Lowering the Tone: Strophic Song and the Performance of Gender and Class in Italian Academies

What was the role of music in Italian academies? Madrigals and motets honouring ranking academicians were likely performed during inauguration ceremonies and perhaps also in funerals, but more generally performance tuition and informal music-making opportunities provided a space for the performance of educated, sophisticated identities. The blend of eroticism and politics often found in printed collections of lowbrow strophic songs associated with Italian academies might have provided opportunities to ‘test’ gentility. In the light of the bawdy conversation and music-making described in Antonfrancesco Doni‘s Dialogo della musica (Venice, 1544), this paper considers the likely performing context and function of publications associated with the Costanti of Vicenza (especially Filippo Azzaiolo‘s Il primo libro de villotte alla padoana con alcune napolitane . . . intitolate villotte del fiore [Venice, 1557]) and considers how such songs might reflect and project the noble masculine identity of the Vicentine Costanti.

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