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HUMANITIES 105 JoAnna Dutka. Music in the English Mystery Plays Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University. viii, '71, illus. $18.80 cloth, $11.80 paper This book is the first full-length study of a subject for which adequate treatment was long overdue: and although the work has limitations, Professor Dutka deserves our gratitude. The book studies the English cycle plays in order to determine where music is required in them- in itself no easy task, for several reasons - and sets out the information in the following sections: 1 I an index of songs (both Latin and English), with commentary; 21an index of instruments, with commentary; 31a glossary of musical terms, with commentary; 4 I a list of sources for the musical settings; and 5 1a summary table listing the musical items in the six cycles (Chester, Coventry, N-Town, Norwich, Towneley, and York) side by side. The index of songs includes transcriptions of all the extant music the Chester Gloria fragment, the two Coventry 'carols: and the six York pieces (two settings of each of three texts). To this work Dutka has added a second arm by making use of guild accounts and civic records. Two factors have always suggested that this was at least highly desirable: first, the evidence offered by the plays themselves (in text references and stage directions) and such related texts as the Chester banns is clearly incomplete; secondly, the extracts from guild accounts, etc, cited by scholars such as Sharp and Salter show that these records were a rich potential source of information on the music. Dutka's PHD thesis (on which this book is based), completed a year before the REED project started in 1973, included an impressive set of transcriptions from manuscript account-books, material fully utilized in Music in the English Mystery Plays. (The tranScriptions are not presented in the book: no doubt itwas considered that the publication of REED volumes from 1979 onwards made this unnecessary.) Fromall this material Dutka constructsa faScinating and comprehensive discussion (partly in the introduction and partly in the commentaries) of the uses of music in the plays. In doing so she considerably modifies John Stevens's view of the music as primarily representational, emphasizing instead the music's functions in articulating the dramatic form (at entrances, exits, changes of focus from one location to another, the passage of time, and so on). Although this explanation follows hints thrown out by Nan Cooke Carpenter and by Stevens, it is the first discussion of these functions and constitutes an importantaddition to our understanding of the subject. A work of such thoroughness as this must be taken seriously, and Dutka lifts the subject at last away from the sidelines of literary study. But the approach is still basicallya literary one, and the book's limitations stem from this. In the first place, the work cannot easily be used in the preparation of a performance, a matter that has become of importance following the productions of complete cycles from '975 onwards. A producer needs a cue-list giving him all the necessary information, but the information is here scattered in several places - principally in sections 1 and 4of my first paragraph. Moreover, while the index ofsongs (section 1) gives the sources of texts, the sources of the music are relegated to an appendix (section 4): again, this hides away vital information, and is especially strange in view of the book's title. Secondly, this and other matters suggest that more expertise on music and liturgy must eventually be brought to bear on the subject. For example, is the Gloria of the Mass really a possibility when we look for a musical settingof the angels' Gloria? Musical and liturgical considerations suggest not, but the opposite is implied by Dutka's listing of three possible sources for the text- the Mass Gloria first- without any critical assessment of their relative merits (p 29). In one sense these are quibbles, however, for the book does not pretend to approach the difficult practical questions concerning the use of polyphony, etc, that it will eventually be our aim to answer. Dutka's purpose has clearly been to present the results of literary and musical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 105-106
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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