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Myself When Young: Becoming a Musician in Renaissance Italy – or Not

Italian Lecture, delivered by Dr Bonnie Blackburn FBA, on 27 October 2011 (venue: The British Academy).

Download presentation slides (PDF file, 5.3MB)

Download lecture handout of music samples (PDF file)

Was it a smart career move to become a musician in the Renaissance? Could one make a decent living? Acquire fame? There were many career paths open to budding musicians, in town bands, churches and cathedrals, and princely courts, in which a splendid chapel was a matter of statecraft and keen competition. Trained as a chorister, a boy might well advance to become a professional singer, an organist, a lutenist, a music theorist or a composer. But music is also a social activity, and gentlemen took delight in performing in company—cautiously, for fear of losing their status.

It was even more problematic for women, for whom it was indecorous to perform in public. A surprising number of well-known noblemen, scholars and artists were talented at music when they were young, but chose to pursue different careers.

The lecture will be illustrated by musical examples performed by The Marian Consort, directed by Rory McCleery.

About the speaker
Bonnie Blackburn is a member of the Faculty of Music, Oxford University and is associated with Wolfson College, Oxford. She has published widely on music and music theory of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and is General Editor of the series Monuments of Renaissance Music.

More about the Italian Lectures

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