Emblems of Faith and Authority: The Modes in Italian Baroque Music


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project is a book-length study of Italian music theory during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that connects the writings and debates on the modes with the Catholic-humanist worldview that pervaded Italian culture at that time. As shown here, the modes functioned less as music-analytical concepts (the role they are typically given in modern scholarship) than as emblems of an idealized Catholicism and a theoretical tradition that reaches back to Classical antiquity. This interpretation fundamentally challenges the ongoing interpretation of the modes as predecessors to modern-day major/minor keys. Rather, the history of modes and keys is revealed as intertwined prescriptive and descriptive theories of tonal organization that coexisted uniquely in Italian writings.