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Contents

Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century

AUGENMUSIK

Chapter:
CHAPTER 18 Reformations and Counter Reformations
Source:
MUSIC FROM THE EARLIEST NOTATIONS TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
Author(s):
Richard Taruskin

Compared with the sheer sonic magnitude of this Passion setting, the inherent drama of the choral characterizations, and the composer’s self-dramatization at the end, the use of “madrigalisms” like those in Mirabile mysterium is secondary and sporadic. There is a spectacular one at the very beginning of the third and last part of this grandiose work, however, and it is of an especially “literary” kind. At the first mention of the word “crucify” (Ex. 18-12), a really jarring harmony (a C♯-minor triad, we would call it) is introduced—simply for its shock-value, it might appear—as a way of underscoring the horror of the event.

Augenmusik

ex. 18-11 Jacobus Gallus, St. John Passion, tertia pars, end

But there is another dimension to it as well. The harmony is produced by the abrupt and “unprepared” apparition of sharps in all parts. The word for “sharp” in German is Kreuz—“cross.” Thus the strange harmony is not only an audible effect; it is a visual effect as well—or rather, a literary pun based on the visual appearance of the notated music. (Another instance of such a visually inspired pun, and a popular one among madrigalists, was setting the word occhi—“eyes”—as two semibreves on the same pitch side by side, each representing an eye; yet another was coloring all the notes in a lament or funeral piece black.) The Germans have a word for this sort of thing: Augenmusik, “eye-music.” It may seem a particularly trivial or frivolous variety of “madrigalism,” but it carries an important cultural message. Composers who indulge in Augenmusik tacitly equate notation with music, or at least give evidence of regarding the notation as being as much a part of the music as the performance. The music, in short, has become indelibly associated with its written embodiment (not to say “text,” which for music can merely mean the words to be sung). Musicians who think this way have come to regard music as being a primarily literate, secondarily oral medium rather than the other way around. So it has been regarded, by composers in the so-called “classical” or “art music” tradition, ever since. This is, in fact, the most accurate definition possible of that notoriously hard-to-define yet definitely recognizable tradition, the tradition of which this book is a history.

Augenmusik

ex. 18-12 Jacobus Gallus, St. John Passion, tertia pars, mm. 1-7, high voices only

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 18 Reformations and Counter Reformations." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2020. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-018004.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 18 Reformations and Counter Reformations. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 29 Mar. 2020, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-018004.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 18 Reformations and Counter Reformations." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 29 Mar. 2020, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-018004.xml