forests, so that, recognizing the course of my desires, thus I will, this I command, for reason stand sexiness.1