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Courtly Song in Late Sixteenth-Century France. (Reviews).

Jeanice Brooks, Courtly Song in Late Sixteenth-Century France

Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000. xvi + 560 pp. $80. ISBN: 0-226-07587-7.

Jeanice Brooks masterfully places a simple song type in historical, social, cultural, literary, gender, and musical contexts, demonstrating how varied the influences on a genre can be. As she traces the evolution of courtly song, Brooks chronicles patronage, gender issues, and foreign influences that inspired its composition.

An introductory chapter provides historical background, synopses of the following chapters, and a carefully considered definition of courtly song, which Brooks reinforces with music examples. Here she also begins a well-documented publishing history of air de cour anthologies. Her examination of court cultural life through music, poetic texts and foreign influences demonstrates a thorough understanding of patronage, politics, and literature.

In chapter two, "Paying Court," Brooks uses court records to explore the economic position of royal household musicians. Surviving reglements show that musicians were compensated on a per-service basis similar to modern union contracts. Payment could be made in currency, clothing, meals, transportation, pensions, gifts or offices with household positions. One musical example even demonstrates a musician's loyalty to the King. Brooks also considers the language of patron-client relations found in dedications to anthologies of airs de cour and prefaces to books of poetry.

Should music be an element of the education of a young warrior? Brooks addresses the pros and cons of that issue eloquently in chapter three, using the commentary of Artus Thomas to Philostrate de la vie d'apollonius Thyaneen en VIII livres and Ottaviano's famous "interruption" in book four of Castiglione's Courtier. Questions about the nature of "noble" personal attributes remained crucial to the French aristocracy, who persisted in believing such attributes to be "rooted in military values and tied to the exercise of arms" (167). Airs de cour such as Clement Janequin's La Guerre and Thibault de Courville's Arme arme arme o mes loyaux pensers exemplified that philosophy. Yet more modern personal qualities, including civility and education, had gained wider currency; Brooks finds that "courtly musical discourse reflects efforts to reconcile these values to forge a new ideal: the perfect warrior prince, whose learning and grace enhance and cast into relief his military prowess" (167).

In a chapter on "Women's Voices," Brooks relates how "courtly discourse could marshal women's speech and song in support of images of feminine virtue" while simultaneously asserting "the virtue of song, itself' (41). Her discussion begins with a brief description of women's social and economic advancement through marriage. She then describes the expanding role of women at Catherine de Medici's court. Although most song literature was written from a masculine perspective, Brooks provides a well-researched, comprehensive list of Airs de cour in "feminine" voices.

To survive politically, Catherine continually sought to generate positive images of herself as female ruler. The most psychologically fascinating aspect of "Women's Voices" is Brooks' detailed description of the artistic representation of Catherine de Medici as Artemisia (queen of Caria in the fourth century B.C.) using sculpture, painting, music, and poetry. Music as "a component of a pure and transcendent ideal" (230) was also the catalyst for Neoplatonic love as set down by Ficino, based on Castiglione. Rituals and ideals of courtship were exemplified by Jean-Antoine de Baif's Academie de poesie et musique. Through well-chosen examples of vers et musique mesuree, Brooks explains the goals of this important academie. Her consideration of courtly discourse surrounding women is superb: "the courtly projection of feminine virtue -- unlike that of the conduct books -- provided real and imaginary spaces for women to sing, helping to constitute the court as a center for making music as well as for making women" ( 244).

Chapter five focuses on the complex positions that French courtiers adopted toward their Italian contemporaries and the relationship of that attitude to the goals of French humanism. Brooks investigates the influence of the Italian villanelle on the music and poetry of the Academie. French adaptations of contemporaneous Italian musical practices were generally "subsumed in rhetoric describing France as the new home of the glories of the ancient world" (46).

In her final chapter, Brooks thoroughly explores manifestations of the pastoral in French poetry and music. She examines how "sung versions of pastoral functioned in social contexts to articulate courtiers' understanding of their relationships with each other and the world outside the court" (48).

Although I wish she had discussed the airs de cour in French and Italian court entertainments, Brooks' book is thought-provoking and meticulously researched. All scholars will appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of her work and the appealing style in which she writes.
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Article Details
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Author:Schenbeck, Lyn
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Sep 22, 2002
Words:764
Previous Article:The Chansons of Orlando di Lasso and Their Protestant Listeners: Music, Piety, and Print in Sixteenth-Century France. (Reviews).
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