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Modal Subjectivities Self-Fashioning in the Italian Madrigal

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Chapter 1


The Cultural Work of the Madrigal

Ah, dolente partita!
Ah, fin de la mia vita!
Da te parto e non moro? E pur i' provo
la pena de la morte
e sento nel partire
un vivace morire,
che dà vita al dolore
per far che moia immortalmente il core.

(Giovanni Battista Guarini, Il pastor fido)

Ah, sorrowful parting!
Ah, end of my life!
I part from you and do not die? And yet I suffer
the pain of death
and feel in this parting
a vivacious dying,
which gives life to sorrow
causing my heart to die immortally.

In this highly concentrated verse, the pastoral lover Mirtillo attempts to put into words the contradictory impulses he experiences in but a single moment. Multiple passions—longing, abjection, disbelief, anguish, resignation—assail him from within, finally to condense into the oxymoron of "un vivace morire." Banished from Amarilli's presence, Mirtillo hangs suspended between an agony so violent that it ought to bring about his immediate demise but that, because of its very intensity, prevents the release from suffering promised by death. In this brief speech, Giovanni Battista Guarini displays his celebrated epigrammatic style: an economy of means that sketches in a mere eight lines an emotional state comprising opposites that cannot even hope for reconciliation. He manifests his virtuosity particularly well in his successive redefinitions of "vita" and "morte," binary opposites that shift positions back and forth until they become hopelessly (and deliciously) fused.

Imagine, however, having the ability to convey all these sentiments at once, as though one could read the lines of Mirtillo's speech together vertically as a score. The resulting performance, alas, would amount to little more than noise, each string of words canceling out the others; instead of a realistic representation of Mirtillo's conflicting affects we would get something akin to John Cage tuning in randomly to twelve different radio stations. For despite all its potential for precision and sophistication, language relies for its intelligibility on the consecutive presentation of ideas in linear grammatical order. We may marvel at the extent to which Guarini appears to overcome the limitations of additive speech. Indeed, literary figures of the twentieth-century literary avant-garde—James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, for example—labored to push language in these directions through stream-of-consciousness technique, leading some literary theorists to latch onto the concept of counterpoint to explain such experiments; Julia Kristeva even offers double-column prose to simulate the experience of jostling two contrasting thought processes at the same time (a simulation that often leaves the reader feeling little more than wall-eyed).

The very term counterpoint, however, alludes to the cultural medium in which such feats occur as a matter of course: namely, music. And in his madrigal setting of Mirtillo's lament, Claudio Monteverdi manages to achieve the simultaneity toward which Guarini gestures. Given the performing force of five independent voices, the composer can actually superimpose the sentiments of the first four lines of text, allowing them to circulate within the same space and time. Thus, in the first motive two voices divide from a unison to a sequence of close dissonances to enact the searing anguish of separation expressed in the first line; a too-rapid collapse toward premature closure on "Ah, fin de la mia vita!" parallels Mirtillo's futile death wish in the second; a slowly ascending melodic motive that cancels out the would-be closure of the death wish registers the incredulity of the third; and an insistent repetition of a high pitch on "E pur i' provo/La pena de la morte" shrieks out the stabbing pain of the fourth. The dynamic vectors of Monteverdi's motives, in other words, offer analogues to these divergent affects, giving us a visceral enactment of the suffering, resignation, doubt, and protest that surge through Mirtillo's mind and body during this single moment. Moreover, in keeping with Guarini's sense that Mirtillo cannot escape his internally conflicted state, the madrigal moves on in time to yet other combinations that recycle these mutually antagonistic elements but come no closer to resolution.

What Monteverdi offers here is a sound-image of subjective interiority on the verge of psychological meltdown, and he thereby gives us what music can do that language cannot, even at its most ingenious. Of course, not everyone has celebrated this particular strategy. Some of Monteverdi's own contemporaries, including most prominently Vincenzo Galilei (the father of the astronomer), complained that the contrapuntal excesses of late sixteenth-century madrigals prevented the intelligible projection of the words; such critics advocated instead a solo-voice model whereby the music serves primarily to inflect the lyrics, declaimed in an unimpeded fashion approximating public oratory.

To be sure, it takes a leap of faith to accept a five-voice ensemble as reproducing the swooning of a single individual. Musicologists trip all over themselves to explain away this embarrassing convention, so far removed from the realistic expressivity of seventeenth-century solo singing. They gain support from sixteenth-century critics such as Galilei, who likewise detested the contrapuntal artifice of polyphonic text-settings. But this convention should seem quite familiar to fans of gospel, doo-wop, or any of the boy-group collectives that rise to the top of today's pop charts with great regularity. Like madrigal ensembles, these feature simulations of complex interiorities: rational grounding in the bass, melodic address in the middle, ecstatic melismas on the top. No contemporary teenager needs to be told how the various vocal roles in, say, *NSYNC function together to produce a viable representation of the Self.

Even as Monteverdi was delivering "Ah, dolente partita" to the publisher, he and his colleagues were embarking on a style that brought music into the arena of dramatic spectacle we now call opera. The realistic performance of individual subjects afforded by the stile recitativo made opera the dominant genre of musical representation for the next three hundred years. But we often forget that recitative accomplished its coup at the cost of harnessing music to the linear imperatives of language: as music attaches itself to the exigencies of rhetorical declamation, it finds itself restricted to speech's limitations. We could thus count "Ah, dolente partita" (to which we will return later in this chapter) as not only Mirtillo's wistful adieu to Amarilli but also as a reluctant farewell to the multivoiced medium honed to perfection in the sixteenth century as a means for depicting the phenomenological interior Self.

Music historians like to start the clock for the early modern period in 1600. Several factors lend support to that date: the first opera, the first oratorio, the first solo sonata—in other words, the first "realistic" musical representations of the individual persona—all appear in that year. Moreover, these emergent genres all rely on the new technology of basso continuo responsible for securing the tonal era that still persists to this day, if not in expressions of the avant-garde then at least as the lingua franca that underwrites film, advertisement, and popular music. But the coincidence of all these elements makes it perhaps too easy to draw a line of demarcation whereby all cultural agendas before that point count as radically Other. Nor does this problem arise solely within musicology: witness Michel Foucault's similar partitioning of epistemologies in The Order of Things at around 1600 or philosophy's designation of point zero at Descartes's "Cogito." If we take these interdisciplinary resonances as further confirmation, then the early seventeenth century seems irrefutably the dawn of modern subjectivity.

Of course, something momentous does occur in European culture around 1600. Yet that break is not so radical that it can justify the flattening out of what happened prior to that time—an inevitable effect of Othering. As Eric Wolf explains in his classic Europe and the People without History, our historiographies tend to ascribe Selfhood and complex sequences of significant events to those we choose to regard as "us," and they project everyone else into a kind of timeless, unconscious arcadia. Thus, the decades preceding our countdown year often count as interesting insofar as their cultural practices point toward the advent of the new; but to the extent that they align themselves with soon-to-be-obsolete genres and techniques, they still seem to belong to the old world, the backdrop up against which the innovations under consideration can stand in bold relief.

Truth to tell, some distinctions of this sort will appear in this book: I too wish to trace a history of Western subjectivity and will even refer occasionally to the Cogito as a crucial verbal manifestation of the phenomenon I examine. I also plead guilty to drawing a line for the sake of delimiting my study, such that what lies before my designated time and outside of northern Italy will have to remain suspended (at least for now) in a vague atemporality.

