Recombinant Melody: Ten Things to Love About Willaert's Music

Schubert, Peter

Willaert's music was much celebrated in its own time. Today, however, musicologists find little to praise outside of its sonorous richness and sensitivity to text. Its seamlessness and contrapuntal density seem to be respected but not loved. In the following pages, I propose that the powerful expressive potential of this music lies beneath the apparently seamless surface in the details of its contrapuntal complexity. Singling out a handful of "especially tuneful pieces" is a dead end-most of Willaert's music is melodically very uniform. However, it is this very uniformity that permits the contrapuntal manipulations that are the basis for an expressiveness based not on melody alone, but on combinations of melodies. Performers willing to examine the details of its construction and draw conclusions about Willaert's intentions will discover a highly expressive music, leading to lively performance, filled with contrast.


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Columbia University
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October 16, 2015