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Curious and Modern InventionsInstrumental Music as Discovery in Galileo's Italy$
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Rebecca Cypess

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226319445

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226319582.001.0001

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Instruments of Timekeeping

Instruments of Timekeeping

The Case of Frescobaldi’S Toccate E Partite … Libro Primo

(p.159) Chapter 5 Instruments of Timekeeping
Curious and Modern Inventions

Rebecca Cypess

University of Chicago Press

Certain genres of instrumental music in early modern Italy broke free of the regular pulse—the tactus—that had governed music of previous eras. Among these was the toccata, a genre for lute and keyboard that attempted to capture some of the freedom of improvisation. Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Toccate e partite…libro primo (1615) famously included a preface explaining some of the performance practices of these works. While Frescobaldi suggests an analogy with the freely metered performance of vocal music of the same period, this chapter argues that the style of his toccatas also had its roots in the subjective experience of time rooted in counter-Reformation theology, itself based on the meditative approaches to time described in the works of Augustine. The experience of time in public affairs contrasts with this private, subjective experience. In works like Frescobaldi’s toccatas, the musical instrument acts as a horological instrument—a tool to aid in the marking and experience of time.

Keywords:   Girolamo Frescobaldi, Toccata, Tactus, meter, clock, Galileo Galilei, Augustine, Roberto Bellarmino, meditation, prayer

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