In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

144 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 Bryan N.S. Gooch and David Thatcher. A Shakespeare Music Catalogue 5 vols. Clarendon Press. $669.95 The Shakespeare Music Catalogue is a magnificent dinosaur. It is, of course, an immense source of information, but also an exercise in disinformation. It is probably the largest and most costly bibliographical project to have been funded by the SSHRC. Gooch and Thatcher and their editorial team have laboured mightily, and there can be no question that the research effort was gigantic, that their work is of the highest standard, that the production work of Oxford University Press is at the best level. Why, then, the blunt words of my opening sentences? By way of an explanation , let me recapitulate some of the principles of the work, as set out in the Preface. The aim has been to list both 'published and unpublished music, related to Shakespeare's work, composed from his day to the present' (i.e. the cut-off date of the end of 1987). The Catalogue proudly declares it has listed twenty thousand compositions, by comparison with the three thousand noted in the most comprehensive of the previous bibliographies on the subject (Phyllis Hartnoll's Shakespeare in Music), and stresses that hitherto there has been no serious attempt to gain bibliographical control of the music written for theatrical productions, for movies, and for radio. This the Catalogue has attempted, sighing that 'It is regrettable that theatre historians and musicologists have neglected this important area of research.' The Catalogue makes a heroic, though limited, attempt in this direction: 'We have not, of course, attempted to list all the incidental music to Shakespeare productions around the world, but have concentrated on productions (1) in major cities, (2) by major companies, (3) by Shakespearean companies, and (4) by university or college companies.' Fortunately, the authors' principles of inclusion are actually a good deal broader than their statement would suggest, but it is almost incredible that they have neglected to list anywhere just which companies and productions have, indeed, been included. Besides, in view of these exclusions, the authors' decision to include vast numbers of projected works which the composers never in fact undertook is difficult to justify. If deducted from the total, these imaginary compositions would substantially reduce the twenty thousand total the compilers boast of. So, an inconsistency of a fundamental kind arises: real music related to Shakespeare is excluded because it was composed for a performance that does not meet the criteria listed in the previous paragraph; yet an inordinate amount of space is devoted to music that was never written. Likewise, the remark 'we do not document MS scores and instrumental parts, mostly by unidentified composers, which served as incidental music in the production of Shakespeare's HUMANmES 145 plays and which exist partly in the form of anonymous arrangements' points up the argument I have been making, since it reveals the authors' evidently unexamined bias. The key words in the quoted sentence that reveal the bias are 'unidentified ' and 'anonymous': when all is said and done, the Catalogue is entirely composer-centred. Turn up any play, and you find a series of alphabetical lists of composers: those who wrote incidental music for the play; those who wrote operas, ballets, and other theatrical forms based on the play; a third section of nontheatrical vocal music, and other sections including that misleadingly entitled 'obliquely related works,' each of them arranged alphabetically by composer's name. The unspoken assumption is that this is what 'theatre historians and musicologists' want. This may still be the case for musicologists, though I doubt it; but it is absolutely the opposite of what theatre historians want. Typically, theatre history is geographically and chronologically oriented: the historian wants to know what went on at such-and-such a particular theatre, and when. There is no way of finding this out from the Catalogue: none. It is amazing that with William B. Blissett of Toronto, and Stanley Wells of the Shakespeare Institute on the Advisory Board, this gigantic deficiency was not remedied. To take a simple example: if a theatre historian not unreasonably wanted to know who wrote the music for the two...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 144-147
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-25
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.