Spring 2009

NEWSLETTER Vol. 5, No. 1

Majoring in the Beatles, a slew of reviews, events, and more


Table of Contents

  • "I majored in the Beatles"
  • Reviews:
    • Oates on Charles Hallé: A Musical Life
    • Davidson on‘The Pursuit of High Culture: John Ella and Chamber Music in Victorian London
    • Girdham on Music in the British Provinces, 1690-1914
    • Parsons on Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles:  It Was Forty Years Ago Today
    • Bassler on Orientalism and Representations of Music in the Nineteenth-Century British Popular Arts
    • Wells on Women Writing Music in Late Eighteenth-Century England: Social Harmony in Literature and Performance
    • Winkler on Musicking Shakespeare: A Conflict of Theaters
    • Williams on Desire, Drink and Death in English Folk and Vernacular Song, 1600-1900
    • Saylor on Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, Volume 4: 1952-1957
  • Member News
  • Upcoming Events
  • Calls for Papers
  • Recent Publications


Send your short articles, works-in-progress, opinion pieces, course descriptions and syllabi, and first-person narrative accounts of your research and teaching to Kendra Leonard for publication in the NABMSA Newsletter.


Send your news, review requests, and article suggestions to Kendra Leonard, Newsletter Editor, at kendraprestonleonard@gmail.com

“I majored in the Beatles”: Liverpool Hope University Offers MA in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society

Earlier this year, Liverpool Hope University, self-described as an ecumenical Christian Foundation which achieved university status in 2005, announced the creation of a new Master of Arts degree titled The Beatles, Popular Music and Society. According to the University, the course consists of “four modules with specific issues relating to The Beatles and Popular Music, consisting of four 12-week taught modules, plus a dissertation.” Senior Lecturer in Popular Mike Brocken described the rationale for the program thus: “'There have been over 8,000 books about The Beatles but there has never been serious academic study and that is what we are going to address. [....] The Beatles, Popular Music and Society' marks a seminal advance in popular music studies. For the first time in the UK and possibly the world, a postgraduate taught course is offered to research into The Beatles, the city from which they emerged, the contexts of the 1960s, technology, sound and songwriting and the industries that have set up in their wake to capitalise on tourism in the city of Liverpool.”

Reactions to Hope’s announcement have been mixed. Several news sources, including Reuters News, posted the story in its “Oddly Enough” news section, while The Times and The Guardian skeptically queried the value of the degree. Writing for The Guardian, Sam Jones posed the question this way: “Asked what employment benefits a course scrutinising songs such as Octopus's Garden, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and I Want to Hold Your Hand might yield in the current economic climate, Brocken said: ‘I think any MA equips people with extra study and research skills. MAs of any description are vital for the workplace. You will find that once you have done a master's degree it separates you from the pack.’”

Allan Koznin, author of Phaidon’s The Beatles, stated in The New York Times that he was surprised it had taken so long for such a degree to be created. In supporting the validity of the degree, Koznin wrote that “[s]tudying the Beatles seriously inevitably brings together an enormous amount of material, certainly enough to push the limits of a four-semester program. To understand the group’s prehistory, for one thing, students will have to delve into not only the American roots of rock — blues, country music and R&B — but also Broadway show tunes and the British music-hall tradition, which shaped them as surely as Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley did.” One benefit of studying at Hope, he noted, was its location: “Liverpool Hope University has a distinct advantage for this part of the course work: although students will have to learn to see through the parts of Liverpool that have become a kind of Beatles Disneyland, many of the places where they lived and worked (or even places they merely mentioned, like Penny Lane) are intact.” However, he also warned potential students of the difficulties they might face in attempting scholarly work on the Fab Four. “[T]the likelihood that EMI and the Beatles’ own company, Apple, will release [studio and other archival] tapes officially, even for educational purposes, is slim,” he said, adding that students and professors alike will have to rely on bootlegs and other unofficial materials.

On the other side of the debate is Jonathan Bellman, co-author of the blog Dial M for Musicology and the head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Writing about the degree on Dial M for Musicology, Bellman titled his post “The Silliest Degree on Earth.” His questioning of the degree’s purpose is from a disciplinary—as well as common sense—viewpoint: “I can’t get over the idea that this is a Liverpool cash-in on the Beatles for people who actually can’t qualify to study popular music and society at another English University, such as the Open University. Studying popular music is not unheard-of in Great Britain, for heaven’s sake. A graduate degree in the Beatles? To what purpose?” While Kozin defends the degree by saying that “The musicians among them might profitably internalize the values they’ll learn” and social scientists, more focused on the latter part of the program’s title — ‘The Beatles, Popular Music and Society’ — might look earnestly at the social upheaval the Beatles helped usher in,” Bellman wryly skewers the notion that the group need their own degree. “The Beatles, bless them, weren’t and aren’t a discipline. Sure, study Musicology and do a dissertation on them, or study Cultural Studies and do a dissertation on them, or Psychology or whatever else. But a degree in the Beatles per se? How would that make you anything but a laughingstock? “Well, I’ve really spent most of my time with the verses of “In My Life”; I’ll have to go review George Martin’s double-speed piano solo and get back to you before answering your question definitively. This really isn’t my area; I’m an Earlyist, and my dissertation was on pitch bending and blues inflections in the Tony Sheridan sessions, so this is well outside my sub-specialty…” Several commenters on Bellman’s site use English Lit as a guidepost. One writes, “Does English Lit offer a Masters in romance novels?”; another comments that, “This reminds me of the college teacher in Don DeLillo's novel White Noise who wants to establish a department of Elvis Studies;” a third laments that, “My university cuts the master's program in music theory, and their's adds the Beatles. Something's wrong.”

And so, NABMSA members, what are your thoughts on this new degree, or similar special-topics programs? Send your comments to NABMSA Editor Kendra Leonard for publication in a colloquy in the Autumn Newsletter. Suggestions for further colloquies are also welcomed.


Bellman, Jonathan. “ The Silliest Degree on Earth. Dial M for Musicology. March 4, 2009. http://musicology.typepad.com/

Collett-White, Mike. “University offers first Beatles degree.” Yahoo News (via Reuters). http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090303/od_uk_nm/oukoe_uk_beatles_degree. Accessed March 23, 2009.

Jones, Sam. “The long and winding road to an MA in Beatles songs.” The Guardian. March 4, 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/04/beatles-higher-education-liverpool-university

Kozin, Allen. “A Master’s in Paul-Is-Definitely-Not-Dead.” The New York Times. March 7, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/weekinreview/08kozinn.html

Liverpool Hope University. “Hope Launches World’s First Beatles MA,” Liverpool Hope University, http://www.hope.ac.uk/frontpage-news/hope-launches-worlds-first-beatles-ma.html. Accessed March 23, 2009.




Charles Hallé: A Musical Life by Robert Beale. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007

Reviewed by Jennifer Oates

Recent years have seen a marked increase in research on concert life and music organizations in Great Britain with Michael Musgrave’s book on the Crystal Palace, a collection of essays on Sir George Grove, Simon McVeigh’s research on concert life in London, and Cyril Ehrlich’s studies of the London Philharmonic and the music profession in Great Britain. The Manchester Symphony Orchestra and its founder, Sir Charles Hallé (1819-1895), have remained largely neglected. Hallé was one of the first orchestral conductors and helped establish the role of the modern conductor and the modern symphony orchestra. He spent most of his career in Manchester where he founded the Hallé Orchestra, which he conducted for 37 years, and played a major role in the creation of the Royal Manchester College of Music, now Royal Northern College of Music. His commitment to quality concerts for a modest sum, including endeavors in chamber music recitals and opera, brought music to a broader audience and transformed Manchester’s musical culture. As a concert pianist, he performed in London keeping in touch with important figures and musical movements in England’s cultural capital. His was also an active teacher and pedagogue. With such a diverse and long career, his impact on British music and musical life cannot be overstated.

