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The Gesualdo Hex: Music, Myth, and Memory

Glenn Watkins.
Publisher Norton  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.15 inches
ISBN 9780393071023
Pages/Publication Date 384/2010
Daedalus Item Code 11071
This item is not available.
In this vivid exploration Glenn Watkins compares the life of Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo—a life suffused with intrigue, witchcraft, and scandal, bordering on the fantastical—with his transcendent music. His biography has often clouded our perception of his oeuvre, which music scholars have periodically dismissed as a late Renaissance deformation of little consequence, so strange as to be unperformable. Today however, Gesualdo's music stands as one of the most vibrant legacies of the late Italian Renaissance, with an undeniable impact on 20th-century musicians from Stravinsky and Schoenberg to Abbado and Herzog. 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.

"As a wealthy nobleman, [Gesualdo] indulged in playing and writing mostly vocal music set to religious texts, pioneering intricate canonic forms and paying great attention to the harmonic structures and tonalities present in the contrapuntal lines. In the 20th century, many composers, notably Schoenberg and Stravinsky, turned to Gesualdo's late motets for inspiration, and the Italian's exploration of chromaticism strongly influenced the development of serialism. Gesualdo influenced art, theater, and opera, too, through the stories of his turbulent life. As coeditor of Gesualdo's complete works, Watkins exposed contemporary musicians to his late motets, and the unique perspective that work afforded him facilitates his demonstration of how cultural and musical aspects of the Renaissance are woven into the art, drama, and music of modern times. Focused on the late 20th century, this concise essay in musical and general art history links Renaissance canonical chromaticism and contemporary music."—Booklist

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