Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
For most people, Canessa thinking of the 1990 World Cup, this is what they mean when they think of copper.
But opera hasn't always existed, and it certainly didn't always sound quite like that. So where did it come from and who invented it?
Three centuries before Puccini wrote Nessun Dorma, another Italian, Claudio Monteverdi, produced at the first attempt a two hour piece of drama in which he got all the actors to sing their roles. His idea was to give emotional force to their lines rather than just have them speak or stand around talking about their feelings. I'm John Gardner and I've spent a whole life championing Monteverdi's music. I even have a choir named after him and to me he is the riveting musical personality of his generation.
It's a little strange to me that there are a lot of people in the world still not familiar with his name, let alone his music, because he is one of the greatest artistic minds has ever been. His career straddled a hundred and coincides almost exactly with that of his better known contemporaries Shakespeare, Galileo, Caravaggio, Rubins, Kaeppeler and Sir Francis Bacon. Together, they formed a dazzling constellation in which Monteverdi is the missing star. This podcast series is all about this constellation, an extraordinary generation of scientists, natural philosophers, artists, writers and a musician, everyone a game changer.
And together they altered the face of human discovery and they ushered in the modern world. What you're about to hear now is a musical earthquake, a sudden tectonic shift which occurred in the very first years of the 17th century, and it shook music to its foundations.
No. What we're actually hearing is not strictly an opera, it's the very start of a highly theatrical work of church music, Monteverdi's Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, composed at exactly the same time as his first opera or fail in and around the year 607.
You'll have noticed how every syllable of every word is declaimed and etched by the quiet. It's designed to impress and overwhelm the listener. This continues till the moment when the singers join in the fun and sing to dance with their exuberant hallelujahs. Now, you may be saying to yourself that this is the first bit of Monteverdi you ever heard. Well, possibly not. If you're familiar with the good fight, the American legal and political drama, you'll recall this theme music.
It's by David Buckley.
Guess where Mr. Butler got his tune from? I'm sure he'd be quite open about it to. Another movement from Monteverdi's Vespers, so you see you have heard some of Monteverdi's music before, perhaps without knowing it. All right. So what's really going on in and around? Is it genuinely a great watershed in human history? And why should we be interested in what's so different from, say, 1500 and who are now the leading lights? 100 years before, it was towering renaissance polymaths like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Now, a century further on, and it's Shakespeare, Galileo, Rubins, Caravaggio, men who extended the map of knowledge, who overturned people's traditional views on almost everything and heralded the modern world. The starting point for us now is to set them in a contemporary context to see how they emerged from and were embedded within a particular M.O. and how in some cases they break free from it or even overturned it.
I spoke with Richard WesTrac, the director of research at the Royal College of Music in London. He's a music historian and an expert on Monteverdi's music.
Yeah, I think this is a very important, extraordinary turning point for European cultural history. There's no question about that. This period from the the late 16th century up until about the 16th 40s, looking back when, of course, we have the benefit of hindsight, we see it as in some ways as a sort of window, which at some point opens, I mean, not suddenly but gradually, and that at some point it gradually closes again. And during that moment of sunlight.
Fascinating series of extraordinary characters walk across it, but we have to be cautious because it's part of a much wider change in the entire intellectual consideration of what the world is and the legacy of that we retain to this day.
In fact, has there ever been such a rich concatenation of artistic and scientific profusion? Well, possibly only during the golden age of Athens in the 5th century B.C., when the city state achieved its greatest cultural flowering and enduring fame through the drama, the art, the architecture and historical writing and philosophy it produced. But can any single musician in 600 be legitimately and convincingly considered in the same breath as these eminent scientists, writers and artists?
Music was all very fine for praising God in church. He was also fined for accompanying courtly entertainment or sometimes bawdy dance, even if this was seen as the work of the devil Barça.
This is not to disparage the sublime polyphony of earlier composers like Palestrina, Lassus, William Byrd or earlier still Zhongkang Dupré.
