×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory
  • Alternative view 1 of The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory
  • Alternative view 2 of The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory
     

The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory

by Glenn Watkins
 

A riveting investigation of one of the most provocative musicians of the Renaissance, who continues to captivate composers, artists, and audiences today.
In this vivid tale of adultery and intrigue, witchcraft and murder, Glenn Watkins explores the fascinating life of the Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo—a life suffused with scandal and bordering on the

Overview

A riveting investigation of one of the most provocative musicians of the Renaissance, who continues to captivate composers, artists, and audiences today.
In this vivid tale of adultery and intrigue, witchcraft and murder, Glenn Watkins explores the fascinating life of the Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo—a life suffused with scandal and bordering on the fantastical. An isolated prince, Gesualdo had a personal life that was no less eccentric and bewildering than the music he composed; his biography has often clouded our perception of his oeuvre, which music scholars have periodically dismissed as a late Renaissance deformation of little consequence.
Today, however, Gesualdo’s music, once deemed so strange as to be unperformable, stands as one of the most vibrant legacies of the late Italian Renaissance with an undeniable impact on a host of twentieth-century musicians and artists. The incendiary details of Gesualdo’s life recede, and his grip on our musical imagination comes to the fore. Watkins challenges our preconceptions of what has become a nearly mythic persona, weaving together the cumulative experience of some of the most vibrant artists of the past century from Stravinsky and Schoenberg to Abbado and Herzog.
Beyond questions of mere influence, however, The Gesualdo Hex offers a profound meditation on cultural memory and historical awareness: how composers attempt to shape the legacy they will bequeath to the world, and how music and history inevitably take on a new guise as they are revisited by subsequent generations and reinterpreted in light of contemporary experience. In examining Gesualdo’s life, music, myth, and memory intertwine with one another to reveal an uncanny affinity with our own time. With his elegant and engaging prose, Watkins asks us to grapple with our understanding not only of art and the artists who create it but also of history itself.

Editorial Reviews

Brett Dean
“With his second wonderfully illuminating book on Gesualdo, Watkins reconfirms the extremely significant role he has played in the further understanding of this remarkable prince’s life and work.”
Publishers Weekly
Watkins first wrote about Carlo Gesualdo (1566–1613) more than 35 years ago (Gesualdo: The Man and His Music), and even before that he was in close contact with those who produced the earliest recordings of the Renaissance composer's work for modern audiences. Some of the most interesting passages in this analysis of Gesualdo's shifting reputation stem from Watkins's recollections of encounters with classical music icons like Nadia Boulanger and Igor Stravinsky. But it is also an academic consideration of the changing nature of historical reputation, and of what elements of the Gesualdo legend have inspired later musicians (and other artists, including Werner Herzog and the novelist Wesley Stace) and why. A particularly engaging section draws parallels with Arnold Schoenberg, showing how tremendously innovative composers also continue to draw upon their earliest influences without stylistic discontinuity. Gesualdo's transitional voice “belonged to its time,” Watkins concludes, and “later ages, noting its equivocal position, prized it largely for that reason and noted its power.” Readers without access to Gesualdo's music may feel somewhat lost, but for those who are familiar with the material, Watkins provides thoughtful insights into its staying power. 25 illus.(Jan.)
Library Journal
Watkins, who previously wrote a more traditional book on Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo (Gesualdo: The Man and His Music), briefly recounts Gesualdo's life and works before describing his apparent postmodern cultural relevance after centuries of neglect and critical abuse. Gesualdo, the bad boy of Renaissance music (he murdered his first wife and her lover, abused his second wife, and was involved with witches who were eventually tortured in the Inquisition), has been championed in modern times by musicians as eminent as Igor Stravinsky and Marilyn Horne. Watkins documents the growing interest in Gesualdo since the late 1950s, which was spurred by a new edition of Gesualdo's chief works and connections between the chromaticism in Gesualdo's music (chiefly madrigals) and modern masters like Arnold Schoenberg. VERDICT Watkins's brilliant look at how cultural influences propagate through time in strange and unpredictable ways will appeal to a small, mostly academic, audience.—Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393071023
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/25/2010
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Glenn Watkins is the author of four books, including Proof Through the Night: Music and the Great War and Gesualdo: The Man and His Music, and is coeditor of Gesualdo’s complete works. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews