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The Musical Rhetoric of the Polish Baroque

The Musical Rhetoric of the Polish Baroque


Tomasz Jasinski

This book looks at the rich means of text interpretation in seventeenth and eighteenth century Polish music, a relatively unknown phenomenon. The works of old Polish masters exhibit many ingenious and beautiful solutions in musical oration, which will appeal to wide circles of lovers and experts of old music. One of the fundamental components of baroque musical poetics was music-rhetorical figures, which were the main means of shaping expression – the base and quintessence of musical rhetoric. It was by means of figures that composers built the musical interpretation of a verbal text, developing pictorial, emphatic, onomatopoeic, symbolic, and allegorical structures that rendered emotions and meanings carried by the verbal level of a musical piece.
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From the wide panorama of Western European music history, sound images of distinct contours and colours emerge. These musical manifestations create an unrepeatable world of artistic expression, immanent to a given historical period, appearing—especially from a long distance—as separate objects, based on their own original poetics. These poetics may grow from constructive premises, stylistic concepts, sound ideals, and the understanding of musical time. The modality of the Gregorian chant, the isorhythmic constructivism of ars nova, the imitational forms of Renaissance polyphony, the mannerist harmony of the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Bach’s fugues, the classical idiom of sonata form, the individualism of Chopin, romantic programme music, the aphoristic style, musique concrète, minimalism… These phenomena focus our attention as elements of the development process, encompassing changes in musical language, genre, forms, styles, and techniques, approaches to expression, and so forth, but more often, we experience them as autonomous topoi that seem to exist, in a way, above the historical evolution of music. Abstracting from their broader context, we examine them more closely and attentively. We aim at analysing them deeply and thoroughly. Analysis leads to the identification of the value and sense of the work, and can often lead to philosophical conclusion. It is an opportunity to unravel human genius, touch upon the spiritual desires of the composers, scrutinise the creative process, realise the source of our own emotion and understanding of music. Whenever the fascinating, mysterious semantic and semiotic perspective comes to the...

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