But merely to emphasize that this line of music making stood aside from the mainstream of Italian renaissance culture, with its emphasis on dynamic humanism, music didn't yet belong in that company.
The overwhelming aspiration of a renaissance composers had been to create sounds that reflected as far as humanly possible, the harmony in the heavens. The music of the spheres are not so far to express the variety of human responses to God's creation or to the natural world, and still less to explore man's own emotions and his creative aspirations as perfecting perfecting the art of music was the target for all the greatest musical minds in Catholic Christendom.
In the 1400's composers such as Joska, Palestrina, Lassus, Bird, and it was just within their grasp.
But the price for this quest for perfection was high. The only way to preserve the art was to seal it off from history, freeze it in its moment.
But nothing in human life stands still.
Step forward, Claudio Monteverdi, born in 1967, three years before Galileo. Three years after Shakespeare and four years before Caravaggio. Educated at Cremona in the old polyphonic style, he soon began to develop his own ideas about the transformative powers of music and along with other prominent musicians of the day, and these included Vincenzo Galilea, the father of the famous mathematician and astronomer. Monteverdi developed new approaches to the role of music in a rapidly changing social world, and he explored new ways it could cross the increasingly porous boundary between the religious and the secular.
As we shall see, he also explored how music could express the full range of human emotions and responses to the world outside, and that included nature. He is a miniature masterpiece written by Monteverdi, sometime in his 20s. I think I first heard it when I was eight years old in a recording made in 1937 by my future teacher, Nadia Bunji, Arkoma, Tomorrowland, here in a more recent recording by Leonardo Alessandrini. Every phrase is punctuated by a new flight of fantasy, each one triggered by the poet Tasos, evocative image of DAYBREAK, the dawn chorus and the rustling of leaves.
Cold water. Water. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. What are you doing? More and more. Oh. At exactly the same time as Monteverdi was writing, this little miniature music in general had gained a significantly enhanced role linked to state occasions and adding prestige to dynastic weddings and funerals, which often extended over several days. Perhaps this would be the launch pad for a new impetus in both the theatrical and expressive role of music, starting with an attempt by some to reconstruct what the ancient Greeks practiced, or so they believed, solo singing as a musically enhanced form of oratory.
I'm going to make a case for Monteverdi to be right up there with this August company of scientists, natural philosophers, writers and artists like them. He was a pioneering craftsman, one who was at the epicenter of a revolutionary movement, a seething cauldron which through his agency changed forever. The trajectory of music. Monteverdi's stood shoulder to shoulder with his exact contemporaries as an astute observer of the human condition. And in this, he shows close affinities both to Shakespeare and to Caravaggio.
He set out to incorporate the whole gamut of human emotions into his musical vocabulary, and he developed novel techniques to channel that full range into his compositions.
Monteverdi published nine books of Italian Madrigal's in the course of a career spanning 50 years. I feel that the word magical can mislead us as to the importance and power of this miniature genre. And it gives a slightly false impression of what was, in essence, the main Italian song form of the day. And therefore it became the proving ground for any composer with his or her salt. In essence, the Italian madrigal was a secular composition composed for four or five unaccompanied solo voices, and the genre flourished in Italy for just over a century from about 15 20 onwards.
Composers like Monteverdi, Jesu, Alto or Maranzano strove to illustrate and to express as closely as possible the general meaning of the poetic text with music that matched and enriched it. It was a highly experimental genre, and it reflected current fashion more closely than any other musical idiom of the day, one where the expression of the emotions or the affections, as they were called at the time, becomes the dominant goal in constructing a piece of music and where harmony becomes the main agency of change.
