"Señora, donde hay música no puede haber cosa mala": Music, Poetry, and Orality in Don Quijote
In Cervantes's Spain, music was considered one of the foremost arts, and cultural elites aspired to learn to sing different genres and to play fashionable instruments. Music's special status was most visible at the Universities of Salamanca and Alcalá, both having chairs of music charged with the instruction of trendy polyphonic styles. However, Miguel de Cervantes never attended these universities and he was not a professionally trained musician. Yet, throughout Don Quijote he includes a considerable number and variety of lyrical poems set to an abundance and diversity of period instruments. Entire episodes in the novel turn upon the fusion of song, dance, and instrumentalism. Placed against Cervantes's biography, the commonality of these instances challenges assumptions about his life and suggests his particular affinity for music. In particular, this essay is concerned with demonstrating Cervantes's agility with musical forms through an examination of the romance and the sonnet, the two lyrical poems that appear most regularly in the novel. Textual cues indicate that Cervantes meant for these poems to be performed orally, not just by the characters within the text but also by the seventeenth-century implied reader who likely read the novel aloud to a group of listeners.
This is article is published as “‘Señora, donde hay música no puede haber cosa mala:’ Music, Poetry and Orality in Don Quijote.” Hispania 93.3 (2010): 357-67. Posted with permission.