|NEWSLETTER||Vol. 4, No. 1|
Ilias Chrissochoidis on a find at the Folger, the 2008 NABMSA conference schedule,
book reviews and more
Table of Contents
Send your news, review requests, and article suggestions to Kendra Leonard, Newsletter Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org
If such a thing as historical counter-offensive exists, the Folger Shakespeare Library is the perfect example. Only blocks away from the US Congress and across the street from America’s national library and supreme court, it lets British culture radiate through the heart of a former enemy. Folger’s mission to institute an Anglophile Eden right on Capitol Hill would have delighted George III.
On the bright side, George I liked opera and helped create the Royal Academy of Music, thus pushing London to the top tiers of European music centers. Equally excited was he about masquerades, introduced by opera manager John James Heidegger, one of Handel’s earliest patrons in England. A huge cash machine, this type of aristocratic entertainment allowed Heidegger to offset chronic deficits from his opera productions and made him the undisputed leader of big spectacle in Britain. Strong objections from moralists and the clergy were not enough to prevent George from attending them. The satirical ballad, never published before, helps explain why:
On the King’s going to the Masquerade. (1721.)
[Folger, MS ADD 1215, vol. 2:30]
The ballad offers an insulting portrait of George I. He appears as a sexual pervert chasing voluptuous English girls despite his advanced age and linguistic impotency. Particularly offending is the last stanza, which denies him even the capacity for plain reasoning. The devastating contrast between the senile king and a clever girl leads to one conclusion: Britain doesn’t deserve its barbarian foreign ruler.
Such an incident could easily have been a Jacobite invention targeting a detested monarch. Much in the poem fits, however, the historical record. George was approaching sixty-one in early 1721. At this age, royal philandering in public space looked doubly ridiculous. The “greasy old Frow” was presumably Melusine von der Schulenburg, his unofficial spouse following a tragic divorce from his wife (a bloody affair suitable for Hollywood). The slur could partly apply to his other mistress, Sophia Charlotte von Kielmansegg, who was “corpulent & ample.” Horace Walpole recalled his terror as a child at “her enormous figure.” (1) Craggs, finally, was “James Craggs jun. Esq; one of his Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State.” (2) The latter’s premature death on February 16, (3) helps date the incident in the winter of 1720/21.
Historical or fictional, the adventure had little effect on George’s fondness for masquerades. On March 18, 1721, he offered a present of £500 to Heidegger, (4) by then widely known as “Director of the King’s Balls.”(5) Although protests from the clergy eventually forced the temporary suspension of masquerades, (6) Heidegger soon replaced them with ridottos (“a mask’d Masquerade”(7)), which once again were “By’th’ Court approv’d of, by the K[ing] protected.” (8)
(1) Horace Walpole, Reminiscences (Oxford: Clarendon, 1924), 29.
(2) The Present State of the British Court (London: A. Bell et al., 1720), 3.
(3) The Daily Courant, no. 6030, Friday 17 February 1721, . Horace Walpole relates that he “caught his death by calling at the gate of Lady March, who was ill of the smallpox, & being told so by the Porter, went home directly, fell ill of the same distemper & died”: Reminiscences, 36.
(4) Otto Erich Deutsch, Handel: A Documentary Biography (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1955), 124.
(5) [John Macky], A Journey through England, 2nd edn (London: J. Hooke, 1722), 68.
(6) Norman Sykes, Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London, 1669-1748: A Study in Politics & Religion in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford University Press / London: Humphrey Milford, 1926), 187-92.
(7)The Universal Spectator, and Weekly Journal, no. 191, Saturday 3 June 1732, .
(8) Moses Statute, Ridotto: Or, Downfall of Masquerades (London: A. Moore, 1723), 11.
