1st Edition

The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe, 1470--1530

By Rob C. Wegman Copyright 2005

    In the final decades of the fifteenth century, the European musical world was shaken to its foundations by the onset of a veritable culture war.

    At a time when composers like Obrecht, Isaac, and Josquin were bringing the craft of composition to new heights of artistic excellence, critics began to insist that art polyphony was useless, wasteful, immoral, decadent, and effeminizing. They campaigned aggressively to popularize those criticisms, challenging old certainties about music, and threatening its position in contemporary church and society. Their most effective slogans became critical commonplaces, ideas that left their mark in the writings of figures as diverse as Leonardo, Erasmus, Savonarola, Castiglione, and others.

    Yet defenders of polyphony struck back with a vicious counter-offensive, and for several decades music would remain a topic of bitter controversy. When the crisis had finally passed, in the 1530s, nothing would ever be the same again.

    Now in paperback, The Crisis of Music in Early Modern Europe tells the story of this cultural upheaval, drawing on a wide range of little-known texts and documents, and weaving them together in a narrative that takes the reader on an eventful musical journey through early-modern Europe.

    1. They Are Not Hofereyen 2. Polyphony and Its Enemies: Before and After the 1470s 3. The Defense of Music 4. A Special Case: England 5. The Crisis and Its Legacy


    Rob C. Wegman is Associate Professor of Music at Princeton University.

    "Wegman tells an interesting and important story well and entertainingly.... This book provides as thorough and compelling an account of the issues and their outcome as anything available." --Mark Sealey, Classical Net Review