My argument in nuce is that from around 1525 the Italian madrigal serves as a site—indeed, the first in European history—for the explicit, self-conscious construction in music of subjectivities. Over the course of a good century, madrigal composers anticipate Descartes in performing the crucial break with traditional epistemologies, plunging musical style and thought into an extraordinary crisis of authority, knowledge, power, and identity. They do so, however, not by repudiating the modal edifice they had inherited from centuries of scholastic theorizing but rather by systematizing, allegorizing, and finally blowing it up from the inside. During the process, they move not closer to but instead further and further away from what might qualify as "tonal" (at least in the standard eighteenth-century sense of the word). And they do so in the service of an agenda that interrogates what it means and feels like to be a Self—to be more specific, a morbidly introspective and irreconcilably conflicted Self.

If similar issues also show up in various other cultural media, they need not advance together in lock-step. Indeed, my other work suggests that music often yields a somewhat different chronology of issues such as subjective formations or conceptions of the body than would a study based solely on written documents. On the one hand, the madrigal resuscitates a tradition of vernacular love song—together with its infinitely fascinating ruminations on the affects of passion on identity—stretching from the Moorish courts of medieval Spain, through the troubadours, and climaxing in the works of Petrarch, whose fourteenth-century sonnets prove a major source of texts for the sixteenth-century genre we are tracing. From that point of view, the madrigal might count as a throwback, and indeed, one of the important strands we will follow involves the association of madrigals with individuals and/or communities in exile who yearn nostalgically for their homeland in the guise of the Lady. But on the other hand, the musical settings that comprise madrigal composition often articulate astonishingly modern insights into subjectivity, for in the process of converting lyrics into the more corporeal and time-oriented medium of music, they necessarily bring to bear aspects of human experience and cultural assumptions not available to poetry. The historiographer Hayden White has pleaded with musicologists to start paying back for what they have gleaned from historians and literary scholars by offering information not available except through music. This book serves as an installment of that payback.

It is, of course, notoriously difficult (I won't accept the word dangerous—dangerous to what? to whom?) to rely on nonverbal media for historical data. Pitches and rhythms reside a long distance away from the apparently solid semiosis of language. Yet if music is to figure as anything other than a mere epiphenomenon (and those of us who lived through the music-driven 1960s fervently believe as much), then we must find approaches that will allow us to examine its meanings. Otherwise, we will continue simply to graft music onto an already-formulated narrative of historical developments; more important, we will fail to learn what music might have to teach us or to question seriously what may be incomplete accounts of the past. At the very least I want in this book to shake loose a version of early modern subjectivity too neatly packaged in recent studies and to encourage a process of historical revision that takes music as a point of departure. I also wish to treat in depth a repertory too long neglected as a site of crucial cultural work: the sixteenth-century Italian madrigal.

The madrigal scarcely qualifies as an obscure genre. Within its own time, it occupied the center of musical production: the aesthetic debates concerning sixteenth-century Italian music revolved around the experiments performed by its principal composers, and its success contributed greatly to the viability of the new commercial enterprise of music printing. Moreover, a large number of prominent musicologists have long concentrated their efforts to uncovering its history and making this music available to modern musicians and audiences.

Why, then, this book? In point of fact, I have no new archival sources to offer nor hitherto-unknown composers to tout. Indeed, Modal Subjectivities deals only with the most familiar artists and madrigals of the tradition—the ones most celebrated in their own day for their impact on cultural life, the ones most readily available in textbooks, anthologies, and recordings. And it concentrates far more on these musical texts than on the contexts that surrounded their origins. I hope, however, to accomplish three major goals, all of them similar to those pursued in my work on later periods.

First, I want to begin interpreting critically a major repertory that has received mostly stylistic descriptions. By "interpreting critically" I mean interrogating the formal details through which the selected compositions produce their effects—structural, expressive, ideological, and cultural. A few musicologists have previously undertaken projects that link sixteenth-century musical procedures with the social: for instance, Joseph Kerman has written extensively on English madrigals, especially those of William Byrd; Anthony Newcomb's work on the court of Ferrara strongly influenced my own training and much of my subsequent work; Gary Tomlinson and Eric Chafe have examined in detail the music of Claudio Monteverdi; Martha Feldman in her book on the Venetian contexts of Adrian Willaert and Cipriano de Rore brings into focus the kinds of questions I wish to pursue; and, of course, we all stand on the shoulders of Alfred Einstein, whose monumental The Italian Madrigal, while no longer definitive in its details, is not likely ever to find an equal in terms of sheer prodigious learning. These scholars and others will emerge as important figures in the chapters that follow. But although it draws on the work of predecessors, this book will push the enterprise of sixteenth-century music criticism to delineate rather different approaches to theory, analysis, and interpretation.

Second, I want to strengthen the intellectual connection between musicology and scholars in the other humanities. Many of the issues raised over the course of Modal Subjectivities bear traces of my engagement with writers such as Michel Foucault, Stephen Greenblatt, Jonathan Dollimore, María Rosa Menocal, Charles Taylor, and Peter Burke, all of whom proceed from the premise that human subjectivity has a history—a history for which modern scholars may receive invaluable insights from the arts. Most New Historicists depend principally on literature, theater, and painting for their evidence; they rarely refer to music as a resource (except in the work of Theodor Adorno or Carl Schorske), in large part because of the specialized training demanded by the task. They sometimes look to musicologists for assistance, but music scholars have concerned themselves only very recently with the questions typically asked by cultural historians. I maintain that the madrigal can tell us all a great deal about constructions of subjectivity—notions of the body, emotions, temporality, gender, reason, interiority—during a crucial stage of Western cultural history. And if some of these notions find direct corroboration in contemporaneous cultural discourses, others do not. Thus, although my work is indebted to Foucault and others, I cannot subscribe in advance to any master narrative against which to map my history of subjectivity, for doing so would foreclose anything I might find in this radically different medium.

Before proceeding further, I should explain why I treat musical texts—here and elsewhere in my other work—as potential sources of historical evidence, why I rely at least as heavily on what I discern in musical procedures as on verbal documents. I do not claim that we can read straight through music to history: without question, many levels of cultural tropes, artistic conventions, and social contingencies mediate between the dots on the page and the complexities of a world now more than four centuries removed. But the same holds true for verbal documents, which likewise require careful contexualization and which never can deliver anything approaching Truth. If we wait for the discovery of a treatise that will tell us everything we want to know about this repertory, we will be able to ice-skate in Hades while we read it. For the questions I ask of this repertory often differ from those posed by its composers and first audiences, all of whom found themselves enmeshed in other cultural debates.

Yet I would not thereby concede that my enterprise qualifies as anachronistic. Take for example the question of sexuality. Renaissance music theorists generally did not discuss strategies for simulating desire, arousal, or climax in their writings; they had (as it were) other fish to fry. Nevertheless, the madrigal repertory deals consistently, obsessively, even graphically with experiences of erotic engagement. I know in advance that those critics who find problematic my ascription of sexual dimensions to Richard Strauss's Salome will also balk at this project. And I can also anticipate some who will continue to worry about my hermeneutic incursion into the cultures of historic Others. But if we are ever to move beyond the mere hoarding of old music and enter into cultural interpretation, then we have to take such chances. We must, of course, also take into account whatever documents do happen to survive. But for musicologists (and, if we can make the case, for other cultural historians as well), these documents should also include the music itself. The verbal does not trump the musical.

