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Reviewed by:
  • Silent Music: Medieval Song and the Construction of History in Eighteenth-Century Spain by Susan Boynton
  • Mark A. Peters
Silent Music: Medieval Song and the Construction of History in Eighteenth-Century Spain. By Susan Boynton. (Currents in Latin American and Iberian Music.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. [xxii, 208 p. ISBN 9780199754595. $39.95.] Illustrations, facsimiles, bibliography, index. [End Page 752]

In Silent Music: Medieval Song and the Construction of History in Eighteenth-Century Spain, Susan Boynton combines the qualities of expert musicologist with those of master storyteller in her engaging treatment of the history of the Mozarabic liturgy in Toledo from the twelfth to the eighteenth century. Silent Music will be of interest not only to scholars of the medieval period or the eighteenth century, but also to those interested in the history of Spain (particularly the ways in which its cultural and intellectual history intersected with political developments), the history of chant, or the history of liturgy.

Of additional interest is the way in which Mozarabic chant was appropriated at various points and multiple ways as a distinctive feature of national identity in Spain and as one of the unique glories of Spanish achievement (especially against cultural elements from France and Italy—most notably the Roman rite—that were brought to Spain and came to predominate over Spanish cultural elements). In light of this recurring theme in the monograph, Boynton’s Silent Music should be read by every musicologist, for it inherently concerns issues not only of national identity but also of the ways in which history is told.

In fact, Silent Music focuses on two men who were, in eighteenth-century Spain, carrying out what can be seen in many ways as modern musicological research: the Jesuit scholar Andrés Marcos Burriel (1719–62) and the calligrapher Francisco Xavier de Santiago y Palomares (1728–96). Boynton explains: “The methods employed by Burriel and Palomares—paleographic analysis, historical criticism, textual criticism, and exact copying—had never before been applied to the Old Hispanic liturgical books in Toledo Cathedral and remained unusual for the study of Iberian liturgical sources until the twentieth century” (p. xx). Although neither was a musician, both Burriel and Palomares devoted significant attention to musical notation and scholarly research in music.

Burriel and Palomares conducted this work within broader projects in which they sought to promote the national identity and cultural glories of Spain. For them, the investigation of Mozarabic chant in Spain, and the recounting of its history, were inextricably linked to the promotion of the nation. Burriel clearly saw the Mozarabic rite as preserved in medieval manuscripts, as well as its re-creation in the sixteenth century (what Boynton labels the “neo-Mozarabic rite”), as distinctive features of a Spanish national identity. He was thus concerned both with the rite as a historical artifact and as a present practice, even after he discovered that these two were very different traditions; the medieval manuscripts clearly did not contain the chants of the neo-Mozarabic rite as it had been constructed and published under Cardinal Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros in the early sixteenth century and subsequently practiced by the Mozarabs of Toledo. Although the Toledan manuscripts were retained in the archives, they contained only “silent music”—the Visigothic neumes could not be realized in actual performance and were not the basis of the neo-Mozarabic rite, which originated instead from adaptations of the Roman rite and from new compositions.

But Burriel and Palomares considered the medieval Mozarabic chant books and their notation important enough not only to transcribe manuscripts and copy samples of their text and notation, but even to produce a full-size, full-color parchment facsimile of Toledo, BC 35.7, a book of masses and offices for Marian feasts and for the Christmas-Epiphany cycle that Burriel considered to be the earliest extant Toledan chant book (p. 87). Silent Music originated from, and focuses primarily on, Boynton’s discovery of a manuscript (now B2916 in the library of the Hispanic Society of America in New York) that had been missing since the late nineteenth century, a medieval manuscript from Toledo that had served as model for Palomares’s copy...


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