It was based predominantly on short pastoral poems by Petrarch and then by his leading successors, Tazo, Gorini, Raino, Cheaney and Marinho, or contemporaries of Monteverdi Monteverdi's Madrigal's cover a wide range of emotions from the frivolous to the most heart rending series. They are light years away from the typical Elizabethan fa la la hey, no type. And they comprise a dazzling variety of dramatic musical miniatures, a bit like an expanded epigram with a wiry strength of style where no single word or mood is wasted.
Not unlike the metaphysical poetry we know from our own Jacobean era by men like John Donne, Abraham Coley, Richard Qureishi, or think of George Herbert's sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses, a box with sweets compacted by my music shows you have your close's and almost die. Well, the Italian medical becomes a kind of box where sweets compacted lye and in the hands of a master like Monteverdi, it's the briefest way to express meaning and to convey intense feeling.
This next piece separately tonight from his sixth book published in 16 14, starts out quite innocuously bold downward DiMaggio arpeggios exchanged between the five voices. But listen to what happens next. Monteverdi turns up the dial by several notches. The music hits the air with astonishing force, and it's all to convey the raw anguish and agony of the lover I I'm in an arid desert surrounded by wild and savage beasts. Extraordinary. Motivated in pursuit of truthful expression, has thrown the rulebook out of the window.
Word soon got around about Monteverdi's innovatory approach to Hamady and word setting, even though you might be surprised to hear he wasn't the most ultra radical of the Italian magical composers compared to, say, Lou Escalus Aski or the wildly chromatic Khalaji Oswaldo. Yet as the perceived leading light of modern music, Monteverdi's works came in for harsh criticism from the old school. He became the chief target of a book published in 1500 by music theorist named Giovanni Materazzi, a minor cannon from Bologna, Artur's.
He picked on passages in Monteverdi's pieces, which he said were contrary to nature.
Monteverdi's harmonies were harsh and little pleasing to the ear.
He wrote, Well, of course, that's what you had to do if you were Claudio Monteverdi and you were hell bent on expressing extremes of love and human torment in music. Now, Artur's he had been a pupil of Salino, the composer who had formulated the idea of our perfect, perfect art and codified its ground rules, but so too ironically, was the composer, Vincenzo Galilea, father of the famous scientists, Galileo Galilei, who took vociferous issue with his former teacher.
The whole musical world was suddenly in turmoil. Yes, of course, as we've just heard, the use of dissonant harmonies such as this was a deliberately astringent ploy on Monteverdi's part introduced not gratuitously, but to underline the agony of a lover's despair. Monteverdi's theoretical defense was founded on a principle laid down by Plato, or so he said, this required that the melody and rhythm follow the text and not the other way round. Beautiful sands, but no longer enough in themselves for somebody like Monteverdi in his musical universe, they needed to grow out of, be inspired by and welded to poetic texts.
And in his newly formed alliance between music, poetry and rhetoric, he ensured that words now became the mistress of the harmony and not the servant. Here's another example of a song that does almost exactly the same. Stand by me. So what does this all boil down to in practice? Well, I think it's exactly the same as we find with all good composers of songs from Schubert to Gershwin to Lennon and McCartney. For them, it's the words proposed by a lyric that awakened the tune and its harmony.
Why is that?
The music of a lead by Schubert, Schumann or Brahms becomes not only of equal quality with the voice of the poet, but also its soul mate. It gets right inside a poem and stays there, intertwined unforgettably and never to be thought of as a separate entity from now on.
And on the subject of harmony, Monteverdi became one of the principal players, developing what we would now call tonality, a stable tonal language emerging from the old church modes, yet firmly rooted in the basic notes of the harmonic series, while making room for a varied use of consonants and dissonance. And this allowed music to express movement towards or away from a state of tension or relaxation to generate moments of acute emotional and sexual tension, a bit like blips on a chart of various psychological crises and conflicts which then come to resolution.
I, Dolin to Partita are such sad parting here in this piece, the two voices conjoin and then they separate. It's as if one person is staying still watching the other leave before going off in the opposite direction and looking back occasionally at the other longingly. Oh. We are behind the literal parting of two lovers is the notion that Monteverdi was projecting his own parting of the ways between two periods in his life and two musical styles, as we shall soon hear.