At issue here is a methodological problem concerning the relative weight of texts and contexts. Music historians have tended to privilege what they know (or think they know) about the historical terrain, then situate their interpretations of music accordingly. But what if—as Jacques Attali quirkily but astutely posits—music frequently registers epistemological changes before they are manifested in words? What if John Cage (as Jean-François Lyotard, among others, claims) sparked postmodernism as it appeared in the other arts, decades before other musicians thought to write what they themselves labeled as postmodernist music? What if Mozart was (as E.T.A. Hoffmann insisted) the first great Romantic—the model for the poets and novelists who followed? And what if the madrigalists anticipated Foucault's seventeenth-century episteme a good seventy years earlier, performed the Cogito when Descartes wasn't even a twinkle in his father's eye? I firmly believe that to demand verbal confirmation for anything we want to say about music assumes that music can add nothing to our understanding of a society that we cannot glean perfectly well from other kinds of sources. And it can lead to grave underestimations of music's impact on structures of feeling in a culture.

I have a third purpose in writing this book. In recent years, most of my efforts have centered on music of the seventeenth century: a period that witnessed the emergence of tonality, the musical system we still too often regard as natural. As I began writing a chapter devoted to musical practices before that change, I discovered that I could not do justice to its complexity and vast range of possibilities in the course of a mere introduction, not even in an introduction that threatened to stretch to inordinate length. That chapter clearly needed to become a book in itself—a book necessary if my account of style in the 1600s, Power and Desire in Seventeenth-Century Music, were not to seem like yet one more celebration of tonality's inevitable emergence. I hope to demonstrate in Modal Subjectivities that there existed no prima facie reason why musical grammar needed to have changed in the 1600s, that the syntactical and expressive sophistication manifested in the sixteenth-century madrigal equals that of any subsequent musical repertory. And, having done that, I can in relatively good conscience proceed to an examination of the transformation, to ask why—given the extraordinary capabilities of this modus operandi —composers opted to alter drastically not only their musical procedures but (more important) their fundamental conceptions of temporality and Selfhood.

Now an apology: I would like to be able to assure the interdisciplinary reader that technical music-theoretical jargon will not enter into this text. But my argument proceeds from my conviction that musical procedures themselves constitute an indispensable aspect of the cultural content of any repertory. Formal properties, in other words, operate neither as "purely musical" elements relevant only to music theorists nor as neutral devices on top of which the content gets deposited, inasmuch as the stuff of music is sound and time. And given the extensive grammatical mediation that regulates the relationships between sounds and their temporal arrangements, we cannot hear straight through to the content.

Moreover, our contemporary ears—all long since oriented toward the tonal strategies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—have to be reoriented to hear in significantly different ways if they are to discern the madrigal's expressive and allegorical strategies. This process of rewiring will doubtless prove difficult even for those who have learned to accept as universals the structural and harmonic norms of later musics. But as it turns out (or does so according to the historical narrative I will weave over the course of this book), the cultural agenda of the madrigal's successive stages cannot be disentangled from the successive developments of the highly intricate musical system with which it was allied, which sustained and often inspired its various moments, and which eventually served as the conventional base that needed somehow to be repudiated and sacrificed to the cause of radical individualism.

I will always attempt to translate the principal points I make into language comprehensible to those without specialized musical training. Yet I cannot avoid the formal frameworks within which these pieces unfold without falling back on the assumption that their meanings all proceed directly from the lyrics: an assumption that underlies most accounts of the madrigal, so prevalent that text/music relationships of virtually all varieties are pejoratively termed "madrigalisms" or text-painting. It is as though composers stumbled blindly from line to line, relying for coherence on their chosen verses like children requiring training wheels on their bikes. At best, then, a composition would reflect its text, and its meanings would reduce to those of the poem. Without question, madrigalists (like later composers of opera or Lieder, for that matter) saw their task as enhancing and interpreting their chosen texts, and we can come to understand their signifying practices in part by following correspondences with words. But if the music of the madrigal matters (and I submit that it does), then we must examine how it produces its powerful imagery over and above—and sometimes in contradiction to—the lyrics.

How to Do Things with Modes

Music theorists of the sixteenth century discussed the formal organization of their music in terms of what they called mode. Yet musicologists have long regarded that penchant as a mere holdover from earlier theoretical traditions designed to classify Roman Catholic plainsong, and they have tended to dismiss sixteenth-century theories as woefully inadequate or fundamentally misguided for purposes of explaining contemporaneous polyphonic practices. Part of the reason for that dismissal is a model of historiography that envisions a teleological trajectory from modal monophony through a gradual breakdown of modality to the consolidation of standardized tonality in the later seventeenth century. Given this intellectual predisposition, music historians often want to hear the music of the sixteenth century as the penultimate step in that evolutionary process: after all those centuries of wandering in the wilderness, we arrive finally within spitting distance of the promised land!

Without question, a humanist such as Gioseffo Zarlino—the music theorist upon whom I rely most heavily—blurred the boundaries between his displays of classical erudition, his continued respect for ecclesiastical tradition, and the systems he himself formulated to account for the music of his own contemporaries. The section of Zarlino's Istitutioni harmoniche that deals with modes (Book IV) actively works to keep all these very different agendas braided together: thus, he appeals to Ancients such as Ptolemy for support of his statements, even as he seeks to explain the music of his own Venetian mentor, Adrian Willaert. Modern scholars rightly despair of Zarlino's universalizing obfuscation of the vast differences between theories borrowed from Greek sources (some of them ostentatiously quoted in Greek) and those appropriate for musical repertories of the High Renaissance. Furthermore, no one would deny that the music of sixteenth-century Italy resembles that of the tonal era far more than it does that of mythologized Dorians and Phrygians. Hence, the sixteenth-century pretense that its composers were reconstituting the musical practices of Hellenic civilization deserves much of the scorn it receives.

But we have too often read Zarlino as a committed antiquarian rather than as the reigning authority on music of his own time who brings in the trappings of classical learning for show and cultural prestige. The fact that he leads off with so much dirty bathwater does not justify throwing out the baby itself, for what Zarlino has to say about mode as a structuring principle provides greater insight into sixteenth-century Italian repertories than does any other source available—not because this music works the same way as does Greek song or liturgical chant (obviously it does not), but because Zarlino constructs his theories with the express purpose of dealing with the most up-to-date practices. In point of fact, his model does not necessarily even help us with much music of the fifteenth century, composed largely without this reworking of mode as part of the precompositional conceptual framework. But beginning with Johannes Tinctoris, who states quite off-handedly and without much further explanation that mode also applies to polyphony, a series of intellectuals—including most prominently Pietro Aron and Heinrich Glareanus, in addition to Zarlino—grappled with formulating theories of modal polyphonic practice. Subsequent musicians learned their craft in part by studying such texts, which predisposed them to conceive of their compositional strategies in precisely these terms.

In other words, the sixteenth-century repertory manifests a kind of self-conscious neomodality—not the modality of plainsong (let alone that of Greek antiquity!), yet nevertheless a practice that reinhabits and reanimates some of those old and still-prestigious structures of the past for its own purposes. More recent episodes of neomodality—for instance, those of avant-garde jazz or thrash metal—attest to the ways in which those old bottles can serve to ferment entirely new (if quite unlikely) wines, and High Renaissance polyphony counts as another such moment. But just as George Russell and Metallica turned to modes for reasons having little to do with antiquarian authenticity (though the prior existence of ready-made categories such as Lydian and Phrygian helped legitimate and propel their experiments), so too the musicians of the sixteenth century found in these old structures something that appealed to and deeply influenced their own cultural practices. Recall that much of the music of the earlier part of the sixteenth century—the frottolas and dances that enjoyed considerable popularity in northern Italian courts of that time—actually comes much closer to behaving in ways we now call "tonal" than does the more complex music of several subsequent generations. Thus, instead of regarding the music of the sixteenth century as a series of successive attempts to evolve out of modality toward something else, it makes greater sense to see it as a period that deliberately revived, refashioned, and reveled in mode.