Little has been written about Hallé beyond Michael Kennedy’s publications (an edition of Hallé’s autobiography and a study of the Hallé Manchester orchestra) and two German studies from the 1980s and 1990s. Much Hallé scholarship relies on his memoirs, which leave out the more contentious aspects of his early efforts and failures in Manchester and contain some errors. With this book, Robert Beale, music critic for the Manchester Evening News, provides the first critical biography of Hallé correcting longstanding inconsistencies and errors. In his autobiography, for example, Hallé wrote that Jenny Lind made her debut appearance in Manchester in an Infirmary benefit concert in 1849, which Kennedy and others assumed was correct. Beale, however, notes that Lind was in Balfe’s opera troupe that visited Manchester in September 1848 (p. 48).

Beale presents Hallé’s life in chronological order interspersing two discussions of Hallé’s opera seasons of 1854 in Manchester and 1860-61 in London between chapters. An epilogue explores Hallé the man while chapters focus on his professional activities, education, and impact on the musical world. Hallé’s impressive productivity and his forward-looking concert programming are documented and further explored in the appendices: his London performances, premieres he conducted in Manchester, British premieres of chamber music, the most frequently performed works in the Manchester concerts from 1857 to 1895, and analysis of the composers most performed by Hallé and attendance averages in Manchester. Beale’s bibliography provides a thorough and valuable list of primary sources and archives attesting to his extensive research.

The chapter on Hallé’s early life, including his education in Paris and move to London, relies more on Hallé’s autobiography and Kennedy’s edition of it than any other part of the book. Presumably this is due to the lack of sources for this period of Hallé’s life. The remaining chapters make more use of primary resources, including the rich archival materials in Manchester, and contemporary newspapers and periodicals. An overview of Hallé’s business model and administrative style presents an insightful look into the driving principles behind his endeavors as well as a much needed study of nineteenth-century orchestra and concert management. For example, the Hallé Orchestra was based on a core of permanent members who were employed for the whole season with additional musicians hired as necessary. This relatively new concept informed Hallé’s musical decisions and played a role in shaping his musical vision for Manchester. It is clear that the orchestra was very well run, but also that it was never self sufficient. Hallé regularly covered artist’s fees and budget shortfalls out of his own pocket illustrating his commitment to successful concerts rather than financial gain. While Hallé was not wealthy, his successful teaching and performing careers gave him the financial freedom to do so. The epilogue shows Beale at his best. His fine narrative freely flows in a concise yet well-rounded portrait of Hallé.

While Beale’s thorough research is impressive and helpful, the amount of detail is often dense and overwhelming. Beale meticulously cites sources and provides sometimes unnecessary background information in his voluminous footnotes. When discussing George Henschel’s Hallé concert debut, for example, Beale provides a short biography of Henschel outlining his major accomplishments. Given Henschel’s prominence in nineteenth-century British and American music such an introduction is unnecessary. The vast number of footnotes with tangential or superfluous information thwarts the narrative of the book and makes for tedious reading, which is unfortunate given Beale’s engaging writing style.

Beale’s comprehensive and thoroughly researched biography sheds new light on Hallé and the musical life of nineteenth-century Manchester. With his painstaking research, he presents the most complete picture of Hallé and a richer understanding of his failures, his successes, and the problems he faced. Even more, this study fills a large gap in the growing research on the evolution of the modern orchestra and concert life in Great Britain and beyond.


The Pursuit of High Culture: John Ella and Chamber Music in Victorian London by Christina Bashford. Music in Britain, 1600-1900. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2007

Reviewed by Michelle Davidson

Music history narratives have largely overlooked those individuals and groups who organized and facilitated music in favor of composers, repertoire, and performers. As Christina Bashford’s The Pursuit of Culture: John Ella and Chamber Music in Victorian London shows, these enablers have an important place in music history and culture, as they established and influenced repertoire, performance venues, performers, and musical tastes. The Pursuit of High Culture shifts back and forth between documenting Ella’s life and professional achievements and considering “a broader view of his institutions and their audiences” (350). While her use of Ella’s diaries and Records of the Musical Union enable her to thoroughly document his life and professional activities, it is Bashford’s consideration of Ella’s activities within the larger context of Victorian musical culture that makes her study an important contribution to the field of British music studies.

The book proceeds chronologically with each chapter focusing on period of Ella’s life. In chapter one, we learn about his humble beginnings in Leicestershire and early unorthodox musical training. Chapter two highlights Ella’s early career in London, where he, like many musicians, had to juggle a host of musical activities to make ends meet. Interested in programming and the press more than performing, Ella organized private musical parties and promoted concerts, supplementing his income by writing music criticism for publications such as The Morning Post and The Athenaeum. Bashford argues that Ella’s trips to the European continent, especially to Paris during this time (and throughout his life), were extremely influential in the forming of his musical tastes and ideas. As a young man he was impressed with the high standards of musicians and performances that he discovered in the concert venues and private salons of Paris and admired the French state financial support for musical activity and training. Bashford also finds Ella’s instruction with Fétis to have been important not just for his training in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration, but also in shaping his entire outlook on music, “namely the value of education, the importance of training musicians well, the role of the national conservatoire, and the desirability of cultivating amateur taste” (53). Chapter three documents Ella’s establishing of the Musical Union, the first subscription society for chamber music concerts in Britain. Besides offering thorough descriptions (and lists in the book’s appendices) of Ella’s performers and repertoire at these concerts, Bashford here also focuses on Ella’s larger agenda to use the Musical Union to cultivate his audience’s taste in serious art music. He saw the society as an avenue to educate upper-class amateurs and listeners about high art music and quiet, engaged listening, a lack he felt present in high society’s traditional disinterested patronage of Opera. Bashford connects Ella’s distribution of program notes at these concerts to his desire to musically educate his subscribers. The next two chapters cover the growth and expansion of Ella’s Musical Union as it changed performance venues through the years and its clientele grew, while chapter six documents the society’s eventual decline and Ella’s resignation as its director.

Although she does mainly focus on aspects of Ella’s life that relate to his musical career and most importantly, the inception and growth of his Musical Union, Bashford does periodically include personal information, leaving readers with a picture of Ella that differs from his public professional persona. For example, Bashford’s close reading of Ella’s diaries, appointment book, and memorandum leads her to hypothesize that the “MW” often referenced is Mary Webb, who was most likely his mistress. While such personal information on its own certainly has little bearing on Ella’s contribution to Victorian musical life, it nevertheless, in Bashford’s hands, does reveal something of  “insight into the duality of Ella’s private and public worlds” that was common among prominent Victorian men, such as Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins (268). Bashford argues that Mary Webb’s existence shows that Ella “was equally able to interleave an influential life in high society on the one hand with comings, goings, and dealings in shabbier surroundings on the other. Such secrecy was par for the course in the lives of Victorian men who kept women; but it was also measure of how far Ella had traveled from his days in Leicester that the successful London concert manager had no option but to keep Mary, whose social situation was lowly, hidden” (268). She had to be concealed just as he felt his own low family background must be.