This schedule is preliminary. A final schedule will be posted in June.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Professor Linda Phyllis Austern
PANEL: “Gender, Politics, and Allegory in the Stuart-Era Masque”
Jennifer Myers: “‘Who, though not Black in face, Yet are they bright and full of life and light’: The Conceit of Queen Anne and her Strategic Performance of Blackness
ROOM A: And Music at the Close: William Walton
Michael Byde: “Walton and His Critics: A Composer Growing Old”
ROOM B: Mendelssohn in Albion
Colin Eatock: “Mendelssohn’s Conversion to Judaism: An English Perspective”
ROOM C: Nostalgia and Empire in British Pop
Amy Kimura: “The Glory of Being Boring: Social Criticism Through Multiple Perspectives in the Kink’s Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire”
ROOM A: Victorian Voices
Julia Grella O’Connell: “Voice, Hearing, and Musical Conversion in Victorian England”
ROOM B: At the Royal College: Vaughan Williams, Williams and Maconchy
Jenny Doctor: “‘ It's all so vital and full to the brim’: Fifty Years of the Correspondence Between Elizabeth Maconchy and Grace Williams”
ROOM C: Irrational Entertainments I: Georgian Britain
Ilias Chrissochoides: “A Founding Father of Social Responsibility in Music? Handel in Georgian Britain”
SESSION 3: Two-paper sessions
ROOM A: Politics, Musical and Otherwise
Thomas Irvine: “Conflict and Compromise: Walter Leigh’s Suite für kleines Orchester zu Shakespeare’s Ein Sommernachtstraum”
ROOM B: Pleasures and Perversities in Victorian Britain
Christina Fuhrmann: Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855): Pervert or Prophet?”
ROOM C: Living Voices: Maw and Turnage
Kenneth Gloag: Fundamental Polarities and Stylistic Identities in Nicholas Maw’s Scenes and Arias”
ROOM D: “Sweetest of Sweets, I Thank You”: Church Music
Stephanie Martin: “Willan and Elgar”
ROOM A: British Opera at the Fin-de-siècle
Aaron Keebaugh: “‘To Worship His Country and Die for the Green’: Charles Villiers Stanford’s Shamus O’Brien and the Fantasy of Nationalism”
ROOM B: In Honour of Nicholas Temperley: Musical Mores in Victorian Britain
Charles Edward McGuire: “A History of the Festival: Victorian Progress, the People, and Charity versus Competition”
ROOM C: McLuhan was Right: the Medium is the Message
Christina Baade: “Performing British Heritage? Place, Memory and Big Bands in the 2000s”
LECTURE-RECITAL: Philip Adamson: “Arnold Bax’s Sonata no. 2”
ROOM A: Intimate Ideologies
Amy E. Zigler: “‘Something Yet Unvoiced’: A Stylistic Examination of Ethel Smyth’s Sonata in C minor for ‘Cello and Piano as a Singular Perspective into Late-Nineteenth Century Romanticism”
ROOM B: The Roaring ‘20s
Jeremy Fox: “From the Steppes via the Champs Elysees: the Impact of Stravinsky’s Russian Ballets on British Composers and Concert-goers”
ROOM C: Bridge and Britten
Ciara Burnel: “Dances of Death and Nostalgic Waltzes: the Connotations of Dance Idioms in the Late Orchestral Works of Frank Bridge”
ROOM A: Irrational Entertainments II: Georgian Britain
Sarah Yuill McCleave: “Opera According to the English Taste, or, The Middlesex Opera Company in England”
DANCE: English Country Dance Session and workshop with caller Karen Millyard (Toronto English Country Dancers) and live music by Playford's Pleasure
Reviewed by Nicholas Temperley
Of the four principal regions of the British Isles, Wales is the one that has received the least attention from musicologists, especially for the earlier centuries. Vague notions of bards, harpers and eisteddfods, with perhaps an inkling of the writings of Geraldus Cambrensis, are about the sum of most people’s knowledge of medieval Welsh music, and I am afraid I was more or less in that condition myself until I read this book. Sally Harper has taken a gigantic leap forward in this largely unknown territory.
She presents her book as a source study, and she admits outright that sources of notated music are quite meager, because most Welsh music was orally transmitted right up to the eighteenth century. But she has found a wealth of information about music in a host of other sources, “embracing historical and theoretical writing in Welsh, Latin and English; poetry, liturgical books, chronicles, inventories, statutes, chantry certificates, accounts, wills, household correspondence, diaries, bills of complaint and records of court cases” (1). She could have added visual materials to the list, such as early maps, architectural drawings, portraits, stained glass windows, and sketches, which are reproduced in generous quantity in these pages and are a great help towards gaining a sense of this unknown and silent musical world.
The sources have been tracked down and ransacked with astonishing diligence by Dr. Harper, who shows both ingenuity and appropriate caution in the deductions and inferences she draws from them. This is particularly impressive in the first of the book’s three parts, dealing with medieval secular music (cerdd dant). Here she seems fully at home in the nuances of the Welsh language and the complexities of poetical prosody, though she has only lived in Wales since 1991. She glides with equal facility over the identification of English tunes found in certain Welsh tune lists and the technical analysis of the few surviving examples of harp tablatures and other cryptic notations from the period.
