It's been five long years but, thanks to a generous grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, I just got back from an archival research trip in Venice.
I stayed at one of my favorite places on earth, the residence at the Giorgio Cini Foundation on San Giorgio Maggiore. I love Venice but so do about eleventy billion tourists during the summer, so it's really nice to retreat to a quiet island at the end of the day.
Like most experiences in the archives, it was a mixed bag; some of the information I found I had expected to find, some of the sources I was most excited to see didn't yield anything useful (at least for now), and then there were the occasional unexpected finds that gave me the energy to keep leafing through the manuscripts.
The main goal of this trip was to expand the number and types of sources that name musicians to include in my network graphs. As I mentioned in previous posts, the documents I used in my original graph were all payment records. Since they were purely transactional it offered a very limited view of relationships among musicians. To contextualize these records I was looking for things like tourist guides, libretti, periodicals, and wills and testaments.
The wills are in the Notarile-Testimenti fond of the Venetian State Archives. I learned that locating musicians' wills - or the wills of any specific individual - is not a straightforward process since they are organized by the notary that prepared them rather than the person leaving the testament. So unless you know who the notary was (which you might be able to track down if you also knew the parish in which the individual died) there's a lot of sifting through documents without results. There is a catalog of wills of select individual in the reading room of the ASV, but it's extremely hit-or-miss.
I had a couple of leads in locating musicians' wills; a 2007 article by Luigi Collarile cites Natale Monferrato's will as does a 2010 article by Jonathan Brennan along with that of Giovannie Rovetta. I located both of these documents and looked through the indices for the notaries, and found two other wills for random people labeled "musico" in the index. It's a start! Plus, I learned some valuable lessons about tracking down these kinds of documents.
I had the chance to look at a lot of oratorio libretti at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana and at the theater studies library at the Casa Goldoni. Occasionally the libretti will list which singer sang which role or perhaps name musicians in the dedication. When I came across these names I would have to stop myself from doing a happy dance in the reading room.
I photographed some administrative records for a confraternity I want to know more about. I also started looking through a fond of avvisi (news sheets) at the Venetian State Archives, which Eleanor Selfridge-Field describes in her 1985 book: Pallade veneta: Writings on Music in Venetian Society, 1650-1750. I found some mentions of music in the city that I'm really excited about but, unfortunately, I had to head home before combing through the entire collection. I'll be back January though with a long list of things I want to look at. A presto, Venezia!