Exhibition: Sound Pictures – Basel Music Supplies of the 16th Century

In the 16th century, Basel experienced a period of prosperity: Printing was of nationwide significance, important figures, such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Bonifacius Amerbach, and Felix Platter, left lasting impressions on the city, and the Reformation set its mark. Music was always important in cultural life. But what did it sound like in Basel at that time? What was played at home? Which music treatises were printed and what kind of music was sung in the church? Some answers can be found in the rare and impressive “Sound Pictures” in the new Music Museum exhibition. More than 80 objects – music supplies, musical instruments, paintings, copperplate prints – bring us closer to the music of 500 years ago.

Drinking song in scherzo notation, Basel ca. 1565, voice break discant. © Basel University Library.

Many of the music supplies tell their own story. The “Musica getutscht” by Sebastian Virdung (1511) or Heinrich Glarean’s “Dodekachordon” (1547) attest to the fact that music treatises were published in Basel at a very early stage. These were noticed throughout Europe. The drinking song “Paule Paule” (ca.1565), composed in scherzo notation with sausages and wine goblets, illustrates the convivial rounds in which music was played. Particularly precious are a number of prints (so-called Unica) that have only been preserved in Basel, such as part books with German songs printed in Cologne (1514/15), or masses printed in Basel by the Flemish composer Jacob Obrecht (ca.1507). A highlight of the exhibition is the large-format painting “The Castalian Fountain” from the early 16th century. In the style of a wimmelpicture, it depicts a painted musical encyclopaedia with a multitude of musicians and music myths.

In the exhibition, selected music, some of which was newly recorded for the exhibition by students of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis / FHNW, can be listened to at several media stations or browsed in digital copies of the music supplies on display.

Various events (including the international “47th Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference”, 3-6 July 2019) complement the exhibition.

The exhibition was created in cooperation with the University Library of Basel, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis / FHNW and the Musicological Seminar of the University of Basel.

If you are further interested in Erasmus of Rotterdam and his time in Basel, read more here.

Text bewerten