Con la mente e con le mani. Improvisation from ‘cantare super librum’ to partimenti

plus Nov, 0911 2013

Con la mente e con le mani. Improvisation from ‘cantare super librum’ to partimenti is the title of the second in a series of meetings organized by Institute of Music on improvised music in various historical periods. This event, dedicated to improvisation in the Renaissance and Baroque and organized in collaboration with McGill University thanks to the generous support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, continues the line of thought begun at the conference Improvised Music in Europe: 1966-1976 in November 2012.

In recent years, scholars and musicians have focused on the revival of improvisation as it was known in the Renaissance and Baroque. This historically informed practice is replacing the late Romantic concept of improvisation as a rhapsody, blossoming out the capricious genius of the player. In the Renaissance and Baroque, composing in the mind (alla mente) had an important didactic function, and it induced a better assimilation of the contrapuntal vocabulary by repetition and memorization of patterns and models. For several categories of musicians, the teaching of counterpoint happened almost entirely through practice on their own instrument: singers learned to improvise canons on a cantus firmus and make diminutions on a motet; organists seeking important positions had to be able to play with fantasia, answering the choir with versets, ricercari, and intonations.

The event is a real laboratory for improvisation and teaching, with lectures, panel discussions, lecture-recitals and musical demonstrations. The central theme will be how one can use improvisation today in theory teaching, and how it can be integrated into the different curricula around the world.

Download the program


Saturday 9 November 2013

1 p.m.


2 – 2.45 p.m.

Opening Address

Massimiliano Guido & Peter Schubert (McGill University, Montréal)

Gianmario Borio (Istituto per la Musica, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venezia)

2.45 – 3.45 p.m.

Keynote Lecture: Theory in the Midst of Notes

Thomas Christensen (University of Chicago)

            Keeping Score while Improvising

4 – 6 p.m.

First Session: The Art of Memory

Chair: Gianmario Borio

Stefano Lorenzetti (Conservatorio di Musica di Vicenza)

            Musical Inventio, Loci Communes, and the Art of Memory

Discussant: Roberto Perata (Università Statale di Milano)

Massimiliano Guido (McGill University)

            Climbing the Stairs of the Memory Palace: Gestures at the Keyboard for a Flexible Mind

Discussant: Arnaldo Morelli (Università de L’Aquila)

6.30 p.m.


Bor Zuljan (Haute École de Musique de Genève)

            ‘Ricercar una Fantasia’: The Techniques for Improvising a Fantasia on Lute in the Sixteenth Century

Sunday 10 November 2013

9.30 – 10 a.m.

Poster Session: Ongoing Researches in Historical Improvisation

Niels Berentsen (Royal Conservatoire of The Hague)

Strategies for Improvisation in Early Fifteenth and Late Fourteenth Century Music

Jacques Meegens (Centre Études Supérieures Musique Danse, Poitou-Charentes)

Improvising a Fifteenth-Century Keyboard Prelud

 Peter van Tour (Uppsala University)

Modulatory Segments in Partimenti by Nicola Sala and Fedele Fenaroli

10 a.m. – 1.15 p.m.

Second Session: Instrumental Counterpoint and Improvisation

Chair: Massimiliano Guido

Edoardo Bellotti (Eastman School of Music, Rochester University)

            Composing at the Keyboard: Banchieri and Spiridion, Two Complimentary Methods

Discussant: Felix Marangoni (Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia)

William Porter (Eastman School of Music, Rochester University)

            Improvising a North German Preambulum

Discussant: Jacques Meegens (Centre Études Supérieures Musique Danse, Poitou-Charentes)

Giorgio Sanguinetti (Università di Roma Due ‘Tor Vergata’)

            Cheating the Work-of-Art Paradigm: Partimento Implication for Classical Performers

Discussant: Marco Pollaci (Nottingham University)

3 – 5 p.m.

Third Session: Vocal Counterpoint and Improvisation

Chair: Peter Schubert

Philippe Canguilhelm (University of Toulouse)

            Towards a Stylistic History of ‘Cantare super Librum’

Discussant: Peter van Tour (Uppsala University)

Giuseppe Fiorentino (University of Cantabria)

            Singing ‘by Reason’ and Singing ‘by Use’: Extempore Polyphonies in Renaissance Spain

            Discussant: Niels Berentsen (Royal Conservatoire of The Hague)

6 p.m.

Musical Demonstrations: Keyboard & Vocal Improvised Music

 Instruments: Edoardo Bellotti & William Porter, harpsichords

Presentation of the Fondazione Accademia Internazionale di Smarano: Giacomo Corrà

 Voices: Benjamin Duinker, Edmund Milly, Ellen Wieser, and Meagan Zantingh, singers from VivaVoce – Peter Schubert, conductor


Monday 11 November 2013

9 – 11 a.m.

Fourth Session: Pedagogy

Chair: Thomas Christensen

Jean-Yves Haymoz (Haute École de Musique de Genève)

Cantare super Librum: Strategies and Techniques.

Lecture and Workshop with Professional Singers

Peter Schubert (McGill University, Montréal)

            Teaching Theory through Vocal Improvisation

Michael Callahan (Michigan State University)

            Play It: Some Challenges of, and Solutions to, Teaching and Learning Undergarduate Music Theory at the Keyboard

12 – 12.30 p.m.

Panel Discussion: Improvisation as a Teaching and Analytical Tool