The Preface in Early 17th-Century Music Prints

When, in the early 17th century, composers stepped onto the scene of writing about music, they created a new paratextual element to music prints: the note to the reader. This textual genre became quickly established and opened up new perspectives on the aesthetic discussion of current musical practice.

The emergence of composers as commentators on their own works not only expanded the circle of actors in the field of musical writing, but also the topics discussed; the composer’s reasons for addressing the reader are manifold and may be fashioned to explain or legitimize musical innovation, to determine aspects of the performance, to take control over its reception or simply to promote the music print by providing an aesthetic appraisal of the music printed.

By systematically collecting all notes to the reader published between 1580 and 1650 this book project provides a detailed overview of the phenomenon’s distribution within Italian music print in the early 17th-century. The c. 300 notes collected feature a striking heterogeneity concerning the commented repertoires, their performance contexts and their intellectual orientation. Therefore, the research presented in this book focuses on describing the argumentative strategies and modes of discourse used by the authors to write about music. To what ends are authors writing about their music? How do they verbalize aspects of performance, such as the expression of affect or the desired effects of music on the listener? As presented in the note to the reader, what role is appointed to the music print within the triangle formed by composer, (idealized) performance and listener? And what are the consequences faced by the implied readers of a music book when addressed by a note?



Kaufmann, M. (in press). Kompositorische Lizenzen. Konzepte des musikalischen Ausdrucks um 1600. In J. Stolzenberg (Ed.), Ausdruck in der Musik.

Kaufmann, M. (in press). Auktoriale Verlautbarungen. Widmungen und Vorreden im Musikdruck der Frühen Neuzeit. In W. Fuhrmann (Ed,). Musikleben. Laaber: Laaber (Handbuch der Musik in der Renaissance 4)