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Hearing Faith: Music as Theology in the Spanish Empire
Leiden: Brill, 2020
Hearing Faith explores the ways Roman Catholics in the seventeenth-century Spanish Empire used music to connect faith and hearing. From the Royal Chapel in Madrid to Puebla Cathedral in colonial Mexico, communities celebrated Christmas and other feasts with villancicos, a widespread genre of vernacular poetry and devotional music. A large proportion of villancico texts directly address the nature of hearing and the power of music to connect people to God. By interpreting complex and fascinating examples of “music about music” in the context of contemporary theological writing, the book shows how Spanish Catholics embodied their beliefs about music, through music itself. Listening closely to these previously undiscovered and overlooked archival sources reveals how Spanish subjects listened and why.
Critical Music Editions
Villancicos about Music from Seventeenth-Century Spain and New Spain
- Volume 1: Web Library of Seventeenth-Century Music, no. 32 (2017)
- Volume 2: Web Library of Seventeenth-Century Music, no. 36 (2021)
- Please see the villancico page for more information
Bringing Heavenly Music down to Earth: Global Exchange and Local
Devotion at Segovia Cathedral, 1678,
Music & Letters (in press, published online March 2022)
A few months before Christmas in 1678, Miguel de Irízar, the thrifty chapelmaster of Segovia Cathedral, made a notebook out of a pile of his received letters, drafting music on the margins of letters from other musicians about the exchange of music and poetry. This article examines Irízar’s output of villancicos for Segovia, including works written for specific local devotional practices, and, through a codicological analysis and sketch study of his letter-notebook of 1678, reconstructs the chapelmaster’s compositional pro- cess. Irízar adapted and rearranged the texts he received in correspondence to tailor a coherent cycle for his own community. Based on a new edition of the first villancico in the 1678 cycle, the article analyses Irízar’s use of musical conventions and practical craftsmanship in producing music that suited his ensemble and congregation. Villancicos served as a point of intersection for local and global aspects of both music and devotion.
Imitating Africans, Listening for Angels: A Slaveholder’s
Fantasy of Social Harmony in an
Ethnic Villancico from
Colonial Puebla (1652)
The Journal of Musicology, vol. 38, issue 2 (2021), pp. 141–182
- Download PDF of full text1
- Recording of my edition of Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla's Al estáblo más dichoso by the Newberry Consort
Church ensembles of Spaniards across the Spanish Empire regularly
impersonated African and other non-Castilian characters in the
villancicos they performed in the Christmas Matins liturgy.
Although some scholars and performers still mistakenly assume that
ethnic villancicos preserve authentic Black or Native voices, and
others have critiqued them as Spaniards’ racist caricatures, there
have been few studies of the actual music or of specific local
contexts. This article analyzes Al establo más dichoso (At the
happiest stable), an ensaladilla composed by Juan Gutiérrez de
Padilla for Christmas 1652 at Puebla Cathedral. In this
performance his ensemble impersonated an array of characters
coming to Christ’s mangers, including Indian farm laborers and
African slaves. The composer uses rhythm to differentiate the
speech and movement of each group, and at the climax he even has
the Angolans and the angels sing together—but in different meters.
Based on the first edition of this music, the article interprets
this villancico within the social and theological context of
colonial Puebla and its new cathedral, consecrated in 1649. I
argue that through this music, members of the Spanish elite
performed their own vision of a hierarchical and harmonious
society. Gutiérrez de Padilla was himself both a priest and a
slaveholder, and his music elevates its characters in certain ways
while paradoxically also mocking them and reinforcing their lowly
status. Building on Paul Ricoeur’s concept of the
three worlds of
the text, the article compares the representations imagined
within the musical performance with archival evidence for the
social history of the people represented and the composer’s own
relationships with them (the world behind the text). Looking to
the world projected
in front of the text, I argue that these
caricatured representations both reflected and shaped Spaniards’
attitudes toward their subjects in ways that actively affected the
people represented. At the same time, I argue that Spanish
representations mirrored practices of impersonation among Native
American and African communities, especially the Christmastide
Black Kings festivals, pointing to a more complex and
contradictory vision of colonial society than what we can see from
the slaveholder’s musical fantasy alone.
Playing Cards at the Eucharistic Table: Music, Theology, and Society in a Corpus Christi Villancico from Colonial Mexico, 1628
Selected for the 2015 Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society
Journal of Early Modern History, vol. 18, no. 4 (2014), 383—419
- Download PDF of full text2
- Performance of surviving parts on organ by Andrew Cashner (recorded in Fulton Hall, University of Chicago, 2011):
As part of the festivities of Corpus Christi in 1628, a cathedral
choir in colonial Mexico sang about the Eucharist through the metaphor
of a card game. This music is a previously unstudied, fragmentary
villancico, composed by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla for the cathedral of
Puebla de los Ángeles, and it opens a window into the social history
of card-playing and gambling in the Spanish colonies. It stems from a
broader tradition of
divinizing cards, including poetry and
drama by Lope de Vega and González de Eslava. The article explores
the theological and social implications of using liturgical music to
present Christ as a rogue card player, winning humanity back from the
devil by laying down the trump card of his own body on the table.
