French-American Bridge for Medieval Musical Iconography

January 20, 2017
by slb184

The Sound, the Image, and the Object: The Place of Music in Palaces and Villas of the Italian Renaissance

By Raffaella Bortolini

On 4 January 2017 at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art, in the seminar Lieux et espaces en musique : la Renaissance italienne (part of the series L’iconographie musicale et l’art occidental), Laura Moretti (University of St.-Andrews) spoke on “The Sound, the Image, and the Object: The Place of Music in Palaces and Villas of the Italian Renaissance.”

The presentation started with a panoramic view of the importance of chamber music during the sixteenth century. L’Antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica by Nicola Vicentino is the earliest source that speaks about chamber music (1555). Private and semi-private performances ‘at home’ were very common in the mid sixteenth century and before. In a series of images and written testimonies we find evidence of this practice. One such example is the description by Francesco Sansovino in Venetia città nobilissima et signorile (1581) of “Studi di musica con strumenti e libri di eccellenza” (music rooms with instruments and books of excellence). He describes ‘modern’ rooms and rooms alla greca et all’antica in great numbers. Palaces were at the time the principal sites for musical performances. Increasing attention was paid to rooms dedicated to musical purposes, and was profoundly influenced by this fashion for rooms all’antica.

Alvise Cornaro’s case is an example of how musical spaces became central in the architecture of noble houses in Italy. Cornaro was a renewed artists-patron with several important connections. The loggia of his house in Padova, Casa Cornaro, designed by Giovanni Maria Falconetto in 1524, was supposed to be used as an amphitheatre. Cornaro himself was involved in the design of the house, as Giorgio Vasari testified. His Odeo, as Sebastiano Serio writes in Il settimo libro d’Architettura, was built to be a place of music. Playing music in these areas of the houses became a more and more common practice. Serio also writes about the octagonal salotto of the house where “musicians are to play…”. The salotto was copied from the project of Andrea Palladio’s central room of Villa Pisani (which was never realized). The same type of room is found in Vincenzo Scamozzi’s Rocca Pisana; in l’idea dell’architettura universale, Scamozzi asserts that this room is an ideal space for playing music.

The two most important examples for investigating the connection between architecture and music performances are those of Mario Bevilacqua and Niccolò Vaddi. We see a large number of sources documenting the musical life at their houses. They were both born in 1536, died in the 1590s and they were both interested in music and musical instruments, as well as in the other arts and arranged their houses for semi-public use. Their collections were in display of the people connected to the family and the houses can be seen as proto-museums.

Mario Bevilacqua came from a wealthy family and studied law in Bologna. Palazzo Bevilacqua, restored in 1550 by Michele San Micheli, became his property in 1579. Unfortunately, today the palace is used as a school: only the loggia still survives unaltered. In 1593 an inventory of the art works of the house was compiled: the majority was kept in semi-public rooms named ridotto, galleria, camera grande and studio (most of them were situated in the piano nobile, or nobles’ residence). All the rooms were accessible by the open-air staircase in the inside court of the palace. The family members could reach the rooms by their living spaces, guests could enter from the outside court.

The galleria was used as an entrance space for people to walk around freely and observe the precious art works. There were, in fact, many sculptures (seven in life size) and some of the most valuable paintings (amongst them one by Tintoretto). A large open room known as the camera grande was instead equipped with a warm fire-place. Here we could find, together with paintings and medium size objects, some furniture like tables and chairs: guests could, in fact, sit and wait their turns to enter the studio and talk to Mario Bevilacqua. The studio had a huge number of paintings, drawings, furniture, book cases for his manuscripts and books. An ebony lute was also kept in here, together with a painting of a lute-player by Cariani: Bevilacqua wanted to create a microcosm to remind the people of his interest in music. We think that the lute was considered unsuitable for performances because it has been described as having a too ‘brittle’ sound.

The Ridotto was situated in the body of the palace (now completely lost). The term ridotto refers to a room in a private house opened to people for musical performances, conversations etc. Bevilacqua’s most precious sculpture (Adorante statue, called Apollo by him) was placed at the entrance to the path leading to this room, in order to welcome people to the musical performances.

Seventy-seven instruments of his collection (including the very rare Bassanelli) were kept there, as well as many paintings, fifty music printed books, fourteen manuscripts, chairs and benches: it was intended to host a huge number of people.

