Professor Andrew Cashner (USC Thornton School of Music) will present a lecture entitled "Making Faith Appeal to Hearing in Devotional Music of the Spanish Empire" as part of the quarterly Music History and Theory Forum on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 from 3:30-4:45 p.m. in Music Room 1145. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.
"Making Faith Appeal to Hearing in Devotional Music of the Spanish Empire"
Andrew Cashner, University of Southern California
St. Paul taught that “faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ,” and Catholic missionaries and reformers after the Council of Trent sought eagerly for ever new ways to use music to make faith appeal to the sense of hearing. From Madrid to Manila, church leaders cultivated the performance of villancicos, which they expanded into a large-scale choral genre, as a way to appeal to hearing through vernacular poetry and music.
This presentation considers some of the problems that faced seventeenth-century Catholics in their efforts to make faith appeal to hearing, drawing on sources from Spanish theology, music theory, and literature. How could teachers accommodate the sense of hearing while training it at the same time? How could they overcome obstacles of personal subjectivity and cultural conditioning? And did everyone have the capacity to “hear Faith with faith”?
A series of villancicos on the subject of sensation and faith shows how these concerns manifested through music that a wide spectrum of people would have heard. Two of these pieces, from later seventeenth-century Segovia, present a contest of the senses in which hearing is the most favored.
Two others, one from the Royal Chapel in Madrid and the other from Puebla Cathedral in New Spain (Mexico), present comic dialogues between a friar and a sordo—a deaf or hard-of-hearing man. These pieces depict failed catechism lessons where the deaf man mishears his teacher’s questions in absurd ways. They mock actual deaf people while also warning against spiritual forms of deafness, critiquing both impaired hearers and incompetent teachers. These villancicos begin to teach us how Catholics understood music’s role in the relationship between hearing and faith, while also embodying the Church’s effort to make faith appeal to hearing.
About Andrew Cashner
Andrew Cashner is a musician and scholar of music, specializing in devotional music of early modern Mexico and Spain. His research examines how people have used music to express and enact their religious beliefs.
His current book project is a study of “music about music” in villancicos, a genre of vernacular devotional music from seventeenth-century Mexico and Spain. These “metamusical” villancicos — such as pieces about heavenly and angelic music, the harmony of the spheres, and representations of human singing and dancing — reveal how Hispanic Catholics understood music’s power in the relationship between hearing and faith.
Cashner performs regularly on piano, organ, and harpsichord and enjoys collaboration and improvisation across a broad stylistic range. His compositions include choral music, songs, and solo piano pieces.
Cashner received a PhD from the University of Chicago in 2015, with the dissertation “Faith, Hearing, and the Power of Music in Hispanic Villancicos, 1660–1700”. He received a Master of Sacred Music degree with emphasis in organ performance from the University of Notre Dame in 2009, and a Bachelor of Music in piano performance from Lawrence University in 2003. Cashner also studied piano at the New England Conservatory of Music.