Vincenzo Galilei, (born c.
1520, Santa Maria in Monte, near Florence [Italy]—buried
July 2, 1591, Florence), father of the astronomer Galileo
and a leader of the Florentine Camerata, a group of musical
and literary amateurs who sought to revive the monodic
(single melody) singing style of ancient Greece.
Galilei studied with the
famous Venetian organist, theorist, and composer Gioseffo
(1517–90) and became a noted lutist and composer.
Several books of his madrigals and instrumental music were
published in his lifetime, and he is said to have been the
first to write solo songs (now lost) in imitation of Greek
music as it was then understood.
Galilei engaged in heated
attacks on his former teacher Zarlino, particularly on his
system of tuning, and published several diatribes against
him. Among these is the Dialogo della musica antica, et
della moderna (1581; “Dialogue about Ancient and Modern
Music”), which contains examples of Greek hymns (among the
few known fragments of ancient Greek music). In the same
work he attacked the practice of composition in which four
or five voices sing different melodic lines simultaneously
with different rhythms, thus obscuring the text and ignoring
the natural rhythm of the words; this practice was typical
of the Italian madrigal style that Galilei came to despise
and that went out of fashion in the 17th century.
Venetian lute music of the Renaissance from Il Fronimo