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Renaissance Women as Patrons of Music: The North-Italian Courts

Renaissance Women as Patrons of Music: The North-Italian Courts

By William F. Prizer

Rediscovering the Muses: Women’s Musical Traditions, ed. Kimberly Marshall (Boston, 1993)

Introduction: During the last twenty years, a number of Renaissance scholars have analyzed the musical life of north-Italian courts and cities and have defined the patterns of patronage there. Thanks to their studies, we now know the basic chronology of the development: beginning in the early fifteenth century, more and more rulers began to see music as an aural and visual symbol of their power and standing. We also better understand the systems of supporting music: the rulers expanded small, pre-existing groups of musicians and created new ones, establishing four basic units for the performance of secular and sacred music. These were (1) the singers and players of bas instruments for secular vocal music; (2) the pifferi, the shawms and trombones for processions and the dance; (3) the corps of trumpeters also responsible for processions as well as for fanfares and signal calls in battle; and (4) the chapel, the choir of singers of sacred music. To these should also be added the tamborini, the player of three-holed pipe and tabor who, like the pifferi, provided dance music, and an organist, attached to the chapel.

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