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532Comparative Drama Marjorie Perloff offers us a surprisingly tame (for her) reading ofEmbers , while the essay on Film by Sidney Feshbach only momentarily gazes into new territory. John Kundert-Gibbs on chaos theory and its applicability to Beckett's camera work in film and video, while not entirely satisfying, at least points the way to further exploration. Taken as a whole, however, both collections prove to be useful additions to any Beckett library. ENOCH BRATER University ofMichigan Richard Rastall. The Heaven Singing: Music in Early English Religious Drama. Vol. 1. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996. Pp. xxi + 422 + 8 p. ofplates. $99.00. Music has long been given short shrift in the study ofearly English drama. This is to some degree a consequence of the severe limitations of the surviving source material and in part because music relies on its own unique language, a language that is not always readily accessible to scholars examining the textual and performance elements of drama. Yet a few recent works have demonstrated that even where the sources are agonizingly fragmentary, a meticulous and thorough musicological study can serve not merely to cast light on a little-examined comer of dramatic textual and performance concerns, but can offer a substantial contribution to our overall understanding of the drama and its context. This phenomenon can be seen, for example, in such works as Peter Walls's Music in the English Courtly Masque (1996), and in the volume under review here. Richard Rastall's study provides a model ofhow an extremely limited amount of information, when placed into a comprehensive contextual framework and subjected to intensive questioning, can yield up important new perspectives and insights. The religious drama played a prominent role in the construction of civic self-consciousness during the late medieval and Tudor periods; building upon his considerable knowledge of the plays and of late medieval music-making, Rastall skillfully demonstrates the centrality of music to the religious drama, illustrates the wide variety of musical genres in the performances, and provides a detailed explanation of their features and meaning. His approach is encyclopedic, comprehending not just the music itself, but the social context in which it was performed and received, the complexities of textual (and particularly liturgical) concordances, and the Reviews533 details of current bibliographical considerations and critical debates. Moreover, he brings a wealth of experience in the area of historical performance, having participated in the staging of a number of modem reconstructions ofreligious dramas since the mid-1970s. Rastall proceeds methodically through his material: after an introduction exploring the definition and contours of the repertory from a variety of taxonomic and generic perspectives, he presents three chapters outlining and discussing the surviving music-related source material . These include textual references to music in the plays (including cues, song-texts, and discussions of music among the plays' characters ); actual fragments of music in or clearly related to the plays; and documentary evidence of payments made to musicians by the various organizations (particularly guilds) that sponsored performances. Rastall then devotes four chapters to exploring how music was presented in the plays: its use in the representation of certain situations or places, such as heaven and hell; its role as a structural device, for example to indicate the passage of time; its associations with liturgical practice; and the assortment ofperformers, both amateur and professional, who sang or played the different types of music. Volume 1 concludes with three appendices presenting edited transcriptions and reconstructions of some relevant musical pieces. A forthcoming second volume will provide detailed examinations of the individual cycles and plays and the music they contain. The study's larger concerns are supplemented by a number of subsidiary discussions in which Rastall's wide-ranging expertise is further demonstrated. The treatment of such topics as the rules of late-medieval polyphonic improvisation (95-6), the particulars of early modem English currency (162-4), and the recondite details of numerology (233-6) serves to buttress the authority of Rastall's conclusions and to further inform the reader's understanding of the broader social context of the religious drama; in Chapter 8, we are treated to disquisitions on changing late-medieval concepts of professional and amateur, the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 532-535
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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