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The Well-Tun’d Word

The Well-Tun’d Word: Musical Interpretations of English Poetry, 1597-1651

Elise Bickford Jorgens
Copyright Date: 1982
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Well-Tun’d Word
    Book Description:

    In The Well-Tun’d Word Elisa Bickford Jorgens studies changing msucial conventions in English song in relation to new patterns in poetic taste from the late Elizabethan era through the Jacobean and Caroline years, basing her work on the premise that any musical setting of a poem is an interpretation of the poem itself. Jorgen’s opening chapters describe and illustrate elements of the craft of poetry and the musical conventions that can represent them. Her presentation is both clear and thorough, and will be especially helpful for students and scholars of English literature who are not necessarily musicians. She then discusses four major categories of song: Measured Music, Dance Songs and Tuneful Airs, English Monody, and Pathetic Airs, and shows how each group changed during the first half of the seventeenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6321-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    John Hollander

    Our very notions of music and poetry depend upon a profound difference between the two arts, even to the fascinating question whether poetic texts rightly share with musical sound the empire of the ear at all, or whether writing is not by nature a trope for absent sound, and in a way in which actual musical notation is not. And yet since classical times, each art has appealed to its kinship with the other—in defining itself, in defending itself against attack, and in expounding itself to students and admirers. That kinship has been figured in many ways: a prelapsarian...

  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Elise Bickford Jorgens
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xv-xv)
  5. Musical Examples
    (pp. xvi-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Thomas Campion declared that his aim was “to couple [his] Words and Notes lovingly together.”¹ This famous statement has been taken as a manifesto of the impeccable union of poetry and music during the late Renaissance in England, and much has been written about the celebrated coupling by scholars of both music and literature.² Most of these investigations have approached the subject from the point of view of genres of song, and the differences between madrigal and lute song (which were considered synonymous at the start of the twentieth century) are now quite well understood with regard to both music...

  7. Part I Poetry and Music

    • Prologue
      (pp. 11-17)

      Between 1597 and 1651, the predominant styles of both lyric poetry and music in England changed significantly, and there is evidence in the solo songs that modes of musical interpretation of poetry changed too, in response to alterations in poetic taste. But major changes in style or shifts in interpretive emphasis appear as general changes only from a historical perspective. I wish to look at them not as major breaks but as parts of a continuing reevaluation of various attitudes composers held toward musico-poetic relationships, as they brought those attitudes to new musical tastes and new kinds of poetry. The...

    • Chapter 1 Music for Meter and Rhythm
      (pp. 18-50)

      Music and poetry are both structured temporal arts, depending on some kind of recurrence for the perception of their organization. They differ from the spatial arts in that their formal structures must be grasped in process, and the listener is not free to return his attention to specific events, except in memory.¹ Recurrence is therefore particularly crucial to the perception of temporal structure because there must be features that can, at some level, be recalled as determinants of form. But temporal organization involves nonrecurrent features as well. The term “rhythm” is often used in a broad sense to refer to...

    • Chapter 2 Music for Lines and Stanzas
      (pp. 51-72)

      The musical handling of poetic rhythm and accentual meter in song is inevitable. Without declamation—the actual setting of the syllables of the text—there would be no song. However, the treatment of the larger dimensions of poetic composition shows the depth of a composer’s understanding of a poem’s organization. Without interpretation of lines and stanzas, phrases, sentences and paragraphs, the wordscouldbe sung, but the result would be largely recitation, not art song. With the larger dimensions, the musician can begin to expand interpretive goals in more purely musical directions, for sensitive representation of the larger structural features...

  8. Part II English Songs and Their Poetry

    • Prologue
      (pp. 75-83)

      The musical development that is the primary focus of this study is the shift from the lute song to the continuo song as the favored type of secular, solo vocal music in England. The most obvious alterations in musical style involve melody and texture. The lute song of the first quarter of the seventeenth century often had a polyphonic accompaniment and contrapuntal interplay between voice and accompaniment; the melodic character in such songs is similar in all voices, including those of the accompaniment. The continuo song of the second quarter of the century features a treble melody setting the text,...

    • Chapter 3 Measured Music
      (pp. 84-126)

      The influence of humanism is one of the most important factors in the development of musico-textual relationships in the early seventeenth century. The interpretation of the Classical union of words and music adopted by French humanists gives a clear statement of a particular attitude toward a text. The movement affected English poets and musicians too, but its influence in England seems to have been less concentrated, and far less unified, than on the continent. The English were not as consistent as their continental counterparts in putting their beliefs about music and poetry into practice, and those beliefs themselves shifted during...

    • Chapter 4 Dance Songs and Tuneful Airs
      (pp. 127-169)

      Thus did John Playford introduce the Second Book of “Select Ayres and Dialogues. . . Composed by Mr. Henry Lawes . . . And other Excellent Masters,” in 1669. The implication is clear: that “light Ayres” do not appear in this collection, nor are they to be found in the works of “English” masters (like Henry Lawes). Such, of course, is not the case in this book or in any other of Playford’s collections, and though Lawes adopted a peculiarly English form of the air de cour, the label of “light Ayres” must certainly be applied to a considerable...

    • Chapter 5 English Monody
      (pp. 170-213)

      One of the most interesting features of solo song in England during the first half of the seventeenth century is its tendency to split into markedly different types. The songs cover a broad spectrum in musical style and attitude toward the text—from light, musically conceived dance songs, and textually oriented songs in the French vein (whose musical style tends to be simple and structured in a manner similar to the dance songs), to more obviously textually oriented types of strophic song and the first tentative experiments with recitative: the English monody. At the latter end of the spectrum is...

    • Chapter 6 Pathetic Airs
      (pp. 214-251)

      The last three chapters concerned three categories of solo song in Jacobean and Caroline England, clearly definable through their choice of conventions of setting a text, and representative of three particular attitudes toward which aspects of a poem might be represented in music. Each of the three types established a set of conventions for such elements as rhythmic declamation, phrase structure, and interpretive techniques, and each type had its own conventional relationship to the text; and although these conventions were handled somewhat differently in each group as we moved from the first quarter of the century to the second, and...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 252-258)

    The purpose of this study has been to look at the development of English solo song during the first half of the seventeenth century from the standpoint of varying attitudes toward what the musical half of the partnership will represent. Now we must try to draw together what happened to the various attitudes discussed in Chapters 3-6 to see whether they form a coherent picture of the reasons behind changing musical fashions and the dissolution of the union of music and poetry. If, as I believe, the particular development in English is inherently related to changes in poetic style, then...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 261-280)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-288)
  12. Index
    (pp. 291-298)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)