It is less surprising, but gratifying, to find the author thoroughly at home in Part II, “The Latin Liturgy, Its Chant and Embellishment,” since she is already known as a specialist on English medieval church music. In Part III, “Welsh Music in and English Milieu c. 1550–1650,” she shows mastery of another, very different field where Anglican church music holds a prominent place and where many readers will feel they are on more familiar ground. The appendix of liturgical manuscripts, bibliography, and index are equally thorough. It is difficult to imagine that there is much left for future scholars to discover about early Welsh music.
Dr. Harper is no nationalist, either by background or temperament. She refrains from making extravagant claims for the importance or uniqueness of Wales in musical history and does not hesitate to point out cases where its music was clearly derivative of or inferior to that of England or Ireland, or was merely a minor portion of the international system of Roman Catholic liturgical music. For this reason it is all the easier to sympathize with her evident regret at the irretrievable loss of Welsh bardic music as a living tradition, though it seems that recent discoveries have allowed plausible reconstructions of the arts of the harp, the crwth, and the singing styles of earlier times. In Part III Dr. Harper shows clearly how in the 16th century Wales succumbed to the steam-roller of anglicization, as the noble families who had supported indigenous music found that the only way to maintain their standing was by the adoption of English language, customs, and culture.
The chapters dealing with post-Reformation church music are the only ones in which I can claim any expertise. The story of the four Welsh cathedrals is a melancholy one, as dwindling resources made it more and more difficult for them to maintain even a passable standard of choral services; as Dr. Harper is aware, the situation was not much better in many English provincial cathedrals at the time. A brighter picture emerges from the private chapel of Sir Thomas Myddleton at Chirk Castle.
As for parochial church music, the author points out that the English metrical psalm tunes were readily adapted to one of the strict meters of traditional Welsh verse (184.108.40.206 turning into 220.127.116.11). She is mistaken in assuming that in the later 16th century “the psalms were probably sung line-by-line with the congregation imitating the parish clerk (where one existed), a practice known as ‘lining-out’ ” (342). This practice was introduced in 1645, and it never involved musical imitation: the clerk read out (or later, intoned) each line, then led the congregation in singing it to the selected tune. She rightly emphasizes the historical importance of Edmund Prys’s Welsh metrical psalm book, Llyfr y Psalmau (London, 1621). It is astonishing to learn that it “was the first book in Welsh ever printed to include music.” Its four “new” tunes are reproduced on page 351, but Dr. Harper does not claim positively that they are Welsh compositions, and indeed one of them was later claimed as the work of Orlando Gibbons. One has to await the Methodist movement for examples of original composition by Welsh musicians, unless one includes Thomas Tomkins, who was born in Wales (of Cornish parents) but left it for good at the age of 14 in 1586. Earlier Welsh musicians probably did not set a high value on originality. Although we cannot experience their music directly, this book is the nearest we will ever come to understanding their significance in the life of the Welsh people.
Of course, the story of one musical culture yielding to another has been repeated all over the world. When it is actually happening it can be observed by ethnomusicologists. When it lies in the past, it has to be unearthed from documents, a difficult process which Sally Harper has accomplished in exemplary fashion.
Positioning Welsh popular music, or for that matter any popular music from a culture that exists in the shadow of a powerful neighbor, is a tricky proposition. Sarah Hill, in her excellent new historical survey of Wales and its relationship to popular music, attempts to provide the first overview of the evolution of popular music in that country. While preliminary in certain respects, the book undoubtedly offers the best discussion to date of the complex relationship Wales has had with its own popular music and its influences.
The book is divided into three sections: the first outlines the terms of her project, how she defines popular music, the theoretical and hermeneutical windows through which her project will operate, and the parameters with which she delimits the scope of her book. Key to this is the distinction that she will not be dealing exclusively with Welsh language lyrics, but rather music that in some respects identifies itself with Wales or is concerned with Welsh issues. The second third of the book is devoted to a concentrated cultural history of popular music in Wales, focusing on the 1940s through the rest of the twentieth century. Finally, the book concludes with five case studies, each examining a different subgenre of popular music.
The opening theoretical discussion perhaps unsurprisingly positions her work as firmly in the sociological tradition of Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams. This approach to Welsh popular music is adapted largely on Williams’ “structure of feeling” principle, which posits that culture is derived from the combined desires of its populace. This effectively gives Hill permission to reconcile the potentially game-ending reality that throughout its history Welsh popular music has been almost entirely derived from Anglo-American sources with the added complication of the Welsh language.
