Music of the New Lusitania: The Impact of Humanist Thought on Polyphony in Sixteenth-Century Portugal
Vicente, Victor Amaro
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Cosmopolitan, politically influential, and wealthy, Portugal experienced its "Golden Age" in the sixteenth century. Though science and the arts reached their apogee during this era, polyphonic music in Portugal does not seem to have flourished to any great extent before the seventeenth century. The few extant examples of secular court polyphony, in particular, demonstrate a predominantly homorhythmic style possibly cultivated by amateur composers. This aesthetic favoring simpler musical textures likely developed from the humanist notion that music must serve the text. Italian humanism, in fact, had a profound impact on Renaissance Portugal, which claimed its ancient Roman name, Lusitania. In literature and art the influence is quite apparent, but the case for music requires a more detailed study that is sensitive to broader social factors. This study argues that the composition and performance of Renaissance Portuguese court music is best understood within the context of the Counter-Reformation and Christian humanism.