Sunday, September 6, 2015
Francesco Landini - Non avra ma' pieta questa mia Donna
The fleet was Spanish, but Columbus was Italian. He was from Genoa, an independent city-state that was one of the great seafaring powers of the day - indeed, Columbus' resume started with his city of origin.
It's entirely unknown what music would have sailed with the fleet -almost certainly a rough seaman's music of easily portable instruments. However, the music of this era - the transition from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance - has come down to us.
Francesco Landini was the most famous musician of his day, dating from about fifty years before Columbus. A Florantine, his music would have been well known in Genoa, and Columbus as an educated man would have been familiar with it. Landini's work was almost entirely secular, and the religious Columbus may or may not have approved. But given the simplicity of the arrangement, it's possible that this or something very like it might have been heard on the ships as they sailed towards destiny.
Bootnote: If you have an interest in Columbus' voyage, I cannot recommend more highly Samuel Elliot Morrison's magnificent book on the subject, Admiral Of The Ocean Sea.