Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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O cancioneiro musical e poetico da Biblioteca Pública Hortênsia (Coimbra, 1940)

Duarte Lobo: composições polifónicas (Lisbon, 1945)

Estêvão Lopes Morago: varias obras de música religiosa a cappella, PM, ser.A, iv (1961)



Subject of the Old Testament book of Job, a symbol of patience in adversity, and patron of music in the 15th and 16th centuries. The book of Job, arguably the most penetratingly philosophical of the Old Testament books, was composed by an unknown author probably in the post-exilic period. Traditionally it has been read as the story of Job, a just man visited by extreme misfortunes that his friends interpret as punishments for sin, but who is eventually vindicated by the appearance of God. Modern scholarship sees Job as more querulous and God’s punishments as more mysterious, and the poetic epilogue in which Job’s vindication takes place as being incompatible with the prose body of the text.

The only references to music appear in xxi.2: ‘They sing to the timbrel and harp, Revel to the tune of flute’ and xxx.31: ‘My harp is turned to mourning, My flute to the sound of weepers’. There is nothing in these lines to account for Job’s becoming a patron of music. Each of the passages merely refers to music as one among many amenities in the life of a wealthy Middle Eastern landowner in ancient times. In the first, Job is referring to the prosperity of unjust men not afflicted by God as he is, and in the second he alludes to his own fall from prosperity. Accordingly, neither the early Christian centuries nor the Middle Ages looked upon Job as a patron of music even though he was a much venerated figure. He is the subject of Gregory the Great’s often copied and much imitated Magna moralia in Job, and readings from the book of Job occupy a central position in the Office of the Dead, where they served to make Job an important medieval symbol of patience and life after death. Medieval art in turn represented Job quite frequently. Most typically he appears as a naked figure, his body covered with sores, seated on a dunghill and being berated by his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.

Job finally emerged as a musical figure in the 15th century, when he was adopted as patron of a number of musical guilds and was represented in works of art with a musical theme. In the latter he continued to be pictured seated on the dunghill, but in place of the traditional Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are three musicians; they seek to console him with their playing and are rewarded with a piece of Job's skin which is magically transformed into a gold coin (see illustration). While the precise steps leading to the transformation of Job into a figure of musical significance cannot be traced, it is possible to determine the broad outline. The immediate influence was that of the 15th-century mystery plays, in particular the English Story of Holy Job by a disciple of John Lydgate, and the French La patience de Job. These plays, rich in musical elements, were inspired by the legendary tradition initiated by the so-called Testament in Job. This is a fanciful 1st-century commentary on the book of Job originating among the Jewish sect of the Essenes; suppressed by both the Christian West and Orthodox Judaism it eventually made its way to Renaissance Europe, probably by way of Islam.

Job’s position as patron of music was comparatively short-lived, gradually waning during the course of the 16th century. Perhaps the cause for this was the continued strong presence of the orthodox Christian tradition of Job that has maintained a hold on the Western imagination well into modern times. Symptomatic of this is Rubens’s painting of 1612: though presented to the musicians’ guild of Antwerp, it pictures him in the ancient manner, seated naked upon a dunghill surrounded by his three scolding friends.

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