Bevilacqua must have been a great music patron: thirty musical prints were dedicated to him and some others to the Ridotto. The renowned composer Luca Marenzio asserted that he wrote madrigals for the instruments of this collection in a very different style, which were sub-sequentially performed in the Ridotto.

Niccolò Gaddi owned two big houses in Firenze, his main residence, Casa grande, and a second house, casa dell’Orto, reserved for displaying his sumptuous collection: again, it is one of the first buildings conceived for this proto-museum intent. It consisted of two buildings and a garden (commissioned to the architect Antonio Dosio), none of which today remain. Fortunately, many drawings survived, testifying to its historical setting.

Within the house was a stanza de’ suoni (room of sounds) with a huge collection of musical instruments, but too small for live performances. The galleria sull’orto hosted an organ: we can imagine that the musical performances were set there and in the garden itself.
No dedications to Niccolò Gaddi survived as in the case of Mario Bevilacqua. Probably Gaddi was much more interested in the works of art as collection objects then in their musical-theatrical use.

Conclusion: from a methodological point of view, to analyse a private building architecturally, we need to study first the history of its owner, in order to understand the use of the spaces in the house and the value of the objects and art works belonging to them.

Quoted sources
Nicola Vicentino, Antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica, Antonio Barre – Roma 1555

Francesco Sansovino, Venetia città nobilissima et signorile, Iacomo Sansovino – Venezia 1581

Sebastiano Serio, Il settimo libro d’Architettura, Andrè WechelFrankfurt am Main 1575
Vincenzo Scamozzi, l’idea dell’architettura universale, Girolamo AlbriziVenezia 1615

January 20, 2017
by slb184

Music, Art, and Performance at Cluny

By Emogene Cataldo

On January 11, 2017, the FAB-Musiconis group attended the fourth session of the L’iconographie musicale et l’art occidental seminar at INHA, titled, Lieux et espaces en musique: le Moyen Age clunisien. The session offered two rich perspectives on the intersection of Cluniac space, performance, and music in two papers delivered by Sébastien Biay (INHA) and Susan Boynton (Columbia University), with a response by Anne-Orange Poilpré (Paris-Sorbonne 1).

In “Du choeur monastique au choeur des anges, de l’espace vécu à l’espace figuré : les chapiteaux du rond-point de la grande Église de Cluny (XI-XIIe siècles),” Biay posed questions about the surviving capitals of the so-called Cluny III basilica, which was destroyed in the French Revolution. Of the eight capitals that survive from the chevet, two depict scenes of musicians. These two musical capitals depict four musicians each and include an inscription that enumerates the eight tones. As Biay suggests, these eight tones suggest the eight psalmodic tones, while the number eight is also invoked by the number of columns delineating the ambulatory of the round east end. Whereas the first capital encapsulates four musicians in mandorlas framed by the inscription, the second divides the space horizontally with the inscription, which continues in a horizontal band around the capital. Biay noted not only the aesthetic qualities of enumeration and rational parts of the text and images, but also the position and gesture of the musicians themselves, whose embodiment of the act of playing music corresponds with the active descriptions of music-playing in the inscription. Taken together with the text, the images of the figures suggest a binary rhythm of physical movement and implied sound.

In “Cluniac Spaces of Performance/Lieux de performances clunisiens,” Boynton investigated the intersection of space, liturgy and manuscripts of Cluny in relation to both physical and imagined spaces of performance, as well as the power attributed to Cluny and its affiliated abbeys through language. In De miraculis, an early-twelfth-century compilation attributed to Peter the Venerable, the author describes evocative visions seen by monks in the choir of Cluny during the night hours, including a vision of a perambulating harp player followed by censing angels. This was an intriguing connection with the corresponding cithara-playing figure depicted on the Cluniac capitals discussed by Biay. In addition, manuscript illuminations enrich the evidence for performance in Cluniac spaces; a celebrated manuscript illumination from Paris 17716 depicts the dedication of the altar of Cluny III by Pope Urban II in 1095, showing both the interior and the exterior of the church simultaneously (BnF Ms. 17716, fol. 91r). The interior is crowded with designated communities and individuals: Pope Urban II, Abbot Hugh, the monastic and cleric communities, and perhaps, as Boynton posits, the lay community. Finally, in texts written about liturgical practice at Cluny, Boynton highlighted how writers frequently refer to the monastery as “locus noster,” or, “our place,” signifying a concept of collective space that is activated by liturgical and commemorative performance.