In the book’s final chapter, Bashford insightfully considers Ella’s significance to music history and nineteenth-century British music and culture. Simply by choosing to do a book-length study of Ella, Bashford highlights the importance of the organizer and facilitator of music to musical life in London. She shows how his musical tastes and belief in serious, artful listening helped shape a new kind of upper-class, musically-educated listener in Victorian London, demonstrating a departure from older modes of listening where people went to concerts and the opera to socialize and reify social status. Through the Musical Union, he also helped to “build a serious, lasting taste for chamber music” as well as establish a serious canon of chamber music repertoire (349). His consistent creation and distribution of program notes at his chamber music concerts was unlike that done by anyone else, and his practice was emulated both throughout Britain and Europe. Bashford also contends that Ella’s Musical Union challenges old assumptions about British aristocrats lacking “musical sensibilities and sophistication,” instead showing that this upper eschelon “were eager and willing to sign up to the society’s serious musical endeavors” and “demonstrated a desire to learn how to listen and an ability to do so” (350). Furthermore, Bashford highlights women’s prominent participation in the Musical Union, countering the stereotype that women did not participate in serious music.

Overall, Bashford’s book expertly relates her thorough documentation of Ella’s life and professional activities to the broader social, cultural, and musical Victorian context, offering us a model example of how good scholarship can make even one individual enabler of music, relevant all of music and Victorian culture.


Music in the British Provinces, 1690-1914, edited by Rachel Cowgill and Peter Holman. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007

Reviewed by Jane Girdham

This set of seventeen essays ranges widely within its self-limitations of time (long 18th and 19th centuries) and place (mainland Britain outside London). The editors, both at the Leeds University Centre for English Music (LUCEM), focus on the period between Purcell and Elgar, which they see as particularly neglected in historical research. This is not necessarily a volume to read straight through, as it is really a series of vignettes in roughly chronological order, geographically widespread, on music in small towns and big cities alike. Some essays are very tightly focused in subject matter and time; others draw on a wider base of research material and stretch over decades. The chronological presentation does allow the reader to develop a sense of the ways in which other historical developments influence music, such as the growth of the train system, as well as gain a sense of the fluctuations in popularity and success of musical activities over time.

There is coverage of both professional (chapters 3, 7, 9, 12) and amateur musicians (1, 10, 11), and relationships between the two (5, 13). There are essays on individuals (2, 7, 9) and large groups (4, 11), church communities (2, 8, 14), folk music collection and “improvement” (3, 7), and provincial concert life (5, 6, 8, 15, 16, 17).

A small selection of essays is discussed here to demonstrate their variety. All the authors rely heavily on archival research, but their breadth of material varies considerably.

Chapter 1, by Bryan White, is an examination of a music club in the market town of Stamford in the late 17th century. This small group, relying heavily on two Ferrar brothers, seems to have had a naturally short lifespan, based on the interests of the people involved, who played Corelli trio sonatas and sang songs and catches. The archival evidence is tantalizing: enough to posit some of the men’s activities but not enough to flesh out the details. Even so, the survival of two brothers’ correspondence and other papers allows us a glimpse into informal musical life, one which had very limited public exposure even at the time, and for which there is little surviving evidence.

On the other hand Chapter 5, by Roz Southey, addresses more fully fledged provincial music making:  the subscription concert series, in particular those in Newcastle and York in the 18th century. These were typically organized by amateurs but employed professional performers along with some gentleman players. This combination could lead to a rather restricted repertoire of less challenging orchestral works. The success of any concert series depended largely on the organizers.  Some did well; others were over-ambitious, creating financial difficulties, or, as happened in Newcastle in 1738, causing a handover of control to a professional, Charles Avison. Newspaper advertisements and music society record books document these concert series well.

Professional performers include both those based in provincial towns and those touring from a base in London. Chapter 9 is a biography of John White of Leeds, organist, oratorio director, and teacher, a man who spent little of his professional life in London but was a successful professional musician in various towns in the north-east. Sources include many brief mentions in contemporary newspapers.  Chapter 12, on the other hand, addresses one specific event in 1842, the sixteen-stop farewell tour of Giovanni Rubini, an Italian opera star based in London, which also serves to demonstrate the complex planning involved in a successfully organized and executed tour, from the choice of repertoire and travelling group to outreach to local musicians.

Chapter 11, by Sarah E. Taylor, addresses the use of tonic sol-fa in the later 19th century. If we wondered at the impetus that kept choral singing so vigorously alive, this chapter gives a stunning picture of what became a national movement far exceeding the Rev. John Curwen’s original intent of providing moral edification through choral singing. The national association boasted over ten thousand members, annual competitions, and a journal. This chapter looks particularly at one Josiah Powell, the growth of his chorus and their eventual successes at the national Tonic Sol-Fa Association Festivals.  The essay demonstrates the success of tonic sol-fa as a music reading system as well as its achievement in developing a musically educated populus. 

Program notes were also intended for the education of the general public. Between the 1880s and World War I, program notes proliferated as concerts became increasingly important nation-wide.  Chapter 17 elucidates the commissioning of program notes, and the sharing of notes, formally and informally, legally and illegally, through networks that centered mainly on London. The author makes a valid claim that these reused notes cultivated to some extent a homogeneous approach to listening to music. Their depth and detail of analysis, complete with musical examples, is impressive, their intent clearly educational, another aspect of the Victorian culture of improvement. This essay includes most informative footnotes.

This collection of essays demonstrates the wide range of musical activities that took place outside London over a period of two centuries. It also provides direction for further research:  dozens of towns had public concerts, and there remain many unknown musicians, professional and amateur, who contributed to both large and small organizations, which waxed and waned in their levels of activity and financial success.


Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles:  It Was Forty Years Ago Today ed. by Olivier Julien. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008.

Reviewed by Donna S. Parsons

Lists abound of “influential” or “important” albums that have pervaded the history of popular music.  Their construction is usually defined by musical and/or recording innovation, sociological impact, nostalgia, and even current listening trends.  A more difficult list to construct is one of albums that represent defining moments which forever changed the trajectory of popular music.  Possible contenders for inclusion on such a list include Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Patti Smith’s Horses, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Radiohead’s OK Computer.  Depending on the criteria utilized the top ten slots will most likely be dominated by Beatles’ albums: A Hard Day’s Night (soundtracks); Rubber Soul (springboard to sonic experimentation), Revolver (drug experiences combined with sonic experimentation), The Beatles (musical versatility), and Abbey Road (musical perfection).  Yet, there is one Beatles’ album that overshadows its contemporaries as well as almost everything that came before or after.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is largely recognized as the album that turned the music and recording industry as well as American and British culture on its head.  It is an album that has not only stood the test of time, but one that has transcended time. 

Given the amount of coverage Sgt. Pepper has received in Beatles’ histories, biographies, memoirs, interviews, and scholarly and popular periodicals, what more is there possibly to learn?  Surprisingly, after reading the collection of essays edited by Olivier Julien in Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles:  It Was Forty Years Ago Today one realizes that much uncharted territory remains.  Eleven multi-faceted essays cover the album’s impact from diverse angles.  Topics include British culture (Sheila Whiteley), the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership (Terence O’Grady), musical form and structure (Thomas MacFarlane, Naphtali Wagner), influence of Indian music (David Reck), the album cover (Ian Inglis), sound and recording innovations (Michael Hannan), and phonography (Olivier Julien). 

