Music 261
European Traditions, 1550-1800





Reserve items


Music 261: European Traditions, 1550-1800
Fall Semester, 2000

Analysis Assignment: Monteverdi and Gesualdo

Due date: Wed., Sept. 5 at the beginning of class

ITEMS ON RESERVE (Burling Listening Room):

1) For Monteverdi's "Ah dolente partita" find on reserve:
Madrigals, books IV and V / Claudio Monteverdi [score]
Quarto libro dei madrigali [CD M76m Bk.4]

2) For Gesualdo's "Mercè, grido piangendo" find on reserve:
"Mercè, grido piangendo" [tape, under "Mercè..."]
Selected madrigals for mixed voices / Carlo Gesualdo [score]


Recordings and scores of the two madrigals listed above are on reserve for you at Burling Listening Room. Your task is to study the relationship between the music and text of these madrigals by drawing on the same techniques we used in class to analyze two madrigals by the same two composers. Focus your attention on the text (i.e. its meaning) and the way the text is set musically in each particular piece. Think about the ways the music heightens (or perhaps even obscures) the poet's intentions. In your analysis consider elements such as text repetition, the overlapping of different texts, the various musical textures employed (i.e. consider both the harmonic/chordal as well as linear dimensions of each piece), the range of different voices at different moments throughout the piece, the use of different voice groupings, and the way different voices operate in relation to one another. The points you make in this regard should be directly related to the text to which these musical features are tied. Be very specific in your analysis: refer to specific measure numbers and beats within the measure and refer to specific voices (i.e. alto, soprano etc.).

You do not need to consult any secondary sources (books, articles, etc.) to complete this project. A good starting point for thinking about the pieces is to consider them in relation to the similar works we discussed in class.


Your written assignment is not a comparative study of these two madrigals, although I hope you will notice differences between the two pieces as you proceed with your study of them. The assignment consists of two individual parts: a portion devoted to Monteverdi's "Ah dolente partita" and a separate analysis of Gesualdo's "Mercè, grido piangendo." Your paper should be approximately 3 type-written, double-spaced pages. In light of the nature of each piece, I would suggest writing approx. two pages on the Monteverdi madrigal and one page on the Gesualdo madrigal. Provide an introductory paragraph for each, and organize your thoughts in a logical manner. Do not attempt to analyze every aspect of each piece; pick out particular features which strike you and for which you are able to elucidate the particular relationship between text and music.

Make a point of carefully proof-reading the final version of your paper for spelling errors, incorrect grammar etc. Although you are not expected to use secondary sources for this project, if you do directly quote another author or paraphrase his or her ideas you must cite your source/s in footnotes or endnotes. (Make sure to consult the Student Handbook, pp. 51-53 regarding acknowledging sources in your writing; see also Corbett & Finkles' Little English Handbook or The Chicago Manual of Style; both are available in Burling.) Papers should be written individually, although I encourage you to consult with me or Writing Lab instructors on aspects of your writing and organization.


Because an understanding of the text is crucial for this assignment, I have provided you with a literal, word-by-word translation of each text. You can also find less literal translations in the scores and CD booklet. I encourage you to consider the musical treatment of words that appear to be of particular importance.



"Ah, dolente partita"

Ah  dolente partita!

Ah,               fin de la mia vita!

Da   te    part'e      non moro?

E   pur io provo

La  pena de la morte,

E    sento nel partire

Un vivace     morire

Che   dà   vita  al    dolore

Per far   che moia immortalment'il core.
IN ORDER THAT DIES ETERNALLY THE HEART (i.e. only to make my heart die unendingly)


"Mercè grido piangendo"

Mercè     grido piangendo

Ma  chi m'ascolta? Ahi lasso, io vengo meno;
BUT WHO HEARS ME?  ALAS, I COME LESS (i.e. I am failing; I faint)

Morrò         dunque    tacendo.

Deh, per pietade almeno,

Dolce  del   core   tesoro, 
SWEET OF MY HEART TREASURE (i.e. sweet treasure of my heart)

Potessi    dirti pria   ch'io mora: "Io moro!"

