A Defense of Augenmusik’s Cultural Significance in the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

by Alexandra Krawetz
Rice University
Joint Conference of the AMS-Southwest Chapter & SEM-Southern Plains Chapter Spring 2014
The University of Texas at Austin

Poster Abstract

Renaissance Augenmusik (the notation of music in the form of shapes) is often dismissed as frivolous. However, in some contexts, it can strengthen music’s connection with text and society. Augenmusik achieves this by inventing an interdisciplinary medium that allows audience members to be visually involved with a musical score and physically see the intentions of a performance. This added visual reinforcement can convey a variety of societal ideas. Augenmusik’s reflection of society and appeals to the public are shown through case studies of two pieces, Baude Cordier’s “Belle Bonne Sage” (1400) and Ghiselin Danckerts’s “Ave Maris Stella” (1535). In Cordier’s “Belle Bonne Sage” augenmusik notation is a method of escapism from societal issues. Through coloration, madrigalisms, and the incorporation of shapes “Belle Bonne Sage” appealed to courtly society and diverted attention from Avignon’s problems. These problems included: the black plague, the Hundred Years’ War, and Papal unrest. Similar methods are employed in Danckerts’s “Ave Maris Stella” to increase its function as a didactic tool. Danckerts’s use of a riddle motet, chessboard notation, and madrigalisms reflect important ideas of Christian humanism in the Netherlands. These ideas include an emphasis on the importance of antiquity, religious morality, and education. Augenmusik’ s ability to physically illustrate these abstract cultural and musical concepts shows the genre’s academic and performance value.

Krawetz Poster

Click image to enlarge or click here for a pdf version