Much like the album’s opening track, Olivier Julien’s “‘Their production will be second to none’:  an introduction to Sgt. Pepper,” prepares the landscape for the subsequent essays.  Julien details the Beatles’ weariness of what seemed to be an endless string of tours and frenzied fans, provides a synopsis of their early recording history, and brackets the recording of Sgt. Pepper within that of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “All You Need Is Love.”  In “‘Tangerine trees and marmalade skies’:  cultural agendas or optimistic escapism?” Sheila Whiteley vividly explains what the album meant to those who heard it in the sixties: “…there is no doubt that Sgt. Pepper summed up our mood.” (11)  Whiteley brilliantly interweaves a discussion of psychedelic influences, lyrics, music, and fashion within an analysis of the broader social and political tensions of the time. 

In “Sgt. Pepper and the diverging aesthetics of Lennon and McCartney” Terence O’Grady charts the different songwriting paths taken by Lennon and McCartney from Rubber Soul through Sgt. Pepper.  In Rubber Soul O’Grady notes “there was still to a great degree a unity of spirit…” (24)  Subsequently, this unity was shaken in part by McCartney’s reluctance to try LSD and in another by Lennon’s use of songwriting as a cathartic means to exorcise personal demons that McCartney never encountered.  While Lennon began baring his soul to the world in 1964, McCartney firmly guarded his.  O’Grady persuasively argues that Lennon’s songwriting on Revolver was more closely aligned to that of Harrison’s.  Between Lennon’s drug experimentation and Harrison’s intense interest of Indian music and philosophies, the two found common ground. By the time the Beatles reached Sgt. Pepper, O’Grady notes John and Paul’s musical styles had become uniquely their own.

Thomas MacFarlane’s “Sgt. Pepper’s quest for extended form” makes the case that the album was the beginning of “a two-year process of experimentation” that was not fully realized until the B-side medley of Abbey Road. (33) There is no question that Lennon, McCartney, and even Harrison pushed George Martin, Geoff Emerick and Ken Townsend to find a way to realize the music their minds were hearing.   In “The sound design of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” Michael Hannan analyzes the layers of sounds heard on the album and explains “the inventive ways the studio equipment was used and…the new processes that were pioneered” in order to create such a diverse sonic texture. (46)  

Indeed, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was revolutionary on so many levels.  Besides presenting popular music and even an album cover as an art form that demanded critical inquiry, the album also featured a cardboard sheet of cut-outs.  Beatles fans had the opportunity to imagine themselves as members of Sgt. Pepper’s band or at least allowed them a prominent seat in the audience.  Ian Inglis’s “Cover story: magic, myth and music” explains the importance of the cover design by Peter Blake, delineates the innovation of printing the lyrics on the back cover, and even details the various clues to the “Paul is dead” myth that began after the release of Abbey Road in 1969.  What I find most intriguing is his discussion on the role Ringo Starr takes in the album and his identity in Sgt. Pepper’s band.  Inglis reveals that Ringo is Sgt. Pepper.  His evidence is the fact that Ringo is the one “who wears the stripes…”  (94)  It had been thought that McCartney chose the name “Billy Shears” because of its “poetic ring.” (William J. Dowlding, Beatlesongs [New York: Fireside, 1989], 164)  However, casting the Sgt. Pepper role with Ringo also acknowledges his importance to the Beatles.  With the addition of Starr in 1962 as their drummer, the Beatles forged a musical chemistry that made them untouchable and impenetrable.

Russell Reising and Jim LeBlanc critique the psychedelic elements of the album in “Within and without:  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and psychedelic insight.”  While the Beatles were not the first band to experiment with psychedelic sounds and lyrics, their “account of the flourishing of the imagination under the influence of psychedelic substances” is unrivaled. (106)  Reising and LeBlanc unpack the negative criticism that Harrison’s song “Within You Without You” has garnered from critics and fans and argue that the song itself “constitute(s) almost a dictionary of psychedelic imagery.” (104)  For those who believe “Within You Without You” has outstayed its welcome on the album, Reising and LeBlanc reveal the ways in which it “creates an immediate, otherworldly environment distant in both time and space…” (108)  Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles:  It Was Forty Years Ago Today acts as an exquisite program guide that enhances experienced as well as novitiate’s listening to this monumental album.


Orientalism and Representations of Music in the Nineteenth-Century British Popular Arts by Claire Mabilat. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008.

Reviewed by Samantha Bassler

Claire Mabilat’s monograph is the published version of her doctoral dissertation, completed at the University of Durham in 2006. Mabilat aims to identify the classic stereotypes of the “Orient” exemplified through British musical theatre, and examine the use of music in popular fiction and art as a tool for distinguishing the Other and separating Westerners from the Others. Her interdisciplinary approach promotes comprehension of how orientalism permeated British culture and affected artistic enjoyment in colonial Britain. Mabilat uses a wealth of case studies from music and the fine arts, including the fiction of Sir Henry Rider Haggard. While Mabilat’s examination of musical theater bolsters her primary thesis, the effort is not exhaustive; one hopes that it will inspire further work in the field.

The book begins with an extensive introduction that outlines the goals of Mabilat’s study, and provides the context for music research in orientalism and its ties to the sub-disciplines of exoticism, sexuality and gender, and interdisciplinary research. The remainder of the book is divided into three parts. In Part I, “The Musical Stage,” Mabilat illustrates, through the libretti of nineteenth-century popular musical stage works and ideas of women and sexuality, how representations of racial Others in music and text are contradictory. Part II, “Works of Fiction” contextualizes the work of H. Rider Haggard, for the purpose of illustrating how music appears in popular fiction to signify the Other and to create constructions of orientalized gender. Part III, “Visual Culture” is an investigation of appearance of the musical Other and the “Orient” in pieces of British “high art.”

Malibat continually supports her research with a wealth of examples from British arts. In the introduction, Mabilat is meticulously contextualizes orientalism in art and defines her methodology and its proper use in studying the long nineteenth-century British popular arts. Scholars in the field may find her review elementary and unnecessary, but those with only cursory knowledge of orientalism in British music will be grateful for it. The strength of Part I resides in the second chapter, “Sexualizing the Other.” Mabilat stresses the importance of constructions of gender and sexuality interchange in orientalism, and the use of musical representations to illustrate ideas of orientalist gender and sexuality: “… [T]he ‘Orient’ as a geographical space was frequently viewed as metaphorically sensual and was nearly always understood in feminine terms.” (7) Mabilat supports this thesis with several case studies, demonstrating instances in which the British romanticization of the Other supersedes the realistic portrayal of native peoples and their culture, particularly through sexual objectification and vilification of native women as sexually assertive and therefore perilous to British men. The key issue of the second chapter is the British unveiling of the “Oriental” woman, as a tool for reinforcing the western masculine possession of her land, which can now be penetrated and exploited by the British Empire. The feminine “Other” body was frequently represented in the music of the British stage, and an in-depth study of the various means of portraying the “Oriental” body in Britain during the nineteenth-century is warranted. Mabilat touches on the unveiling and undressing of the Other body, and the British fascination of veiled and unveiled woman in the harem. These women were often represented as sexually assertive, exhibitionist and willing partners, but were rarely acceptable for marriage. The book lacks an explicit connection between the British dual horror and enthrallment with the Other body as the catalyst and driving force behind depiction of “Oriental” women.

