CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
UI Collegium Musicum celebrates the invention of music printing April 24
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Collegium Musicum will celebrate
the invention and development of music printing in the 15th through early
17th centuries with a concert of music from early printed editions at 8 p.m.
Thursday, April 24, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
The concert, titled "The First Information Explosion: Printed Music
in the Renaissance," will be free and open to the public.
The Collegium Music, the early music performance ensemble of the UI School
of Music, is directed by Elizabeth Aubrey. A musicologist on the School of
Music faculty, Aubrey is known internationally both as an expert in the performance
of early music and as a scholar specializing in the music of the medieval
troubadours and trouveres.
The invention of printing by Johann Guttenberg in the 1430s not only simplified
the process of making books, it also made possible their mass distribution.
For the first time in all of history, reliable and uniform copies were available
across a wide geographical area.
In music, the time-honored but laborious process of writing out texts and
music by hand yielded slowly to the new technology, over a period of many
decades. Nevertheless, the development of printing changed the nature of musical
performance and composition profoundly. The availability of uniform copies
of a piece of music set in motion a trend away from a free, improvisational
approach to music making and towards faithfulness to an established version
of a work.
The April 24 concert by the UI Collegium Musicum will explore sacred and
secular music that was printed in the late 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries,
starting with an early German print of Gregorian chant from about 1473. The
program will continue with music printed by Italian, French, Dutch and English
printers from 1501 through 1615.
Composers represented will include Giovanni Gabrieli, Josquin Des Prez, Clement
Janequin, John Dowland and Thomas Tallis, among others. In addition to a choir
of 14 voices, the performance will feature ensembles of violas da gamba, recorders,
sackbuts and cornetti.
Music printing developed more slowly than other printing technologies because
of the special problems connected with reproducing music, which involves not
only words but also musical staves, notes of many shapes that can be located
anywhere on the staff, clefs, accidental markings and other special characters.
All of these separate elements of a written piece of music have to be laid
out in proper alignment with one another, both horizontally and vertically.
Thus it took several decades for printers to develop dependable technologies
for music printing.
Some early attempts to solve these problems used music carved into wood blocks,
but this was not practical for lengthy compositions. Soon printers were using
multiple impressions, with the paper put through the press two or more times
to accommodate the different elements of the music (text, staff, notes, etc.).
This was a tricky process, since the page had to be aligned exactly for the
second and later times through the press. One printer who overcame these difficulties
was Ottaviano de Petrucci in Venice, who published a collection of songs with
movable type in triple impression in 1501. Petrucci went on to print an enormous
number of publications that spread widely throughout Europe, spawning imitators
in many other cities.
In the 1520s the French publisher Pierre Attaingnant began producing prints
from a single impression. His process too was imitated across Europe. And
a later innovation that further simplified the printing process was the technique
of engraving music on copper plates. Developed in Italy, it caught on only
slowly, but in the 17th century engraving began to supplant movable type.
Music printed by each of these different techniques will be included on the
April 24 program.
The UI Collegium Musicum is an ensemble devoted to the study and performance
of music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque. The members of the
group are primarily music students and faculty of the UI. They learn singing
techniques appropriate to early music as well as how to play reproductions
of historical instruments.
Elizabeth Aubrey has directed the ensemble since 1982. Her book "The
Music of the Troubadours," was recently published by Indiana University
Press. Before coming to the UI in 1982, she taught at Georgetown University
in Washington, D.C., where she was music director of the early music group
"A Newe Jewell."