|Additional notes to the theme Music in Ferrara by Christine Payne-Towler
copyright Christine Payne-Towler:
In his illuminating _The Harmony of the Spheres; A Sourcebook of the Pythagorean Tradition in Music_, Joscelyn Godwin gives us an article about Ugolino of Orvieto (c. 1380-1457), who "was a prominent Italian Churchman, resident first in Forli, then obliged for political reasons
to move to Ferrara. Here he wrote his 'Declaratio Musicae Disciplinae' ("Explanation of the Discipline of Music"), probably in the early 1430's. Ugolino's is one of the last treatises of the medieval type.
Although what he has to say is fully in accord with most of the authors in this collection, his approach is not Platonic but Aristotelian, and his vocabulary is the specialized one of Scholastic philosophy....The only authorities he draws on are Aristotle and Boethius, whose definitions supply the data for his logical developments. These extracts show how the mystical idea of a higher realm of music could survive even the ascendance of the neo-Aristotelian philosophy." (p. 141-2)
Another possible musical/magical link reported by Godwin (above), contemporary with Ugolino in time if not in space, is the musical treatise of Giorgio Anselmi, a citizen of Parma, (born before 1386, died between 1440~1443). Anselmi was a physician and writer on astrology and astronomy as well as on music. "His musical treatise, dated 1434, takes the form of three days of conversations on the three divisions of harmony, which for him were 'celestis', 'instrumentalis', and 'cantabilis': celestial, playable, and singable... Each of Anselmi's planets has its own variation of tones, and the whole ensemble produces a harmony in accordance with the laws controlling the structure of the World-Soul. With Anselmi, moreover, we meet the first
of our theorists for whom the establishment and elaboration of correspondences is a consuming interest; it will become the very essence of Renaissance Hermetism. This impulse is part of a new attempt to expand the conception of the cosmos by moving from a straightforward
chain of being -- the hierarchy of the Middle Ages, stretching from the lowliest stone to the highest of the angels -- to a more subtle construction in which, as it were, the chain is looped and folded.
...Probably neither Anselmi nor Dante (who is assumed to be his inspiration), and certainly not the Kabbalists and Sufis, actually believed the angelic hierarchy to be physically situated in the
planetary spaces to which they are here assigned. That would be a simplistic view. The planets, rather, reflect on their own level of being the orders which the angels manifest on a superior level. And here is where music comes in: nowhere else in nature does one find a better aid for grasping this conception of corresponding orders on different levels of being than in the musical scale, which replicates itself every octave in a similarity that is yet not an identity." (pp.
(For interest's sake, let me also mention that in this same collection of medieval musical Pythagoreans, Godwyn includes three Islamic philosohers, two Jewish Kabbalists, and an anonymous troubadour demonstrating the commonplaces of medieval Christian and Muslim
cosmology in the 12th century.)
I have submitted at TarotL several years ago that we might find parallels between the territory of this Treatise and the cosmographic internal structure of the Mantegna images. This growing interest in "correspondences" seems to parallel the subjects/titles/images being catalogued between Mantegna, Cary-Yale Visconti, and VS.
Following up with Godwin's very recent _The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance_, we find multiple references to Ferrara in multiple contexts. Most relevant to our current studies, here are his remarks about the Mantegna images. After detailing the art historian Giannino Giovannoni's position that this set of 50 images originated in Mantua, Godwin goes on to say: "Elena calandra, on the other hand, argues that everything about the Tarocchi engravings speaks of Ferrara. She finds their essential model in the illuminated Bible (1455-61) of Borso d'Este; she sees in them the mood of Ercole de Roberti and Cosimo Tura, with their mystical anxiety, their 'cold epidermis, but inner dynamism'; their broad brows, thick curled hair, long clothes with
quivering draperies. She calls them 'almost lunar creatures,' framed by archeological references and perhaps under the influence of the Jewish Kabbalistic culture that was strong in mid-century Ferrara." [Godwin footnotes 'I Tarocchi detti del Mantegna', p, 129.] (p. 50)
For the sake of overview, here's Yates , in an article on "The Italian Academies" (on p. 20-22 of _Renaissance and Reform: The Italian Contribution_, Volume II of her Collected Essays): "In the world-view of Renaissance Neoplatonism in which the whole academic movement took
its rise, religion, philosophy, ethics, and all the arts and sciences were interconnected in one harmonious whole. According to the Platonic account of creation (which the Neoplatonists harmonised with the Mosaic account, and so with the Judaeo-Christian tradition) as expounded in the _Timaeus_, the Creator divided the world soul, the stuff from which the universe is made, into harmonic intervals, and them proceeded to create human souls of the same soul-stuff as the world soul. Harmony and number was thus the secret at the base of the material creation. It was also the secret of the human soul in which it was the function of all religious, intellectual, and moral training to re-establish the divine harmony which can be lost through the wrong use of free-will.
Poetry, art, language, above all music, are all attempts in their several spheres to reproduce the ideal harmony -- harmonious proportion in architecture, harmonious rhythm in prose, harmonious verse, harmonious living -- the secret of them all according to this world-view is number, in the recondite sense in which the Neoplatonists understood it....Plato laid tremendous emphasis on the importance of music in education, and his disciple Ficino was deeply interested in the problem of obtaining by music those effects on the emotions which
are attributed to ancient music."
Note: Mid-1500's, an Academy of Music sprang up, called the Filareti of Ferrara, probably a full century after Bessarion and the Council. It might be interesting to discover what there Impressae looked like...