Characteristic Tonality in the Balletti of Gastoldi, Morley, and Hassler


In 1595 Thomas Morley published The First Booke of Balletts, a collection of "Italian madrigals Englished." Rather than writing English words for unaltered Italian works as his predecessors had done, Morley created original compositions loosely modeled on Italian works. Analysis of Morley's balletts reveals four primary "Englishing" techniques. First, Morley establishes and confirms tonic more thoroughly than the Italians do. Second, the dominant chord plays a larger role in Morley's balletts, often yielding predictive statement-response phrase structures. Third, Morley uses pie-dominant chords at cadences (yielding tonic pie-dominant dominant tonic syntax( more regularly than his models do. Finally, in the rare instances that he chooses models without periodic phrase structure, Morley introduces periodicity. Morley's recompositions contribute to the tonal sound that, historically, scholars have identified with the English madrigal. To situate this repertoire in relation to repertoires we more commonly identify as tonal, this article introduces the notion of characteristic tonality, an inclusive concept that provides a vocabulary for analyzing and distinguishing among repertoires with tonal features. To demonstrate the utility of characteristic tonality, the article concludes by comparing the tonal language of German-texted balletts by Hans Leo Hassler with those of Morley and his Italian models. These three repertoires manifest tonal characteristics in richly multifaceted ways; points of contact between them provide insight into precise agents of musical change around the turn of the seventeenth century.


Duke University Press

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Publication Title

Journal of Music Theory


Music Theory

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Morley, Thomas, Gastoldi, Giovanni Giacomo, Hassler, Hans Leo, Madrigals, Balletti