The case studies of fictional works presented in Part II are similarly well placed, and the choice of Haggard is strategic, considering his large oeuvre of “Orient”-themed fiction and his experience of living in South Africa during the British Empire. Haggard’s works are discussed with a dual emphasis on constructions of femininity and masculinity: their wealth of musical illusions support Mabilat’s claim that music was used consistently to represent the Other and the “Orient” in nineteenth-century Britain. Haggard associates the “Oriental” woman with the nineteenth-century concept of the “New Woman.” British men saw the “New Woman” as a threat to patriarchy, and Haggard’s female characters have the offensive, open sexuality and dominating social clout of a “New Woman.” Being a socially liberal writer who was often criticized for licentiousness in his stories, the sexually liberal and uninhibited Other must have been appealing, and one wonders how Haggard and others dealt with the “Oriental” woman’s freedom to act upon her sexual impulses. Further consideration of the dichotomy of such sexual fascination between the disparate social groups of colonizer and colonized would have served Mabilat’s purposes in explaining the root of British fascination with the “Orient” in their popular arts.

The final third part on orientalism as represented in British “high art” is the least-extensive section of the book. There are countless image of the “Orient” in British art, and Mabilat concentrates on art that depicts “Oriental” music and musicians. The chapter on visual representations of Haggard’s fiction is a clever counterpart to the earlier focus of Part II. Mabilat points out the censorship in period illustrations of Haggard’s Cleopatra works: the artists repress the sensuousness of the ill-fated queen and dress her more modestly, which detracts from the over-sexualized demeanor of the character in Haggard’s fictional accounts. The probing question left unanswered is why music and fiction allow for raunchiness and expression of “Orientalism” possibly unacceptable in the visual arts. The Victorians were able to transcend repressive social mores through music and fiction, but perhaps not as easily through visual art.

Mabilat’s effort is noteworthy: she covers an impressive amount of territory in characterizing British orientalism in the popular arts during the long nineteenth-century, and provides a great number of examples from the arts. The drawback is that her accounts often leave the reader desirous of more details. Through Mabilat’s pioneering work in the popular arts, further scholars will have case studies for more extensive analyses of orientalism in long nineteenth-cenury Britain, and can shed further light on the why of British attraction to the “Orient.”


Women Writing Music in Late Eighteenth-Century England: Social Harmony in Literature and Performance by Leslie Richie. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008.

Reviewed by Juliette Wells

Leslie Ritchie’s ambitious, rewarding study is the third title to be published in Ashgate’s recently inaugurated series “Performance in the Long Eighteenth Century: Studies in Theatre, Music, Dance,” which showcases interdisciplinary scholarship on performance culture.  This series is an ideal home for Ritchie’s wide-ranging, learned exploration of women’s experiences of musical performance in eighteenth-century England. 

Such experiences, Ritchie stresses from the outset, were much richer, more varied, and more celebrated than we might think from perusing either traditional music histories, with their emphasis on composers, art music, and “greatness,” or such well-known literary texts as Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, with its much-quoted depictions of accomplished women.  Our expectations, Ritchie argues, have been especially limited by the rhetoric of separate spheres, which produces a false dichotomy between “public” and “private” music-making that is especially limiting to our understanding of women’s involvement in musical life.  Ritchie marshals clear arguments, very up-to-date and exceptionally well synthesized scholarship, and impressive archival research to persuade us that, in actuality, eighteenth-century Englishwomen were actively—and, indeed, proudly—involved throughout what she terms a continuum of performance, from solitary music-making, through taking part in concerts at private homes and public spaces (including churches), to circulating and publishing compositions associated with their performances.  Ritchie cautions us further to re-examine our assumptions as to what constitutes “popular” music, assumptions that tend to be founded on the same faulty opposition between public and private behavior.  She offers instead her own focused definition: “[i]n this book, the term ‘popular’ will distinguish those songs published or otherwise reproduced for the purpose of encouraging multiple performances, in which there is demonstrable concern with the song’s commercial viability or popular circulation, and with setting lyrics that in some way address the idea that music can be productive of social harmony” (24). 

Ritchie lays out her central arguments thoughtfully and with ample documentation in her introduction and first two chapters, which focus on the Enlightenment concept of music as producing “social harmony” and the particular importance ascribed to the supposedly regulatory effect of women’s musical activities.  Drawing on texts ranging from conduct books—including the much less well known subspecies of “conduct dramas”—to letters and journals, to collections of sheet music, she examines the rhetoric that governed women’s participation in musical life as well as the ways in which women’s behavior accorded with or subverted that rhetoric.  For example, she asserts that “[w]omen’s pleasure in music-making, whether represented as intellectual or sensual in nature, is the crucial element that creates the musical habit, which in turn allows musical processes of socialization to occur” (32).

In these early chapters, as throughout the book, the strength of Ritchie’s arguments lies in their depth, clarity, and specificity.  She elaborates her crucial concept of the continuum of women’s performance in the musical realm, for example, far more thoroughly and vividly than my summary here suggests.  She justifies with equal care her decision to focus primarily on lyrical rather than instrumental performances, and to group such performances and related compositions according to the categories of “caritas,” “Arcadia,” and “Britannia” (to each of which she devotes a chapter).  And she explains why the eighteenth-century idea of testo, or the “fit” between lyrical and musical content, is fundamental to her overarching argument about how women’s performances contribute to social harmony.

Like the best revisionist historians and feminist scholars, Ritchie opens our eyes to cultural artifacts and details that have gone largely unnoticed—if not actively ignored or suppressed—in traditional accounts.  She uncovers, for instance, how many women registered at Stationers’ Hall as authors (that is, composers) of music in the eighteenth century.  “8 percent are women,” she informs us, “and fully 73 percent of these women are identified by name. . . . In other words, amongst those women who chose to register their musical work at Stationers’ Hall, there is a clear bias—not towards anonymity, but towards recognition of authorship” (72).  In addition to her thoughtful use of archival sources, Ritchie applies—with characteristic circumspection—discoveries from recent music cognition studies to eighteenth-century contentions about the benefits for women of studying singing.  “Persons who are repeatedly exposed to certain kinds of lyrical content either through audition or performance,” she explains, “might be expected to absorb or at least recall the salient aspects of that content” (80).

Ritchie demonstrates the exciting possibilities of truly interdisciplinary (or, to use her preferred term, multidisciplinary) scholarship.  At the same time, she makes a major contribution to each of the disciplines that informs her study, chiefly musicology, literary studies, eighteenth-century studies, and gender studies.  Graduate students, and indeed scholars at any level, will appreciate her identification of areas especially worthy of further investigation, such as “female publishers’ music lists” (78) and first-hand accounts of music lessons.  Finally, Ritchie’s clear writing and her lucid explanations of the myths and assumptions that have long governed—and hampered—investigations of women’s participation in eighteenth-century musical worlds would make this book valuable for classroom use. 


Musicking Shakespeare: A Conflict of Theaters by Daniel Albright. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2007

Review by Amanda Eubanks Winkler

The past few years have produced a bumper-crop of books that consider music and Shakespeare from various angles (and of course there are old chestnuts such as Gary Schmidgall’s Shakespeare and Opera). Daniel Albright’s Musicking Shakespeare: A Conflict of Theaters is a valuable contribution to this burgeoning field, but despite his title he is not interested in pondering Shakespeare’s music as an “activity, something that people do” a la Christopher Small. (Small, Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1998), 2.) His ostensible interpretative frame involves a “conflict of the theaters,” which he defines as a similarity between Shakespeare’s juxtaposition of “two kinds of theatres within a single play” and later composers’ responses to this conflict. Both the plays and the music, Albright contends, represent an “uncomfortable straddling between genres, between theatrical modes” (29). I say “ostensible frame” because although Albright writes beautifully and persuasively about three plays—Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and their musical adaptations, this intellectually stimulating book ultimately lacks focus.

