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Trantham, Gene Starr

Toward a Theory of the Music of Girolamo Frescobaldi
Developed through Computer-Assisted Analysis of Selected Works

Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1991

Scholars have debated the historical importance of Girolamo Frescobaldi for the past 100 years and, with the fourth centennial (1983) of Frescobaldi's birth, a number of commemorative meetings and festivals brought forth an attempt to solidify research concerning this chromatic genius. The current state of Frescobaldi research includes the publication of his complete works, a complete biographical outline of his life, and the recreation of the "sound-world" of Frescobaldi's time. However, little attempt has been made to develop an appropriate analytical approach generated through an understanding of seventeenth-century musical thought which would reveal general principles concerning compositional devices. Scholars note individual phenomena consistently found in the works of Frescobaldi; nevertheless, a detailed study of concepts and an attempt to combine them into an analytical approach is still lacking.

The aim of this study is to collect and examine elements discussed by scholars and combine them into an analytical approach suitable for Frescobaldi's keyboard compositions.

The process of collecting elements and analytical procedures employed by scholars involves the study of documented information and personal interview. The second and third chapters encompass an overview of analytical elements and approaches provided by Roland Jackson, Alexander Silbiger, Frederick Hammond, James Ladewig, and Anthony Newcomb through documentation, correspondence, and conversation. Once these components are combined, the resulting analytical approach (aided by computer) is illustrated through an examination of Fantasia Seconda (1608) and Toccata Prima from Book 1 (1627) in chapters four and five. The validity of these elements in an analytical approach, the theories based on these phenomena, and further postulations regarding Frescobaldi's compositional style are addressed in concluding remarks in the final chapter.