Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice: Architecture, Music, Acoustics

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Yale University Press, 2009 - Architecture - 368 pages
During the sixteenth-century, Venice was the setting for some of the most admired churches in the whole western canon, while major advances in the sophistication, richness and religious expression of choral polyphony led to pioneering developments in the evolution of stereophonic sound. Printing and publishing brought a sudden acceleration in the spread of knowledge - theoretical, practical and scientific - and speeded up the reproduction of musical scores. The intense scrutiny of religious liturgy enacted during the Counter Reformation led to further reflection on the character and performance of religious music. The focus of this fascinating study is the direct relationship between architectural design and sacred music in Renaissance Venice. The designs of two of the greatest architects of the Italian Renaissance, Sansovino and Palladio, are seen against the background of the innovative polyphonic choral music in split-choir formation (coro spezzato), pioneered in St Mark's by the Flemish musician Adrian Willaert and disseminated as a result of the rapid development of music printing in Venice. Later composers refined and elaborated these innovations, which culminated in the innovative sacred music of Monteverdi. The needs of elaborate state ceremonial stimulated the demand for musical virtuosity and imposing architectural settings, but the innovations filtered down to affect music in the simplest parish churches. The book combines historical research into the architectural and liturgical traditions of a dozen Venetian churches with the results of a parallel series of scientific surveys of the acoustic properties of the chosen buildings. The research culminated in a programme of in situ choral experiments and acoustic measurements, carried out in Venice using the celebrated choir of St John's College, Cambridge, in 2007, revealing the strong awareness of acoustic effects on the part of architects, musicians, patrons and churchmen of the Renaissance period.

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About the author (2009)

Deborah Howard is Professor of Architectural History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. Laura Moretti is Scott Opler Research Fellow in Architectural History, Worcester College, Oxford.

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