In Italy during the late cinquecento, printed music could be found not only in the homes of the wealthy or the music professional, but also in lay homes, courts, and academies. No longer confined to the salons of the elite, music took on the role of social play and recreation. Paul Schleuse examines these new musical forms through a study of the music books of Italian priest, poet, and composer, Orazio Vecchi. Composed for minor patrons and the wider music-buying public, Vecchi's madrigals took as their subjects game-playing, drinking, hunting, battles, and the life of the street. Schleuse looks at how music and game-playing allowed singers and performers to play the roles of exemplary pastoral characters and also comic, foreign, and "rustic" others in ways that defined and ultimately reinforced social norms of the times. His findings reposition Orazio Vecchi as one of the most innovative composers of the late 16th century.
1. The Four-Voice Canzonetta as (and in) Recreational Polyphony
2. Intertextuality in Vecchi’s Canzonettas and Madrigals, 1583-1590
3. Forest and Feast: The Music Book as Metaphor
4. L’Amfiparnaso: Picturing Theatre & The Problem of the "Madrigal Comedy"
5. Competition and Conversation: Games as Music
6. Representation and Identity in Musical Performance
Appendix: Vecchi, L’hore di recreatione from Madrigali a sei (1583).
This book makes a substantial contribution to the scholarship of late-Renaissance music and culture, and particularly to our understanding of Vecchi’s work and its relationship to the music, literature, and society of his time.
Elegantly written and illustrated with many, though not excessive, examples and tables, Schleuse’s monograph is an important contribution to scholarship on late sixteenth-century music. It sheds light on the work of one of the most notable—if underestimated—authors of this period, Orazio Vecchi, and, most importantly, it restores the centrality of recreational singing, placing it in the context of the fascinating early modern discourse on games and entertainment. It is strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in the music and culture of early modern Italy.
[T]he author’s purpose is to separate Vecchi’s importance as a precursor to early opera and illustrate his success as an experimental composer who had control over the printing, dissemination, and understanding of his own works, as well as his innovations in relation to the cultural focus on social play and drama in his music.5/21/16
Music Reference Services Quarterly
The wide range of avenues for further study opened by Paul Schleuse’s volume is a testimony to its impressive depth and richness. Singing Games in Early Modern Italy is a well-argued, well-written work that offers new understandings of the music of one of the most important composers of the early modern era.
Music and Letters
[This] very well written and researched book illuminates the repertory of an individual composer and expands our understanding of what game-playing could have meant for Italian recreational singers in the last decades of the 16th century.