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  • 8/9/2019 Review Lute History

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    Renaissance Society of America

    Review: [untitled]Author(s): Beth BullardSource: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Winter, 2003), pp. 1236-1237Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Renaissance Society ofAmericaStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1262031Accessed: 19/08/2010 23:45

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    RENAISSANCE QUARTERLYENAISSANCE QUARTERLY

    modernEuropean

    ulture. This is atruly

    new look at emblems and emblem booksby a knowledgeable nd eloquent specialist n the field.DANIEL RUSSELL

    University f Pittsburgh

    Douglas Alton Smith. A History of the Lute rom Antiquity to the Renaissance.Ft. Worth: The Lute Societyof America, 002. xvii + 389 pp. + 4 col. and 75 b/w pls. index.append. llus. $85. ISBN: 0-9714071-0-X.

    This book represents massivescholarly ndertaking. Douglas Alton Smith, nthe preface, xplains his purpose and approach: oping to provide a missing "pan-oramic view," he chose "[1] to show in words and pictures how and why the lutechanged physically hrough he ages; [2] to give a general ntroduction o the lute'suse in society; [3] to trace he development of its cultural ymbolism; 4] to placethe major lutenists and composers n perspective biographically and musically;[5] to describe uccinctly he musical styleof each significant igure; nd [6] to sug-gest how the music of one may have nfluenced others" xii-xiii).

    Smith succeedsadmirably n his first ntention. His selection and presentation

    of pictures prove especially ffective n chapter 4, arguably mith's est: "Lutes ndLute Making n the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" 58-94, plus four pages ofcolor plates). Smith's econd purpose s also well served, as he explores ocietal usesof the lute. His third aim, tracing he instrument's ymbolism, ppears s a constantthroughout he book, supporting he author's entral hesis that "the ute was themusical mblem of humanism ... As long ashumanism held sway, he lute was theprince of instruments; when it waned, the days of the lute were numbered" 7).Smith's ourth, fifth, and sixth aims take up the bulk of the book. For these topics,the author acknowledges he shortcoming f his reliance n secondary ources and

    its resulting mbalances, ince some areas have received more scrutiny han others.Thus, his treatment s fullest on Italy and England; omewhat ess on France, heLowlands, nd Spain; and weakest n Germany nd Eastern Europe. He would havebeen aided had he consulted my study and translation f Sebastian Virdung's rea-tise, Musicagetutscht, ublished n Basel n 1511 (Cambridge, 993). Smith s at hismost eloquent when commenting on composers nd their music of which he appar-ently has first-hand knowledge.

    Dr. Smith begins his panoramic view in Greece, where, ironically, no luteexisted.Smith considers ncient Greek yresand kitharas, ecausehumanists duringthe European Renaissance misidentified he lute with these instruments, ransfer-ring the mythic and historical ales about hem to Renaissance thought and practice.Smith moves o the lute's rue antecedents n central Asia, notably Persia, hen to itsadoption by Arabs, among whom the lute held preeminence eginning hortly afterthe birth of Islam in 622. The lute traveled to Spain with Islam in about the ninth

    century. Noting that Arabic translations of Greek classic writings rendered thewords "lyre" and "kithara" s "lute" (8), but not acknowledging the debt of the Westto Arabic scholarship, Smith fails to recognize how Arabic scholarship contributed

    modernEuropean

    ulture. This is atruly

    new look at emblems and emblem booksby a knowledgeable nd eloquent specialist n the field.DANIEL RUSSELL

    University f Pittsburgh

    Douglas Alton Smith. A History of the Lute rom Antiquity to the Renaissance.Ft. Worth: The Lute Societyof America, 002. xvii + 389 pp. + 4 col. and 75 b/w pls. index.append. llus. $85. ISBN: 0-9714071-0-X.

    This book represents massivescholarly ndertaking. Douglas Alton Smith, nthe preface, xplains his purpose and approach: oping to provide a missing "pan-oramic view," he chose "[1] to show in words and pictures how and why the lutechanged physically hrough he ages; [2] to give a general ntroduction o the lute'suse in society; [3] to trace he development of its cultural ymbolism; 4] to placethe major lutenists and composers n perspective biographically and musically;[5] to describe uccinctly he musical styleof each significant igure; nd [6] to sug-gest how the music of one may have nfluenced others" xii-xiii).

    Smith succeedsadmirably n his first ntention. His selection and presentation

    of pictures prove especially ffective n chapter 4, arguably mith's est: "Lutes ndLute Making n the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" 58-94, plus four pages ofcolor plates). Smith's econd purpose s also well served, as he explores ocietal usesof the lute. His third aim, tracing he instrument's ymbolism, ppears s a constantthroughout he book, supporting he author's entral hesis that "the ute was themusical mblem of humanism ... As long ashumanism held sway, he lute was theprince of instruments; when it waned, the days of the lute were numbered" 7).Smith's ourth, fifth, and sixth aims take up the bulk of the book. For these topics,the author acknowledges he shortcoming f his reliance n secondary ources and

    its resulting mbalances, ince some areas have received more scrutiny han others.Thus, his treatment s fullest on Italy and England; omewhat ess on France, heLowlands, nd Spain; and weakest n Germany nd Eastern Europe. He would havebeen aided had he consulted my study and translation f Sebastian Virdung's rea-tise, Musicagetutscht, ublished n Basel n 1511 (Cambridge, 993). Smith s at hismost eloquent when commenting on composers nd their music of which he appar-ently has first-hand knowledge.

    Dr. Smith begins his panoramic view in Greece, where, ironically, no luteexisted.Smith considers ncient Greek yresand kitharas, ecausehumanists duringthe European Renaissance misidentified he lute with these instruments, ransfer-ring the mythic and historical ales about hem to Renaissance thought and practice.Smith moves o the lute's rue antecedents n central Asia, notably Persia, hen to itsadoption by Arabs, among whom the lute held preeminence eginning hortly afterthe birth of Islam in 622. The lute traveled to Spain with Islam in about the ninth

    century. Noting that Arabic translations of Greek classic writings rendered thewords "lyre" and "kithara" s "lute" (8), but not acknowledging the debt of the Westto Arabic scholarship, Smith fails to recognize how Arabic scholarship contributed

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    REVIEWS

    toconflating

    the lute with the ancient Greek nstruments. He alsoignores

    late-antique and medieval biblical raditions, uch as translations f the Hebrew "kin-nor" (lyre) as "cithara," hich came to be glossed pictorially n a number of ways,including as lute or other string nstrument. During the twelfth to fifteenth centu-ries, the lute traveled mainly via Sicily,according o Smith - to other parts ofEurope, where the instrument and its music had their great flowering n the six-teenth century. The exception was Spain, where the guitar-shaped ihuela de [sic]mano uddenly ook its place. Smith's xplanation s plausible: ythe 1490s the lute,deemed too Moorish for Christian Spain, was expelled along with its Muslim and

    Jewish players, eavingts Christian

    practitionerso

    adoptan

    acceptablelternative

    (the vihuela was strung, uned, and played ike the lute).This book has much to recommend t. Laudable, or example, s Dr. Smith's

    inclusion of some women's history: in ancient Greece (6), in "the Islamic era"(8-10), in medieval Spain (16-18), and in the Italian Renaissance 102-06). How-ever, the book could have benefited from a heavier editorial hand. The minimalpunctuation makes many passages difficult to fathom. More annoying is lack ofcoordination between llustrations nd accompanying exts especially rue of themusical examples. Smith's ranslation policy, furthermore, s inconsistent; some-

    times he givesthe original anguage, while at