J. L. Austin transformed permanently the philosophy of language with his How to Do Things with Words, which directed inquiry away from the ontological and toward the performative. So long as we imagine a static entity called "mode" and ask whether or not the Greeks, the early church, Palestrina, John Coltrane, and Megadeth all abide by it in the same ways, the clear answer is: of course not! But although modes do not remain static throughout their various manifestations in Western culture, the very fact that this set of time-honored categories exists has inspired and sustained an unending stream of new possibilities. Thus, we should alter our question and ask instead: What did musicians in the 1500s actually do with modes? Why did modes appeal to composers of this particular moment? How did modes (albeit in a very new manifestation) underwrite and facilitate the musical strategies of the time?

Over the course of this book, I will demonstrate how sixteenth-century composers deployed modes in the service of a new cultural agenda that sought to perform dynamic representations of complex subjective states. For the first time in European history, musicians strove deliberately and explicitly to simulate in their work such features of human experience as emotions, bodies, sexual desire, and pleasure. This is not to suggest that earlier music never engaged with such matters: the music of Machaut or Josquin provoke powerful affective reactions in listeners, and the stimulation of such reactions had to have been part of their artistic purpose. Yet most earlier musicians did not appear to have had representations of interiority as their primary goal. Beginning with the madrigal, however, the performance of subjectivity moved to the fore as the dominant and self-consciously acknowledged project.

Stephen Greenblatt, in his important book Renaissance Self-Fashioning, demonstrates the ways in which this agenda operated in English literature of the time. It so happens that the moment at which music entered into the representation of what Greenblatt calls "inwardness" was also a moment that regarded inwardness not as a simple phenomenon innocent of the contradictions of modern life but as always already ambivalent and self-divided. The systematization of modality in the sixteenth century became the technology that allowed for the simulations of such conflicted conceptions of Selfhood in sound.

Moreover, inasmuch as these pieces highlight the fundamentally unstable status of the Self, they produce images of "modal"—that is, always provisional—subjectivities, which is why they do not translate easily into the imperative sense of centered subjectivity that grounds eighteenth-century tonality ideologically. Indeed, we might even fail to recognize their configurations as relating to subjectivity. In his Aesthetic Theory, for instance, Theodor Adorno grants subjective consciousness to the Hellenic Greeks and to Renaissance sculptors, but he ascribes this attribute to music starting only with Bach.

After a recent talk, in which I had discussed the considerable expressive range in the music of Hildegard von Bingen, I was asked by a nonspecialist whether I would characterize her music as "happy" or "sad." The question took me aback for a moment, but like all good questions, this one stimulated far more than the simple information requested. Of course, the "happy/sad" dichotomy does not even adequately serve the needs of the tonal music within which it developed: the idea of reducing any given movement to one or the other of these alternatives has driven many critics to advocate the banning of adjectival description altogether. Yet the major/minor polarity of standardized tonality does often operate to reinforce something of this pair of options—especially in pieces by composers such as Schubert that depend heavily on fluctuating mediants for their meanings.

But the binary opposition between major and minor fails to engage effectively at all with earlier repertories, not because these musics lack expressive dimensions, but because their expressivity is conceived up against a grid offering at least eight and sometimes twelve possible categories—or subjective modalities. In other words, we cannot interpret this music through the dualisms that orient the emotional landscape of so much later music, for the technologies underlying modal composition presuppose a much broader range of possible expressive grammars. Just as (according to linguistic mythology) the Arctic languages that possess dozens of words for snow cannot find equivalents in English, so the affective qualities of the various modes correspond to no readily identifiable types in later music. The implications of this untranslatability not only involve musical procedure but also bear witness to significantly different structures of feeling. By pointing to alternative ways of experiencing affect than the ones we often assume, they also may lead us to interrogate the reasons behind the radical reduction of this more multifaceted emotional syntax to one with two principal options: major (positive) and minor (negative).

I will not set out here an elaborate theory of modal practice; instead, I will present only the minimal amount of information necessary for understanding the compositions that I examine over the course of this book, providing more detail for specific pieces as needed. The brief expositions offered by most theorists of the sixteenth century prove ample, for they aim only to delineate the basic framework within which to comprehend the enormous variety of strategies available within this practice; they opt for a deliberately baggy concept that lends itself to an infinite number of possible arrangements. I will concentrate for most of Modal Subjectivities on the strategies exemplified by a series of madrigals, though those seeking a more detailed discussion of sixteenth-century sources and present-day debates may consult the final chapter. For purposes of the book, I will assume the following general guidelines:

1. Modes are not the same as scales. Modern misunderstandings concerning this practice in sixteenth-century music stem in part from our misconceived notion that modal identity requires scalar purity, that accidentals testify to the inadequacy of the system and thus point toward the dissolution of mode and the inevitability of tonality. But most sixteenth-century accidentals no more weaken modal identities than they do in their corresponding places in tonality; it's just that we have internalized a wide range of extensions, loopholes, and techniques for explaining departures from scalar purity in tonal pieces. We must extend the same courtesy to the Renaissance repertory, instead of defining mode by means of the narrowest possible criteria (criteria not ratified, incidentally, by theorists of the time) and then seizing onto accidentals as evidence of the modal system's increasing incoherence and impending demise. Indeed, as we will see, accidentals in the madrigal more often than not operate to distinguish one mode from another and thus to consolidate identity.

2. Modes involve the melodic and structural projection of a particular species of octave (diapason), fifth (diapente), and fourth (diatessaron) throughout a composition. (I make use of Aeolian for these examples because it is the mode within which Monteverdi's "Ah, dolente partita"—the example for this chapter—operates.) The boundaries of the species usually emerge as the most frequent sites for cadences. Moreover, they define the grammatical implications—that is, the relative degree of tension and repose, the sense of direction—of each pitch in the principal melodies and imitative motives.

3. The syntax of sixteenth-century modal music is primarily horizontal, presented through the melodic patterns of the surface. The clearest progression available involves the stepwise descent from the fifth degree to the final (designated in my schematic examples with a double whole note). Harmonization matters: for instance, a melodic cadence may be confirmed or frustrated by the extent to which the other voices concur with its primary implication. But it functions as a secondary, inflectionary parameter; the example in Figure 4, for instance, presents two standardized harmonizations—known respectively as the Passamezzo antico and the Romanesca—of this fundamental progression. This principle proves true even in relatively diatonic passages with the most obvious harmonies, which frequently end up sounding very much "tonal" to our modern ears but for which linear explanations provide more reliable accounts. Otherwise, we end up with patchwork analyses that posit tonal islands surrounded by seas of incoherence, instead of consistent interpretations of strategic choices within a single practice.

4. The diapente (or fifth) underwrites the most stable sections of a composition, and its pitches usually remain unchanged. Especially crucial to identity are the boundary pitches and the third degree (the mediant)—the pitch that determines major or minor quality. Chromatic inflections may occur for the sake of leading tones to secondary-area cadences (for instance, in Aeolian, a cadence on the fourth degree, D, will demand a temporary C{shp}), but such inflections are regarded literally as "accidental"; they may even remain unnotated, though assumed by musica ficta—a performance practice that allowed for and sometimes even required such pitches but that did not clutter up the score with theoretically "irrational" pitches. Otherwise, the pitches of the diapente cannot be bent chromatically without disrupting modal certainty. (Note, however, that such disruptions often operate as the expressive crux of particular compositions.)

