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Faculty of Music


Professor Giuseppe Gerbino
Columbia University

Metaphors of Cognition: Visual Imagination in 16th-century Music

Giuseppe Gerbino is Professor of Music at Columbia University, New York. His research interests include the Italian madrigal, the relationship between music and language in the early modern period, early opera, and Renaissance theories of cognition and sense perception. He is the author of Canoni ad Enigmi: Pier Francesco Valentini e l’artificio canonico nella prima metà del Seicento (Rome, 1995), and Music and the Myth of Arcadia in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge, 2009), which won the 2010 Lewis Lockwood Award of the American Musicological Society. His currently working on a book on “Music, Mind, and Soul in the Renaissance,” which explores the role that music played in the sixteenth-century understanding of the mind/body relationship.

This paper explores the early modern debate on the relationship between mental images and emotional states. The concept of mental visualization lies at the core of Renaissance theories of cognition and sense perception because most operations of the mind were understood as a process of image formation. The same process of image formation was also associated with the arousal of emotion. Using examples from Cipriano de Rore’s music and Zarlino’s writings, I will argue that this aspect of Renaissance philosophy of mind can help us deepen our insight into the sixteenth-century preoccupation with the affective congruence between language and music. The problem of maintaining intact the intelligibility of the text may be reformulated as the problem of setting a text to music without interfering with the formation of the mental images stimulated by the linguistic representation of thought.

The Colloquium series is the main opportunity for members of the Faculty, researchers from other departments, and the general public to come together and hear papers on all aspects of music research, given by distinguished speakers from the UK and abroad. Colloquia are held on Wednesday afternoons in the Recital Room of the Faculty of Music, West Road. Admission is free and all are welcome. Please arrive at 4:50pm for a 5:00pm start. Papers are followed by a discussion and a drinks reception with the speaker.

Wednesday, 16 November, 2016 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
5:00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music