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Urban soundscapes in Renaissance Spain

By studying musicians, performers, institutions, composers, instrument makers, copyists, printers, consumers, blind balladeers and many others across a broad social spectrum, this project was established to reconstruct the urban soundscape of three key cities in 16th and 17th century Spain – Madrid, Seville and Valladolid. It has combines traditional historical study with innovative methodologies linked to urban and popular cultural history, and has contributed new data and fresh interpretations to illuminate the diversity of musical life through the full range of social layers. It has broadened writings on Spanish music history beyond its traditional boundaries and made substantial contributions to the history of early Spanish music.


The research project was funded by the Australian Research Council and in Spain by the Ministerio de Educación during the years to 2007-2009.



John Griffiths (University of Melbourne), Soterraña Aguirre (Universidad de Valladolid), Juan Ruiz Jiménez (Granada), José Antonio Gutiérrez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Cristina Diego Pacheco (Université de la Lorraine), Anastasio Rojo Vega (Universidad de Valladolid)


Juan Ruiz’s work on this project blossomed into an exemplary webpage on music in Andalucía Paisajes sonoros históricos de Andalucía (c.1200-c.1800)


The project has also benefited from the untiring work Anastasio Rojo who died suddenly in early 2016 but whose website continues to provide a treasury of information to users:





Papers from this project were published as a block in EARLY MUSIC Vol. 37, no 3 (August 2009)


John Griffiths

Hidalgo, merchant, poet, priest: the vihuela in the urban soundscape. pp. 355-366.

This study explores vihuela playing in Spanish cities during the 16th century as part of a broader study of the use of music in the urban environment. It is focused specifically to show how the exploitation of information on music extracted from civic notarial documents can be used to construct a social history of music in Spanish cities outside the institutional structures of church and state. It demonstrates the spread of vihuela playing beyond the courtly context by the urban aristocracy, the professional classes, the clergy, merchants and artisans. As well as the individuals who devoted part of their leisure time to the vihuela, in the urban music industry were instrument-makers and music printers who supplied the material needs of vihuela players. Consideration is also given to the variety of uses of the vihuela within distinct urban sectors, and not only to the surviving printed repertory, but also to manuscript collections and broadsheets, as well as to the unwritten traditions that were also part of instrumental practice of the time.

Keywords: vihuela; vihuela-makers; urban music history; 16th- century Valladolid; Diego Pisador; Esteban Daza; Luis Milán; Francisco de los Cobos; music printing




Cristina Diego Pacheco

Beyond church and court: city musicians and music in Renaissance Valladolid. pp. 367-378.


The history of urban music, which has traditionally focused on the court and the church, can and must also be evaluated according to groups within the population who did not belong to these two categories. In this article, Valladolid is taken as an example to explore these different perspectives. Valladolid was one of the capital cities of Spain in the first half of the 16th century; documentation found in the city’s archives shows that interest in music reached even its most humble citizens. The documents reveal that ownership of musical instruments (by individuals belonging to very different social classes) was very common in Valladolid in this period. On the other hand, references to less studied urban musical practices (such as autos de fe, or the chivalric sport of the juego de caña), as well as to musical instruction beyond the traditional frameworks (for example, private lessons), underline the importance of this type of research.

Keywords: 16th-century Valladolid; urban music history; music and ceremonial; music education; ownership of musical instruments



Soterraña Aguirre Rincón

The formation of an exceptional library: early printed music books at Valladolid Cathedral. pp. 379-399.


The main aim of this article is to attempt to explain how the most important collection of 16th- and early 17th-century printed music books in Spain came to be preserved at Valladolid Cathedral. The collection includes 102 different titles, of which over 35 per cent are of secular works, mainly madrigals. The contents of the collection are analysed, and the inventory published by Higinio Anglés in 1968 is emended and amplified. This leads to a broader consideration of the ways in which the repertory might have reached Valladolid, focusing on the different aspects of the socio-economic context of the city and its surroundings. The article also makes an important contribution to the study of the circulation of music, both Iberian and non-Iberian, within the peninsula.

Keywords: Valladolid Cathedral; Jerónimo de León; 16th-century printed music; Medina del Campo; early book trade




Juan Ruiz Jiménez

Power and musical exchange: the dukes of Medina Sidonia in Renaissance Seville. pp. 401-415.


This article, which falls within the context of studies of urban music history and forms part of a much broader analysis of musical activity and development in the city of Seville (1450–1625) on which I am currently working, aims to explore the musical patronage of one of the most important noble dynasties in the social fabric of the city: the ducal house of Medina Sidonia. One of its main focal points is that of the connections of both musicians and musical repertories between this household and its immediate surroundings and its projection beyond the city. The contact that followed from the loan and exchange of musicians with Seville Cathedral, other noble households and even the royal chapel, enabled the important transmission of repertory and practices. The central role of music in the ducal household was visible (and audible) in all the different spaces of the city and to all social classes. The different ensembles that comprised the ducal musical resources (which can be seen in the glimpses provided by the pay rosters of 1516 and 1535) covered all the duke’s musical needs, both in terms of private musical consumption and as regards the representation of his image outside his residence. His extraordinary wealth and commercial ties abroad enabled him to contract foreign musicians and to develop a wide range of musical activity in his palace and in the city as a whole, the impact of which remains to be studied more fully.

Keywords: Seville; dukes of Medina Sidonia; Seville Cathedral; Pedro Guerrero; urban musicology

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