5. Within a stable section of a composition, the diatessaron (or fourth) often submits to considerable inflection for the sake of enhancing modal identity. Thus, both the sixth and seventh degrees in Aeolian will be raised to F{shp} and G{shp} at cadences to provide a heightened sense of direction. Yet the actual diatonic pitches of the fourth become hardwired in at the structural level, where they may be altered only for the sake of temporary leading tones or for purposes of signaling irrationality. Consequently, the Aeolian modes differ from Dorian on the higher level of available secondary areas: while the inherently high sixth degree of the Dorian diatessaron facilitates authentic cadences onto the fifth degree (for which it serves as scale-degree {c}2), the low sixth degree of Aeolian does not for allow such cadences. In those cases in which an Aeolian sixth degree is inflected upward to F{shp} to provide the second degree for an authentic cadence on E, the alteration counts as a significant violation and should be regarded as such.

6. The modal species may be arranged with either diapente or diatessaron on top, producing two possible systems. When the diapente and the modal final occur at the bottom of the range, theorists classify the mode as authentic; when the diapente occurs on top with the final in the middle of the range, they label it plagal. Clearly, when the composition involves genuinely equal-voiced polyphony, some of the voices will occupy the plagal range and others the authentic. Theorists such as Zarlino recommend that composers and analysts privilege tenor and soprano above the other voices, and they assign mode accordingly. The very fact of the mixture complicates easy classification, of course. But music does not exist for the sake of mere pigeonholing, and we do better to ask why and how such strategies proved useful in the production of musical meaning at this time. As we will see in the analyses that follow, mixtures of this sort facilitate the articulation of internal conflict, making such complexities not a sign of theoretical weakness but rather a factor contributing to the richness of modal practice.

7. On the structural level, a composition may visit the same three or four pitches repeatedly for cadences, in contrast with tonal pieces, which typically follow a linear and nonredundant trajectory on the background. The recurrences of cadences on a few pitches do not, however, imply an arbitrary or primitive approach to structure. Quite the contrary: the tensions among cadence points operate to define the text-related allegories central to the strategies of individual pieces. In other words, the structure of each piece corresponds to a particular reading of its text and is tailor-made to dramatize its meanings. The extraordinary variety of modal designs could even be counted as evidence of greater formal sophistication within the sixteenth-century repertories than those of the eighteenth, in which most pieces delineate more or less the same background trajectory in their unfoldings. In contrast with what is often relegated to the status of the "purely formal" in standard tonality, the structural features of a modal piece function among the dimensions of the piece concerned most expressly with articulating idiosyncratic meanings.

8. Sixteenth-century modal theorists differ greatly from one another mostly with regard to their respective numbering systems. The scholastics had maintained eight modal types: two each (authentic and plagal—the latter with the prefix hypo- to designate its arrangement) for D, E, F, and G, numbered one through eight. But as Pietro Aron discovered when he attempted to analyze contemporary practice, some compositions of the time also shape themselves around C and A as apparent finals. Glareanus and Zarlino solved that inconsistency by positing two extra modal pairs, respectively on C and A, that operated just like the others of the system except for their newly recognized finals. Alas, the two dodecachordans chose to locate their added categories in different arrangements: Glareanus started with A, then runs the gamut stepwise from C to G, while Zarlino decided to offer a more symmetrical, aesthetically pleasing series from C to A. Consequently, what a traditionalist would label as Mode 1 (authentic, with D as the final), Glareanus would label as Mode 5, and Zarlino would count as Mode 3. Although composers continue to title their pieces with respect to mode numbers (e.g., Missa sexti toni), these numbers become very confusing, given the competing systems—even though the theorists concur on most other matters concerning modal practice. Accordingly, I prefer to refer to modes by their traditional Greek names, which sidesteps the confusion over numbers: in other words, an authentic mode with D as the final will count for me as Dorian (a label, incidentally, endorsed by Zarlino and others).

I do not wish to belabor the theoretical aspect of this study; indeed, it must seem strange that someone so associated with the critique of formalism would spend so much time discussing abstract syntactical matters. But in my studies of the tonal repertory, I have found it necessary to counter the exclusively structuralist accounts that characterize scholarship in those areas so as to introduce some consideration of content. The opposite situation obtains, however, in early and popular musics: most writers have been all too happy to deal only with what they term the "extramusical"—that is, lyrics, biographies, social contexts, and even encrypted references—with virtually no serious engagement with critical analysis. Thus, in order to pursue the same kinds of interpretations of these theoretically neglected repertories that I regularly offer of tonal pieces, I have to shore up the formal side this time. For my concerns have always centered on the interrelationship between form and content—on how structural procedures themselves contribute to the production of expressive and cultural meanings. The discussions of the madrigals that make up the larger part of this book require some amount of knowledge concerning the conventional practices within which they operate. As we shall see, the too-common habit of labeling chords in this music frequently obscures some of the most significant moments in a piece; it may even so misconstrue the basic framework of a piece as to prevent recognition of the fundamental tensions upon which its governing allegory relies. I am not, in other words, insisting on this theoretical sidetrack for the sake of historical pedantry, nor am I casting sixteenth-century pieces as mere examples in the service of an analytical project. Yet we do need a sufficient grasp of the theoretical principles underlying this music if we are to have access into the cultural work performed by each piece.

And I can best demonstrate the efficacy of the guidelines just presented by turning to the music itself. The remainder of this chapter deals, consequently, with the madrigal that opened this chapter: Monteverdi's "Ah, dolente partita."

Ah, dolente partita

For his musical setting of Mirtillo's lament (Book IV, 1603), Monteverdi chose the Aeolian mode: a mode that offers even in the abstract certain formal predispositions that the composer perceived as parallel to Mirtillo's condition. We often assume that Aeolian operates much as tonal minor does, in that its scale—including even the location of its sixth degree a half step above the fifth—is exactly the same. But scale does not equal mode; as we saw above, mode also entails a whole package of melodic tendencies, structural demands, and probable ambiguities that convert mere scalar properties into dynamic potentialities.

Like all modes, Aeolian features an octave (A to A) divided into a species of fifth (the diapente, A to E) and of fourth (the diatessaron, E to A). The boundary pitches of these species should appear in prominent positions—at cadences, as principal melodic points—if the mode is to maintain its identity. A glance at the motives in the first half of "Ah, dolente partita" confirms that the composer complies with this basic criterion of modal propriety.

But Aeolian also brings with its pitch arrangement certain idiosyncrasies, the most critical of which involves the relative weakness of its fifth degree. Whereas the fifth degree in Dorian often threatens to usurp the authority of the final, that same boundary pitch in Aeolian cannot establish itself through temporary finalization: the F{shp} needed for a cadential confirmation of E does not occur within the system. By contrast, Dorian has access to both versions of its sixth degree, in that the higher one (the one responsible for tonicizing the fifth degree) exists within its species, while the lower one may be annexed through principles of musica ficta. We learn to wink at these "fictional" pitches, to regard them as not truly there, even as they perform undeniably important functions; leading tones both count and don't count because of this "just kidding" status. But although musica ficta freely grants Aeolian any number of chromatic leading tones, it cannot legitimately supply the F{shp} needed as second degree to E.

This difference—which only emerges as significant at the structural level—accounts largely for the affective distinctions between Dorian and Aeolian. For lacking the gravitational pull in Dorian toward the fifth degree, Aeolian can assert that boundary pitch only with considerable difficulty: as part of a stable Aeolian configuration; as part of the area on the third degree, C; or as an unstable half cadence, arrived at by equivocal Phrygian movement. It can never shore itself up as a temporary region in and of itself.

