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The Council of Trent Revisited

Craig A. Monson
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Vol. 55, No. 1 (Spring 2002), pp. 1-37
DOI: 10.1525/jams.2002.55.1.1
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jams.2002.55.1.1
Page Count: 37
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The Council of Trent Revisited
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Abstract

Abstract Reexamination of a wide range of documents surrounding the twenty-second, twenty-fourth, and twenty-fifth sessions of the Council of Trent reveals that delegates strived officially to say as little as possible about music: only that secular or impure elements should be eliminated and that specific issues should be settled locally, by individual bishops and provincial synods. But, beginning with Gustave Reese, several scholars have misleadingly strung together a preliminary canon, stressing textual intelligibility, which was never approved in the general congregations, and the few lines that actually supplanted it, concerned only with the elimination of lasciviousness. On the other hand, a largely unrecognized or misunderstood attack on church polyphony did occur at the less familiar twenty-fifth session, when Gabriele Paleotti may have attempted to suppress elaborate music in female monasteries. Although this attempt was rejected in the general congregations, its restrictions were subsequently revived by local authorities such as Paleotti and Carlo Borromeo in their own dioceses. In the Council's immediate aftermath, reformers such as Paleotti and Borromeo once again focused on the issue of intelligibility, affording it a quasi-official status that seems to have quickly become widely accepted as “iuxta formam concilii.”

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