There are tantalizing parallels in the other arts here take Caravaggio, despite his roots and his training and deep awareness of tradition. He was pilloried for breaking with convention because his emphatic naturalism was seen by traditionalists as vulgar and indecently graphic. Now, as we've seen, Monteverdi was being severely criticized by a self-appointed high priest of the old order for the way he broke the rules by inserting random dissonances unprepared, that is coming left of field.
In fact, Monteverdi's music was never wantonly discordant, more open minded or discerning. Music lovers recognize that his dissonances were being placed with such skill, such consummate taste and expressive intent that ultimately they began to soften even the flinty best of minds. And crucially, they always result back to a consonance. Monteverdi's exploration's in innovations were always informed by his lifelong search for what he called lavae unnatural alchemy on the natural path to imitation. So let's take the comparison with Caravaggio a step further.
There's only one really reliable transcription of Caravaggio's own words, and it comes from a Roman court archive in 1903 when he was sued for slander by a rival painter, Giovanni Baglioni. Now, Caravaggio had said that Ballyhaunis paintings were no good and he repeated his criticism in court. In his deposition, he said, I was seized the other day in the Piazza Navona, I don't know why I'm a painter.
I think I know nearly all the painters in Rome, but not all of them are good men. And by a good man, I mean someone who can perform well in his art and by a good painter, a man who can paint well and imitate nature. Well. It's a really interesting point, and to help explore this, I spoke with a Caravaggio expert and author, the art critic of The Guardian, Jonathan Jones.
Jonathan, what does Caravaggio mean by this, what he says there about imitating nature, that that's the only aim of an artist is to imitate nature. This also is what his early biographers all say about him. And they all say it is something shocking and provocative and dangerous and even slightly disgraceful because a painter wasn't just meant to imitate nature. They were supposed to look at nature. They were supposed to understand nature, and then they were supposed to synthesize it into something beautiful.
They were supposed to discover that the harmonies within it, the higher truth in nature, ideas that probably go back to ancient Greece into Plato's believe in the forms behind reality to Pythagoras, that the idea of harmony behind nature and in the Renaissance, it was expressed most clearly by Rafael. That's a famous quotation from Rafael, where he told his friend Castiglione that what I have to do when I'm looking for beauty, I have to look at several women, I look at beautiful women.
And then I put their features together into the ideal, the ideal of beauty. And these kinds of ideas were commonplace by the time Caravaggio comes along and he'd also become tired. But Caravaggio, he absolutely shocked everyone, just painting nature. Nothing else matters except capturing reality itself. It was the same kind of shock, I suppose, that you had in 19th century France, where money painted Olympio when Manet paints a prostitute lying on a couch. You know, the shock of reality.
And that is what people saw in Caravaggio at the time. And that's why he was so incredibly successful and famous in his lifetime and a sensational hit and at the same time, always slightly on the edge of being in trouble. And some of his paintings got taken off. You were rejected by the churches that commissioned them as a danger to what he's doing. But it's not just about mimesis, is it? Because I think you wrote somewhere that Caravaggio never paints his religious scenes without wondering what this would really be like if it happened today involving living people?
Well, exactly, yes. I mean, from the very first paintings he did in Rome, his very early paintings, which are secular paintings, sexy paintings, I'd say boys with baskets of fruit, a boy having reaching out for fruit and getting his finger bitten by a lizard that's hiding their very arresting. That's right. Right. There is this kind of shock of it. And they're obviously real people, real models. He always painted from the model.
This is another thing that his early biographers say about him with a kind of shock. He could only paint from the model. And that seems to be true because no drawings by him survive. There's no evidence he ever did any drawings. He went straight to canvas, went straight to canvas. And not only that, but there's no other drawings on his canvases either. It's extraordinary. So he just really did work from the living model at the beginning there.
