Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Magick in the Madrigals: The Case for Occultism in the Music of Carlo Gesualdo
by Brown, Christopher E., M.M., California State University, Long Beach, 2018, 33; 10978703
Abstract (Summary)

The Italian noble Carlo Gesualdo (1566–1613), Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza, is remembered in history just as much for his eventful and tormented life as he is for the richly expressive music he composed. His vengeful slaying of his first wife Donna Maria D’Avalos and her lover Fabriozo Carafa Duke of Andria is widely regarded to be one of the great murder stories of Renaissance Europe, and from it stemmed wild folklore and superstition regarding the Prince. His famously melancholic disposition, numerous romantic affairs (including one with a practicing witch), brutally masochistic behaviors, and turbulent relationship with his Catholic faith only helped solidify his place as among the most notorious and fascinating nobles of his day. As for his music, his six books of Madrigals and other assorted religious works brought Renaissance compositional styles to their ultimate finale with their groundbreaking use of chromaticism, highly complex counterpoint, and expressive figures. But another part of this extraordinary life is all too often overlooked—his encounters with the hidden mysteries of the occult. The historical evidence for such involvement is well-documented on a number of fronts. However, any connections or influence this may have had regarding his music have gone largely unexplored.

The goal of this project report is to explore direct relations between Gesualdo’s music and the occult, specifically relating to Tarot, Hermeticism, and Catholic theology. This can be achieved through analysis of his choices in counterpoint, melodic structure, modulations, and text setting, all relating directly to the symbolism contained in an altarpiece in his personal chapel, Il Perdono di Gesualdo. By doing so one may divulge the esoteric mysteries connected in the mind responsible for, arguably, among the most revolutionary western music of the time.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shockley, Alan
Commitee: Doyle, Alicia, Jun, Joon Sung
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 58/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, Performing Arts
Keywords: Carlo, Composer, Gesualso, Music, Occult, Renaissance
Publication Number: 10978703
ISBN: 978-1-392-07392-6
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