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Singing to the Lyre in Renaissance Italy


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Table of Contents

Introduction; Part I. The Civic Tradition: The Art of the Canterino: 1. Early history: Ioculatores and Giullari; 2. The Trecento Canterino; Excersus 1: Piazza San Martino: performance, urban space, and audience; 3. The Canterino in the fifteenth century; Part II. The Humanist Tradition: Cantare ad Lyram: 4. Florence: from Canterino to Cantare ad Lyram; Excursus 2: Filippino Lippi's portrait of a Canterino; 5. Cantare ad Lyram and humanist education; 6. Cantare ad Lyram in the courts; 7. Rome: Cantare ad Lyrum at the summit; Epilogue: the sixteenth century.

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The first comprehensive study of the dominant form of solo singing in Renaissance Italy prior to the mid-sixteenth century.

About the Author

Blake Wilson is Professor Emeritus of Music at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania. He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Fulbright Program, Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (Villa I Tatti), and the National Humanities Center. His research interests include the vernacular song cultures of Medieval and Renaissance Italy, Medici music patronage, the musical soundscapes of Italian cities, orality and literacy, and the intersections between aural, visual, and literary cultures. His works have appeared in books, editions, and journals, including the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the Journal of Musicology, Early Music History, Recercare, Rivista Italiana di Musicologia, and I Tatti Studies.


'For many years Blake Wilson has tantalised us with a string of articles on singers of improvised verse in Italy in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Now, with this important and wide-ranging book, we come to know the world of the cantarini, from simple street singers to accomplished improvisers of versified epics performing in public, to refined singers 'to the lyre', without whom no festivity or banquet was complete. Drawing on a wide range of materials, Wilson is able to trace the lives of the famous canterini in surprising detail. Along the way, we learn of the longevity of the chanson de geste; the attraction of blind singers to the profession; the role of memory in improvisation; the art of performing extempore verse; the question of improvised verse as intellectual property; and above all, the central figure of Orpheus, in philosophy, religion, poetry, theatre, and music.' Bonnie J. Blackburn, Wolfson College, Oxford

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