The second section is more problematic, since, in 50 pages, Hill attempts to summarize one hundred years of popular music in Wales. This necessitates some frustrating limitations. First, the reader is left wondering what popular music traditions existed in Wales before the twentieth century; indeed, given the cursory attention given to music before 1940, the impression is given that very little popular music making occurred in Wales before the Second World War. Second, Hill’s earlier broad definition of popular music is bypassed here for a much narrower view that focuses almost entirely on guitar-based folk and rock music, ignoring important electronic genres such as techno, house and rap. This limitation is surprising, given the importance of such genres in Wales, such as demonstrated by the popularity of the artists in the loose collection of D.J.s, the F.A.T. Collective. While hip-hop is discussed in the third section as a case study, she, perhaps understandably, ignores more humorous acts such as the popular Goldie Lookin’ Chain for bands with a more political edge such as Y Tystion. These shortcomings, however, are minor given the fascinating story she does tell of the unique way Welsh artists forged a style out of already existing Anglo-American musical cultures. The rural nature of much of Wales, in combination with the pervasive influence of the chapel, worked to create a largely conservative musical climate that imitated rather than innovated. Nevertheless, this derivative musical sound was consistently used in politically progressive ways to encourage cultural change. Often raising as many questions as it answers, Hill’s history focuses on the complex contradiction that while in this music the Welsh language is deployed as a weapon against the constant pressure from English language influences, the music itself is entirely indebted to these same influences.
The third section takes the second section’s broad history as a starting point and focuses on case studies. Here the reader’s patience is rewarded by an elegantly constructed series of essays that problematize and deconstruct those earlier historical simplifications. In one essay, she examines the way in which reggae operates as an effective marker of alienation in Welsh music, centering her discussion on Geraint Jarman’s reggae-infused recordings of the late 1970s and early 80s. While the musical discussion is derived mostly from the familiar work of scholars such as Dick Hebdige and Simon Frith, her analysis of the cultural significance of this music is powerful and convincing.
Even stronger is Hill’s discussion of the function of the music of Datblygu, a popular 1980s band who, using the Anglo-American language of contemporary new wave pop, constructed music that spoke to uniquely Welsh concerns. Here, Hill’s approach successfully encompasses both words and music, and in a particularly striking section, reveals how lead singer Dave Edwards’ vocal style marked for Welsh audiences specifically a sense of removal from tradition, a revolutionary assumption of an individual subjectivity absent throughout so much of Welsh popular music history.
The five case studies that comprise the book’s final section are its strongest component, but the book would be incomplete without the earlier sections; they are necessary for contextualizing what strikes me as the fundamental contribution of Hill’s work. She demonstrates how Welsh music has consistently used the tools of Anglo-American popular genres to tell specifically Welsh stories. Through the genres of folk, reggae, new wave, pop/rock, and rap, Welsh musicians continue to reconfigure old sounds to address the concerns of themselves and their audience. Hill’s study is a remarkable examination of these techniques, and a welcome and exciting addition to the still-too-small collection of works on popular music that suggest ways of reading these complex texts.
Reviewed by Eric Hung
Since September 2003, the innovative publisher Continuum has been releasing 100-page monographs on seminal popular musicians and bands in its 33 1/3 series. Currently, there are over 50 volumes in print and many more are forthcoming. Although each book is titled after a single album, most cover significant portions or the entire careers of their subjects.
A significant strength of the series is the highly varied backgrounds of the authors. Although journalists, editors and rock critics are best represented, there are also academics from various disciplines (Allan Moore, Daphne Brooks and Franklin Bruno), musicians (Colin Meloy and Warren Zanes), museum curator and EMP Pop Conference organizer Eric Weisbard, and self-proclaimed “fanatics” who work outside the music industry. One result of this diversity is the contrasting approaches of the different volumes. While some are essentially “life-and-works,” others focus on the cultural context of a band’s works, the genesis of specific albums, or the meanings of a particular band to the author.
Given the venue of this review, a pertinent question is whether this series might serve as a model of musicological writings in the future. Superficially, these books bare little resemblance to “scholarship”; there are no footnotes or musical examples. Nonetheless, most volumes are not only well-researched and engagingly written, but many also share keen musical insights without the use of technical language.
The authors of the three installments under review are all music critics and editors. The best is Unknown Pleasures byChris Ott, a former editor at Pitchfork.com (a leading alternative music site). The book is a “life-and-works” of the short-lived band Joy Division, which formed initially as a punk band in late 1976. Ott masterfully details the band’s stylistic evolution over the next three and a half years. Of particular value is his extended discussion of the techniques and equipment used by producer Martin Hannett, who gave Joy Division its signature atmospheric sound despite objections from the band’s two guitarists. Without much technical language, Ott is able to describe captivating timbral and textural effects and the electronic manipulations that made them possible. His thorough examination of the factors that led to lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980 is also notable.
