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Contents

Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century

MUSIC BECOMES A BUSINESS

Chapter:
CHAPTER 13 Middle and Low
Source:
MUSIC FROM THE EARLIEST NOTATIONS TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
Author(s):
Richard Taruskin

It was the spread of that kind of music-loving that supported the earliest music business—written music as a commodity possessing monetary exchange value. It is no accident that the very earliest printed publication containing polyphonic music was largely given over to textless chanson arrangements, including some of those on J’ay pris amours with which we are now familiar. It was brought out in 1501 by Ottaviano Petrucci, the same enterprising Venetian printer who the next year brought out the volume of Josquin Masses mentioned at the end of the chapter 12. Its highfalutin pseudo-Greeky title was Harmonice musices odhecaton A, which means, roughly, “A Hundred Pieces of Polyphonic Music, Vol. I.” Petrucci knew his market. The next year he issued his second volume of chamber music, called Canti B numero cinquanta (“Songs, vol. II, numbering fifty”), and in 1504 came Canti C numero cento cinquanta (“Songs, vol. III, numbering one hundred and fifty”), equal in size to the other two collections combined—proof positive of successful marketing.

The production of printed music books, and the new music-economy thus ushered in, was a crucial stage in the conceptualizing of a “piece” or “work” of music as an objectively existing thing—a tangible, concrete entity that can be placed in one’s hands in exchange for money; that can be handled and transported; that can be seen as well as heard; that can be, as it were, gazed upon by the ear. This “thingifying” of music (or reification, to use the professional philosopher’s word for it), leading to its commodification and the creation of commercial middlemen for its dissemination—this was the long-range result of literacy, and the vehicle of its triumph.

From this point on, music would be defined, at least for the urban and the educated, as something that was primarily written: a text. So fluff though it was, the instrumental chanson arrangement—the commercialized, middle-class by-product of the high-purpose, high-class genres of the day, amounting to the bastard offspring of Mass, motet, and chanson—was indirectly of decisive importance to the future of literate music and music-making in the West.

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 13 Middle and Low." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 21 May. 2019. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-013008.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 13 Middle and Low. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 21 May. 2019, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-013008.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 13 Middle and Low." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 21 May. 2019, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-013008.xml