What Aeolian offers instead is a tendency (also available, incidentally, in Dorian) to divide its octave at the fourth degree. Depending on context and harmonization, the Aeolian fifth degree, E, may sound as though it is poised to confirm D as the stronger pitch. And because D lies to the flat (i.e., less dynamic) side of the Aeolian center, this propensity to collapse over onto the fourth degree lends a quality of passivity to many Aeolian pieces—passivity answered with an uphill struggle to reassert E as the proper boundary pitch, however limited its systemic resources to do so.

Here we may begin to appreciate the relevance of Aeolian to poor Mirtillo's inner turmoil. He never musters the energy to take action (as an aggressive move to the fifth degree might register, making Dorian the preferred mode for recriminations) but rather draws the conflict down within himself. He wills himself dead (often on D) yet ends up somehow always in the same position: that is, with his whiny, ambivalent E, confirming his ineffectual identity even as it always seems ready to collapse in keeping with his death wish. In other words, Aeolian already maps out in its formal predispositions an analogue to Mirtillo's psychological state (as we shall see in Chapter 8, Amarilli's psychology turns out to be far more complex than Mirtillo's—or at least it is so in Monteverdi's hands).

When introducing the various components of Mirtillo's simultaneous yet contradictory feelings, Monteverdi follows Guarini's sequence. One could even envision a monodic setting of the text for solo voice, in which the reactions succeed each other in linear, speechlike fashion: Monteverdi does as much in his celebrated Lamento d'Arianna. But, as we saw at the beginning of this chapter, the five-voice idiom characteristic of the madrigal allows for the gradual layering of these sentiments. They can do so, however, only if the materials that initially make sense in horizontal arrangement can also accommodate themselves to vertical stacking.

As it happens, all the motives associated with the first lines of text feature some configuration of Aeolian's sore pitches, E and D, with F always ready to follow the lead of the others. As the new layers enter, the entire complex begins to waver back and forth between A and D orientations: a mere fictive C{shp} can cause the even the most stable of Aeolian configurations to tilt dangerously toward octave division on D, whereas E (the rightful divisor) has nothing more in its arsenal for purposes of stabilizing itself than an equivocal half cadence. Thus, the ambiguities of this section are not limited to just the incompatible vectors of the various motives; in addition, the superimposition of motives alters the syntactical implications of each, injecting self-doubt and slippage into even those ideas that seem completely clear at first glance. They come to affect—indeed, to infect—each other to an extent only hinted at in Guarini's generating text.

The madrigal opens with two high voices singing a unison E, a pitch initially undefined with respect to mode—though stylistic probability would argue for a beginning on either final or fifth degree (see Ex. 1). Only on the last syllable of "dolente" do the voices start to distinguish themselves, as the canto moves to produce a painful half-step dissonance above the quinto—the sorrowful parting mentioned in the text. But Monteverdi's sorrowful parting extends itself through a suspension chain: if the quinto moves reluctantly down to relieve the tension, the canto (as if already regretting the separation) returns, only to find itself now dissonant with respect to its partner. At this point, the quinto leaps to the F previously occupied by the canto, but it finds there a lonely void. It writhes slowly around E (F-E-D-E) in belated imitation of the now-absent canto, striving in vain to restore the unity of the opening sonority. The music thus tracks the parting of the two would-be lovers, with their clinging hesitations, misunderstandings, failures to synchronize, and futile attempts at reconciliation. But it also depicts Mirtillo's internal anguish, his feeling of being torn apart on the inside. The quality of being identical with himself, suggested by the unison E of the first measures, has disappeared, never again to be restored. Yet his condition of equanimity always was (at best) extremely tenuous, hovering as it did on that high, unsupported, undefined pitch.

While the quinto is twisting around E to complete its verbal phrase, the canto launches into the next line of text, "Ah, fin de la mia vita," with a gesture that plunges downward suddenly into the abyss—toward cadence or (given the words) toward death. Whereas the canto lands in a position of relative powerlessness (the opening E now reproduced at the octave below), the alto (a new voice) succeeds in tracing a linear descent to A: the final that would spell closure in Aeolian. But in contrast to the excruciatingly slow motion of the opening, this motive moves too quickly—more quickly, in fact, than the half-note pulse (or tactus) that marks the rate of actual progression. Because its pitches occur at the level of diminution or ornament, it counts technically as a throwaway, an exasperated and fruitless wish to escape the entire situation. Despite its impetuousness, it cannot break free from that tortured web of motives that continues on, quite oblivious to these attempts at bailing out. Mirtillo might as well will himself out of his own skin.

Still, "Ah, fin de la mia vita" does register as a motivic unit, and as the madrigal progresses, this gesture will repeatedly rip—even if impotently—against the exquisite languor of the other voices. Indeed, following its initial appearances in canto and alto, the canto and quinto take up the motive, elevate it to various pitch levels until they find one that guarantees at least the linear cadence on A in m. 15, bringing to a conclusion the first section of the piece.

Meantime, however, another idea has slipped in, disguised at first as a mere supporting bass. The motive on "Da te parto e non moro?" not only casts verbal doubt on the self-deluded attempts at cadence in the upper voices but also unravels their apparent progress: while the canto is plummeting down confidently to A, the bass reverses the action as it climbs inexorably from C back to the opening E. Monteverdi here masks skepticism as affirmation—a paradox only perceptible when the lower voices complete their motivic mission and fall silent right at the moment when they should, if they were only harmonic in conception, advance to solidify A. (Performance decisions make all the difference here: the bass and tenor must crescendo through their lines to the moment when they break off if they are to convey successfully their double-edged functions.) The sighing upper voices consequently arrive on their A without external corroboration; the cadence presents itself as a classic case of false consciousness.

But Monteverdi does, of course, supply an A to greet and support (at least provisionally) the canto's conclusion: the tenor enters with the missing pitch—if only to begin a concentrated passage on "Da te parto e non moro?" involving the three lower voices. Up to this point, the madrigal's ambiguities have centered on the fact of simultaneous yet contradictory impulses, but these impulses at least all point to A as final. And although none of the voices presents anything other than full-fledged motivic materials, certain of them have appeared more prominent with respect to modal definition, while the others seemingly acquiesce to the role of harmonic support.

This slight comfort now evaporates as the three lower parts all trace exactly the same motive—that statement of incredulity, "Da te parto e non moro?"—at different pitch levels. At first, the alto might seem to qualify as the one with the "real" modal information; like the bass in the phrase just completed, it ascends from C to E: {c}3-{c}4-{c}5 in Aeolian. Moreover, it gets to present this material in the uppermost voice instead of getting buried in the mix. But then there's that worrisome bass, trailing behind and offering the same tune a fifth below—an odd harmonization of the alto's line, to say the least. If all three voices concur in their verbal sentiment, which now mounts in a veritable chorus of skepticism, together they instill syntactical unease. The first presentation of that skepticism in the bass brought us circling back to the opening position, but this rising tide of doubt in mm. 15-18 threatens to destabilize any clear sense of pitch orientation: it's not just that we return to the disappointment of the beginning, as did the bass in the previous phrase, but the now reliability of that anchor point is itself in question.

