The thesis traces the relationship between poetry and music in Monteverdi's Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Books of Madrigals. By adopting a perspective which privileges the poetic text, I intend to illustrate all the literary resonances within Monteverdi's seconda prattica, showing that it involves more than just an attempt to make the music resemble the content of the text: Monteverdi in fact interprets a poem through his music.
As Giulio Cesare Monteverdi affirms, "seconda prattica" meant that the "oratione" was now considered the "comandante del armonia". But the poetic text--Monteverdi's starting point--has never been given due importance by musicologists working on the seconda prattica. Accordingly, I explore how Giulio Cesare's theoretical statement works in practice, and whether his assertion holds from the time of the Artusi-Monteverdi controversy to the end of the composer's career. I also consider how a madrigal book functions as a poetic collection and within a broader cultural context. Finally, I consider the Artusi-Monteverdi controversy in relation to other cultural polemics.
A survey of the changes from the Fifth to the Seventh Books raises the question of whether and how the meaning of oratione itself changed, and whether the term meant for Monteverdi not merely the content of a poem and its rhetorical figures, but also its grammar, syntax, lexis, logical order of words, and its metrical framework. My aim is to discern all the changes in the composer's approaches and responses to poetry in literary terms. In much of Book V Monteverdi constantly respects the texts; in Book VI he interprets the texts rather than just delivering them, and they thereby suffer extensive manipulation in the score; finally, Book VII presents a newly-forged freedom of armonia from oratione.