Black SheepThe Journal of Musicology


Seth J. Coluzzi
Arts and Humanities (all) / Music


Black Sheep: The

Phrygian Mode and a Misplaced Madrigal in Marenzio's Seventh

Book (1595)


I -n her 2004 study of the madrigal. Modal Subjectivities, Susan McClary prefaced her analysis of Willaert's "Lasso, ch'i' ardo" by stating:

Nor was the Renaissance much more comfortable with the peculiarities of this mode, which tended to accompany expressions of abject grief when it appeared at all. After music theorist Glareanus let his colleagues off the hook by proclaiming a new modal pair on A... music affiliated with [this mode] ... almost disappeared.'

It would not be difficult for most music scholars to guess that the mode to which McClary refers is the Phrygian. Although modal theory

A condensed version of this study was presented at the Annual

Meeting of the American Musicological Society, 4-7 November 2010.1 am grateful to Tim Carter (University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill), James Haar (University of North Carolina at Chapel

Hill), and Robert Pearson (University of North Texas) for their thoughts and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper, and to

Mauro Calcagno (Stony Brook University) and the anonymous reviewers for this journal for their insightful comments on the submitted manuscript.

McClary, Modal Subjectivities: Self-Fashioning in the Italian Madrigal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 97-98.

Thejmtmal of Musicólogo, Vol. 30, Issue 2, pp. 129-179, ISSN 0277-9269, electronic ISSN 1533-8347. © 2013 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Rights and

Permissions website, httpV/ DOI: 10.1525/JM.2013.30.2.129

THE JOURNAL OF MUSICOLOGY has been fraught with shortcomings and inconsistencies from the Renaissance to the present, the Phrygian type has proven especially problematic, earning a reputation as the unruly black sheep of the modal family.

Despite this aberrant behavior, however, one thing can be certain: decades after the publication of Heinrich Glarean's Dodecachordon in 1547, the Phrygian mode was still far from extinction.

In the treatises of sixteenth-century theorists such as Glarean, Gioseffo

Zarlino, Pietro Aron, and others, the Phrygian mode was often discussed separately from the other modes—a practice that is still followed in modal theory primers today. Because of its predilection for the modal fourth. A, as a primary cadential pitch and melodic boundary (emphasizing the fourth between E and A), eight-mode theorists were often quick to ascribe anomalous pieces ending on A to the Phrygian or Hypophrygian mode. With the advent of the twelve-mode theory in the midCinquecento, the tide turned the other way and most A-final pieces were deemed Aeolian. Later, as the tonal system took root, many pieces in cantus durus ending on E became reclassified—often erroneously—as

Aeolian-mode works that conclude on the modal fifth. In 1767 Georg

Sorge went so far as to write: "Phrygian is no other key than our A minor, 130 only with the difference: that the dominant chord E-Gtt-B begins and ends."^ Even today, scholars such as Peter Bergquist, David Stern, and

McClary have continued to deny autonomy to the Phrygian mode in their analyses, instead relegating it to an ambiguous Phrygian-Aeolian mixture or to the Aeolian mode with an inconclusive ending. What modern scholars have viewed as the vanishing of the Phrygian mode and a rise of the Aeolian in the sixteenth century, however, may in fact be the effects of our own misunderstanding of how the mode works.

Much of the uneasiness that surrounds the Phrygian mode stems directly from its intervallic makeup. As shown in Example 1, both authentic and plagal forms of the Phrygian mode are composed of the fifth (diapente) on E and the fourth (diatessaron) on B. Because of the half step between scale degrees Î and 2, use of the leading tone for cadences ^ Sorge contínued by citing the chorale "Ach Gott von Himmel sieh darein" as an example . Sorge, Einleitung zur Fantasie (11 &7), as cited in Joe l Lester, Between Modes and Keys:

German Theory 1592-1802 (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1989), 160. ^ See David Stem's analyses of Phrygian works by Josquin and Thomas Tallis in his "Tonal Organization in Modal Polyphony," Theory andPracticeö, no. 2 (August 1981): 5-39.

Peter Bergquist, in his analysis of Agricola's "Allez mon cueur," determined that that work "is definitely in some combination of Aeolian and minor modes" and designated the final twelve measures leading to E as a "coda" that is "appended to the main harmonic movements of the piece." See Bergquist, "Mode and Polyphony around 1500: Theory and

Practice," MusicForum 1 (1967): 99-161. See also McClary's Modal Subjectivities, particularly her analyses of m¿-final works, including Verdelot's "Si soave è l'inganna" and "O dolce notte" (pp. 44-53), Willaert's "Lasso ch'i' ardo" (pp. 95-100), and Marenzio's "Tirsi morir volea" (pp. 138-43), which I shall discuss below.


EXAMPLE 1. Inter^'allic structures of the Phrygian and Hypophrygian modes

Phrygian diapente diatessaron

Hypophrygian was not an option. Furthermore, the inherent mi contra fa between the fifth and second degrees (B and F) prohibited the type of three-part cadence with 5-1 bass motion that had become paradigmatic of terminal cadences in the other modes by the sixteenth century. To circumvent both of these problems by raising scale degrees ï and 2 (D and F) would altogether destroy the mode's essential structure at the cadence, a crucial moment for confirming modal identity.

In place of the sixth-to-octave cadence with a leading tone that is used for cadences on other modal finals, cadences on E-m¿ take the form of a clausula in mi: sixth-to-octave motion leading to E, with the half step 131 fa-mi (F-E) in the clausula tenorizans and the rising whole tone, D-E, in the clausula cantizans (ex. äa)."* Set contrapuntally in four parts, the mi cadence typically took one of the forms shown in examples 2b-2d. The cadence at 2b shows the fa-mi (2-1) motion in the lowest voice. The "* Theoretical testament as to the archetypal status of this form of cadence can be found, above all, in Zarlino's discussion of cadence in the third book of Le istitutioni harmoniche, where the clausula in mi (in its two-part fonn) is singled out as the first musical example of the chapter on the contrapuntal cadence. In the following examples, the E-m¿ cadence invariably appears as a model, alongside leading-tone cadences on other pitches, of the appropriate and inappropriate ways to approach and effectively execute a cadence, demonstrating Zarlino's concern to represent both forms of cadence—leading-tone and clausula in mi—in his didactic writing. See Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche, book 3, chapter 53; for the English translation, see Zarlino, The Art of Counterpoint: Part Three of Le istitutioni harmoniche, trans. Guy A. Marco and Claude V. Palisca (New Haven, CT: Yale University