People like him that his friends. And he's living in a very edgy, insecure way. No money. He's in Rome and he's on his way, bohemian, basically the God who wants to be right around Europe to see every Caravaggio painting in Europe to Malta, to Sicily, everywhere. But one of the things I noticed going round one of the marks of a Caravaggio painting is the fingernails. They all have filthy fingernails and toenails and toenails. Yeah, and dirty feet as well.
Dirty naked feet. There's no doubt at all that the people he's painting are the poor of Rome and southern Italy. They are real people and they're some of the very tough characters, desperate characters. So it's not it's not realism, like a kind of Victorian academic kind of realism. And even realism is a dangerous word. It's more than reality itself, is what he. Makes us feel ultimately what he does. In a painting such as the crucifixion of St.
Peter in Santa Maria, Popolo in Rome, where St. Peter's about to be crucified upside down, he's being nailed in. He's literally being now. And you have an incredible sense that it's physical in so many ways. You feel the weight and the efforts of the men who are doing it, if you can feel for them. These Working-Class men had been hired to do this and their hefting the cross up. But at the same time, obviously you feel for say for Peter, you see his face as the expression on his face.
It's a kind of is it anger. It seems to be angry, but it's also a kind of just you know, he's got a full consciousness of what's happening to him and he's looking at this now into his hand. Yes, those details are done with increases, with hypnotic accuracy. But it's not that. It's beyond that. It's he solves the age-Old quarrel between painting and sculpture so that his paintings are as solid as sculpture. And we don't relate to them as art.
We relate to them as life.
Jonathan Jones, and we'll hear more from him later in the podcast series. These features that Monteverdi and Caravaggio share are an extension of the notion of mimesis that art or music should somehow imitate nature or even improve on it and surpass it. But it also implies the possibility of emotional stimulation and an acute receptiveness to your surroundings. And all through his life, Monteverdi was inspired by the occasions and the settings that were offered to him, and he had a very strong, practical sense of how to make music function in different locations and in different genres, sometimes as incidental music, sometimes with ballets, sometimes with jousting, sometimes as naval battles and sometimes in church and to a whole variety of different audiences.
One of the most ambitious projects he ever undertook was music that he had to write for a Medici wedding in Parma in 2011. I'm joined by Tim Carter, who's an old friend and a very distinguished professor of music at the University of North Carolina, an acknowledged expert on Monteverdi and the music of this period. I asked him first about Monteverdi's extraordinary skill and a hands on approach to writing occasional music and then about the challenges this gives us now as performers when we try to recreate what might have been heard.
He's acutely aware of acoustic environments, as any performing musician is. Also any composer is going to be Monteverdi in Parma in 16, 27, 28 is in the Tatra Fania's. He's writing music for Intermediated and he's crawling around the rafters of the theater trying to get the best position for a particular kind of sound effect. And this, of course, is one of the great challenges for so-called historically informed performance. You know, we can do as much research as we want.
We can find as many period instruments as we want. We can even try and make singers sound authentic, whatever that word might mean. But finding the spaces in which to perform this music is the great challenge.
It's both a practical thing and an aesthetic thing, isn't it? I mean, in the case of outdraw uneasy, he he's got a naval battle, a tornado to stage, and he's just concerned that his musicians are not going to actually drown.
So he has to actually create a barrier to make sure that, first of all, that the prince can be onstage and be prominent, but also the musicians can be heard to best advantage and that are not going to be flooded.
Well, and also, I mean, going to the hotel, Daniëlle in Venice now and climb up to the piano, Nobley, the first floor. And there you see the room where the combat uncreated Clarinda was done more or less in the same shape as it originally was. You realize where the staircase enters, you realize where the other doors are. You start to get a feel for how Monteverdi manipulated that space in that wonderful evening in watching Ego's Palace, that was the building where it was before it became the Hotel Danieli in terms of creating an event that used the space.