The introduction, aside from the last pages, does not actually introduce the subject matter of the book, but rather serves as a brisk summary of the place of music in Shakespeare’s theater, including a brief discussion of The Tempest as “virtual opera.” Here, and throughout the book, Albright’s analysis might have been richer if he had engaged more fully with the substantial literature on his subject; while his textual and musical analysis is fascinating and insightful, it frequently lacks historical grounding.

The remainder of the book is divided into three large sections filled with short chapters. Each follows the same format: textual exegesis followed by musical exegesis. The first section, previously published in Albright’s Berlioz’s Semi-Operas: Roméo et Juliette and La Damnation de Faust (2001), considers Romeo and Juliet first as a tragedy that presents two conflicting codes: the Veronese Social Code and the Love Code. One might expect Albright to fully explore how these codes play out in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette and indeed he does mention them, but his observations fail to coalesce into a sustained argument as to how Berlioz’s adaptation, situated between symphony and opera, relates to Shakespeare’s “conflict.”

In his section on Macbeth Albright, as is his wont, ignores much of the secondary literature on the play (although Greenblatt and Garber are at least mentioned), but he does frame the work historically, repeatedly citing King James’s Daemonologie, and he makes innovative points about both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth as figures aligned with witchcraft and sorcery. He also returns to the theme of a conflict between two theaters,  “Macbeth’s theatre of concealment and aggrandizement” and “the other character’s . . . theatre of exposure and trial” (137), although these literary points mostly fall by the wayside once Albright begins reading Verdi’s operatic adaptation of the Bard’s work.

The final section on A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most scattered of the three. In his literary exegesis of the play Albright reasonably claims the work contains four different kinds of theaters: “the nature-theatre of the fairies, the wedding ceremony of Thesuses and Hippolyta, the permutation-swaps of the four lovers, and the botched skit of Pyramus and Thisbe” (29) with Cupid as a manipulating presence over all. His argument becomes increasingly diffuse as he moves swiftly through different adaptations of Shakespeare’s Dream: Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Lampe’s Pyramus and Thisbe, Korngold’s reworking of Mendelssohn for Max Reinhardt’s film adaptation, and finally Britten’s faithful operatic version. His chapters on Lampe and Korngold are stunningly short, but nevertheless, here, as elsewhere, Albright provides valuable musical insights. His analysis of Britten’s opera is particularly astute: in a brilliant passage he connects the composer’s use of a four-note cell in various permutations for the lovers’ music to the permutational structure of Shakespeare’s play, which explores “ten of the twelve possibilities of relations among the four lovers” (288). After moving through an analysis of the Pyramus and Thisbe episode from the opera—which Albright insightfully reads as indicative of the composer’s own reservations about the operatic endeavor itself—the book abruptly ends. No conclusion, no summation.

Although Albright’s book is problematic, I thoroughly enjoyed it and my reservations should not dissuade those interested in the intersection between Shakespeare and music from reading it (I plan to use it in my Music and Shakespeare course). Despite its flaws, Musicking Shakespeare is an engaging book full of brilliant observations; Albright’s ability to work with equal analytical facility in the fields of literature and music is breathtaking and enviable.


Desire, Drink and Death in English Folk and Vernacular Song, 1600-1900 by Vic Gammon. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008

Reviewed by Sarah Williams

The systematic and interdisciplinary study of musical ephemera and popular culture has come to the fore in recent years, beginning in earnest with, perhaps, Bruce Smith’s The Acoustic World of Early Modern England (University of Chicago, 1999). Amid a wave of scholarship attempting to unearth musical meaning in pre-industrial and early-industrial England, Vic Gammon’s new book on English folk and vernacular song also aims to reconstruct cultural norms and values through thematic ideas he traces through three hundred years of popular song repertory. As a social historian, Gammon’s interest in English folk and vernacular song is not musicological. His purpose is instead an exploration of a song’s source, its conventions and possible meanings, and the cultural contexts within which it was situated.

Gammon’s use of the term “folk” to describe his repertory necessarily invokes over 100 years of problematic collection ethics and contentious scholarship including the work of Cecil Sharp and Francis Child. Gammon prefers the use of “folk” rather than “popular” to describe the body of songs with which he engages, however, arguing that it is “the most commonly used term to refer to the traditional, customary and often (though not exclusively) orally transmitted songs of a people” (3). Gammon’s introduction, therefore, engages issues of literacy and orality, the problematic nature of Child and Sharp’s collection methods, and the Romantic notion of a “pure” folk song.

Gammon is interested not in an exhaustive or musicological survey of vernacular song over three centuries, rather the extra-musical meanings of song genres and changing social attitudes about certain thematic ideas in song—specifically desire, drink, and death. His chapters generally fall into two broad sections—first, a survey of songs that are arranged in thematic categories, followed by a discussion situating these songs and their texts into cultural and historical context. The heart of the author’s research investigates how songs negotiate conflict or reinforce formulas in culture at any given time, as well as aspects of interaction, expectation, and subversion surrounding these three particular themes and genres.

The first three chapters of Gammon’s text deal with sexuality, desire, seduction, charm, and the intersections between sex and social class. The author first counters assertions made by historian Lawrence Stone suggesting that no direct evidence exists of lower class attitudes in early modern England.  Gammon hopes to refute this idea by tracing themes of love and pleasure in song. Chapter 2 focuses on references to music, musical instruments, and dance as sexual symbols in popular song. Common musical themes involving sexual symbolism include sex described musically, sexualized musical instruments, and dance as a sexual metaphor. Gammon surveys both Puritan and popular views of bawdry, concluding that both sides see music and dance as powerful, sensual, and erotic. These musical metaphors could perhaps illustrate, as Gammon explains, a social catharsis, male fantasies and fears, extra-musical meanings historically connected to musical instruments, as well as “social pressures to fulfill gender stereotypes” (82). To close his discussion of the theme of desire, Gammon explores various “sirenic” elements in song—from the seductive and soporific qualities of the birdsong, to the well-traversed subject of the sexual potency of the human voice, the loss of control induced by music, and the efficacy of mythic creatures such as the mermaid and the siren.

Gammon begins a discussion of drinking songs and convivial singing in chapter 4. Themes associated with drinking songs include the sexual pleasure associated with drinking (erotic symbolism, drink as woman), the practice of wassailing, alcohol as a narcotic numbing drinkers from the strains of everyday life, drinking as patriotism to protest taxation, the personification of drink in characters such as John Barleycorn, and death as a consequence of riotous living.

The final thematic thread, death, occupies Gammon’s fifth and sixth chapters wherein he explores the lost idiom of the funeral song and the context of its use. The themes examined in this chapter include repentance and mortality, through which Gammon analyzes music and burial rituals in pre-industrial England, examples of 18th and 19th century songs, and the changing historical context of funeral practices and hymns. He bookends the chapter by comparing two contradictory accounts of musical practices at specific funeral services. Gammon’s final analysis concerns the theme of a child’s death in vernacular song. This chapter examines song material containing various threats to children in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries—including the murder of pregnant women by their lovers, songs describing infanticide or a “cruel mother,” accidents, and disease. Ultimately, through popular song, Gammon notices a change in attitudes toward children and their value later in the nineteenth century—that is, the 19th century ballads become more sentimental and melodramatic about children whereas the earlier ballads exhibit less sympathy on the occasions of their deaths. 

