Notes 60.2 (2003) 431-433
[Access article in PDF]
Gender, Sexuality, and Early Music. Edited by Todd M. Borgerding. (Criticism and Analysis of Early Music.) New York: Routledge, 2002. [xiii, 297 p. ISBN 0-8153-3394-3. $95.] Index.
This volume of collected essays reflects the growing emphasis on and importance of feminism, gender, and queer studies in musicology. After more than two decades of research in the so-called "new musicology," often by some of the brightest and most imaginative musicologists in the field, these tendencies can no longer be ignored or considered foreign to the mainstream of musico-historical studies. Indeed, to the readers of this important collection, the point should seem obvious.
Donna G. Cardamone's "Isabella Medici-Orsini: A Portrait of Self-Affirmation" explores the brilliant life and tragic murder of Isabella de' Medici through the lens of her role as an artistic Florentine woman. In a clever twist on the extensive research on musicmaking in Ferrara over the last few decades (by Anthony Newcomb, Elio Durante, and Anna Martellotti, among others), Nina Treadwell shifts the emphasis away from Duke Alfonso II d'Este to his third wife, the Duchess Margherita Gonzaga, and her contributions to entertainment at the Ferrarese court. Thomasin LaMay, in "Madalena [sic] Casulana"— an essay that dovetails nicely with the subject of the Cardamone contribution (Isabella de' Medici as patron of the composer treated here)—delves into the contemporary and current perception and changing status of the madrigalist Maddalena Casulana. (Some readers may find that the interpolated quotes from Jacques Lacan, Hélène Cixous, Laurie Anderson, and Madonna, as well as the description of the computer simulation of the composer at the conclusion, impede rather than inform the narrative.) Kelley Harness, in "Chaste Warriors and Virgin Martyrs in Florentine Musical Spectacle," opens a window on the depiction of women in Florentine spectacles during the female regency of Maria Maddalena of Austria and Cristina di Lorena from 1621 to 1628. These articles show meticulous attention to detail, as seen in their extensive footnotes. They work symbiotically to provide an excellent synthesis of history, traditional musicology, and newer approaches to exploring the polarized roles and perceptions of women in the courts of northern Italy—negatively on the one hand as whores, and positively on the other as artists, warriors, and saints.
The essays that follow treat individual compositions or genres. In one of the most imaginative contributions to the volume, Laurie Stras, in the aptly titled "Le nonne della ninfa," courageously posits feminine/ masculine models for modal rhetoric in the generations preceding Monteverdi. Her [End Page 431] rather complex analysis of madrigal texts, schematic cadential mapping, and musical examples persuasively argue for a concern of characterization, rhetoric, and harmonic design in the Italian madrigalists who followed the Adrian Willaert-Cipriano de Rore circle. Stras contrasts these concerns as demonstrated in Domenico Ferabosco's "Sta sù, non mi far male" with the lack of such interests in a setting of the same text by someone far removed from this milieu, the Neapolitan Gian Domenico del Giovane da Nola. Nevertheless, Nola's works were well-received by Willaert (who wrote alternative settings of Nola's canzone villanesca melodies). Perhaps Nola's failure to create a feminine/masculine discourse may have had more to do with his lack of interest in that dynamic (while maestro di capella at the SS. Annunziata in Naples, he kept a boy with him in bed ["con se tiene a lietto un' altro figliuolo"]; see Lionello Cammarota, Gian Domenico del Giovane da Nola [Roma: De Santis, 1973], 1:32). Christina Fuhrmann, in her article on Alessandro Striggio's Il Ciclamento delle donne al bucato (1567), exposes its pervasive double entendre and transforms the perception of this madrigal comedy as an amusing portrayal of women's gossip into a rather explicit piece of pornography dealing with the fascination and threat of women's speech and sexuality—lasciviousness, drunkenness, menstruation, and sodomy appear in veiled but convincing ways.
"Construction of Desire in Early Baroque Instrumental Music," by Andrew dell'Antonio, concerns itself with only a single work, "Terza sonata a...