We have a performance of Madrigal's Sensage. Yes, those are the singers are standing there. Then all of a sudden we hear a drum roll from anywhere and creating Clarinda suddenly appear and we enter into this whole different dramatic narrative world. But you have to see that space to realize just how it might have worked.
And you've been. Antonio. This woman could be sworn in.
They will no more. They will never. Music from Monteverdi's groundbreaking work in competition today, Tancred Clorinda, a real showpiece where it's the stringed instruments who for the first time in a work of this kind, stepped forward and represent the emotional state of the two warriors, Tancredi and Clarinda. It's the essence of theatricality. But it wasn't only in the theater or in a palazzo that Monteverdi was able to theatricals his music.
He also did it in church, asked music lovers today what they know about Monteverdi, and they will probably cite his vespers of 16 10 as the work they're most likely to have experienced live. And just as we are told at Monteverdi, explored in person all the nooks and crannies of a secular theatrical space like the theater, a fundraiser in Parma, we can also just as well imagine him climbing up into the galleries and organ lofts of the Basilica of San Marcos in Venice and see how his predecessor, Giovanni Gabrielli, achieved his spectacular antiphonal effects in his Polish choral motets, testing the acoustics for dramatic echo effects and for reverberations.
He. Well, I know there's no way of proving it, but the chances are that even though Monteverdi wrote his Vesper's in Manchuria and he put the sequence together there, he may have seen it at the back of his mind anyway as a kind of job application for the post of Mr. de Capella at St. Mark's in Venice. And this became available in 1913, three years after the Vespers were published. After some 20 years in the service of the Gonzaga Dukes, Monteverdi was thoroughly disenchanted and unhappy in Manchuria and he was looking for pastures new.
We'll explore this fascinating period of his life in more depth in later podcasts, but at all events, Monteverdi directed his Venetian printer armadillo in stocks tend to publish his music as one extended and brilliantly calibrated sequence. Most unusual, a carefully crafted alternation of public Saam settings for double Choire big-Boned and with exotic instrumental accompaniment on the one hand and small scale motets for just one, two or three solo voices with just a baseline accompaniment on the other.
These pieces breathe a very unchurched sensuousness and intimacy. And I wonder, did some or all of his Vesper's music form part of Monteverdi's live audition in August 16 13, that gained for him the top job as maestro of St. Mark's in Venice? Undoubtedly, yes. Some 30 years ago, when I conducted the Vespers in San Marco for the first time, I was struck by how the music seemed to fit the basilica like a glove.
Of course, there are other superb architectural settings where this music shines wonderfully well, too. But there can be no doubt that the proportions and the particular layout of St. Marks the secrecy of its quiet galleries and its side chapels, its flanking pulpits and its mysterious yet amazingly clear acoustic, they all combine to reflect and enhance the dual scale of this piece like some dramatic chiaroscuro.
Well, the text is from the song of songs I owed them tell me, for she is fair as the moon, bright as the sun and fills with happiness, the earth, the heavens and the seas.
That's the the heavens. Now, the CS. And then he echoed. But the interesting thing is the Underlay's different, the word comes back different. Maria, the seeds. Maria married the Virgin. Oh. Maryanski. That reference to Mary, Mary, the Virgin Mary, the Pure is highly significant, and it's such a typically Venetian theme because Mary was second only to Mark as the protector of the Republic of Venice in all its activities. And you see her effigy and her image on pretty well every street corner in Venice and Monteverdi encapsulates that Mary ologists worship.
This emphasis on the cult of Mary in Italy and a ubiquitous veneration of the Blessed Virgin throughout counter reformation in Europe coincides with the rise to prominence of women as performers and as creative artists in their own right, as composers and as painters. This only happens for a short while, but it's a theme I'll be exploring in later podcasts, and it runs right through Monteverdi's output as a composer, and it emerges, of course, in the prominence given to his female characters by the other great figure of the time, William Shakespeare.