Individual Class Presentations on Assigned Readings: Guidelines

Each of you has chosen or been assigned an article or book chapter.
You are responsible for reading the article, summarizing the important points
or issues which the article raises, and introducing these issues to the class
through your presentation. You need to present a written outline to each
member of the class noting the points you will cover which should be logically
introduced and fully filled out on your outline. (If you would like me to
make copies of your outline for each class member you will need to give me
your original at least one day in advance.) You should end your presentation
of approx. 15-20 minutes by opening up the topic for discussion. You are
required to facilitate discussion by posing questions to the class regarding
the reading. Have four or five questions in mind; even if you do not use them
all you may find that, as a means of facilitating discussion, some questions
prove more effective than others. In other words, have a number of questions
on which you can draw and be prepared to reword a question should it prove
necessary. Although the main focus of your presentation and questioning
should be your assigned reading, you are also encouraged relate material or
issues that have been covered in class in general to the reading at hand.
Most of the readings will be found in your course packet; one or two have
been placed on reserve in Burling Library.

Article assignments

F/Sept. 8: Hisako
Tim Carter, "Finding a Voice: Vittoria Archilei and the Florentine 'New
Music'" in Feminism and Renaissance Studies [PACKET]

M/Sept. 25: Esther
Craig Monson, "Disembodied Voices: Music in the Nunneries of Bologna in the
Midst of the Counter-Reformation," in The Crannied Wall: Women, Religion, and
the Arts in Early Modern Europe [PACKET]

W/Sept. 27: Ryan
Robert Kendrick, "The Traditions of Milanese Convent Music and the Sacred
Dialogues of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani," in The Crannied Wall [PACKET]

W/Oct. 4: Michael
Ellen Rosand, "The Voice of Barbara Strozzi" in Women Making Music [PACKET]

M/Oct. 30: Matthew
David Hunter, "Patronizing Handel, inventing audiences: the intersections of
class, money, music and history" in Early Music 28/1 (Feb., 2000) [RESERVE]

F/Nov. 10: Inger
Nina Treadwell, "Female operatic cross-dressing: Bernardo Saddumene's libretto
for Leonardo Vinci's Li zite 'n galera (1722)" in Cambridge Opera Journal 10/2
(1998) [PACKET]


Research Paper


Sept. 15: Last day to select your own research topic/question
Sept. 29: Paper title, outline, and bibliography due
Nov. 15: Research paper due
Dec. 6 & 8: Class presentation of research paper


Students should begin to think about and work on their research papers as soon as possible. There are three graded components with due dates spread across the course of the semester. It is possible for you to propose your own research area but this must be discussed with me and agreed upon by Sept. 15. If a student chooses one of the research areas listed below, I also suggest that he or she discuss the approach to the topic with me well in advance of Sept. 29 when the paper title, outline, and bibliography are due. Students are required not only to choose a specific area for research but more importantly develop an argument or question for which they are expected to produce supporting evidence. The ability to draw together and synthesize supporting materials, the logical explication of ideas, and clarity of expression are essential for the production of a convincing argument. When you turn in your paper title, outline etc. on Sept. 29, a large proportion of the work for your paper should have already been accomplished. You should have collected, examined, and synthesized the relevant materials to the extent that you are able to formulate your research question and provide a detailed outline of the key features of your argument and how it will be developed. I will return the outline to you with suggestions for improvement that can be incorporated into the final paper.


The paper should be approximately 10 type-written, double-spaced pages (not including bibliography). Before writing the paper, make sure to consult the Student Handbook, pp. 51-53, regarding acknowledging sources in academic writing. You must use either footnotes or endnotes to acknowledge the use of information or ideas drawn from either primary or secondary sources, regardless of whether they are directly quoted or paraphrased. For information on matters of style and format see Corbett & Finkles' Little English Handbook or The Chicago Manual of Style; both are available in Burling. Papers should be written individually, although I encourage you to consult with me or Writing Lab instructors on aspects of your writing and organization.


1. By drawing on the surviving letters of Monteverdi, discuss the musical politics and social conditions that effected the day to day working life of the musician and composer. You may wish to focus on Monteverdi's employment at either Mantua or Venice or provide a comparison.

2. Consider the social position of the Venetian singer-composer Barbara Strozzi. Discuss the context of her musical performances in relation to the musical styles and genres that she cultivated. To what extent did her gender influence the kind of music-making in which she was involved and the ways she was perceived by her male contemporaries?

3. Taking Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as a focus, examine the ways that his music integrates Italian and/or French influences. To what extent might it be seen to reflect a specifically English style?

4. Discuss the musico-poetic experiments of the group of poets and composers who in 1570 formed the Académie de Poésie et de Musique (Academy of Poetry and Music). Situate these experiments within the context of the French intellectual movement of the late sixteenth century, especially the interest in reviving the poetry and music of the ancients.

5. Focusing on one particular institution, examine the kinds of music-making that took place in an Italian convent during the seventeenth century. How did musical nuns resist attempts by church authorities to limit, even suppress, their music-making?


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