Mike McGonigal’s discussion of My Bloody Valentine’s influential album, Loveless, is also worth reading. Founder and editor of the quirky culture journal YETI, McGonigal takes us through the many twists and turns in the making of this album. The strength and the weakness of this volume are his interviews with Kevin Shields and other members of the band; their extended comments on the album are interesting and often thought-provoking, but I wished that McGonigal had shared more of his own thoughts and analyzed the band’s remarks more thoroughly. In the rare occasions when he does allow his voice to come through, as in the chapter on the sexuality of the album, McGonigal’s commentary is insightful. This makes his virtual disappearance from so much of the book a particular shame.
By far the worst of the three is Scott Plagenhoef’s book on Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996). Written in a rambling and slightly preachy style by the Associate Editor-in-Chief at Pitchfork, this volume nevertheless offers some interesting insights. He places the early work of B&S in the context of the emerging Britpop movement and argues quite convincingly about the “retro” nature of the band’s music, with its emphasis on beauty and traditional songcraft. Overall, however, the volume is as much about B&S as it is about Plagenhoef’s nostalgia for the days before the Internet and the iPod.
Reviewed by Laura Meadows
Some of the most distinguished and prolific writers on Elgar seem to have recently had the urge to write reflective books about the composer with whom they have lived with for so much of their lives and 2007 turned out, unsurprisingly, to be a bumper year for publications: Elgar’s 150th Anniversary certainly provided the enthusiast with a myopia of material to choose from and of those produced, McVeagh’s is certainly the best biography/musical commentary. Read in the light that it is meant to appeal to a wider readership, not solely an academic one, this little book is solid gold.
McVeagh was one of the first post-War authors to write a book about Elgar in 1955 and her current offering is another full-scale book that brings her old monograph up to date. McVeagh takes a chronological approach with each chapter dealing with certain time periods. Each chapter is then further separated into smaller segments dealing with a specific work or group of works, and whilst this concept makes it pithy, it draws attention to the fact that not a lot is said about Elgar’s early pieces. Most of the bulk of the writing is reserved for Elgar’s more substantial works, where there is perhaps more to say and it is here that McVeagh really gets into her stride. That said, points relating to the earlier works are discussed with the author’s authoritative narrative, demonstrating an intricate understanding, not only of Elgar’s works, but also of the man himself. Interspersed between discussions of the works are little biographical snippets, intended to help the reader understand what was happening in Elgar’s life at the time he was composing. The information provided in these ‘asides’ is always useful and insightful and helps break up the musical prose, which becomes lengthier in the later chapters.
Other reviewers have already commented on McVeagh’s detailed and excellent discussion of Falstaff and while I do not diasagree, I have to say it was her discussion of the symphonies that particularly impressed me. McVeagh deals with both of these weighty and complex symphonies with such tremendous and apparent ease, it made the present author marvel. The inherent harmonic problems raised by the First Symphony are all discussed with intricate but not over-complicated explanation, which is easy to understand and follow with a score, thanks to the helpful cue marks provided. Thematic development across the entire symphony is also explored and expanded upon, showing a masterly grasp of Elgar’s creative, “mosaic” process. McVeagh’s appeal here is that not only does she tackle complex academic issues, she does so with simple, immediately understandable language and that is why her first book was, and is still, so popular. If anything, this book is even better because McVeagh has benefited from hearing the works performed and her obvious love of them over such a long time shines through at every opportunity. It is often as if she is speaking to you – drawing your attention to a particular moment in the music that she loves and wants you to understand why she loves it, so that you will too. Reading this book is like being taken into someone’s confidence.
Elgar The Music Maker is already a success amongst academics and enthusiasts and all sides of McVeagh’s readership benefit in the same way: her often journalistic, highly readable written style, combined with an expert knowledge, make this book an easy but informative read and one that will certainly be referred to again and again.
Reviewed by Raphael D. Thöne
Pwyll ap Siôn’s deliberate study, The Music of Michael Nyman. Texts, Contexts and Intertexts, does not quite follow the predicted path to view Nyman’s music: only in comparison to other British contemporary composers, only pointing towards the question of tonality versus atonality or only how much avant-garde one could still identify in Nyman’s works.
