Disembodied Voices: Music and Culture in an Early Modern Italian Convent

Overview


Piecing together 200 years of convent history, this engaging narrative tells the story of the nuns of Santa Cristina della Fondazza--gifted singers, instrumentalists, and composers who used music to circumvent ecclesiastical authority and to forge links with the world beyond convent walls. Craig Monson reconstructs the daily lives of Italian nuns, often in their own words, and relates their musical life to the broad social context in which it unfolded. He introduces a virtually unknown nun composer, relating her...
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Overview


Piecing together 200 years of convent history, this engaging narrative tells the story of the nuns of Santa Cristina della Fondazza--gifted singers, instrumentalists, and composers who used music to circumvent ecclesiastical authority and to forge links with the world beyond convent walls. Craig Monson reconstructs the daily lives of Italian nuns, often in their own words, and relates their musical life to the broad social context in which it unfolded. He introduces a virtually unknown nun composer, relating her family history and how the convent allowed her creativity to flower. The study is meticulously researched, marvelously detailed, and entertaining to read.
In sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century Bologna, approximately one-seventh of the entire female population lived behind convent walls. Santa Cristina became home for a number of gifted women musicians, many from among the upper classes, who sought "respectable" musical careers. Monson documents the struggle of these women as they fought to maintain their musical and ritual traditions in the face of persistent opposition from church officials. Figuring prominently in the story of Santa Cristina is Lucrezia Vizzana (1590-1662), Bologna's only published nun composer, who entered the convent at the age of eight.
This study is as much about social and cultural history as it is about music. The discussion ranges widely beyond musicology to draw upon art, social and political history, labor history, theology, and gender studies.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Drawing heavily on the words of the nuns themselves and their allies and enemies, Monson (music, Washington U., St. Louis) narrates the life and music at the Santa Cristina della Fondazza convent in Bologna during the 16th and 17th century. He recounts how the mostly upper-class women joined the convent in order to pursue musical careers otherwise closed to them, fought to maintain their art against the opposition of church officials, managed to compose in the latest styles while cloistered, dealt with internal factionalism, and expressed their feminine spirituality through their music. Most of the excerpts, though not the lyrics, are followed by English translations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520088757
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/19/1995
  • Pages: 394
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig A. Monson is Professor of Music at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the editor of The Crannied Wall: Women, Religion, and the Arts in Early Modern Europe (1992).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables
List of Musical Examples
List of Abbreviations
Acknowledgments
Dramatis Personae
Introduction 1
1 Donna Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana of Santa Cristina della Fondazza 17
2 Lucrezia Vizzana's Musical Apprenticeship 36
3 Worldly Influences on Lucrezia Vizzana's Componimenti musicali 56
4 The Meeting of Music, Art, and Ritual in Componimenti musicali 71
5 Vizzana's Themes of Personal Piety 92
6 The Rhetoric of Conflict in Componimenti musicali 111
7 The Social Dynamics of Division at Santa Cristina 131
8 The Struggle with Cardinal Archbishop Ludovisi 154
9 The Confrontation with Cardinal Archbishop Albergati Ludovisi 170
10 The Pontifical Consecration of Virgins 182
11 The Campaign for the Consecration of 1699 199
12 A Last Musical Battle with the Bishop 225
13 Codetta 239
Notes 247
Glossary 321
Selected Bibliography 327
Index 341
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