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The Science and Art of Renaissance Music. (Reviews).

James Haar, The Science and Art of Renaissance Music. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998. xv + 389 pp. $45. ISBN: 0-691-02874-5.

James Haar, has selected sixteen of his essays, published between 1966 and 1993 to form a collection that serves to complement two of his earlier books, Essays on Italian Poetry ant/Music in the Renaissance (1986) and The Italian Madrigal in the Early Sixteenth Century (1988). The choices -- treasures from his many years of work in the field -- form a cohesive unit of chapters divided into five sections -- Music in Sixteenth-Century Society, Aspects of Renaissance Music Theory, On the Italian Madrigal, Antonfrancesco Doni: Writer, Academician, and Musician, and Renaissance Music in Nineteenth-Century Eyes -- all related to theoretical, practical, and cultural aspects of Renaissance music, including two chapters on Romantic views of Renaissance music, one on Berlioz and the 'First Opera,' and another on musical historiography in which Haar examines the sixteenth century through the eyes of historians writing at a distance of some two hundred or more years. Haar's notes, at the end of each chapter, in addition to contributing new bibliographic material, enable the reader to know what Haar still finds sound and justified in his arguments and what he wishes to alter in language, in specific facts or details. In his preface, Haar describes how he and his editor Paul Corneilson went about selecting from a very long list of his writings. Corneilson is to be credited with a fine job of editing and sprucing from diverse and, in one or two cases, flawed publications.

It is more than a convenience to have the collected writings of so distinguished a scholar of Renaissance music in one volume, particularly because some of the articles are available in less accessible journals or festschriften. It is an added treat because these pieces are models of eloquently written scholarship in musicology. Haar's essays on Castiglione and Cosimo Bartoli, for example, explore aspects of humanistic philosophy and literature, as well the disciplines of art and architecture necessary to develop an understanding of where and how music fit into the cultural schema of the times. He speculates on controversial Renaissance topics, such as why this or that writer favored one or another Renaissance composer -- in the case of Bartoli, Ockeghem and Josquin -- or neglected another -- Arcadelt in favor of Verdelot, with whom Bartoli had a personal relation. Making notes in this early chapter will prove useful in drawing the complete picture as one reads subsequent articles, particularly Chapter 13, A Gift of Madrigals to Cosimo I: The MS. Florence Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Magliabichi XIX, 130. Similarly, one with an interest in Zarlino or Doni would not be limited to the information presented in the specific chapters devoted to discussions of their writings. The cross relations and interweaving create a palette of many shades of understanding and of multifaceted approaches to discovering the complexities of Renaissance musical thinking. Some of the material in a couple of the chapters in section II, Aspects of Renaissance Music Theory, may prove challenging to the non-musicologist, particularly the discussions of the complexities of musical composition, but the musical examples are for the most part clearly described in the text and serve as necessary illustrations. Both Chapter 7, Lessons in Theory from a Sixteenth-Century Composer, and Chapter 8, Josquin as Interpreted by a Mid-Sixteenth-Century German Musician, are among the articles reprinted from what would not be considered mainstream publicat ions. Despite technical challenges posed by some of the musical examples, these chapters are welcome inclusions for the information Haar provides on how composers learned, on the use of the treatises, and for the questions he raises which provide fertile ground for future research. Chapter 4, The Frontispiece of Gafori's Practica Musicae (1496), originally published in this journal (27 [1974]:7-22) is a perfect microcosm of musicological research and writing that remains both accessible and applicable to historians with interests in the visual arts, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, philology, and the classics.

In our quest for good texts to use as a possible foundation for a seminar on Renaissance music and culture, Haar's latest collection, perhaps alongside his earlier works on Italian poetry and music and the Italian madrigal, is highly recommended.
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Author:Weiss, Susan
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2001
Words:702
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