Exploring the city of music

The Ceremony of the bestowal of the bonnet and the sword

To start out our research about ceremonial performances at San Marco, we focused on the paper “Performance in San Marco: a picture and two puzzles”, which describes the “ceremony of the bestowal of the bonnet and the sword, given by Pope Alexander VIII to doge Francesco Morosini “the Peloponnesian” [1]. Analyzing the information presented in the document, we have noted the facts, which will be useful in order to re-create the performance. Those facts covers the placement of the choir and the audience (the bishop, the doge and other high dignitaries) as well as the number of musicians, singers and organs.

Contradictory information

Moreover, in order to support better our research, we have also read some parts of the book “Venetian Instrumental Music from Gabrieli to Vivaldi” and the paper “Bassano and the orchestra of St. Mark’s”. Taking out evidences related to ceremonies performed during the same period as the ceremony of the bestowal of the bonnet and the sword, we have noticed that some of them run contradictory to those described in the paper above. For example, we have taken into account how the number of musicians and singers, who are part of the choir, as well as the description of the instruments vary over the two different resources.

In an effort to create an effective ceremonial visualization, we plan to make some hypothesis about contradictory and uncertain facts. However, to also be as fair and correct as possible with our users, we will note all hypotheses and assumptions, we have made. In this way, we will give an opportunity to them, to compare information among different readings, while still being able to enjoy a beautiful performance simulation.

Musicians and their pieces of music

With regard to the music being played during different ceremonies from the seventeenth century, there are many pieces mentioned in our readings and as discussed with our supervisor, we consider that it will not be much of a problem to find their recordings.

To give a better idea about the culture of music during the seventeenth century in Venice, some of the musicians need our special attention, because they are important pieces for the ceremonies that we are going to reproduce, such as Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Legrenzi, Giovanni Gabriele and Giovanni Bassano.

Claudio Monteverdi was a maestro di capella at San Marco Basilica from 1567 until 1643. He was an Italian composer and “his influence on instrumental music was important with regard to the emphasis that he placed on accompanied duets and florid solo writing” – “Venetian Instrumental Music From Gabrieli to Vivaldi‏” by Eleanor Selfridge-Field[2]

Whereas Giovanni Legrenzi had served as organist at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and in 1681 he was appointed vice maestro de capela at San Marco and then in 1626 he became maestro di capela at the same Basilica. Legrenzi wrote possibly six volumes of instrumental music as well as operas and other vocal music. Two of his works was the “Te Deum” (sword ceremony: trumpets, drums) and the Introit for the First Mass of Christmas. [2]

Giovanni Gabriele was an Italian composer and organist, nephew of Andrea Gabrieli. Together with Willaert, Andrea Gabrieli and Merulo, he was one of the leading representatives of 16th- and early 17th-century Venetian music. He was a second organ at San Marco from 1585 until 1612. “His instrumental music was for organ and ensemble” – “Venetian Instrumental Music From Gabrieli to Vivaldi‏” by Eleanor Selfridge-Field[2]. Giovanni’s last three decades were spent almost entirely in Venice. [2]

Giovanni Bassano was an Italian Venetian School composer and cornettist of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. He was maestro de’ concerti from 1576 until 1617 at San Marco Basilica. Bassano’s main function had been to play as a member of the Doge’s piffari on high feasts. [2]

3D model of the basilica of San Marco

Coming back to the 3D model of the basilica of San Marco, as we discussed in our previous blog post, we are right now working on building the internal part of the basilica. To be as precise as possible, we rely on both the section plan of the building as well as amateur photos and videos captured at the basilica, which we found on Internet. The latter helps us to gain an impression of how the building looks inside. Following this approach, we are in progress of developing our 3D model.

3D sample of the interior of the basilica of San Marco
3D sample of the interior of the basilica of San Marco

Moreover, with the help of our supervisor, we found some interesting binaural audio examples which were created with Unity3D, a game engine that allows real time 3D exploring of models. Up to now we did not decide what software we are going to use because we are examining different solutions.

In the next following weeks, we plan to finalize our 3D model of the basilica of San Marco, as well as prepare some specific use cases of ceremonial performances. In this way, we will be able to try out the quality of some pieces of music when using a software like Unity3D.


[1] Frederick Hammond, Performance in San Marco: a picture and two puzzles

[2] Eleanor Selfridge-Field, Venetian Instrumental Music From Gabrieli to Vivaldi