These two presentations, rich with interconnections and intriguing questions about music and performance in medieval Cluniac communities, suggest an omnipresent importance of embodied experience in Cluniac culture in images of music performance and descriptions of liturgical activity. This is illustrated both in the physicality of the musicians sculpted in the capitals and the evocative visions recorded by Peter the Venerable, as well as the manuscript illustrations of Bnf Ms. 17716, in which figures escape the conscripted frames and participate–either as actors or spectators–in the performance.

The next and final event of the seminar will be held at the INHA on March 8, 2017, in which Camilla Cavicchi (CESR Tours) and Florence Gétreau (CNRS/IReMus) will present papers in a session titled, Lieux et espaces en musique : les salles de musique, de la Renaissance au XVIIIe siècle.

January 20, 2017
by slb184

La figure du chantre dans l’iconographie médiévale

by Isabella Livorni

The subject of Professor Isabelle Marchesin’s presentation in the series Iconographie musicale et l’art occidental at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art on Friday, January 6, 2017, was on “La figure du chantre dans l’iconographie médiévale.” Professor Marchesin focused on images spanning from 845 to the end of the thirteenth century, and this corpus’ status as one of the most ingenious and innovative of the Middle Ages. The lack of any kind of representation for musical iconography allowed every illuminator to make his own motifs that drew on (among other things) a mythological imaginary, musical cosmology, and a rational scientific organization of proportions to create aesthetic principles.

The representation of chant, Marchesin pointed out, underwent a number of particularly notable developments and transformations in the time period she examined in her talk. Initially, instrumental music was used as a metaphor for chant and vocal music. In order to illustrate this point, she showed a manuscript illumination of King David playing the vielle in the initial “B” of the first psalm, Beatus vir. In the illumination, the law of proportions between the various circles present in the illuminations becomes a “semiotic abstraction”: David’s instrumental music is proportionally connected with the vine growing beneath his feet, which signifies the Word of God, which is, in turn, sung through chant.

Thus, in the case of the illumination of Beatus vir, the presence of instrumental music along with allegorical elements and the proportional relationships between different elements in the iconography all converge to represent an image of chant and singing that is closely wedded to the idea of theoretical music – scientia candendi, the science of singing. Professor Marchesin demonstrated the connection between iconographic representations of song and iconographic representations of the mathematical order that supports the music and keeps the song within the divine law in a number of illuminations from the antiphonary of Guido Oacrius.

From here, Marchesin moved on to examining the development of the iconography accompanying psalm 97, “Cantate domino canticum novum.” As she noted, chant is always present for the manuscript reader, since it was an integral part of the liturgy; thus, we can assume certain contexts of chant whether or not the singer depicted is singing or not (in other words, whether his mouth is open or closed). The most important component for depicting chant and singers, then, by the end of the thirteenth century and beginning of the fourteenth century, would be the writing of chant itself, which, for a medieval reader, would subliminally represent a sonic element as well.

January 20, 2017
by slb184

Linked Data and Ontologies Seminar 1

Introductory course I: Linked Data and Ontologies

Victoria Eyharabide, January 10th, 2017, Maison de la Recherche

Post by: Mariana Velázquez

Classical Western philosophy developed the concept of “ontology” as a means of organizing knowledge by studying the categories of being and the relationships among those categories. Because of its highly theoretical nature, the study of ontology had been strongly attached to the philosophical branch of metaphysics. Among the principal questions that ontology addresses, we find what is a thing, how is it, how much it is, and where it is in relation to other things. Today, the classical concept of ontology has not aged, but rather, it has been appropriated by the field of information and computer science.

The first part of Victoria Eyharabide’s introductory course, Linked Data and Ontologies, revolved around the description and explanation of the role of ontology in the metadata world. Her course touched upon the discussion of the main components of ontologies (individuals, classes, and properties) in order to improve Musiconis’s search engines. To some extent, the exercise reintroduced the main philosophical questions of ontology within the context of the Musiconis database. In other words, by expanding the description of the images contained in this database and establishing new relationships among them, the images will become more searchable and accessible to researchers.

