Surface versus Structural Chromaticism in Mannerist Madrigals

Ryan Taycher, University of North Texas

In his treatise L'antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica (1555), Nicola Vicentino advocated and produced a theoretical basis for the use of chromaticism and dissonance in order to "animate the words." Furthermore, he likened a musical composition to an architectural structure in which the central mode provides "the columns that support the building," and "even though fourths and fifths of other modes may be placed between them, these do no harm to this edifice [...]. It is with such architectural variety that composers adorn the building of their composition, as good architects, who dazzle the vision of men with their refined manner." This important notion relates to the concepts of structural levels and prolonged Stufen in the theory of Heinrich Schenker, and by analyzing select madrigals of the late sixteenth century, I will begin to answer the central question raised by the parallel between Vicentino and Schenker: Is the dense chromaticism utilized by mannerist composers merely a surface embellishment of the foreground, or is this chromaticism infused into the deeper structure?