Double Reed Class description

Music of the Oltremontani

The Franco-Flemish Composers and Their Music in Italy:

Casanatense MS 2856, Petrucci’s Odhecaton A, the Basevi Codex, Adrian Willaert & More!

Main Topics: 

What makes a musical composition “instrumental” or not?

Lez haulz et lez bas: The differences between “loud” and “soft” ensembles in the Renaissance.

A fifteenth-century Italian jukebox: Learning the hits of the Renaissance

Following in the footsteps of so many Franco-Flemish composers and musicians of the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, this spring we cross the Alps! These Northerners from the most prestigious courts of France and Burgundy, who arrived in Italy from beyond the mountains to fill some of the most prestigious court positions, were appropriately called oltremontani. They shaped the European musical landscape for several generations, either in person or by reputation: composers of high renown, such as Antoine Busnois, did not necessarily travel to Italy, but their music may be found in many sources of Italian origin.

This workshop will focus on manuscript and print sources from the second half of the fifteenth century to the mid-sixteenth century, including the Biblioteca Casanatense “Wind Band” MS 2856 (ca. 1485), Ottaviano Petrucci’s 1501 print Harmonice musices odhecaton A, the Florence Basevi MS 2439 (ca. 1508), and music by Adrian Willaert and his circle. The first three sources amass works by the most renown composers of the later fifteenth century, including Johannes Ockeghem, Antoine Busnois, Henricus Isaac, Josquin des Prez, Alexander Agricola, Hayne van Ghizeghem, and Firminus Caron, to name a few!

As has been our tradition for the past few years, the first half of the week (Monday-Wednesday afternoon) will be reserved for dulcians and sackbuts and devoted to the later repertoire, including the Basevi codex. The shawms will join us Wednesday evening for the remainder of the workshop as we shift towards the earlier repertoire.

The first half of each day will be dedicated to reed or sackbut technique and performance practice. The first hour will consist of a warm-up session in conjunction with familiarizing ourselves with the greatest hits of the early Renaissance: songs that appear across many sources, tunes that were set as songs, or framed within motets or even masses by different composers. The second half of the morning will be spent on continuing discussions and practice of solmization and mode, looking at recurring motivic material among the popular songs of the day (including songs that cite other songs!), how can we tell if a composition is “instrumental” or not, and the delineation between “loud” and “soft” instruments and their functions.

Afternoons and evenings will consist of playing sessions in mixed groups of sackbuts and double reeds. Selections from all the sources will be provided in both original and modern notation, though a strong emphasis will be placed on working from the original notation. This will give us the opportunity to see the music as our Renaissance compatriots did, and leave us faced with the same musical and theoretical decisions that they would have confronted.

We hope you can join us for this expedition across the Alps in search of the most celebrated composers and compositions of the early to middle Flemish Renaissance!

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