2nd place - Renée Olo

Saints and Whores: The Birth of the Professional Female Singer in Sixteenth-Century, by Renee olo

Saints and Whores: The Birth of the Professional Female Singer in Sixteenth-Century

This project was my final research paper for Topics in Renaissance music. In it, I take a look at the society of Ferrara during the Renaissance period and argue that the normalization and acceptance of professional female vocal performers in the secular genre was not incited by a single event, but rather by a shift in social framework beginning in the late fifteenth century and extending to the beginning of the seventeenth. This normalization was aided by the outstanding musical skills of sixteenth-century courtesans in combination with the specialized polyphony of Ferranese nuns, which led to a new attitude towards public female singing in Ferrara and elsewhere in European courts, eventually making it possible for women to achieve careers in professional vocal performance at the dawn of the seventeenth century. I would like to accompany my poster with musical and poetic examples to better illustrate the creativity and ingenuity of these early female singers and composers as I believe that it is important to remember that these women did not consider themselves primarily as composers. Rather, they practiced many forms of art as did their male counterparts.