We explore the complex psychological condition of the first-person experiencing subject (both literary and musical) presented in Carlo Gesualdo’s madrigal Moro lasso. We compare the textual and musical repetitions within Moro lasso to Sigmund Freud’s concept of the repetition compulsion, in which a person repeats a traumatic event over and over again, either in thoughts or actions, including dreams and hallucinations. Gesualdo’s technique of repeating small elements many times in preparation for larger structural patterns of repetition may perhaps represent or allegorize a version of the Freudian repetition compulsion. We specifically do not address the possible psychoanalysis of Carlo Gesualdo, the historical man, but rather the first-person voice of the madrigal. We do not attempt in this article to provide a comparative or historical study of the Italian madrigal, nor do we attempt to trace the history of Gesualdo’s many innovative musical techniques through the works of previous composers. Instead, we investigate the psychological qualities of repetition, especially complex and subtle forms of repetitive structure, as they appear in a single musical work, the madrigal Moro lasso. By examining the essential diegetic trajectory of the music, we retrieve something of significance about an important and distinctive expressive aspect of the madrigal Moro lasso, and also demonstrate that the composer’s literary persona actively interacts with the creation of meaning in this work and occasionally suggests complex and potentially conflicting levels of discourse.
Lively, Michael and Bleile, Mary Lena
"GESUALDO’S MORO LASSO AND THE FREUDIAN REPETITION COMPULSION,"
Gamut: Online Journal of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic: Vol. 9
, Article 4.
Available at: https://trace.tennessee.edu/gamut/vol9/iss1/4