Musik vor 1600 - 210226_ory
26. Februar 2021, 13:30 Uhr
Benjamin Ory

The Imitation Generation

Since Gustave Reese’s »Music in the Renaissance« (1954), a nebulous collection of musicians active in the period between Josquin and Palestrina has been pejoratively characterized as the »post-Josquin« generation. To begin with, this grouping is incorrect: composers such as Adrian Willaert, Nicolas Gombert, and Clemens non Papa have been inappropriately lumped together not based on their periods of compositional activity, but because they died around the same time. More problematically, fuzzy understanding of seminal musical sources from the 1520s and limited information about composer biographies have made it difficult to assess when a new style of composition emerged, of what this style is made, and who was responsible for its development. Notwithstanding recent studies by scholars such as Bernadette Nelson, Joshua Rifkin, and Julie Cumming that offer invaluable biographical revisions as well as elucidations of central genres, a full and up-to-date stylistic picture for the years 1515–55 has yet to be assembled. Coining the term »The Imitation Generation« to reflect the centrality of the new technique of pervading imitation, I argue in my dissertation that musical sources produced between 1519 and 1529 evince a multifaceted stylistic shift led by Costanzo Festa, Jean Richafort, Noel Bauldeweyn, Philippe Verdelot, and Willaert. These composers’ works feature new combinations of existing stylistic techniques, including a pervasively imitative texture, the almost exclusive use of Cut-C mensuration, harmonic rhythm at the level of the minim, and a preference for five and six functional voices. I further suggest that Willaert’s Verbum bonum et suave, which circulated as early as 1515, represents a proverbial shot across the bow: much like Josquin’s Ave Maria… virgo serena, this watershed of a motet anticipates the new stylistic paradigm by as much as a decade. Tracing the origins of the Imitation Generation reveals a tendency in our music histories to marginalize “difficult” music, and invites us to engage more empathetically with the positive evaluations these repertories received in their own time.