Throughout the process of mapping the musical centers of Italy in the 17th century, I found myself falling into exactly the same pitfalls I predicted. I wanted to map EVERYTHING. In an effort to avoid the lackluster and arbitrary nature of the first map, I tried to define music as too many things that were too exhaustive. For example, my first objective was to map the distribution of music compositions, but realized how incomplete this list would be with the amount of time I could contribute. Ultimately, I ended up with nearly 1000 compositions accounted for in my first map. This number is pretty good, but when working with Miles we found an additional 1500 compositions to add to this list, ending up with a total of 2500 compositions over 17 cities in Italy. We then decided that this wasn’t enough information to really capture the scale of “musical centers of the 17th century,” so looked for ways to expand our focus. The first way was to include composers in our map. This had a two-fold effect: the first being that it could account for composers who wrote hundreds of compositions in a single city (like Monteverdi, Palestrina, and Carissimi) in a way that just counting compositions didn’t. The biggest difference that we found was in the city of Turin, which ranked in the middle for compositions, but only had one composer of note that we could find: SIgismondo d’India. Granted, he wrote 180 compositions, but it would be misleading to call Turin a larger center for music than somewhere like Naples, which had only 89 compositions but with 9 composers of note. The final aspect of music making that we addressed was performance venues, as music has to be heard. This served less as a way of measuring how many venues were in use or how much each venue was used, but rather to show where the music we mention was likely performed during the time. What is interesting to note is that many of the venues are still there, with active addresses. Many of the churches particularly still function as places of worship and hold concerts. One interesting case of a venue being destroyed is the Palazza della Scala in Milan. This was a palace built in the 15th century that operated until 1776, when it was demolished to make way for the Teatro della Scala, one of the foremost opera houses in the world. Maybe the ground there is just good for singing? We’ll likely never know.
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