While accounts of modal change in Baroque music have often focused on progressive genres such as opera, more conservative repertories may also reveal important shifts in the conceptualization of tonal space. The presence of "new" elements in a conservative context can provide an index of how deeply new ways of thinking have penetrated. For this reason, the plainchant treatises of Matteo Coferati (1638- 1708), a singer and chaplain at Florence cathedral for nearly 45 years, merit special scrutiny. Coferati's unprecedentedly detailed instructions on the use of unwritten sharps in plainchant present new solutions to old problems while implicitly reflecting the influence of polyphony in general and the alternating organ in particular. The relationship between plainchant and polyphony thus emerges as a reciprocal one. Moreover, the distance between monophonic and polyphonic modal norms turns out to be less than one might conclude by examining notated chants without considering unwritten performance practices. That Coferati's teachings represent practice at the Florence duomo is supported by a contemporaneous manuscript choir book from the cathedral's archives, containing the very sharps he advocates. In addition, new archival findings revise Coferati's long-accepted birth and death dates and provide specific information about his service as a cappellano of Florence's cathedral.
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