My aim in these podcasts is to draw distinguished cultural historians and experts into an exploration of what was really happening across the sister arts and the sciences in these intellectually turbulent years, either side of 600, and to examine what appears to me to be a striking interconnectedness of scientific and artistic experiments of the time. There is a case for arguing that the years straddling 600, which was a period of relative political stability, both north and south of the Alps, provided a narrow window of intellectual liberation, which allowed the work of this generation of exceptionally inventive individuals to flourish.
Taken together, they turned upside down the way people looked at the cosmos and at the very nature of creativity and at themselves, but with the advantage of hindsight, we can also see that for most people across Europe in 1900, it was a disturbing and confusing time to be alive. So what was the predominant mood? Here's Richard WesTrac again.
I think an overriding anxiety as people came to grips with. The new scientific approach, this idea that perhaps we are truly just on our own, we are just the self, which of course, in some ways is wonderfully liberating. People like Bacon, Kepler, Shakespear, this was a marvelous opportunity. But for many others, of course, it was terrifying, upsetting because it meant that you are no longer able to understand the order.
So I think we see a very strong desire to create some sort of order and to return to something which is structured yet on the face of it's not a particularly promising time.
And yet there's this eruption of creative energy and also scientific inquiry. And I start by saying I wouldn't necessarily say there's a causality whereby problematic conditions therefore might shut down cultural events. That could be quite the opposite.
Quite often very strenuous cultural conditions can produce extraordinary art, you know, and you have to think of the period immediately before and after the Second World War that said, yes, I think there are some key drivers and some of them seem rather banal.
The obvious one of them, of course, is the enormous impact of printing, the ability of people to communicate very quickly so that we suddenly get a real postal service in Europe. You could write a letter in London. It could be in Rome within two weeks. I mean, that's fast and sometimes even quicker.
If you if you were working for the Venetian state, you would get a message from the south of Albania to Venice within two or three days, the enormous mushrooming of the vernacular and translations.
So for a long, long period, going right back to the Middle Ages, the only communication between intellectuals was in the language of Latin. It's interesting to note that that begins to break down. You see, the use of the vernacular multilingual thinker's translation is an enormous growth industry is very interesting.
I just read recently that about one fifth of the output of books in England around this period were translations out of other languages into English, because I think that is fascinating. I think another important factor is that people were. Conscious of the meanness, the shortness and the brittleness of life in a way that they hadn't been before, it had been, in a sense, part of God's order.
Now, this new era brought you hard up against it. And perhaps there was a real urgency to to seek for some sort of understanding of why that should be so.
But it doesn't impact to the same degree on Italy or northern Italy. Northern Italy seems at this time to be in a sort of wonderful protected cocoon. And it's interesting that that this particular constellation of scientists and musicians and artists are nearly all at work from Rome upwards to to Venice.
Absolutely. Of course, again, with hindsight, we can see that actually they were in a very slow decline. They had a sclerotic political order which couldn't possibly survive. It was based effectively on eating up the family silver. But while the sun shone, hay was made. And I think it was very telling that it was a grouping of relatively small city states, not tiny ones, as in the German part of Europe. But their rulers were ambitious.
They were intellectually curious. They were not just interested in show they wanted to have not just the finest jewelry and paintings, they wanted to have the latest. They like to surround themselves with thinkers, with movers and doers. And they they reveled in the possibility that their courts or their environments provided a safe space in which they could also participate. I think we have to remember this. When Monteverdi was a man who is one of the important points of the daily life was that the family, the Gonzaga family were there.
They were present. They used to go to rehearsals, they wrote music. They were absolutely in the thick of it. Join us for the next podcast when we'll be looking in more detail of what happened in Mantu in 604, when three of the stars in our constellation met at the Gonzaga court, Monteverdi, Galileo and the young painter Peter Paul Reubens.