• Tim Braithwaite

Sylvestro Ganassi on Imitating the ‘Galanteria’ of Singers Through a Trembling of the Fingers (1535)

‘...you would be compelled to be an imitator of the proficient and expert singer, and [this] would entail an instrumental performance composed of three elements: first, 'imitation' [imitatione], second, ’quickness' [pronteza] and third, ‘grace’ [galanteria]...


The element of 'grace’ derives and emanates from the trembling [tremulo] of the finger upon the hole of the recorder.


There will be a few holes that, when trembled [upon], vary [by the interval of] a third, [sometimes] a bit more or a bit less. Some other [holes, when trembled upon] vary by a [whole] tone and some others, by a semitone; and others by slightly more or less than a tone, such as the diesis and slightly less than the diesis...


Therefore, the vivacious [vivace] and larger 'grace’ is the one that will produce the [pitch] variation of a third, or a bit more or less; for a median [mediocre], make use of one tone and a bit less; [and] the gentle [suave] or pleasing will be the one that will vary by a semitone or by a slightly bigger or smaller part of a semitone...

Therefore, at this point you will be informed that for the vivacious and joyful ʻimitation’, the following letter 'V' will be put on the [illustration of a] recorder. The hole upon which I want you to tremble your finger, in order to generate 'grace', will be marked by this letter T...

Following the same rule and method, the pleasing and gentle 'imitation' will be [shown], [and] its harmonious softness will be indicated by the subsequent letter 'S’. This letter will be evident on the recorder [together with] the letter T, which [shows] the hole that should be trembled upon...


For whenever the ʻimitation’ would be vivacious, then consequently the ʻgrace' should be vivacious; when gentle, then the trembling or 'grace' should be gentle...

...You should know that your teacher will be the proficient and expert singer, as you already know, when he is confronted with something to sing, he first considers thoroughly the nature of the words of such composition; that means, if these words are of a cheerful nature, he [would adapt] his approach and voice [to become] cheerful or vivacious; if [the words] are of a mourning or pleasing [character], he [will then] weaken this pronunciation [becoming of] a delicate and mournful quality.


And so, if the words would have a soft and mournful quality, you would also make your playing mournful; if cheerful, so [should] your playing be cheerful and vivacious. As you understood by the previously given information, this will generate the imitation of the human voice.’


*Notes*


Sylvestro Ganassi, Opera Intitulata Fontegara (Venice: Sylvestro Ganassi, 1535). Translation adapted from Dina Maria de Oliveira Titan, The Origins of Instrumental Diminution in Renaissance Venice: Ganassi’s Fontegara (Utrecht University, 2019).


Since the text deals with several concepts at once, I have edited it heavily to make Ganassi’s description of ‘galateria’ as clear as possible. The entire passage can be found in its original Italian below for reference purposes. A rather outdated translation, based on a German edition of the Italian text, can be found HERE on IMSLP.