Recent Conference Papers

These papers are available upon request.

“Protestant Advocacy for Musical Literacy: The Whole Booke of Psalmes as Music Textbook and Theory Treatise,” American Musicological Society, Rochester, NY, November 9-12, 2017.

It has often been noted that Protestant ideology led to an increase in general literacy rates in the sixteenth century. It is less often said, however, that Protestants helped advance musical literacy. Based on the evidence of The Whole Booke of Psalmes, by far the most popular and frequently printed book of music in sixteenth-century England, I argue that English Protestantism did exactly that. The epistle to the reader found in the first edition of 1562 and several subsequent editions served as an introductory music theory treatise intended to aid readers in learning to sing the Psalms and also any other “playne and easy Songes as these are.” Later editions included a music typeface that contained solmization syllables along with a new preface explaining their use.

In this paper, I explore the WBP’s identity as a music textbook that advocated for musical literacy and a music theory treatise that advanced theoretical ideas concerning pitch in sixteenth-century England. First, I will show that both the music preface and the solmization psalters were far more prevalent than scholarship currently acknowledges, and examine how the two musical prefaces found in the WBP helped to advance the cause of popular music. I will take a close look at its solmization system, demonstrating that early modern England’s fixed-scale solmization system, discussed by Timothy Johnson and Jessie Ann Owens, was actually initiated in The Whole Booke of Psalmes in 1569, a full generation prior to Bathe’s c. 1596 Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song and Morley’s 1597 Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke. Finally, I will explain how these didactic aids served the Protestant musical ideology found in this psalter. In this way, I offer a new interpretation of sixteenth-century English Protestantism’s relationship to musical literacy.

“‘Faithfully perused and alowed’: John Day’s Claims of Authority and Authorization for The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” Gloriana Society, London, UK, November 18-20, 2016.

John Day’s publication of metrical psalters in 1560-1562, culminating in the 1562 Whole Booke of Psalmes, introduced an entirely new genre to England: metrical psalmody as congregational song. Along with English Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, and official Books of Homilies mandated for use in parish churches, the WBP was enthusiastically adopted as a symbol of English Protestantism.

In this paper, I will argue that Day made a multifaceted effort to establish the WBP as an authoritative Protestant text through appeals to Scripture, scholarship, the ancient church, and the state. I analyze the psalter’s claim to translational accuracy and the seeming legitimation created by the inclusion of a prefatory essay by St. Athanasius. Informed by historical theologian Kenneth Parker’s work on Reformation Protestants’ supercessionist metanarrative of the Christian past (an emerging Protestant way of using history in anti-Catholic polemics), I show that the WBP not only portrayed itself as valid translation, but an essential corrective to other (read: Roman Catholic) corruptions to the ancient tradition.

Furthermore, without any official monarchical or ecclesiastical authorization of metrical psalmody to be used in church, Day positioned the 1562 WBP as authorized through reference to Elizabeth’s 1559 Injunctions and by advertising Day’s psalter patent, granted by the Queen herself. In doing so, he aligned the book firmly with the English crown and the Church of England. Ecclesiastical records from the early 1560s make it clear that Day’s musical psalters were employed in a church setting, variously with or without the support of religious officials. These sources demonstrate Day’s success in his attempt to construct a legitimate genre of congregational song for England.

“Transitioning from Hexachords to Fixed-Scale Solmization in The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” South Central Graduate Music Consortium, Duke University, Durham, NC, September 30-October 1, 2016.

Jessie Ann Owens has argued that English music theorists in the late sixteenth century consistently employed a static scalar assignment of solmization syllables rather than the medieval hexachordal system. Her argument draws on theory treatises produced around the turn of the seventeenth century, especially William Bathe’s c. 1596 Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song and Thomas Morley’s 1597 Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke. In fact, the English shift from traditional hexachords to fixed scales was initiated a full generation earlier in The Whole Booke of Psalmes. First printed in 1562, many editions of this psalter beginning in 1569 used a music typeface that contained solmization syllables and included a new preface explaining their use. My study of these psalters has revealed that the system found in The Whole Booke of Psalmes is transitional, a link between continental and later English styles of solmization. In this paper, I will discuss the way in which The Whole Booke of Psalmes systematizes and explains the assignment of solmization syllables to absolute pitches, and compare this system with continental hexachord theory, Bathe’s and Morley’s treatises, and four earlier works from Geneva dated 1550-1562 which similarly printed solmization syllables.