Like it or loathe it, the Early Music movement of especially the 1970s and beyond challenged contemporaneous performative norms of Western art music for better and for worse, for both listeners and performers. The inevitability and universality of nineteenth-century Romantic interpretative attitudes could no longer be taken for granted. Such experiential crises had of course existed in earlier times. The apparent rediscovery of the theatre and music of the Elizabethan age towards the end of the nineteenth century threw up one such challenge. The quintessential musical instrument of Elizabethan domesticity, the lute, for example, no longer possessed mere gestural symbolism, it also necessitated acoustic signification, though it was well into the twentieth century before that became a reality. Arthur Sullivan’s piano (quasi ‘harp’) accompaniment to his setting of Queen Katherine’s piteous song Orpheus with his lute (H8 3.1), for instance, effectively undermines the ‘performance integrity’ of the music according to aesthetic performance theory involving ‘honesty, genuineness, even sincerity’. Sam Wanamaker’s vision of recreating the playing conditions of Shakespeare’s theatre, realized at the very end of the twentieth century, has resulted, according to Claire van Kampen, in the phenomenon that ‘the performance of Shakespeare all over the world has, by 2015, been most decidedly affected by the playing style of performances at Shakespeare’s Globe’ (p. 53). This involved the incorporation of Elizabethan costume/clothing, period musical instruments, and appropriate early modern (‘historical’) music combining to produce what was termed ‘Original Practices’ in order to explore original ‘authentic’ working practices. The first notable and memorable experiment was the anniversary production of Twelfth Night in 2002, which achieved remarkable success and even transferred to Broadway in 2013–14. It is not surprising, therefore, that the contents of this book, mostly derived from a conference organized by the editors and held at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2013, is couched in postmodern music performance concepts and practices, referencing both historically informed performance and classical/popular crossover techniques. The aim of the collection of essays is to discuss the influential role of practical music in Shakespeare production from the late sixteenth century to the present day, offering insights into contextuality and stylistic considerations, affected by the availability of specific instrumentalists (and singers) at differing stages in theatre history, varietal contemporaneous music practices, reception history, and more recently the impact of technology and screen. The book is divided into five sections: the first two essays provide a preliminary context for many of the issues surrounding the music used, instrumentalists and singers, and performance settings found in Shakespeare’s theatre, more specifically ‘Theatre Bands and their Music’ by William Lyons and ‘Performance Spaces … at Jacobean Indoor Playhouses’ by Simon Smith. There follows a miscellany of essays, gathered chronologically according to century under the general subheadings ‘In Practice I–IV’, concluding with a lively, insider review by the Director of Music at Shakespeare’s Globe, Bill Barclay, of a selection (possibly the highlights) of the thirty-eight productions (recte First Folio plays plus Pericles and the narrative poem ‘Venus and Adonis’) at the 2012 Globe-to-Globe Festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad. A summary table of the musical content of each show is appended, in which the productions are categorized by: number of musicians, type of music (composer/sound designer) and performance (live or pre-recorded), distinctive musical attributes and influences, stage placement, as well as the name of the touring company and the language of delivery. The author says: ‘I particularly noted scores comprised of traditional musical styles native to their respective countries, and examined productions that brought music into moments in the plays that typically go without’ (p. 256). The result is a reinterpretation of Shakespeare performance by way of music interlocution. Or, as Jon Trenchard remarks earlier in the book, it is the ‘practical business of picking up Shakespeare’s music cues and reperforming them’ (p. 240). The integration of music, the use of specific instruments, and the disposition of musicians in the indoor playhouses of the early seventeenth century are the focus of Simon Smith’s essay. Music locations have significant impact for dramatic intent and effect, not least because the musicians themselves ‘appear as strikingly dynamic playhouse presences, not altogether different from the actors making their exits and their entrances … musicians occupy a liminal place within diegetic worlds’ (p. 40). This essential observation about the role of musicians on stage as actors informs discussion in other essays in this book. In a number of plays, Shakespeare famously designates the actor-musician. Claire van Kampen, for example, draws our attention to the ‘difficult role’ of Feste and the solutions brought to bear in the Globe’s ‘Original Practice’ production of Twelfth Night, in which the music of the actor on stage is seamlessly entwined with the sounds emanating from the gallery above. The acoustic effect is convincing. The success of the music for that production was not so much due to its periodicity as to its historical uniqueness encapsulating the specialness of the whole production. To a lesser extent but no less effective was the ‘shawm-based’ musical score for Richard III, which van Kampen posits as an experiential musical contrast with the production of Twelfth Night. The function of music and musicians in the indoor playhouses occupies important aspects of the discussion proposed in successive essays by Linda Phyllis Austern and Lucy Munro. In her captivating essay on ‘Shakespearean (Inter-) Theatricality in Beaumont’s “Knight of the Burning Pestle”’, Austern concludes that the play ‘uses music to recall and reflect on the multiple institutions in which it was practiced … it also raises issues concerning musical taste and knowledge, the polyvalency of musical memory, and the histories of genres and specific pieces it presents’ (p. 98). In her equally engrossing piece on ‘Changing Musical Practices … 