Includes an edition of the surviving music. The online version
includes a recording played on the organ by the author.
Faith, Hearing, and the Power of Music in Hispanic Villancicos, 1600–1700
University of Chicago, 2015 (Advisor: Robert L. Kendrick)
The dissertation is available through ProQuest Dissertations, but it is now superseded by my monograph, edition, and additional publications listed above, which correct its errors.
In seventeenth-century Mexico and Spain, many villancicos (the predominant genre of vocal sacred music with vernacular words) used music to represent itself, with topics of singing, dancing, and music of the spheres. This study draws on such pieces as sources for understanding early modern Catholic beliefs about music. The central question concerns music’s role in the relationship between hearing and faith, particularly as used by the Spanish church and state. In a series of case studies, the project traces lineages of “metamusical” villancicos on the subject of heavenly music through networks of interrelated musicians. The study balances a global perspective with local case studies, with particular focus on Puebla de los Ángeles in Mexico and Montserrat, Segovia, and Zaragoza in Spain.
The Reception of Paul Gerhardt’s Hymns in the Seventeenth Century
University of Notre Dame, 2009 (Advisor: Mary E. Frandsen)
Despite the prominence of the hymns of Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676) in the liturgical works of J. S. Bach and in churches today, scholars like Irmgard Scheitler and Walter Blankenburg have argued that Lutherans in the seventeenth century used new hymns like Gerhardt’s only for private devotion, and did not sing them in public liturgies until the eighteenth century, under the influence of Pietism. In contrast, Christian Bunners argues that church choirs introduced the liturgical use of these hymns before Pietism. This thesis explores the role of Gerhardt’s hymns in Lutheran communities in the three spheres of home, school, and church. It critically examines numerous hymnal publications, and presents new evidence from school and church manuscript collections and inventories, not considered by the other scholars, arguing that Gerhardt’s hymns were not relegated to domestic use, but were also sung in church in many places by school choirs and perhaps also congregations.
Reviews of Hearing Faith
by Andrew Dell’Antonio in Church History,
vol. 90, no. 4 (2021), 956–957
Cashner’s book is the most comprehensive and accessible overview to date in English of the importance and sophistication of the [villancico] genre during the seventeenth century. [...]
Cashner’s arguments here are carefully and thoroughly documented through primary materials closely associated with Spanish religious writing; his stylistically insightful musical analysis explicates how composers deployed sophisticated musical-expressive devices to shape their villancicos through sometimes subtle variants to established genre-convention. [...] He is careful to frame his close readings with clear and compelling introductions and conclusions to his case studies, which effectively convey the significance of each instance and help the reader understand how these disparate cases share essential characteristics.
I will eagerly use this book in my teaching and will encourage rising scholars to draw on it as a model of careful and compelling interdisciplinary work.
by Carolina Sacristán Ramírez in the Yale Journal
of Music & Religion, vol. 7, no. 2 (2021), 102–104
A concise and polished book with an interpretive approach to music, Hearing Faith will be especially appealing for experienced musicologists in the field of villancicos and for scholars interested more broadly in Latin American colonial music or curious about the fascinating intersections between music and religion. The book provides an insight into musical composition and performance as a way to enhance the faithfuls’ understanding of theological notions and thus achieve spiritual transcendence.
Hearing Faith proposes a fresh perspective on the intellectual and serious side of the repertoire, which has been less examined than its comic or transgressive aspects. Among the book’s strengths is that it brings attention to the relevance of hearing for Catholicism in the seventeenth century. [...] It has been argued that hearing was the center of worship for Protestants [...]. Instead, sight and touch were the privileged senses for Catholics [...]. Hearing Faith calls this assumption into question by offering a glimpse into the sophisticated aural culture of Spanish and colonial Mexican Catholics, which was firmly rooted in Christian Neoplatonic philosophy.
by Michael P. Noone in the Journal of Jesuit
Studies, vol. 8 (2021), 311–340
Musicology has largely ignored the villancico, a few notable exceptions notwithstanding [...]. The genre’s sources are widely dispersed and poorly catalogued, and critical editions, performances, and recordings are relatively scarce. The interpretative rewards however, as skillfully demonstrated in Cashner’s intense and polished study, are rich.
Since Cashner’s book is substantially based on these otherwise inaccessible works, the online edition [in the Web Library of Seventeenth-Century music] serves as an invaluable companion to Cashner’s monograph. Hearing Faith expands the online corpus and subjects their texts and musical settings to intense scrutiny, always relating the works and their performance to the broader theological climate from which they emerged and to which they may have contributed.
Cashner exposes the precise mechanisms employed by poets and composers in the creation of their works. It is as if he takes us into their studios and allows us to observe their creative decisions. The villancicos emerge as surprisingly complex works that depend on the twin discourses of theology and music as complementary ways of knowing. [...] Cashner combines forensic musical and textual analysis to reveal the villancico as an unexpected site for theological discourse and in doing so opens the way for the much more comprehensive study of music as theology in the vast Spanish empire that his title invites.