Current Research Projects

Elizabethan and Early Jacobean Praises of Music, edited collection under contract with Routledge

This edited collection, co-edited with Katherine Butler, examines the “praise of music” literature prominent in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England: writings defending music (and especially church music) from those who opposed it on moral and theological grounds, The book presents essays and critical editions to enable sustained thematic analysis of the genre as a whole. Most notable among its editions is the anonymous early Jacobean Praise of musick manuscript (BL Royal MS 18.B.xix), not currently available as a critical edition, alongside new editions of several shorter “Praise of Music” texts currently available separately in out-of-print texts. Accompanying the editions are nine essays by musicologists and English literature scholars which offer a broad range of perspectives on the praise of music genre, including political function, social ethics, humanist philology, medical philosophy, Protestant theology, and connections with medieval music theory, thus giving insight into the state of early modern English musical thought and its primary debates.

“‘God is pleasde, with such lyke armony’: Protestant Praise of Music in Elizabethan and early Jacobean England,” essay for Elizabethan and Early Jacobean Praises of Music

Responding to arguments of music’s inherent immorality (especially in ballads) in the 1560s, to Puritan critiques of church music (especially professional choirs and organs) at the end of the century, and to religious and cultural shifts more generally, praises and defenses of music in sixteenth-century England usually employed theological reasoning alongside classical and mythological explanations. This essay examines the Protestant elements of the praise of music genre in Elizabethan and early Jacobean England, discussing the use of Scripture and the writings of the church fathers, examining how these ideas are used to defend music and musical practice, and accounting for the authors’ choices of particular biblical passages and patristic authors. Among the distinctively Protestant characteristics of these choices is a distinctive rejection of medieval theologians, reflecting the Protestant vision for the church as returning to apostolic purity after a long period of decline (as described by the historical narrative work of Anthony Kemp and Kenneth Parker). The essay will further consider how theological defenses of music and explanations of its origin are employed in tandem with mythological references. Alongside reference to several shorter works in the praise of music genre, including Nicholas Whight’s Commendation of Musick (c. 1562), Henry Spooner’s I wyll not paynt to purchace prayes (c. 1562), and the anonymous Songe in praise of musique (c. 1603), this essay closely analyzes two under-examined longer texts: Thomas Whythorne’s praise of music in his autobiography (1576) and the anonymous Jacobean Praise of musick manuscript (c. 1610).

“Singing as English Protestants: The Whole Booke of Psalmes’ Theology of Music,” article currently being revised for resubmission

The Whole Booke of Psalmes, first published in 1562, became the most visible symbol of English Protestant music-making through its immense popularity and its perceived Protestant authority and monarchical authorization, and the psalter was directly responsible for the formation of the Church of England’s musical culture. Through close reading of the hymnal’s words about music—the versified texts of the psalms themselves, particularly the paraphrases of those psalms that speak directly about music, singing, worship, and instruments, and also other material including the versified hymns and prefatory matter—I argue that the WBP promoted a particular theology of music in Reformation England. Examining how questions of participation, accessibility, text selection, aesthetics, and instrumentation are presented in the psalter, I expand scholars’ understanding of the varied Protestant theologies of music to include study of the metrical psalter that functioned as propaganda, educational material, and a devotional tool for the Church of England. The WBP reflected the importance of communal liturgical musical practice for Protestants and presented a consistent portrait of the desirable theological aesthetic of congregational church music, one that drew upon aspects of both Lutheran and Calvinist theologies. According to the WBP, singing like a Protestant in Elizabeth’s England meant singing monophonic congregational hymnody using metricized texts from Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer, and especially from the Book of Psalms. The WBP also falls on the pro-organ side of the English debate, taking a definitive stand in support of the use of instruments in church, and the psalter places strong emphasis on the attitude of the individual even as it advocates for singing in community.

“Meaning in the Margins: Devotional Use and Musical Performance of The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” article in progress

The Whole Booke of Psalmes, the English Reformation’s most prominent hymnal and indeed, one of sixteenth-century England’s most popular printed books, held parallel identities as a devotional text, a musical songbook, and an introductory music theory treatise. Having viewed 214 individual book-copies of Elizabethan editions (from the first edition in 1562 through 1603), I have observed a wide variety of manuscript annotations. Such markings can be categorized as those that do not engage with the psalter’s content, such as scribbles, doodles, ownership marks, and birth and death announcements, and those that do, including glosses and corrections. These annotations reveal much about the musical performance and devotional use of the psalter, and comparison with annotations found in other printed music books from Elizabethan England proves instructive. Evidently, the WBP was primarily thought of as an aid to prayer rather than a music book; readers annotated the WBP differently than other printed music collections, and failed to engage with its musical notation in the same way they did the psalter’s printed texts.