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The Advancement of Music in Enlightenment England

The Advancement of Music in Enlightenment England: Benjamin Cooke and the Academy of Ancient Music

Tim Eggington
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Advancement of Music in Enlightenment England
    Book Description:

    Amidst the cosmopolitan, fashion-obsessed concert life of later eighteenth-century London there existed a discrete counterculture borne of native musical culture. Now forgotten, this Enlightenment school of musical thinkers sought to further music by offering an alternative vision based on a high-minded intellectual curiosity. Perceiving only empty ostentation in mainstream music, they pursued their vision through recourse to universal exemplars from science, nature and ancient authority. Central to this group of musical thinkers was the now little-known figure of Benjamin Cooke. As organist of Westminster Abbey and conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music for much of the second half of the eighteenth century, Cooke was prominent and respected in his day as a composer, teacher, organist and theorist. This book shows how, through his creativity, historicism and theorising, Cooke was instrumental in defining and proffering an Enlightenment-inspired reassessment of musical composition and thinking at the Academy. The picture portrayed counters the current tendency to deride English music and composers of the eighteenth century as conservative and provincial. On the contrary, Cooke and other Academicians drew on a rich theoretical and intellectual hinterland, informed by principal currents in Enlightenment thought. This book reveals how such interests foreshadowed key developments that would dominate European music in the nineteenth century and after. It casts new and valuable light on our understanding, not just of English eighteenth-century musical life, but of Enlightenment culture more generally. TIM EGGINGTON is is College Librarian at Queens' College, Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-406-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Amidst the cosmopolitan, fashion-obsessed concert life of later eighteenth-century London existed a discrete musical counterculture centring on a regular gathering of musicians at the Crown and Anchor tavern on the Strand. Now forgotten, this school of musical thinkers sought through a high-minded intellectual curiosity to further music by proffering an alternative vision. Perceiving only ear-tickling ostentation in the light and showy styles that delighted London audiences, they sought to raise the status of music as an art of profound expression, informed by its past and founded on universal harmonic principles.

    An essential role in this story is played by the...

  7. CHAPTER 1 The Academy of Ancient Music: Foundation and Early Years
    (pp. 4-43)

    In 1732 the directors of the Academy of Ancient Music grandly announced in a published letter ‘great Things in Design’ for the ‘Advancement of the Harmonick Science’.¹ No idle boast, this reflected an intention to raise the status of music via a concerted historical and theoretical reassessment of it. Throughout much of the eighteenth century the ambition evident in this statement would resonate in the activities of the Academy and those associated with it.

    As one of the earliest organisations to perform a repertory of old music as part of a semi-public concert series, the establishment of the Academy has...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Benjamin Cooke: Upbringing, Education and Career
    (pp. 44-67)

    Given that many of Cooke’s greatest successes were achieved under the auspices of the Academy of Ancient Music it comes as little surprise to find that much of what is known of him relates to that society, its members, and their activities. The ‘filial Regard’¹ Cooke professed for the Academy is reflected in the apparent importance he attached to his work as Academy ‘Conductor’ compared to his treatment of his other main career position as organist of Westminster Abbey. Despite its undoubted prestige and the fact that predecessors included Orlando Gibbons, Henry Purcell and John Blow, the latter post appears...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Cooke and the Academy of Ancient Music, 1752–84
    (pp. 68-103)

    From Pepusch’s death in 1752 until its transformation into a professional concert society in 1784 the Academy led a shadowy existence, there being few references to it in newspaper reports or indeed anywhere else. Yet in many ways it was during this period that the founder academicians’ promise of ‘Great Things in Design’ for the advancement of ‘Harmonick Science’ achieved its most significant results.¹ We will see evidence of this in a variety of developments which together point to a reappraisal of music both as an art form and as a theoretically grounded discipline. In Benjamin Cooke’s innovative Academy compositions...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Musical Discovery in the Age of Enlightenment: History, Theory and the Academy of Ancient Music
    (pp. 104-134)

    Our story so far of the academicians’ performance of old and new music as part of a prescient agenda to advance the art of music clearly assigns them a position of considerable interest and importance in eighteenth-century English culture. In this chapter we will widen our gaze to explore further the intellectual contexts that moulded the academicians’ ambitions, and their very real engagement with that intellectual and social phenomenon nowadays associated with modernity, the Enlightenment. To proceed, we must first consider what is meant by that term which, bearing no universally agreed definition, must be handled with due care. Initially...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Musical Conjectures (1769)
    (pp. 135-166)

    Initially written in 1769, when at the height of his composing powers,Musical Conjecturesrepresents Cooke’s only comprehensive pros on speculative music theory. As such it complements and informs numerous theoretically motivated musical movements and annotations now in the Cooke Collection which otherwise would make little sense. Of the several reasons put forward by Cooke for recording his theoretical ideas, the following Platonically influenced aspiration holds particular resonance within the broader context of his work at the Academy:

    that good Music and true Harmony may long continue to improve & flourish in these Kingdoms to the promotion of Religion & Virtue and...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Cooke’s Part Songs and Orchestral Anthems
    (pp. 167-204)

    Given that the early academicians’ boast of ‘great Things in Design’ was largely motivated by an aspiration to advance composition, it is natural that this study should culminate with a consideration of works by the Academy’s most frequently performed composer-member, Cooke. After all that has been said thus far concerning Cooke’s enthusiasm for theory and history, an element of academic pedantry might seem inevitable in his music. This, however, was never the case: on the contrary, throughout his long composing career Cooke exuded a distinctive musical personality born of a genuine creative talent. A winning characteristic permeating much of Cooke’s...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Morning Hymn and Collins’s Ode
    (pp. 205-249)

    More than any other Cooke projects, those under discussion in this chapter encapsulate the distinctive aims of the Academy, both musical and philosophical. Both display in more advanced form qualities with which, in the course of the previous chapter, we have become accustomed: bold and imaginative orchestration and a highly developed sense of style consciousness. It was due, in part, to such qualities thatThe Morning HymnandCollins’s Ode, both of which were published by subscription, came to define Cooke’s career as his most accomplished achievements. Within the context of this study the literary dimension to both makes them...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 250-257)

    The year 1784 marks a turning point in the life of Cooke, the Academy, and the effective end to our story. For Cooke in particular it brought two severe personal setbacks, the first being the death of his wife, Mary Cooke, in March. In the context of this study, however, it is the second of these setbacks that concerns us most: the Academy’s move to Freemasons’ Hall, and with it the demise of the Academy as it had existed over the previous fifty-eight years. Although Cooke continued to compose interesting and imaginative music, after this time he produced no further...

  15. APPENDIX 1 Letter to David Perez in Lisbon, 1774
    (pp. 258-258)
  16. APPENDIX 2 Musical Conjectures: ‘Instances of Expression by Use of the Common Scale’
    (pp. 259-261)
  17. APPENDIX 3 The Cooke Collection: A Brief Description
    (pp. 262-268)
  18. List of Cooke’s Works
    (pp. 269-280)
  19. Bibliography and Suggested Reading
    (pp. 281-294)
  20. Index
    (pp. 295-304)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-306)