Fortunately he also does not focus on Nyman as a phenomenon of popular culture. Instead, he develops his own criteria that give consideration to the specific applied methods of this composer. He discusses Nyman’s aesthetics as they are represented by own writings and also distinguishes between works intended for the concert stage and those initially written for films.
In his initial chapter, he highlights one prominent feature of Nyman’s compositional style: the borrowing or appropriating of features from another composition or, more clearly, from the stylistic features of other composers. He argues that, in order to understand Nyman’s approach, it is essential to look at one’s definition of ‘originality’ and how this is contextualized in each quotation within a piece, separately, and not by any means generalized (3).
He underscores this by analyzing In Re Don Giovanni (1977), demonstrating, by providing clear music-theoretic evidence, how Nyman has generated every single note from the opening sixteen bars from Mozart’s ‘Ill Catalogo’ aria from Don Giovanni (9ff). Rather than accusing Nyman of musical plagiarism, he develops the image of Nyman as an ‘archaeologist, uncovering artifacts and chiseling fresh and vibrant sonic edifices out of them’ (13). This image is very helpful. It shifts the emphasis from the simple, and perhaps seemingly foolish, act of ‘borrowing’ to the creative act of creating a new piece of (art) music.
After a short biographic excursion, in which he outlines Nyman’s vivid musicological interest and knowledge of Baroque music (15-27), he addresses his first key question: texts in context. His starting point is that Nyman’s own vehement criticism of the European avant-garde can be viewed as a thread in all of his writings as a music critic between 1968-1971 (29ff). However, Siôn is right in not offering simple answers to such an essential aesthetic question: Nyman’s criticism of some of Stockhausen’s major works in these days is not quoted out of context, or even abridged, and thus is always presented in balance (31-32).
Siôn suggests that Nyman’s acquaintance with major figures of the American and British experimental music and the American minimalist movement such as Steve Reich, directly led to the composition of Bell Set No. 1 (1973), a piece based upon a series of four simultaneously sounding rhythmic structures (40ff). Whereas Siôn’s analysis indeed creates the impression that Nyman’s piece may have been too closely related to Reich’s pattern-oriented compositional approach, his choice of discussing Nyman’s composition 1-100 for four or more pianos (1975) is very reasonable. This piece consists of a 100-chord number sequence that starts out as a perfect cycle of diatonic fifths in C major and then, through alterations and permutations moves into a chromatic set of major and minor chords. It is interpreted as a ‘relic from the past’ (p. 47), namely the Baroque epoch, but Siôn does not only describe this in musical terms, he questions this compositional approach aesthetically. The original Baroque technique, the harmonic progression, was here put into a process of ‘de-familiarization’. He describes 1-100 as a piece with a minimalist aesthetic, thus ‘evoking the modernist sound world from which it ostensibly attempts to escape’ (47). A similar analysis is then applied for Nyman’s First Waltz in D (50-56).
He then devotes a chapter to the question of intertextuality in Nyman’s music, explicitly adopting Nyman’s own inventory of intertextual types as his criteria (p.69). But he immensely expands Nyman’s differentiation of intertextual examples in his music by providing a helpful and new investigation model: intertextuality in Nyman’s music is for the first time researched upon its abstract or referential functionality (71). The first is discussed on various waltzes (73f), the latter shortly demonstrated at the opening figure of his String Quartet No. 3 (1990).
A large part of the book is reserved for the discussion of Nyman’s film music. Siôn chooses various Peter Greenaway films to discuss (81-113) as well as Jane Campion’s film The Piano (1993). He describes the radical alternative approach that Nyman and Greenaway established for their collaboration: the music here exists autonomously and is often conceptualized without the actual picture, an approach that is diametrical to the usual practice of writing film music that needs to fit the demands of the picture, rather than vice versa (85ff). Although Siôn is able to analyze various examples taken from these films, he could have possibly drawn more attention to a real philosophical and aesthetic discussion of the afore-said point.
Siôn’s analytic remarks on metric modulation and form in Nyman’s string quartets or the variations on John Bull’s17th-century Walsingham keyboard variation (151ff) are of high informative value and underscore his music-analytic skills.
In conclusion, Siôn’s line of argument is overall very clear, his research culture is oriented at the highest standard of both classical and critical musicology at the same time. Furthermore, his personal admiration of, and interest in, Nyman’s music, admitted at the very beginning in the introduction, does not lead to uncritical plaudit. He usually keeps his distance, aside from the very last sentence in his conclusion, in which he marks him out as ‘one of the late twentieth century’s most significant composers’ (p. 213). The book has indeed the potential to become a standard work in the Nyman bibliography and will surely be a basis for further research and elaboration on the oeuvre of this authentic British composer.
