The gift of music between friends

In dedicating his Primo libro de villotte (Venice, 1550) to Girolamo Fenaruolo, Antonino Barges mentions the role friendship played in its composition and publication. Barges publishes the book in order to be a good friend rather than an ungrateful musician. Gratitude points to a further element of the dedication: the circulation of the music as a gift between friends. Martha Feldman places these songs within Domenico Venier’s social and literary circle–Fenaruolo and Venier were close friends–and situates their sexually suggestive content within the salon’s erotic literary output. Feldman suggests the dedication to Fenaruolo might be a cover for the book’s ‘true’ dedicatee, Venier, because it would have been improper to dedicate the work to a man of that stature. The book is likely to have found a happy audience in Venier’s salon, yet Barges’s identification of Fenaruolo’s friends, and his careful inscription of himself within Fenaruolo’s circle suggest that Fenaruolo may indeed have been Barges’s intended dedicatee. Moreover, while it is common for a Cinquecento music dedication to operate in the gift mode, it is less common for friendship to be so carefully articulated. As Alan Bray has demonstrated, material gifts between friends relate to the physical gift of the friend’s body constituted through shared physical intimacy and public embraces. This paper examines the poetry and music associated with Fenaruolo and his friends in this light, and considers the relationship between the material gift of music between friends and the physical performance of that gift and friendship.

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