The working platform is Protégé 5.1.0 (developed by Stanford University). We were provided with the basic skills to understand the program and its possibilities. The first thing we were taught is that natural language is ambiguous and for that reason, we had to work with both semantics and computer language (specific codes and categories). The result is a kind of language that is supported by reasoners and at the same time, it expresses a variety of concepts and restrictions.

Such language is based on the OWL (Web Ontology Language), a family of knowledge representation languages that enables the creation of ontologies. We focused on the variant OWL DL to conform several syntaxes when describing the images. The Protégé tutorial encompassed 17 exercises that revolved around practicing different ways of describing a class, an entity, a concept, and an individual. By establishing a hierarchy of these components, we were successfully able to comprehend and visualize the ontology of a specifically given concept and to model a structure of knowledge around it.

Eyharabide’s introductory course emphasized two main aspects. On the one hand, the course entailed classical ontological questions about what constitutes a specific object or image, while on the other, it involved the need of transferring those questions to the realm of computer science and information. In short, we learned how to teach a computer to understand and apply the complexity of an ontology. Certainly, this is one of the pivotal challenges faced by the growing field of Digital Humanities which has transformed the ways in which we study and approach medieval cultural production.


January 3, 2017
by slb184

Paris launch of FAB-Musiconis


The FAB-Musiconis launched in Paris on New Year’s Day! Professor Billiet warmly welcomed all the Columbia and Sorbonne participants, and we heard an impromptu musical performance.




The next morning, we held our first meeting at the Columbia Global Center, Reid Hall.


December 22, 2016
by slb184

Sorbonne Graduate Student Participants for 2016-17

We are delighted to announce the five Sorbonne graduate students selected to participate in FAB-Musiconis for 2016-17:

Raffaella Bortolini is a first-year Ph.D. student in musicology at Paris-Sorbonne University. She has a Master of Arts in medieval music performance (shawm) from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and a Master of Music in historically informed performance (with a specialization in Baroque oboe) from the Hochschule für Musik, Freiburg im Breisgau. Bortolini co-founded Ensemble Seraphim, which specializes in medieval instrumental music.

Florentin Morel is a first-year MA student in musicology at Paris-Sorbonne University. His research focuses on the marimba in Europe in the twentieth century. He holds a Bachelor Degree of Music and Musicology from the Paris-Sorbonne University. His interests include music history and world music, particularly that of Latin America. He is also involved in the indexing work of the Musiconis database. Morel is a percussionist and composer who has collaborated with several choreographers. including a dancer and choreographer of the Paris Opera.

Valérie Nunes – Le Page is a first-year MA student in musicology at Paris-Sorbonne University specializing in the performance practice of medieval music in the professional program. She is a certified teacher in a conservatory, a singer, and a choirmaster. Her research focuses on rhythmic changes in the French treatises of the late 13th century and the early 14th century.

Ershad Vaeztehrani is a first-year MA student in the UFR of Music and Musicology at Paris-Sorbonne University. He has a BA of Music Performance (Double Bass) from the Music Faculty of The Art University of Tehran. He is also studying the Historical Bass at the Conservatoire de Paris. Also a percussionist (Persian, Medieval and Baroque Percussions), he has collaborated with different ancient music ensembles and musicians such as Abya Yala, Les Voix Errantes, Seraphim ensemble, Robin Troman, Sebastien Marcq and Jean-Jacques Hérbin.

Anna Vasilyeva is a first-year MA student in the Sorbonne’s professional program with a specialty in the performance practice of medieval music. She is a singer, musicologist, and performer on the medieval harp. Vasilyeva performs with several different medieval music ensembles. Her current research focuses on cantus firmus in Russian sacred music. She graduated from the  Gnessins’ Academy of Music in Moscow in 2009 where she studied musicology and carried out research on contemporary music based on Renaissance parody technique.

December 19, 2016
by slb184

Music and Images in the Roman de Fauvel

Grande Salle, Columbia Global Centers | Paris

4 Rue de Chévreuse, 75006 Paris

Benjamin Bagby (Director, Sequentia) will present the next concert program of the medieval music ensemble Sequentia: the Roman de Fauvel. The version of this work copied in Paris near the beginning of the fourteenth century in the manuscript Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France ms. f. fr. 146 includes famous illuminations illustrating the adventures of a strange wild horse. The discussion will focus on the performance practice of monophonic and polyphonic songs in the manuscript in the context of their musical notation.

