Famous composer Donato da Cascia undoubtedly was an integral part of the Early Italian Renaissance period, that we know as Trecento. He created his music in the second part of the fourteenth century. As in many other cases related to that period, we know nothing about this famous composer, his life, his date of birth or death. So, I can only suppose that he was from Florence or a place called Cascia, near Florence, as his last name says.
The only picture that specialists discovered, shows him in the typical robes of the Benedictine order, so we may assume that he was a monk or a priest. But here lies the mystery: out all his surviving music, there is not even a bit of religious music. It is all completely secular. All the sources of his music with just one exception were found in Tuscany.
Jacopo da Bologna most likely had some influence on Donato da Cascia’s works. We know about most of Donato’s music, thanks to Squarcialupi Codex - the illuminated manuscript compiled in Florence, Italy in the early 15th century. Even though, his music was written in the typical style of mid 14th century, it has exceptional virtuosity. All surviving madrigals created by Donato da Cascia represent the peak of virtuoso singing.
The beginning of the Renaissance in Italy started somewhere in the14th century. In Italian this historical period is called the Trecento from the phrase "mille trecento" which is translated as 1300. The list of famous names is practically endless. And, in addition to this list, we can add famous composers and musicians, artists and writers who published their works anonymously.
The Trecento, as you may well know it, was the period of heightened activity in art, literature and music. This is when Dante wrote his Divine Comedy, painter Giotto di Bondone used for the first time perspective in art. The list of Renaissance giants is huge and include famous creators as Boccaccio, Petrarch, Adnrea da Firenze and others.
Music had also changed drastically during Trecento. Partially, because a lot of troubadours was fleeing from the Southern France, mostly Provence, to Italy. Troubadours had a huge impact on Italian music of Renaissance period. Famous composers and musicians that used to write only religious music started writing secular songs. Francesco Landini, Paolo Tenorista, Maestro Piero and others created not only polyphonic music for all powerful Catholic Church but also love lyrics for everyday people.
From what we know, instrumental music was also widespread during Trecento. Unfortunately, not much of it survived, just few notated examples. The rest of the sources come to us from the area around Florence. We also know that some of the poetry of Dante was set to music, but none of it survived either.
Magic and study of occult arts successfully survived Renaissance and entered the Baroque era. And even more. ”study of the occult arts remained intellectually respectable well into the seventeenth century”. It only gradually divides into the modern categories of natural science versus occultism or superstition. My web research shows, that brilliant Age of Reason was on the rise in the seventeenth century, while belief in witchcraft and sorcery, and consequently the irrational surge of Early Modern witch trials, receded. This process only completed at the end of the Baroque period, somewhere around 1730s.
Contemporary scientists still met resistance, though. Christian Thomasius encountered fierce opposition as he argued in his 1701 Dissertatio de crimine magiae that it was meaningless to make dealing with the devil a criminal offence, since it was impossible to really commit the crime in the first place. In Britain, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 established that people could not be punished for consorting with spirits, while would-be magicians pretending to be able to invoke spirits could still be fined as con artists.
Several decades later, from 1756 to 1781, Jacob Philadelphia performed feats of magic, sometimes under the guise of scientific exhibitions, throughout Europe and Russia. Baron Carl Reichenbach’s experiments with his Odic force appeared to be an attempt to bridge the gap between magic and science.