From Poet's Aid to Courtier's Pastime: An Examination of the Shift in Visual Style and Sounding Function of Italian Viols During the Renaissance
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This thesis examines evidence of the earliest viols in Italy. In light of recent changes in perspective on the origins of the Italian viola da gamba, a new approach to building historical models of the instrument is necessary. By using Castiglione's description of violas as a significant signpost, I have developed a clearer picture of the early viola da gamba's socio-musical context. Using this context, along with my experience as a luthier, I redefine the parameters by which we may interpret the corresponding iconography of the instrument. By relating the building techniques that appear in iconography to our modern knowledge of instrument-making, I expose the differences between building conceptions in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries and those that stem from later "surviving" instruments. Finally, by placing historical models within the musical framework of plausible repertoire, I reveal the ingredients for an updated sense of sound and performance practice.