The dark-horse voice, the tenor that was threading its way along apparently as harmonic filler, suddenly takes control with its C{shp} and follows through to D in m. 21, causing the entire complex suddenly to pivot disastrously. Even though the two upper voices have recommenced their opening gambit of "Ah, dolente partita," their once-secure boundary pitch, E, now registers as a second degree prepared to cadence on D. Indeed, all motives here find themselves twisted on their axes: the alto's E likewise reads as second degree, the bass's A sounds like a harmonic dominant that stops short of the implied resolution onto D. It is as if that growing realization of doubt fed on itself and led beyond mere rejection of the false closure of "Ah, fin de la mia vita" to an even greater horror—one that severely undermines Mirtillo's subjective center. Note that Guarini's lyrics convey none of this directly; we owe the psychologizing of this moment (which draws for its effect on the innate dynamics of the Aeolian mode) to Monteverdi. Thus, the apparent repetition of materials that begins in m. 18 is colored with a quality of panic: whereas the soprano voices originally luxuriated in their sweet torment, now they hang on to a quickly unraveling rationality, their D or F escape notes now spelling capitulation to the tenor's paranoiac musica ficta. Who could have guessed that the situation could become worse than that of the beginning? Mere unadulterated separation now sounds in retrospect like a picnic.

No sooner does the crisis break, however, than another motive enters with the words "E pur i' provo/La pena de la morte"—which lends verbal confirmation to precisely the sentiment already rendered so vividly by the swerve onto D that has just occurred. This motive jumps to the octave above the final and literally shrieks out in anguish on repeated, stabbing tones; if the alto part is sung by a man, it anticipates the quality of vocal strain heard when the tenor enters on the same pitch two measures later. But the motive loses heart and ultimately droops back to the neutral E of the beginning. Indeed, its protest submerges itself into the mix that now includes all four other motives, as one reaction among many (yearning, resignation, incredulity) to the calamity at hand. The alto soldiers onward, stating the entire motive twice, but the tenor—following its first outburst—swallows its indignation, abjectly drops in register, and ends an octave below the actual bass voice. The alto maintains some sense of protest, but the tenor converts Guarini's line into a resentful whine.

Yet this motive has served some productive purpose syntactically, for its insistent A, coupled with the disappearance of C{shp}, gradually allows Aeolian to fade back in as the probable mode, confirmed with the cadence in m. 31. Although this cadence sounds stronger than the one in m. 15, it too has liabilities, most obviously the tenor's E that prepares the arrival in the three lower voices—the pitch that ought by right to lead to A but that emerges as a defeated termination, unable even to make the causal leap from dominant to tonic. The A in the bass that greets the sopranos' moment of closure merely initiates the next futile cycle.

This time the sorrowful parting occurs in the lower voices, while the sopranos take up the affects of incredulity and protest. The bass voice at first seems only to be supplying the final, A, to lend harmonic support the rest of the voices. But even this most reliable of functions—a sustained tonic in the bass—proves deceptive as its move to B in m. 37 suddenly reveals our anchor pitch to be a double agent: all along, that A was actually serving as the fifth degree of D, and in collusion with the tenor's C{shp}, it leads to another arrival on D in m. 39. As before, the traumatic swerve to D triggers howls of protest, death wishes, and incredulity. And once again, the Aeolian mode gradually coalesces and manages a third halfhearted cadence in m. 47, this time with the soprano changing the usual conclusion (E) of the protest motive to the bitter confirmation of A. The lower voices refuse to participate in this arrival. Instead they embark on a series of short ruminations on the third and fourth motives, and in each case, the energy drains away in Phrygian approaches to E: the starting position Mirtillo can neither escape nor confirm as a viable alternative. The last of these approaches, which edges its way along through equivocal fauxbourdon voicing (parallel chords in first inversion), culminates in m. 56 with a sonority that even lacks a mediant, so empty is its arrival, so devoid of fervor its complaint.

A few words about the madrigal up to this point. Although it may seem that I have twisted and turned every pitch in these fifty-six measures, I have in fact omitted many that might well serve as the beginning of yet other readings. For Monteverdi presents here a process nearly as organic as any by a latter-day serialist, except that he has a commitment not only to the saturated integrity of his piece but also to the conventions that make it publicly intelligible. No voice in this first half sings a throwaway pitch or presents a line written for the mere sake of harmonic support or filler. At the same time, the simultaneous appearances in the five voices of mutually antagonistic affects, coupled with the ways in which they change their modal implications in context, produce a web of unwilling (though invariably consonant) fellow travelers.

Once these motives begin to interact, they generate whole chains of meanings that go far beyond Guarini's verbal blueprint to chart an interiority pulled not just between the pain of living and the impossibility of death, but also in directions not specified by the words. For instance, if the madrigal starts by suggesting allegorical links between E as unresolved agony and A as wished-for death, then what do all those swerves toward D signify? I have based my reading of these moments (which do not align themselves with any particular line of text but rather surge through the entire complex, capsizing the orientation of every single motive) on the modal dynamics themselves. The binarisms of Guarini's lyrics map fairly easily onto the A/E axis of basic Aeolian identity, to which Monteverdi then adds a third dimension. It is as if the cumulative pressure of these competing emotions pushes Mirtillo to the point where reason itself becomes unhinged, and he struggles not just between the poles of life and death, but also with an increasingly frayed sanity and a tendency to tip over into madness. In each case, the symptoms (C{shp} or B chromatic alterations) trigger a frantic pull back toward the proper boundaries of Aeolian. But the ease with which a single voice can veer over the edge and hence pollute the whole ensemble makes rationality particularly precarious. Although Guarini may hint at such ramifications, Monteverdi makes them fundamental elements of his structural logic.

Later music has conditioned us to situate ourselves according to sequences of verticalities or chords. Indeed, the great technological breakthrough of the early seventeenth century involved new notational conventions—figured bass—based on this conception. One may easily listen to "Ah, dolente partita" as a succession of chords, for the individual lines have been contrived in such a way as to yield perfectly consonant sonorities during their superimpositions. But this reduction eliminates much of the madrigal's effectiveness. Moreover, although these pieces were presented before select audiences, they were designed not only for spectators but also for the performers themselves. Each singer would have had a part book inscribing only a single vocal line, and each would have seen at a glance that her/his score made modal sense independent of the others; in fact, each singer might well have anticipated leading the ensemble as the mode-bearing voice. Only in performance would that part's susceptibility to the contrary impulses of the other voices have become manifest, as each singer experienced something of that unbidden and unanticipated log jam of emotions about which Mirtillo complains.

This multifaceted representation of conflicted interiority requires, in other words, the contributions of five separate performers; utterly private feelings come to voice only by virtue of this communal effort. Seventeenth-century musicians (though not our more recent a cappella pop groups) would soon balk at the artificiality of this construct and exchange this representational convention for the greater realism of the solo singer. But in doing so, they would sacrifice the capacity for paradox and troubled inwardness cultivated in the polyphonic madrigal. In effect, a culture focused on the hidden secrets of the inside will give way to one oriented toward the outward, theatrical display of the public figure. And while I would not want to decry the arrival of tonality (the conventions that emerged to sustain the semblance of rhetorical speech), I do insist that we acknowledge the heavy price paid for that change.

Meanwhile, back to Mirtillo, whom we left lying depleted on his open-E sonority. In Guarini's text, the next line—"E sento nel partire Un vivace morire"—offers the flip side of the previous line ("E pur i' provo/La pena de la morte"). Monteverdi might well have superimposed these two lines, causing them literally to cancel each other out, but he has already played that card throughout the first section of the madrigal. Instead, he opts for a new strategy: a controlled, homophonic recitation that proceeds to a strong cadence on A in m. 61. Mirtillo seems to marshal his powers of reason and to pull himself from the morass of contradictory impulses in which he has wallowed thus far, as though he thinks that stating his dilemma calmly and succinctly will solve the problem. He puts his faith in logical discourse—or so Monteverdi suggests in this most speechlike passage of the madrigal.