All the Gods: Benjamin Britten’s ‘Night-piece’ in Context by Christopher Wintle. Edited by Julian Littlewood. Poetics of Music, edited by Christopher Wintle. London: The Britten Estate Limited and the Institute of Advanced Musical Studies (KCL) in association with Plumbago Books, 2006.
Reviewed by Vicki Stroeher
In Christopher Wintle’s beautifully printed monograph, gracefully amplified with reproductions of photographs, manuscripts, and a Leeds Competition program, we are reminded that one can gain an incredible amount of insight from a small offering. The book itself is not overly long, but neither is the composition it examines. Through a rather meticulous and detailed analysis, however, Wintle writes large about Benjamin Britten’s miniature Night-piece, working his way gradually from the smallest internal decisions made by the composer to broader concepts, illuminated further in two previously published articles graciously reprinted in the appendices. The result is intriguing and stimulating, even if some of the conclusions drawn at the ends of sections in the last portion could have arisen more self-consciously.
The monograph is presented in four interrelated parts: “Documents,” “Scores,” “Theory and Analysis,” and “Ideas.” Each situates our vantage point, provides information, and posits theories necessary for the reading and understanding of the next. Wintle peels the work from the inside out, ultimately arriving at his expansion of Schoenberg’s concept of Steigerung (intensification) and his notion of the Neapolitan complex and its aesthetic impact. He interweaves these broad concepts throughout the monograph, sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly.
The second mini-article of “Part I: Documents” serves as a model for scholars working with multiple versions of a score (“Part II: Scores” functions likewise in its presentation of the autograph with its discarded portions and the printed score). First, Wintle had to deal with three versions of the score, two of which required transcription (a short discarded version and the autograph) and make decisions about how to represent erasures and cross outs, no easy task. He solves the problem of how to convey the differences and similarities among the versions by breaking the work into its formal components and unfolding them linearly. Thus, upon arrival at the point at which the discarded version leaves off, we are left with negotiating only the autograph and the published score. The examples are quite clear, as he does not clutter them with all three versions except when necessary. His narrative illuminates the seemingly small decisions that Britten made, but which had a much more far-reaching impact. Though the text is incredibly detailed and by the nature of its subject tedious, it is nonetheless easy to follow by virtue of Wintle’s clear writing style; further, he keeps an eye on the ultimate goal of explaining the occurrence of intensification and subsequent dissolution. In fact, “Part III: Theory and Analysis” would be very difficult to follow without Wintle’s gentle leadings from Part I. Early on, Wintle contextualizes his discussion of the various versions of the work by relating it to decisions its performers must make; regrettably, Wintle abandons this tack in subsequent portions of the book.
Thanks to Wintle’s ability to guide the reader through his observations, the Schenkerian analysis that forms the core of Part III is not as formidable as some. Though one might quibble as to whether a chord that never actually appears in the score should be considered a point of arrival, his analysis is, for the most part, well supported in the service of his ultimate goal in the monograph. The brief overviews of modes and scales that precede the analysis are helpful if a bit curtailed for some.
Having taken his readers quite carefully through the historical and critical context of the work, its various “texts” and finally a detailed analysis, Wintle reaches the crux of his long argument in the fourth part, “Ideas.” Four mini-articles comprise the section: “Tradition, Devotion, Creativity and Idea,” “Idea as Form,” “Idea as Steigerung (Intensification),” and “Idea as Neapolitan Complex.” In these lie both the strength and weakness of the monograph. The “ideas” Wintle unfolds are rich – having been drawn from diverse sources, including Hans Keller, T. S. Eliot, psychologist D. W. Winnicott, and Ernst Kurth. That being said, however, one wishes that Wintle had expounded upon his observations and thoughts further because of the value he reveals by their application. Many times we are left hanging in the midst or at the conclusion of an article with one of his universal truths – often a perfect expression – and desiring a more in-depth discussion of the idea (as for example with the notions of “creative play” and “constant becomingness”).
Though many will consider Wintle’s monograph to appeal solely to Britten scholars because of its seemingly narrow focus, it deserves a wider readership, simply for the “largeness” of the ideas within its small container.
Therese Ellsworth and Susan Wollenberg are the editors of The Piano in Nineteenth-Century British Culture: Instruments, Performers and Repertoire (Ashgate). Several authors, including Ellsworth (Introduction, “Victorian pianists as concert artists: the case of Arabella Goddard (1836-1922)), are members of NABMSA, including Nicholas Temperley (Foreword) and Dorothy de Val (“Fanny Davies: ‘a messenger for Schumann and Brahms’?”).