1620–42’, Lucy Munro reflects on those far-reaching consequences with particular reference to the recorder or ‘pipe’, whereby production of Shakespeare plays ‘helped to facilitate new trends in playhouse music in the later Jacobean and Caroline periods’ (p. 100). A significant gear-shift in Shakespearean production occurs in 1660 with the introduction on stage of female adult actors who could also sing. With this in mind, Elizabeth Kenny takes up the mantle with her chatty account of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse production of the 1674 Davenant et al. redaction of The Tempest, also titled The Enchanted Island. The performance of ‘improved’ Shakespeare in today’s artistically correct world inevitably raises aesthetic issues relating to purpose and outcome. Kenny defends the reinterpretation of the reinvention of an original Shakespeare play not least by ‘recognising and harnessing’ strong audience reaction to Restoration Shakespeare in which ‘singers and instrumentalists move into the aural spotlight and point to deeper problems and emotions around the edges of the words’ (p. 129). The consequence of this seems to be a need to impress that what the production is doing is both historically and aesthetically plausible. If Restoration Shakespeare is reception oriented, designed to please its audience through theatricality and ‘operatic’ entertainment, then that trend is replicated and developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As John Cunningham points out in his essay on Thomas Arne’s songs in the Shakespeare revivals of 1740–1, contemporary theatre music ‘was more for the audience and the actors than for the characters’ (p. 135), in contrast to preceding early modern practice. The continuing importance of Arne’s settings to Shakespearean performance was enduring. Cunningham explains their popularity according to the ‘machinery of cultural memory’. In the following century, Val Brodie convinces the reader, in her musically incisive assessment of Charles Kean’s and Charles Calvert’s influential productions of Henry V, that music was ‘an indispensable ingredient of theatre’ (p. 167). The influence of symphonic music and opera was pervasive. Both the placement and acoustic effect of the pit orchestra ‘framed the performance, focussed the audience’s attention, and established the temperature of the drama with melodic and instrumental colouration’ (p. 167). A significant number of lines were cut from the verbal text in order ‘to introduce spectacle, dance, choral singing and song, which, together with omnipresent instrumental music … was a dominating and interpretative aspect of performance’ (p. 167). The new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford (opened 1879) boasted an up-front orchestra. In typical musical hall/operetta fashion, an orchestral overture opened the proceedings; Mendelssohn was invariably invoked for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but non-Shakespearean pieces were often used, such as the Beethoven overture for Coriolanus. (An essay on music at Stratford would have fitted in well here.) A comparatively small amount of critical attention has been paid to Shakespearean film music, according to Ramona Wray. And what writing there is has tended to concentrate on relatively few examples from the twentieth century. Consequently, ‘an imperfect sense of how Shakespeare and music consort with each other across the filmic medium as a whole has been perpetuated’ (p. 210). Following on from Peter Holland’s powerful essay on earlier twentieth-century films primarily of Laurence Olivier and Grigori Kozintsev with music by Walton and Shostakovich, Wray concentrates on four/five productions from the twenty-first century. She concludes on a positive note and asserts that the current diversity of film music in response to Shakespearean reinvention and interpretation bodes well for the future of Shakespeare in the cinematic medium. The dynamic of aesthetic contrasts is brought to bear when popular music of today is used in contemporary Shakespearean production. Adam Hansen attempts to address aspects of the impact of using popular music by investigating music-literature debates, articulated by William E. Grim (1999) relating to ‘inspiration’, ‘metaphor’, and ‘formality’. Hansen concludes that popular music ‘can do engaging things to or for Shakespeare, including bringing him down from some lofty (and lonely) peak of high culture’ (p. 237). That said, does popular music in Shakespeare create genre problems beyond the boundaries of artistic compromise? In a sense this brings us back to the Early Music debate. In his interview with Stephen Warbeck, Bill Barclay asks the award-winning film and theatre composer what he thinks about writing ‘historical music’. Warbeck politely responds that ‘I feel very uninspired about approaching period instruments’ and would rather ‘slip a clarinet in while nobody’s looking’ (p. 192). In contrast, Claire van Kampen contends ‘that the work of discovering the possibilities of period music … is giving the audience an opportunity of “recovering through discovery”’ (p. 54). Very little specific music can be ascribed with any certainty to the earliest Shakespeare performances. Claire van Kampen has been inventive in devising ‘authentic’ music for Globe ‘original practices’ productions. In summary, this book offers both a historical review and contemporary commentary from both scholars and practitioners on the role of music in Shakespearean performance from Elizabethan times to the present day. Typically for Cambridge University Press, it is a handsome volume (there are just a couple of typos on pp. 54 and 100). An opportunity has been missed to include more pertinent illustrations: in a book on music, only one chapter (Brodie) provides notated music examples. There is no bibliography either at the end of the book or at the end of each chapter. Yet titles are abbreviated in the footnotes and because the index is not comprehensive, this can lead to frustrating burrowing. And while the short Introduction is insightful and helpful, there is no essay by David Lindley. Instead, the reader has to turn to his article, ‘Sounds and Sweet Airs’, Shakespeare Survey, 64 (2011), 59–73. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Music and Letters – Oxford University Press
Published: May 15, 2018
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