Least Knowen and Most In Practice': The Nature and Utility of Practical Music In Early Modern English Thought

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Sircy, Elisha James
Jonson; Morley; Thomas; Music; Poetry; Renaissance; Spenser; Arts and Humanities; English Language and Literature
thesis / dissertation description
Early modern musicians divided their field into two sections: speculative and practical. While the speculative dealt with theoretical properties and mathematical proportions of music, the practical focused on the actual playing and composing of music. Looking at the writings of Thomas Morley, one of the most important English composers of the late 16th-century, we can discern particular elements of how he imagined the process of performing and writing music, elements which speak to the unique place and purpose of those activities. While past scholarship has sought to situate poetry, politics, and science in a background of musical theory, I am interested in how the physical activity of playing music works in relation to poetry and political authority. Using Morley as a representative figure, I will explore how practical music is figured in during this period and how those figures work in relation to other activities. Instead of hastily collapsing music, poetry, and politics, I want to view practical music in terms of its own functions and merits before comparing it to verse and governance.