Vincenzo Galilei (1520 ? July 2, 1591) was an Italian lutenist, composer, and music theorist, and the father of the famous astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei. He was a seminal figure in the musical life of the late Renaissance, and contributed significantly to the musical revolution which demarcates the beginning of the Baroque era.
He was born around 1520 in Santa Maria a Monte (near Florence), and began studying the lute at an early age. Sometime before 1562 he moved to Pisa, where he married into a noble family. In 1564 Galileo was born, the first of his either six or seven children; another son, Michelagnolo, born in 1575, also turned out to be an accomplished lutenist.
Vincenzo was a skilled player of the lute, and early in life attracted the attention of powerful, well-connected patrons. In 1563 he met Gioseffo Zarlino, the most important music theorist of the sixteenth century, in Venice, and began studying with him. Somewhat later he became interested in the attempts to revive ancient Greek music and drama, by way of his association with the Florentine Camerata (a group of poets, musicians and intellectuals led by Count Giovanni de' Bardi) as well as his contacts with Girolamo Mei, the foremost scholar of the time of ancient Greek music. Sometime in the 1570s his interests in music theory, as well as his composition, began to move in this direction. Some of Galilei's most important theoretical contributions involve the treatment of dissonance: he had a largely modern conception, allowing passing dissonance 'if the voices flow smoothly' as well as on-the-beat dissonance, such as suspensions, which he called 'essential dissonance.' This describes Baroque practice, especially as he defines rules for resolution of suspensions by a preliminary leap away followed by a return to the expected note of resolution.
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