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Salons 1 & 2 • Friday afternoon, 2:00–5:00

Special Invited Session: Models in Improvisation, Performance, and Composition

Daphne Leong (University of Colorado-Boulder), Chair

Philippe Canguilhem (Université de Toulouse)

The Teaching and Practice of Improvised Counterpoint in the Renaissance

Giorgio Sanguinetti (University of Rome–Tor Vergata)

Who Invented Partimenti? Newly Discovered Evidences of Partimento Practices in Rome and Naples

Elaine Chew (Queen Mary University of London)

Notating the Performed and (usually) Unseen

The session will conclude with a roundtable discussion on the following topics:

Live, video, and audio demonstrations and performances will play a prominent role in the roundtable.

Abstracts

The Teaching and Practice of Improvised Counterpoint in the Renaissance

Philippe Canguilhem (Université de Toulouse)

Oral counterpoint, currently known as cantare super librum, was widely taught and practiced within the choirs and chapels of many European churches throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. But how did the singers learn to sing in counterpoint, and what did their improvisations look like, when compared with the written-out compositions we have preserved from the same period? To answer these questions, I will interpret a number of treatises that explain the teaching methods and didactic progression, as well as the techniques employed by the musicians to realize their counterpoints “in real time.” I will focus on the works of Coclico, Lusitano, and Zarlino, and I will also use some historical evidence, particularly the statement given by Correa de Arauxo in his fascinating letter of 1637.

Who Invented Partimenti? Newly Discovered Evidences of Partimento Practices in Rome and Naples

Giorgio Sanguinetti (University of Rome–Tor Vergata)

When dealing with the difficult issue of determining when and where partimenti came into use, I conjectured about a Roman origin. That was an elegant solution: in the early years of the eighteenth century, Rome was probably the most advanced musical center in Europe, and the earliest signed partimenti manuscript collection, that by Bernardo Pasquini, originated here about 1707. A migration to Naples occurred later, following Alessandro Scarlatti’s move from Rome to Naples.

As it turned out later, after my book The Art of Partimento came out, things seem to be more complicated. Newly discovered sources, such as the Regole o vero Toccate di studio del Sig. Abb[at]e Fran[cesc]o Mancini 1695 (F-Pn Rés. 2315) prove that partimenti were in use in Naples already at the end of the seventeenth century, and possibly earlier. In fact, the Mancini manuscript, and in particular the 21 Toccate for harpsichord, betray an impressive level of sophistication and virtuosity, which would be unlikely to have been reached in a short time. Other manuscripts, such as the coeval Rocco Greco manuscript (I-Nc 33.2.3) show that bass string majors studied partimenti at the keyboard, but also learned how to harmonically improvise diminutions on standard bass patterns on their instruments. Thus, musicological research helps us to better understand the origins of the practice, but also to find a solution for the problem we face today when teaching partimenti to non-keyboard majors.

Notating the Performed and (usually) Unseen

Elaine Chew (Queen Mary University of London)

Music notation normally presents an abstract notion of time that largely ignores performed tempi, rhythms, and timing (rubato, agogic accents, and pauses). This has led to a schism between music as notated (in score time) and music as performed (in real time). I shall describe a series of experiments demonstrating a range of unconventional treatments of common music notation (CMN). In Practicing Haydn (2013), created in collaboration with composer Peter Child and conceptual artist Lina Viste Grønli, my sight-reading of a Haydn sonata movement is meticulously transcribed into a performable score, complete with all the starts and stops, errors and repetitions. In Stolen Rhythm (2009), Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s rapid-paced re-notation of the same sonata movement suggests a different hearing of Haydn’s original work. In pieces created by MorpheuS (2016) the optimization software, a collaboration with Dorien Herremans, re-assignments of pitches to template rhythms hard constrained to follow recurrent patterns and mimic tonal tension profiles of an existing piece re-forms familiar pieces to create alternate musical universes. In Stolen Heartbeats (2017), electrocardiogram recordings of abnormal heart rhythms are transcribed semi-automatically to form rhythmic frameworks for assemblage pieces. The extent to which CMN can encode even abnormal physiological rhythms suggests new ways to represent and make evident the usually unseen creative work of performance.