Music in Elizabethan Culture
This seminar, offered in conjunction with the Fall 2003 Elizabeth I exhibit and the linked Newberry Consort concert of Elizabethan music at the Newberry Library, considered music in the intellectual and cultural contexts that would have been familiar to Elizabeth I and her very diverse subjects.
Like her father before her, Elizabeth was a practicing musician and patron of some of the leading composers and performers in all of Europe; the Newberry Library’s Special Collections houses original editions of many of their works, as well as modern editions of even more. But this audible music, as published in books of musical notation, provides only a fraction of the information available about music in England during the second half of the sixteenth century. In the early modern era, music occupied many more conceptual and aesthetic spaces than it does today. To an Elizabethan, music was far more than entertainment, or even a vital form of communication within a culture that was still largely oral. It was an audible representation of both divine and political harmony. It was a signifier of status and of membership in a particular community. It was an indispensable aspect of medicine, natural philosophy, animal husbandry, and the occult sciences, among other disciplines. It helped give shape to playhouse drama and courtly ceremonies, and stood at the center of religious and educational controversy.
As Sir Philip Sidney and Henry Peacham remind readers of books in the Newberry’s Special Collections, poets and rhetoricians were conscious of music even as they worked with words. Scholars and students of Elizabethan culture miss vital information if they neglect music; and scholars and performers of Elizabethan music miss just as much if they only consider conventional music books. This course proposes to bring together a group of graduate students and faculty from across English studies disciplines, including history, literature, music, gender studies and religious studies, to re-examine music, music materials, and musical information within the widest possible context. We will read some secondary scholarship and look at/listen to modern editions and performances of music. But the main focus will be on the range of Elizabethan documents concerned in some way with music, and what they can tell us about the intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic place of music as discourse, liberal art, science, sound, and conceptual tool.
Participants: Max Asinimov, Northwestern University; Paul Barker, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary; Cherrie Gottsleben, University of Illinois at Chicago; Megan Guenther, Northwestern University; Erin Kendall, Northwestern University; Kimberly Korol, Northwestern University; Jeff Lambert, Northwestern University; Jennifer McIntosh, Northwestern University; Robert Reinhart, Northwestern University; John Sievers, University of Minnesota; Jennifer Trowbridge, Northwestern University ; Hande Yorulmaz, Northwestern University; Natalie Zelensky, Northwestern University
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