A Musician in the Middle of the Ford

by Maria Chiara Mazzi

Adriano Banchieri, a monk and a musician, innovative and nostalgic.

Let us imagine Bologna between the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century. The city, from the musical and cultural points of view, is an international crossroad Image of Adriano Banchieri (thanks in part to the University), a true source of ideas, of theoretical discussions, of applied sciences.
Bologna is rich with academies, associations created by nobility, usually hosted in private homes and visited by men of culture who meet to compose poetry, discuss codes of honour, prepare plays, play music, dance. These academies (we could almost compare them to the cultural circles of today) had particular and strange names like the Academy of the Anxious, of the Drowsy, Picture of San Michele in Boscoof the Fervent, of the Dubious, of the Anxious, and eventually the Philharmonic Academy (still active today). Among these, one in particular gains remarkable importance. Called the Accademia dei Floridi (later called Dei Filomusi, it converged in the middle of the seventeenth century with the Philharmonic Academy), it was founded by the theoretical composer and man of letters Adriano Banchieri in 1615 in the convent of San Michele in Bosco where Claudio Monteverdi was a guest in 1620.
Unusual character, a typical exemple of Bolognese eclectism, Bill of 600, musical event Adriano Banchieri (or Camillo Scaligeri della Fratta or Attabalippa del PerÓ, pseudonyms he used in his numerous publications) was born in Bologna October 3, 1568, was baptized and given the name of Tommaso which will later be changed to Adriano when he took holy benedictine orders in the olivetan monastery of San Michele in Bosco. The scholar will remain in the monastery until his death and will perform his activities as a composer, writer, researcher, music theoretician (he is the one who introduced the use of vertical bar lines which separate musical tempo in partitions).
His production reflects this eclectism: man of letters fond of the vernacular (he wrote, with the pseudonyms Camillo Scaligeri della Fratta and Attabalippa del PerÓ, comedies in Bolognese and the successful Bertoldo, recounting the adventures of the unlucky Cacasenno), but above all a musician, Banchieri reflects the times where the old polyphonically composed music was replaced by the very new melodramas, instrumental music, and public performance.
Brother Adriano is, on the contrary, an uncertain nostalgic; he misses the times where music was intended only for cultured connoisseurs, but he is unable to completely renounce new opportunities. And so he writes madrigal cycles, an old form compared to melodramas, but which uses dialects (and not only from Bologna) instead of the noble Tuscanese. He publishes light-hearted songs, and makes fun of tradition by including in his music the masks of the commedia dell'arte. In this sense, his most original creativity is a madrigal drama, a composition for the initiated, ignoring the vocal music of a soloist, using polyphony, but recounting of a world profoundly linked to the popular roots of the carnival. A sort of polyphonic theater with content and characters from the commedia dell'arte, at the same time new and nostalgic, last expression of a world that would soon definitely disappear.