Artusi was one of the most famous reactionaries in musical history, fiercely condemning the new style developing around 1600, the innovations of which defined the early Baroque era. He was also a scholar and cleric at the Congregation San Salvatore at Bologna, and remained throughout his life devoted to his teacher Gioseffo Zarlino (the principal music theorist of the late sixteenth century). When Vincenzo Galilei first attacked Zarlino in the Dialogo of 1581, it provoked Artusi to defend his teacher and the style he represented.
The most famous episode of Artusi's career, and one of the most famous episodes in the history of music criticism, occurred in 1600 and 1603 when he attacked the "crudities" and "license" shown in the works of a composer he initially refused to name (it was Claudio Monteverdi). Monteverdi replied in the introduction to his fifth book of madrigals (1605) with his discussion of the division of musical practice into two streams: what he called prima pratica, and seconda pratica: prima pratica being the previous polyphonic ideal of the sixteenth century, with flowing counterpoint, prepared dissonance, and equality of voices; and seconda pratica being the new style of monody and accompanied recitative, which emphasized soprano and bass voices, and in addition showed the beginnings of conscious functional tonality.
Artusi's major contribution to the literature of music theory was his book on dissonance in counterpoint. He recognized that there could be more dissonance than consonance in a developed piece of counterpoint, and he attempted to enumerate the reasons and uses for the dissonances, for example as settings of words expressing sorrow, pain, longing, terror. Ironically, the usage of Monteverdi in the seconda pratica largely agreed with his book, at least conceptually; the differences between Monteverdi's music and Artusi's theory were in the importance of the different voices, and the exact intervals used in shaping the melodic line.
References and further reading
- Claude Palisca, "Giovanni Artusi," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1-56159-174-2
- Tim Carter: “Artusi, Monteverdi, and the Poetics of Modern Music”, Musical Humanism and its Legacy. Essays in honor of Claude V. Palisca, ed. Nancy Kovaleff Baker and Bárbara Russano Hanning (Stuyvesant, Nueva York: Pendragon Press, 1992), 171-194.
- Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954. ISBN 0-393-09530-4
- Manfred Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1947. ISBN 0-393-09745-5
- Giovanni Artusi, L'Artusi, ovvero Delle imperfezioni della moderna musica, tr. Oliver Strunk, in Source Readings in Music History. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1950.
- Ilias Chrissochoidis, "The 'Artusi-Monteverdi' Controversy: Background, Content, and Modern Interpretations," British Postgraduate Musicology 6 (2004), online (general introduction suitable for undergraduates).
- musicologie.org Full record, works, sources, locations, bibliography - French