Extremely ambitious in both chronological scope and sheer volume of material, Gammon’s study raises only minor objections and suggestions. The secondary literature he refutes in chapter 1 on family and sex roles in early modern England is a bit outmoded. As well, his discussion in chapter 3 of the seductive qualities of the human voice would benefit well from contemporaneous writings by Robert Burton and twenty-first century scholarship by, for example, musicologists Linda Phyllis Austern, Amanda Eubanks Winkler, and literature scholar Leslie Dunn. Though Gammon’s text does provide an index of song titles and tunes, a corresponding appendix or table including cited tunes cross-referencing various collections and reprinted editions would have been a welcome addition for scholars of popular song. Despite these minor quibbles, Vic Gammon’s book will ultimately prove extremely useful to scholars spanning three centuries of English popular culture with its encyclopedic categorizations of thematic ideas and symbolic meaning in vernacular song.


Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, Volume 4: 1952-1957, ed. Philip Reed, Mervyn Cooke, and Donald Mitchell. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, in association with the Britten–Pears Foundation, 2008

Reviewed by Eric Saylor

The fourth volume in the continuing series of Britten’s correspondence features two significant changes from its predecessors: first, Donald Mitchell has apparently begun to delegate more responsibilities to his co-editors, as his name has moved from first to third in the authorial credits, and second, the Boydell Press (in conjunction with the Britten–Pears Foundation) has taken over the publishing duties from Faber and Faber. Fortunately, neither change has compromised this series’ integrity, scope, or level of detail; indeed, that such significant changes are all but undetectable is a credit to the editors and publishers alike.

There is little to say about this volume that has not already been said about others in the collection. The correspondence reveals much about Britten’s personality and collaborative activities, but relatively little about his actual creative processes; the enormous editorial annotations remain abundant; and taken together, they provide a compelling look inside the world of professional music-making during the mid-twentieth century. The main foci include exchanges with William Plomer and Myfanwy Piper (librettists for Gloriana and The Turn of The Screw), the slow development and composition of the ballet The Prince of the Pagodas, and the extended world tour that Britten and Pears made between 1955 and 1956—which, when augmented by entries from Peter Pears’s travel diary, comprise some of the most delightful selections in the book. There are also numerous letters regarding the activities of the English Opera Group, the development of several smaller works (including the second and third Canticles, and the Hardy song set Winter Words), and more intimate (or at least, less guarded) exchanges with the likes of Pears, Roger Duncan, and Imogen Holst.

This book will, of course, be indispensible for all Britten scholars, but it is also surprisingly accessible for non-specialists, even laymen. Much of this is due to the editorial notes that comprise, at a rough estimate, about 60-70% of the book. These include identifying the “friends pictured within”—typically, the first reference to a person mentioned in a letter is coupled with a short note on who they were and what their relationship (if any) was with Britten—and providing historical or cultural context for otherwise obscure or cryptic comments. Even more helpful from a scholarly perspective is the inclusion of many first-night reviews of Britten’s major works from leading critics, and follow-up correspondence related to the initial letter presented. While such asides sometimes interrupt the general flow of Britten’s own writing, they provide a wealth of valuable information that would be otherwise inaccessible to most readers.

Having said that, there are some occasionally distracting editorial irregularities, particularly as regards the identification of people or works. For instance, why do Alan Rawsthorne and Arthur Honegger receive no descriptions beyond “British composer (1905-1971)” and “(1892-1955), Swiss-French composer; see also Letter 525” (108, n. 4 and n. 7), when nearly all other composers mentioned receive a biographical or professional summary? Why does Australian soprano Elsie Morison receive a description in n. 6 on p. 131, but British soprano Gwen Catley, referenced in the very next note, only have her dates provided? Why is there almost no information regarding the proposed children’s opera Tyco the Vegan, references to which continually pop up in letters to William Plomer reprinted early in the book? (Maddeningly, when it appears a description is imminent (48, n. 1), the note suddenly veers onto a tangent about a similarly themed work by Eric Walter White, then onto another one about Plomer and Britten’s interest in Japanese Noh theater.) While infrequent, these apparent oversights are all the more conspicuous given the scrupulous attention to contextual detail that otherwise permeates the book.

 The volume also unfortunately displays traces of editorial oversensitivity that recall the aggressively defensive tones of earlier Britten scholarship. For instance, the dismissal of Ernest Newman’s review of Billy Budd as “inept” (121) is enormously misleading; Newman’s comments (reproduced in Volume Three, 696-97), though generally unsympathetic, reveal coherent aesthetic reasons for his critique, and do not constitute polemical tirades. (Coincidentally, Donald Mitchell characterized his own initially negative response to Prince of the Pagodas as “inept” ( 485-86), which comes off—perhaps unfairly, given the lack of context for his comment—less as a thoughtful reflection than as a Zhdanovian retraction.) Occasional digs at Britten’s contemporaries are also in evidence, such as the implication that Vaughan Williams was unsympathetic to Britten’s work (p. 160). Although untrue, this oft-repeated assertion has calcified over the years into conventional wisdom, and this antipathy to Vaughan Williams leads to possible oversights. For example, one footnote (562, n. 1) contains a puzzling reference from Pears about the composition of Noye’s Fludde, which he describes as Britten’s “new M-operality(!)” Surely this is an allusion to Vaughan Williams’s stage version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, which its composer described as a “morality” rather than an opera. To adapt one of the Chester miracle plays for similar treatment could easily be seen as roughly equivalent to Vaughan Williams’s treatment of Bunyan’s novel; however, no explanation for Pears’s use of the term is provided, and one cannot help thinking the reason for not doing so lies in a disinclination to suggest that Britten could have been at all influenced by the older composer.

Still, these objections should not overshadow the very real and impressive accomplishment that this volume represents. Britten is presented as a deeply human figure, one capable of great generosity, warmth, and gentle diplomacy (the latter particularly with his librettists and other collaborators), but also of raging anger (as in letter 770 to David Webster) and occasional pettiness (as in Letter 908 to Basil Douglas). Britten’s own writing is compelling, the editors’ attention to detail is extraordinary, and one is left eagerly anticipating the next installment in the series.



Member News

During a recent concert tour in Thailand, flutist Peter H. Bloom and pianist/harpist Mary Jane Rupert gave the world premiere of Butterfly Effects, a 2008 composition by American composer Elizabeth Vercoe, written for Bloom and Rupert and featuring flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo and harp.  They also performed the world premiere of Between Heaven and Earth, a 2008 composition (flute and piano) written for Bloom and Rupert by Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen, and the Thailand premiere of Vercoe’s 2003 flute and piano duo Kleemation (inspired by drawings of Paul Klee).  Bloom and Rupert, known as the duo “2”, performed at the Goethe Institute in Bangkok, American University Alumni Auditorium in Chiang Mai, and Mahidol University College of Music in Salaya, Thailand, and gave master classes at several Thai universities with the sponsorship of the US Embassy. 

Christina Fuhrmann (Ashland University) is preparing an edition of Sir Henry Bishop's 1819 adaptation of Le nozze di Figaro for A-R Editions.

