Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XXIV (1999)


Antonio Baldassarre (Universität Zürich), Die Lira da braccio im humanistischen Kontext Italiens [The lira da braccio in the Italian humanistic context].

Italian 14th and 15th century culture developed a new understanding of classical antiquity. Unlike the more theological reception of classical antiquity during the Middle Ages, Italian Humanism appreciated ancient Greek and Roman culture more in historical terms (albeit while still cognizant of Medieval traditions), evoking both a meaningful change within the general history of ideas and a significantly new interpretation of the role and function of music within the new social and cultural context. The paradigm of this new view regarding music was the revived but newly interpreted concept of the ancient poet-singer, primarily represented by Orpheus and Apollo, and associated with this concept, the development of innovative musical instruments, especially the lira da braccio. Both the revived concept of the ancient poet-singer and the development of the lira da braccio are, as explored in the paper, products of Renaissance human consciousness, constructed for the purpose of performing a specific functions within a given sociocultural matrix.

Dorothea Baumann (Universität Zürich), Streichinstrumente des Mittelalters und der Renaissance: Bautechnische, dokumentarische und musikalische Hinweise zur Spieltechnik [Medieval and Renaissance bowed instruments: Elements of construction, contemporary documents, and musical sources about their sound and how they were played].

This study probes into the acoustical possibilities of the western bowed string instruments from their first appearance in the tenth century to the development of the families of the viola da braccio and the viola da gamba. The sources for the actual knowledge of their construction are: very few original instruments and original parts of instruments, few comments on tuning and use found in theoretical writings, information included in musical sources, and, mainly, iconography and art objects depicting these instruments. With caution, we also adduce related folk instruments, their actual playing techniques, and their traditional construction techniques. The sound of these bowed instruments is changing from a timbre with few formant frequencies for the heavier monoblock instruments to a much richer and broader frequency spectrum for the multipiece, thin walled, glued, shape-stabilized later instruments. In addition to these shape- and material-dependent acoustical parameters special means for tuning frequency response of the resonance body exist, such as: asymmetrical position of the bridge, various positions and shapes of bridge and soundholes, varying thickness of the belly, and finally, the “classical” position of two soundholes, bridge, soundpost and bassbar. Many of these sound determining elements can be analyzed in iconographical sources.

Eleonora M. Beck (Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon), Representations of Music in the Astrological Cycle of the Salone della Ragione in Padua.

The inner walls of the gargantuan hall in the Salone della Ragione—an edifice that was begun in 1219 and served to house city agencies that governed trade and finance—are covered with frescoes representing astrological cycle. First painted by Giotto, the astrological images were subsequently destroyed in a 1420 fire and repainted by artists who, like Giotto, followed the original program by early Trecento music theorist and astrologer Pietro d’Abano. The frescoes provide information concerning the perceived planetary influence on earthly musical endeavors. In unraveling the iconography of the frescoes, it is shown that the Salone artists chose to represent music’s connection to thought and science more so than sensuality and love.

Mariagrazia Carlone (Chiavenna, Sondrio), Gaudenzio Ferrari and the Musical Statues in Varallo.

The viewpoints of music iconography can be revealing when we consider traditional attributes that have never been doubted by historians and art historians. Four putti musicians at the Cappella dell’Adorazione dei Pastori at Sacro Monte in Varallo, Italy, have been believed until recently to be the work of Gaudenzio Ferrari (1475–1546). An organological and iconographical investigation, however, raises doubts about this attribution, which are further supported through the archival research. An analysis of the figurative traditions of these works, based on descriptions and depictions found in devotional guidebooks printed since 1514 for the use of pilgrims, permits a reconstruction of their successive transformations up to their present state which, it is seen, does not correspond to the intentions of the original unknown artist.

Susumu Kashima (Tokyo), Depictions of Kugo Harps in Japanese Buddhist Paintings.

The principal sources for examination of kugo harps in Japanese Buddhist paintings are maala paintings of mikky sects and raigōzu paintings of jōdokyō sects. In the course of copying these paintings through the time, the instrument was entirely destorted from its original shape. As a result, we see depicted a different string instrument, which can exist only in the two-dimensional world of the painting.

Hiroyuki Minamino (Mission Viejo, California), European Musical Instruments in Sixteenth-Century Japanese Paintings.

When the Jesuit missionaries first came to Japan in mid-16th century, they soon realized the effectiveness of utilizing European music, musical instruments, and paintings when propagating Christianity. Religious paintings served as a rudimentary way of explaining the Christian doctrines that had met with some difficulty in comprehension among the less educated classes because of the language barrier. Secular paintings were used as gifts to the non-Christian warlords who showed enormous interest in all aspects of European culture. The Jesuits trained converts to learn the European style of painting in order to resolve the lack of supplies; faithful copying of the imported paintings was the basic discipline. Religious paintings do not survive in great number because the persecution of the Christians in mid-seventeenth century strove to destroy all the Christian relics. Several secular paintings in the byobu-e (panel-screen painting) made around 1600 depict many kinds of music making and of European musical instruments such as viols, lutes, harps, and vihuelas de mano. The inaccuracies and discrepancies found in these paintings suggest that the Japanese painters had no first hand experience of the structures and performance practices of the instruments they depicted.

Mayumi Miyazaki (Miyazaki University, Department of Education, Tokyo), The History of Musical Instruments in Japan and Visual Sources.

Introduced are three case studies of old Japanese instruments, showing how a new reliable organological theory can be constructed only by combining an investigation of iconographic and literary sources with actual instruments. In the first example, a zither-like instrument from the Kofun period (4th–6th century A.D.) has been reconstructed with evidence from the haniwa figurines found in the tombs of ancient emperors. In the second example, a fragment of a third- or fourth-century wooden object, found at Toro Ruin, Shizuoka Prefecture, has been identified as a part of an instrument on the basis of its comparison with the haniwa figurines. In the final example, it is shown how even when instruments from the past are known and literary sources describing them are available, iconography could be helpful in determining details of their construction. From the 17th century, koto has been played by both the nobility and commoners, and each group had its own repertoire transmitted independently of the other. An examination of a large number of kotos at the Iike Collection in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, initially has not revealed any difference between the instruments used by the two traditions. Only after the existence of a thread (makura ito), which is placed on ryūkaku where the strings are tight, had been identified in iconographic sources, was it possible to determine its traces in actual instruments.

Walter Salmen (Kirchzarten, Burg am Wald), Des Tanzfrevels angeklagt: Betrachtungen zu einem Kupferstich von Jan Saenredam (1596) [Accused of sinning by dance: Thoughts on an engraving by Jan Saenredam (1596)].

As far as we know, Jan Saenredam’s engraving from 1596 is a unique representation of a round dance performed around a church. From the 11th century on, theologians were forbidding such dances considering them pagan. The figure on the window, shown in the foreground of the engraving, is (probably a Calvinistic) cleric, who is attacking such dance, guided by the Old Testament words of Moses.