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Title:Musical exegesis: the Cain and Abel story in Reformation Europe
Author(s):Senchina, Jason
Advisor(s):Ward, Thomas R.
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Ubi est Abel
Abstract:One of the basic tenants of “new musicology” is that music forms within the context of its composer’s and performer’s surroundings. This is true for more pragmatic works because their function shapes their form. For liturgical works, the function of the work is key, but so are the established trends in thought concerning a given text, which are largely established in theological writings. This is true of the responsory “Ubi est Abel” as well, the text of which retells part of the Cain and Abel story. “Ubi est Abel” is the liturgical text with which this study is most concerned, and it seeks to answer the question: how did theology influence the production of polyphonic settings of “Ubi est Abel” in the second half of the sixteenth century. To investigate this question requires an understanding of the ways in which people used the story of Cain and Abel during these fifty years. Its usage before this time is also pertinent to understanding conceptions of this story. While there are many potential avenues for research, the most promising of these are theological writings written by early theologians, such as Theophilus, and extending to those written by later ones, like Martin Luther. The sixteenth century was a turbulent time within the church, ultimately leading to a second great schism in its congregation, the first being that between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The movement that lead to the latter schism, now called the Protestant Reformation, also produced an overwhelming amount of religious publications. Reformer’s concern with the public’s understanding of religion1 naturally lead to the production of materials which they intended to both inform and persuade the laity. Many of these materials are early types of propaganda, several of which include references to Cain and Able, making them essential to this thesis. An understanding of sixteenth-century theory and compositional practices is also necessary for this discussion since music is the central focus of this study’s question. While there are many more potential sources to guide one’s understanding of theology’s influence settings of “Ubi est Abel,” those listed above provide the basis with which one can begin to understand influence on the composition of sacred music. The question that lies at the center of this study is extremely specific in relation to the scope of music history. However, it takes a small step in an attempt to understand potential influences on composers during the Renaissance, and by extension, potential sources of influences over composers of all ages. This study does not answer these last two questions. More appropriate to the scope of this thesis, I argue that the “Ubi est Abel” settings it explores are strongly rooted in the thought and religious politics of the time.
Issue Date:2012-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Jason Senchina
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-06-28
Date Deposited:2012-05

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