Louis Niebur (University of Nevada-Reno) has been awarded The Eva Judd O'Meara Award for the best review published in Notes for his article “The BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Recent Reissues of British Electronic Music from 1955-1996.” Notes 63, no. 4 (June 2007), 912-923.



Upcoming Events

Pivotal Moments in Victorian Culture: Midwest Victorian Studies Association 2009 Conference will take place April 17-19, 2009 at Indiana University East, in Richmond, IN. www.midwestvictorian.org

Musica Scotica 2009: 800 years of Scottish Music will take place April 25, 2009 at Opera Studio, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow. www.musicascotica.org.uk/news.htm

The Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain: Textual, Material and Technological Sources will be held at the Barbican Centre, London, from June 7-9, 2009. www.projects.beyondtext.ac.uk/soundsearlycinema/index.php

The Sixth Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900 will be held at Keele University from July 2-5, 2009. www.keele.ac.uk/depts/mu/staff/conference.htm

The Galpin Society and the Historic Brass Society will hold its Conference on Instrumental Music and British Traditions July 7-11, 2009, at the Horniman Museum, London, and the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments. www.galpinsociety.org/gxh

The Seventh Biennial Conference on Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain 2009 will be held July 23-29, 2009, at the Department of Music, University of Bristol, with the support of CHOMBEC (the Centre for the History of Music in Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth). www.bris.ac.uk/music/19thcbritainmusic2009/

Purcell, Handel & Literature will be held at Senate House, University of London, November 19-21, 2009. For further information, contact Valerie James at valerie.james@sas.ac.uk



Calls for Papers and Awards

The Board of Directors of The American Handel Society invites applications for the J. Merrill Knapp Research Fellowship to support scholarly projects related to Handel and his world. One or more fellowships may be awarded in a calendar year up to a total of $2,000. Requests for funding may include, but are not limited to, purchase of microfilms, travel for research, and production expenses for publication. This fellowship may be used on its own or to augment other grants or fellowships. In awarding the Knapp Fellowship, preference will be given to graduate students, scholars in the early stages of their careers, and independent scholars with no source of institutional support. The deadline for the 2009 award is April 1, 2009. Each applicant should submit an outline of the project, a budget showing how and when the funds will be used, and a description of other funding for the same project applied for and/or received. In addition, applicants should have two letters of recommendation sent directly to: Professor Robert Ketterer, 226 Jefferson Building, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, 52242 or robert-ketterer@uiowa.edu.

The Board of the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford proposes to award the Donald Tovey Memorial Prize in Trinity Term 2009. The prize (which will be of the value of £2,000 but may be augmented should the need arise, at the discretion of the Board) is open to men and women without regard to nationality, age, or membership of a university. It may be awarded either:

(a) to assist in the furtherance of research in the philosophy, history, or understanding of music. In this case, candidates must satisfy the judges that their programme of research lies within this field, and should provide: a brief statement of proposed research; two testimonials; and two examples of original work (essays, articles, book chapters, etc., whether published or not) which demonstrate their fitness to undertake it. Nine-tenths of the prize-money will be paid to the prize-winner at the time of the award, and the remaining one-tenth on approval by the judges of a brief report indicating fulfilment of the programme; or

(b) to assist in the publication of a work already completed in one of the subjects mentioned above. In this case, candidates should submit one copy of the work concerned and explain why the prize is needed in order to ensure publication.

In either case, it is hoped that the prize-winner will agree to deliver a lecture in the Faculty of Music disseminating the findings of the research. Entries, which should include a list of the expenses associated with the project for which the prize is sought, must reach the Faculty Administrator and Board Secretary, University of Oxford, Faculty of Music, St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1DB, no later than Friday, June 12, 2009.

The National Opera Association is pleased to announce its Twenty-Fifth Scholarly Papers Competition, 2009, for outstanding scholarly papers on operatic subjects. The competition is open to any interested author. Membership in NOA is not required. No registration fee is required.  Deadline for submission: June 15, 2009. Author notification: after September 1, 2009. Previous winners of this competition may not re-apply, but are strongly encouraged to submit articles for consideration to "The Opera Journal," a NOA publication. The scholarly paper should explore an operatic subject, present significant research and conclusions, and include an extensive bibliography citing primary, secondary and, if applicable, tertiary sources. Authors should follow these guidelines.

  • The paper must be typewritten, double-spaced, no more than 3000 words in length.

  • The paper's title and the name of its author should be provided on a detachable title page. The author's name should not appear on subsequent pages.

  • Only one submission per person is admissible and must be accompanied by a statement confirming that the paper is not under copyright by any party other than the author and that it has not been previously published.

  • Papers previously presented orally are eligible as long as they have not or will not be published in any proceedings.

  • Papers will be judged particularly for significant advances in research and conclusions that shed new light on an operatic topic dealing with music drama, the libretto, the history of the genre, etc.

  • Topics may be as broad as the field of opera itself, which includes historical and theoretical analysis of the music and libretto (along lines of current and past critical theory and translation thereof), singing, acting, costuming, stagecraft, theater, etc.

  • The jury will consider the clarity and quality of the writing, judge the acceptability of the paper for publication in The Opera Journal, and will also rate papers on their overall suitability to be read in an abridged version of no more than twenty minutes length at the convention's Scholarly Papers Session.

The winner will be invited to read her/his paper during the Scholarly Papers Session at the annual convention, early January, 2010, at Atlanta, Georgia. The Leland Fox Scholarly Paper Stipend of $500 will be awarded to the reader of a winning paper at the annual convention. The winning paper will be published in The Opera Journal. Copies of papers not selected, accompanied by the committee's critiques, will be forwarded to the editor of the journal for possible consideration for publication.

Submission may be by mail or email attachment. Papers will not be returned. Submit entries and any inquiries about the competition to: Dr. Robert Hansen, National Opera Association, PO Box 60869, Canyon, TX 79016-0001 or rhansen@mail.wtamu.edu.

The 14th Biennial International Conference on Baroque Music will take place at Queen's University Belfast, from June 30-July 4, 2010. The theme of this conference-BACH-has been inspired by the symbolism of ‘14,’ Bach's numeric signature, and will commemorate the anniversaries of the deaths of Johann Sebastian (260th), Anna Magdalena (250th) and Maria Barbara (290th), as well as the 300th birthday of Wilhelm Friedemann. Participants may wish to incorporate the theme but proposals relating to any aspect of Baroque music are welcome. Proposals are invited for: 1) individual papers of 20 minutes duration (followed by questions and discussion) or 2) themed and round-table sessions of one and a half hours duration (including discussion). Individuals may submit one proposal in the form of an abstract of not more than 250 words (individual papers), or not more than 350 words (group sessions) to Yo Tomita (baroque.conference@qub.ac.uk). The deadline for receipt of abstracts is January 15, 2010.



Recent Publications

Books and Articles

Chrissochoidis, Ilias. “‘true Merit always Envy rais’d’: The Advice to Mr. Handel (1739) and Israel in Egypt’s early reception.” Musical Times, vol. 150, no.  1906 (Spring 2009): 69-86.


Russian Settings of Robert Burns. Vassily Savenko and Alexander Blok. Toccata Classics. TOCC 0039, 2009.

Tovey — Chamber Music, Volume One: Piano Trios. The London Piano Trio. Toccata Classics. TOCC 0068. 2009.


England, My England: The Story of Henry Purcell. DVD directed by Tony Palmer. West Long Branch, NJ: Distributed by Kultur International Films, 2007.


Back to Newsletters