an interdisciplinary approach to interpreting chromatic keyboard repertoire from 16th & 17th century Italy
Chrome Attic is an interdisciplinary project combining my research, harpsichord performance, and photography to explore chromaticism and chiaroscuro, the dramatic use of light and shadow, contrasts found in both music and visual art. I focus on 16th and 17th century keyboard repertoire from Rome and Naples, while seeking connections between keyboard chromaticism and its evocative vocal counterparts, madrigals of D’India and Gesualdo, as well as innovative viol consorts that flourished under Cardinal Barberini’s artistic patronage. I find parallels between radical musical devices that exploit a bold harmonic language and the use of tenebrism, dramatic illumination that evokes the intensely-charged emotionalism in the paintings (as in the lives) of Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi. Through my engagement with split-keyed chromatic keyboards, including a sabbatical visit to the impressive Studio31+ in Basel, Switzerland—which houses a fascinating collection of modern reproductions of early keyboards, each with more than twelve pitches to the octave—I consider how these revolutionary and daring experiments in micro-tonality influence our interpretive decisions when choosing workable tuning systems for performances of these chromatic compositions. I consider what is gained or lost in translation by performing on enharmonic keyboards versus fully chromatic ones with split keys, each option rendering intervallic relationships differently. I embark on a hybrid approach to musicking, employing microtonality and a visual perspective through a contextual, cultural lens. In this way, artistic interpretation and musical expression become multi-dimensional, producing a rich and colourful soundscape.
Conference description: The purpose of this conference is to bring together research, education, and performance of historical music in the broadest sense by considering performance practices and performance practice studies through a cultural lens.