Shersten Johnson published "Strange, Strange Hallucination': Dozing and Dreaming in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice" appears in the newly released fifth volume of the Journal of Music and Meaning, an on-line peer-reviewed journal for multidisciplinary research on music and meaning. The article appears at:http://www.musicandmeaning.net/issues/showArticle.php?artID=4.4
Jennifer Oates was named to the faculty at the Graduate Center, CUNYin May 2007 and received tenure in the fall. Along with Prof. James John, Director of Choral Activities at Queens College, CUNY, she received as PSC-CUNY grant to make a professional recording and performance editions of Hamish MacCunn's partsongs. The Queens College Vocal Ensemble is recording the pieces this spring and summer and will have a "Mostly MacCunn" concert in Manhattan on June 15. She also received a Music & Letters travel grant for research in Scotland and to read a paper at the Music in the Nineteenth Century conference in Dublin this June.
Phyllis Weliver is now an assistant professor at Saint Louis University.
University College Dublin will host the 15th International Conference on Nineteenth-century Music from June 25-June 29, 2008. This marks the first time that the conference will take place at a university outside the United Kingdom. The full program will be posted shortly at http://www.ucd.ie/music/courses/International%2019th%20Century%20Conference.htm
Vauxhall Revisited: Pleasure Gardens and their Publics, 1660-1880:
A Three-Day Interdisciplinary Conference, accompanied by a Concert. Sponsored by Tate Britain and the Museum of Garden History, London, July 14-16, 2008.
Cultivating Britons: Culture and Identity in Britain, 1901 to 1936:
A One-Day Inter-disciplinary Conference at Oxford Brookes University,
Friday 19 September 2008
The Autumn 2008 issue of The Musical Times will be devoted entirely to British Music. http://www.musicaltimes.co.uk/archive/0801/index.html
This year's North American Victorian Studies Association conference will feature several panels related to music as a primary subject, including "The Economics of Productivity in the Arts" (chaired by Lawrence Poston and Nicholas Temperly), "Lyric Culture," chaired by Phyllis Weliver, and "Music and Nostalgia Victorian Britain," chaired by Charles McGuire. Other panels at the conference also invite abstracts from music historians and music theorists. The Conference will be held at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut from Nov. 14-16, 2008. http://www.cla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/navsa/
Ph.D.-DMA Programs in Music & Barry S. Brook Center for Musical Research and Documentation, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, North American British Music Studies Association, and The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society present: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958): Fifty Years On
Purcell, Handel & Literature,
Senate House, University of London
Music in Purcell's London: Only Purcell e're shall equal Blow,
The British Library Conference Centre, London, Saturday 4 October 2008
Books and Articles
Allen, Stephen Arthur. “Benjamin Britten” and “Michael Tippett.” In Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2008.
Barger, Judith. Elizabeth Stirling and the Musical Life of Female Organists in Nineteenth-Century England. Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Bevin, Elway. A Briefe and Short Instruction of the Art of Musicke. Ed. by Denis Collins. Music Theory in Britain, 1500-1700: Critical Editions. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Brett, Philip. William Byrd and His Contemporaries: Essays and A Monograph. Edited by Joseph Kerman and Davitt Moroney. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.
Chrissochoidis, Ilias. “A Chubby Orpheus: Handel’s Corpulence as a Prerogative of Genius.” In Consuming Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century: Narratives of Consumption, 1700-1900, ed. Tamara S. Wagner and Narin Hassan, 193-204. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007.
Chrissochoidis, Ilias. “A Handel Relative in Britain? (also Cutting through the 1759 Fence in Handel Studies).” Musical Times 148/1898 (Spring 2007): 49-58.
Clayton, Martin and Bennett Zon, eds. Music and Orientalism in the British Empire, 1780s-1940s. Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Cloonan, Martin. Popular Music and the State in the UK: Culture, Trade or Industry? Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Cohen, Sara. Decline, Renewal and the City in Popular Music Culture: Beyond the Beatles. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Cragg, Stewart R., compiler. Alan Bush: A Sourcebook. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Harper, Sally. Music in Welsh Culture Before 1650: A Study of Principal Sources. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Montgomery, Robert and Robert Threlfall. Music and Copyright: The Case of Delius and His Publishers. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
Vaughan Williams on Music. Edited by David Manning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.