Vocalist, harper and scholar Benjamin Bagby has been an important figure in the field of medieval musical performance for more than 30 years. After musical studies in the USA (Oberlin Conservatory and Oberlin College) and Switzerland (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis), he and the late Barbara Thornton formed the renowned vocal ensemble Sequentia in 1977 in Cologne, Germany, where the ensemble was based until Mr. Bagby moved to Paris in 2002. Since 2005 Bagby has been on the music faculty of the Université de Paris – Sorbonne, teaching in the master’s programme for medieval music performance.

In addition to researching and writing more than 70 program books for festivals and concert series, and writing (or co-authoring, with Barbara Thornton) more than 25 CD booklets, Mr. Bagby has written about performance practice, with articles appearing in Early Music, Early Music America, in the Performer’s Guide to Medieval Music (IU Press) edited by Ross Duffin, in the Basler Jahrbuch für historische Musikpraxis, and in a recent collection of essays, Performing Medieval Narrative.

This event sponsored by Paris-Sorbonne University and Columbia Global Centers | Paris is presented in conjunction with the FAB-Musiconis project of Columbia University and Paris-Sorbonne University.  

Free and open to the public. Registration required: register here.

November 25, 2016
by slb184

Columbia Graduate Student Participants for 2016-17

We are delighted to announce the FAB-Musiconis project’s first cohort of five Columbia graduate students: 

Sadegh Ansari is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies. He has a  B.A. in Iranian Classical Music from the School of Performance Arts and Music in the College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran. His B.A. thesis was a commentary and critical edition of Kashf al-Awtār a Persian musical manuscript of the Gourkanid Court of Akbar. Sadegh also has an MA from Columbia’s Department of Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies. His dissertation,“Pythagoras in Baghdad: Music Theoretical Writings of Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Urmawī, their Inception and Later Reception,” addresses the manuscript traditions of two treatises from the mid-thirteenth century.

Emogene S. Cataldo is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. She received her B.A. (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) with Distinction in Studio Art in 2010 from Carleton College. Prior to entering the Ph.D. program in 2014, Emogene collaborated with several museums through her work in interactive design and art education. At Columbia she is a graduate research assistant for Professor Stephen Murray’s Art Humanities website “Life of a Cathedral: Notre-Dame of Amiens.” In 2015-16 she was a Research Associate at Columbia’s Media Center for Art History.

Isabella M. Livorni is a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Italian. She graduated from Barnard College in 2015 (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) with a BA in music and Italian, earning Departmental Honors in both as well as the Ethel Stone Lefrak Prize in Music and the Bettina Buonocore Salvo Prize in Italian. At Columbia she was a research assistant for the Casa Italiana History Project, and worked on the Marenzio Online Digital Edition using the Aruspix and Verovio software developed specifically for the project. In 2014 she served as creative director for the Digital Dante Sestina Project.

Tori Schmitt is a first-year MA student in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. She holds a BA in Art History with a Minor in Digital Humanities from the University of California, Los Angeles (cum laude, with college honors and highest departmental honors as well as the UCLA Art History Department Eugene Wurzel Award for Scholastic Excellence), with an undergraduate thesis on “3D Modeling as Gothic Reconstruction: An Investigation into the Parisian Church of the Jacobins.” She was an Undergraduate Research Assistant and 3D Modeler for the UCLA project Paris: Past and Present. She also worked on the UCLA Digital Humanities Capstone: Getty Provenance Metadata. At Columbia she is a graduate research assistant for Professor Stephen Murray’s Art Humanities website “Life of a Cathedral: Notre-Dame of Amiens.”

Mariana-Cecilia Velázquez is a sixth-year doctoral student in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures. She holds a B.A summa cum laude in Comparative Literature from the Universidad de Puerto Rico and an M.A. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University. Her interests include Iberian, Caribbean, and Mediterranean cultural production, travel narratives, chronicles, and piracy from fifteenth to seventeenth centuries and she is writing a dissertation entitled “Travelers, Traders, and Traitors: Writing and Mapping Piracy in England, Spain, and the Caribbean (1570-1620).”


Leaf from a Beatus Manuscript (detail): the Fourth Angel Sounds the Trumpet. Purchase, The Cloisters Collection, Rogers and Harris Brisbane Dick Funds, and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1991


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