This is the third in a series of posts about the Virtual Medieval and Renaissance Music conference, which should have been held in Edinburgh.  For me, this was one of the unexpected boons of the Covid-19 pandemic – I wouldn’t have been able to attend in person, but I was really glad of the opportunity to take part online.

It took me until the following afternoon to get back to MedRen, when I picked up the Music for the Dead in the Early Modern Period panel with Sanna Raninen’s ‘“In dust and sand and dark soil” –Funeral Songs in Swedish Prints and Manuscripts at the beginning of the Reformation’. There could be singing at the funerary procession and at the graveside in post-Reformation Sweden, which interests me as I’m still hoping to work on the English epitaph ballads I’ve found and how they might have been performed.  Sanna talked about how some of the Latin responses were sung in pre-Reformation times, but there were also responsories in Swedish which were new to the post-Reformation tradition. She pointed out that singing in procession was often done by schoolboys and their teachers.  Manuals written after the Reformation sometimes refer to appropriate repertory by name, and suggest appropriate points in the funerary services where singing might occur – for example when sprinkling soil on the grave. 

The final paper in the set was Andrea Puentes-Blanco on ‘Music and Liturgical Practices of Funerary Rituals in Counter-Reformation Barcelona’.  She had interesting things to say about the effect of funeral processions on the city soundscape, and indeed on the differences between public and private funerals. Her paper stressed how many people from all levels of society were involved in funeral processions for bishops.  She also talked about the burials of Our Lady, which had particular norms which had to be performed, including the singing of polyphony.  These services were popular across all social spectra throughout Barcelona.  There are still many questions about the contexts and types of litanies which were sung at funerals.  Some of the responses were sung, at least in part, by the entire congregation, with polyphony for the verses and chant for the refrain. 

My next virtual visit was to the panel on Music and Politics.  Tim Shephard’s introduction examined some of the key ways in which music played a part in politics.  He started by describing an image in Andrea Alciato’sEmblemata (1531), in which a lute symbolises the harmony between the various Italian states.  This idea harks back to Plato and Pythagoras, in which the universe is fashioned by demi-urge (or god) and creates a perfect sound or divine harmony through the mathematical principles of the intervals.  By Alciato’s lute, the god’s role is taken over by the terrestrial governor, and it represents the ability of a wise prince to bring harmonious concord to the disorderly multitude of opinions among his subjects, whereas a republic has no way to bring these views into harmony.  He looked at the ways prudence, piety, magnificence and liberality intersected with the prince’s power and his training in music.  The need to show off these virtues to their subjects was a central part of creating display. For example the need to show off piety meant the creation of royal chapels and the polyphony that was performed there, while magnificence and liberality meant large amounts of conspicuous expenditure were morally justified.

The next paper was ‘Imagery and Instrumental Music at the Court of Maximilian I’, given by Helen Coffey. She examined images from the Triumphzug, a literary commission by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian,in which a number show instrumentalists. While we know that he had a number of musicians in his employ, they don’t square with the number shown in the illustrations – there are nearly twice as many on paper than in reality. Her paper concentrated on the images of brass players, looking at how they were portrayed and comparing this to the records of what they actually did at the emperor’s court.  Although the images show more instrumentalists than there really were, there are elements of reality in the situations in which they are playing.

Finally, Vincenzo Borghetti talked about ‘The Arrival of a Queen and the Departure of a Prince: Music for Maria de’ Medici and Heinrich Posthumus Reuss’.  He opened by looking at the image of a Playmobil set, and contemplated why musicians are seen as an integral part of early modern kings, their courts, and their expressions of power.  He examined Peter Paul Rubens’ painting of the arrival of Maria de Medici and Schutz’s music for Heinrich Reuss’ burial.  The Disembarkation at Marseilles is one of a series of paintings tell the queen’s story, emphasising her triumphs and her trials, and they were commissioned by the queen herself.  Because the king did not go to meet her on her arrival, she was free to present the occasion without any reference to him.  Instead, it is full of musico-political imagery and sounds including trumpets on the ship and waves in the sea.  The queen is at the centre of the sounds, so she brings order to them.