Musica Transalpina: French Music, Culture, and Identity in Sixteenth-Century Italy


ACLS Fellowship Program




During the sixteenth-century, European genres of art song multiplied dramatically. Circa 1500, French chansons (songs for three-five singers) were the lone sort of art song enjoyed throughout Europe, but by 1600 Italian presses, for instance, were churning out madrigals, villanelle, and “napolitani.” The sudden rise of the madrigal in the 1530s suggests that it handily supplanted the non-native chanson in Italy. Tacit acceptance of this narrative has obscured a contrarian history that this project brings to light: French chansons continued to be popular in Italy throughout the century. This project examines the French composers working there, the influence of French style on Italian music, and investigate how music established “French” identity even as it crossed cultural borders from north to south. Ultimately we see how northern polyphony traveled against the current of cultural exchanges (dominated by Italian exports to France and beyond) and how music performed ethnicity in early modern Europe.