But despite all the homophonic clarity of this passage, it harbors some very odd internal convolutions. In Monteverdi's setting, Mirtillo strives to hold the elements of effect and cause apart from each other; he calmly acknowledges his phenomenological state (OK, so I feel . . . a vivacious dying) while trying to bracket the memory of the separation that has thrown his world into havoc. Monteverdi achieves this double-level effect by tracing a linear descent from E to A, but embedding along the way a parenthetical expansion of D, thus recalling the unforeseen difficulty of the first half. He isolates and even tonicizes briefly this treacherous pitch, then steps gingerly around it and secures the cadence on A, almost as though Mirtillo is inoculating himself against the threat of further contagion.

What makes this detour possible is Monteverdi's use of most familiar improvisatory progression in sixteenth-century music, the Romanesca, which allows the listener to keep track of the implied goal despite the balloon embedded along the way. Of course, that balloon never sounds entirely innocuous. With the broken-off leading tone in m. 58, the floor seems to drop out from under us, and we hover along with Mirtillo in that space of alienated suspense. But when in m. 61 the passage arrives (as promised) on A, the danger seems to have been successfully quarantined.

Alas, Mirtillo is simply in denial: he cannot arrest so easily the logic already set in motion over the course of the first section, and this crystalline presentation of Aeolian merely gives way to an identical presentation of the same materials transposed to D, all the more chilling for its apparent lucidity. At this point in the madrigal—the moment that presents its dilemma in its most condensed form, its mise-en-abîme—A has no greater claim over the meaning of events than its Other; both have acquired equal status, as sanity and insanity become indistinguishable, unreason speaks with the voice of reason itself.

As before, the swerve toward D precipitates a shriek of protest, this time in the highest soprano range and with the very words with which the lower parts are cadencing: "Un vivace morire." The motive purposely recalls the repeated stabbing A of "E pur i' provo," the motive that entered to counteract earlier moves to D. But whereas the earlier motive usually ended slumped on E (an Aeolian boundary pitch, even if not the strong conclusion desired), the soprano now dithers and finally confirms through linear descent in m. 68 the very D that had provoked the outburst. The problems the middle section purported to have untangled—simultaneous but incompatible utterances, modal identity—snarl up again, now more virulently than ever because of the false hopes raised by mm. 57-61. Thus, although the quinto and alto coax the soprano back to a reiteration of that descent, now to the "correct" pitch of A (m. 70), the damage is done: from here to the end, the madrigal will list back and forth between A and D orientations, granting both equal weight and authority. The pitch A, because it is common to both areas, cannot decide the matter, and without the possibility of shoring up E as a powerful counterbalance, the piece has difficulty asserting A as final instead of fifth degree. The foreign element introduced by Monteverdi in m. 19 is now so entangled with its host that it constitutes half of a permanently hybrid identity.

It remains only for the final phrase of Guarini's verse ("Per far che moia immortalmente il core") to specify what we already know from the musical process: Mirtillo is locked in a condition whereby he dies yet doesn't die—in perpetuity. This final motive returns to the intertwining yet irreconcilable serpentine lines of the opening measures. Whereas initially they performed the painful separation of the title, here they just flicker among those sore pitches (D-E-F), now favoring one interpretation, now the other; they duplicate each other (as do Mirtillo and Amarilli) yet remain forever out of phase. Cadences punctuate the last section of the madrigal, but they mechanically alternate between confirmations of A and D. At last, as if to set the matter straight once and for all, the two top voices undertake an octave scalar descent from A to A, and a prolonged dominant preparation in the bass allows for an unequivocal arrival on A in m. 89. If only the floodtide could be stopped here! But the twisted logic of Mirtillo's subjectivity cannot halt; it continues on inexorably, as the tonic A in the bass now comes to function as a dominant preparation, prepared to cadence on D. The diapason descent from A to A recurs in the alto and tenor, but against voices that make the octave seem to divide at D rather than E.

How does one conclude such a piece? Can the composer satisfy both the integrity of the materials and the powerful rule that one must cadence within the mode? As we shall see in subsequent chapters, Monteverdi did not invent the solution he deploys here, but he uses it to great effect. He breaks the piece off on the stipulated A sonority, thus confirming the mode. But that sonority contains a C{shp}, which can be—indeed, given the context of this piece, must be—heard doubly: as the conventionally raised mediant in a final chord (the tierce de Picardie) or as the dominant of D, poised to resolve all the weight of the madrigal onto the rival final. By halting there, he produces a musical equivalent of Mirtillo's immortal undeath: a freeze-frame that stops while implying like an ellipsis that the flip-flop between A and D will go on forever.

What Monteverdi accomplishes in this final gesture is very difficult to do within standard tonality, which creates its long-term structural effects at the expense of forgoing these sorts of ambiguities. Yet we do on occasion find this strategy resuscitated—most obviously in Bach's C{shp}-Minor Fugue from WTC I and in Beethoven's C{shp}-Minor String Quartet, Op. 131, and his "Moonlight" Sonata of the same key. Why did this Aeolian problematic come to be identified with C{shp} minor?< That would be a different project. But it would require that we take mode rather more seriously than we have in the recent past.

Within the context of Guarini's play, Mirtillo would deliver his soliloquy passionately but within the codes of decorum appropriate to theatre. If he went through the spasms and conniptions of Monteverdi's score, he would look like an epileptic speaking in tongues. In retrospect, it is as though the Guarini's character can only put bland verbal labels on the warring affects Monteverdi causes to be heard and viscerally experienced.

Monteverdi has long received more than the lion's share of attention in madrigal studies. Many factors contribute to his prominence, including his fame among his contemporaries, his pivotal role in the change from sixteenth- to seventeenth-century cultural enterprises, and the ways in which his compositional priorities happen to coincide with those of later periods—especially, as we have just seen, his penchant for organic economy. We also often think of him as having progressive or radical qualities, in contrast with his lesser known predecessors. But as impressive as "Ah, dolente partita" unquestionably is, it does not really break new ground. Quite the contrary, it hearkens back in its contrapuntal density, allegories of inwardness, and willingness to operate strictly within the exigencies of his chosen mode to the music of, say, Adrian Willaert. He thereby brings to an aesthetically satisfying close the era of the madrigal.

But the radical edges reside elsewhere in the repertory. It was Monteverdi's forebears who opened up this arena of conflicted Selfhood for cultural elaboration and scrutiny, who defied the long-standing authority of Pythagoras, who developed musical analogues to the entire range of affects, who experimented with the graphic simulation of sexual experience. Monteverdi reaped the benefits of this heritage, but he did not invent its principles. And his relatively conservative reinhabiting of the madrigal even makes the genre appear tamer, more classically bounded in retrospect, than it actually was.

In this introduction, I hope to have whetted the reader's appetite for the kinds of things that can be done with mode: the conceptions of subjectivity that shaped its procedures, the ways its procedures informed representations of Selfhood. As the book proceeds, I also hope to encourage a sense of aesthetic connection between the contemporary listener/reader and the madrigal, for the tunes I discuss in Modal Subjectivities count among the great artworks of all time. Without question, an enormous gulf lies between us and the individuals who composed, sang, and first heard this music; no one survives to testify for them as we try to interpret their cultural artifacts. But to the extent that we still study, perform, and record these works, their meanings should matter to us, no less than do those of their contemporary Shakespeare. With the next chapter I will move back in history to the works of earlier practitioners, to those who first began exploring the possibility of revealing how emotions feel in music.