On December 7,1546, the first published piece of music for the guitar, a fantasia composed by Spaniard Alonso Mudarra (ca. 1510-1580), was taken to the press in Seville.1 With Mudarra’s work, instrumental music took a step toward bridging the divide between the sacred and the profane. Latin Mass excerpts by Franco-Flemish master Josquin des Prez and other sacred works by great polyphonists were arranged and printed, among various popular genres, in tablature for organ, harp, vihuela, and most importantly, the guitar. One must note that many consider the guitar to have been an instrument of the common classes. Even the vihuela was suspect for clerics overseeing the involvement of instrumentalists in the Catholic Church. An instrument for which many secular songs were composed, the vihuela was too closely identified with “dancing and other unholy activities.”
This thesis is based on the aesthetics of guitar music during the 128 years between Tres libros de mvsica en cifras para vihvela (1546) of Mudarra and Instrvccion de Mvsica sobre la Gvitarra Espanola (1674) of Sanz, a historical period whose commonalities with the state of guitar culture today promise a new and informative experience for any reader, not just music specialists. My studies in music and language arts have led me to the present topic, one that I consider to be of prime importance in fully understanding one of the most powerful empires of early-modern Europe. I approach the relationship between early guitar traditions and humanism in Spain as a modem music historian who has experienced the impact of this musico-literary confluence first hand.