Event—Public Programming

A New Fa-La: Musical Meaning in Early Modern English Non-Lexical Vocables


Non-lexical vocables such as fa-la and heigh-nonny-no are so deeply engrained in early modern English song that they became an iconic feature of this repertoire. Nonetheless, they were left out of Fellowes’ classic edition English Madrigal Verse (1920) for having “nothing to do with the poem.” Dr. Bank’s research challenges this view by making a case for the musical/textual significance of “nonsense” refrains. She will introduce why she believes the contemporary meaning of the fa-la was adaptable and far more nuanced than hitherto imagined and highlight some unusual instances of these ‘nonsense’ syllables. This presentation will feature short live musical examples.