Italian Carnival Songs were an important form of secular music during the 15th and 16th cent
uries. These Canti carnascialeschi were performed by masked men and boys during the Florentine festivals during the pre-Lenten Carnival and the Calendimaggio, a celebration of the return of spring. The texts often contained double-entendres and playful ob
scenities, or mocked certain social customs. Some texts were more serious however, dealing with such subjects as mathematics or the four temperaments. Many texts were anonymous, but known poets include G.B. dell'Ottonaio and Lorenzo de' Medici, a great su
pporter of the Canti genre. While most of the texts for the carnival songs are strophic, the musical settings tend to be through composed. The settings are often four part homorhythmic chordal style with clear textual enunciation in all the parts, a typic
al Florentine feature evident in music also associated with the Florentine Camerata. It is unclear whether the songs had instrumental accompaniment, but the carnival nature certainly allows for that possibility. During the reign of Savonarola, all secular
aspects of the festivals were abolished, and thus the Canti went into decline. After the return of the Medici to power, the secular aspects were reinstated and the carnival songs went through another popular phase that helps to mark them as one of the im
portant musical forms in Florentine history.
Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and
Musicians, 1980 ed. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited. S.v. "Canti
carnascialeschi," by Frank D'Accone.
The New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1980 ed. London: Macmillan
Publishers Limited. S.v. "Florence." p.647.