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Reviewed by:
  • Christopher R. Wilson
Shakespeare, Music and Performance. Ed. by Bill Barclay and David Lindley. Pp. xv + 286. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 2017. £64.99. ISBN 978-1-107-13933-6.)

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, [End Page 112] 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...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1477-4631
Print ISSN
0027-4224
Pages
pp. 112-115
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-05
Open Access
No
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