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Coelho, Victor and Keith Polk. 2016. Instrumentalists and Renaissance Culture, 1420-1600: Players of Function and Fantasy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ligrani, Jonathan

Instrumental music permeated the soundscape of Renaissance Europe, resounding from watchtowers and ceremonial processions, echoing from the walls of castles and cathedrals, directing the steps and competing with the din of dancers’ shuffling feet, and occupying the intervals between theatrical acts and the courses of patricians’ daily banquets. Despite the ubiquity and significance of these sounds, musicologists have overlooked their presence in the landscape of Renaissance scholarship.

In Instrumentalists and Renaissance Culture, 1420-1600: Players of Function and Fantasy, Victor Coelho and Keith Polk address this deficiency, bringing the work of Renaissance instrumentalists out of the historiographical margins, where it generally supports a primary focus on vocal music and notated texts. As the authors rightfully stress, this tendency is rooted in the Urtext model of compositional finitude which leaves aside the unwritten traditions of instrumental music, presenting a fixed, anachronistic work concept over the fluidity of transcriptions and arrangements (2-3, 212, 292-4). Toward this aim, Instrumentalists and Renaissance Culture joins ongoing discussions concerning extemporaneous and written composition by scholars such as Philippe Canguilhem, Rob Wegman, Julie E. Cumming, and Jessie Ann Owens, among others (Canguilhem, 2015; Wegman, 1996; Cumming, 2013; Owens, 1998; Nettl, 1974).

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November 15, 2019