Original ‘Crossover?’ Popular Ballad-Tunes as Art-Music for Viols in Seventeenth-Century England – Dissertation by Phillip W. Serna


The modern concept of musical ‘crossover’ or ‘fusion’ often entails a combination or juxtaposition of evidently incongruous styles, performance techniques and repertoire. ‘Crossover,’ as a concept, is dependent on arbitrary and non-musical definitions, labels and divisions which might not naturally exist. It implies boundaries between performance media, styles, and dissemination of music. For the Early Music scholar and performer, this artifice lies
predominantly between printed musical sources and oral musical traditions. Early Music performers and scholars have always been able to acquire knowledge about performance practice from manuscripts, treatises, diaries and court records. In order to craft compelling and better informed performances, scholars and performers now look to living oral traditions. Performers are exploring intersections between the oral and print music traditions of Europe, between European and Sephardic music, and between European and music of indigenous peoples with Western music during the Spanish colonial period. From medieval performers looking to the traditions of Persia, Morocco and Turkey, to explorations of Chinese music to inform repertoire from the period of Marco Polo’s explorations, early musicians are exploring more repertoire than ever before. This concept of ‘crossover’ between Early Music performance and oral performance traditions is not an exclusively modern phenomenon. An under explored intersection between orally transmitted music and art-music exists involving popular music, dance music, ballad-tunes and the instrumental compositions for lyra-viol and viol consort in seventeenth-century England.

This lecture will explore the dissemination of ballad tunes through the medium of the British Broadside Ballad, as well as through instrumental music in the form of solo literature for the lyra-viol and chamber music for viol consort. Regarding instrumental settings of ballad-tunes for viol, selected ballad-tunes to be examined include Bonny Sweet Robin (Robin is the Greenwood Gone), Daphne, Fortune My Foe, Go from My Window and Walsingham. Lyra-viol sources containing ballad-tune settings to be examined include John Playford’s Musick’s Recreation on the Viol, Lyra-Way, as well as sources for viol in manuscript form, specifically the Manchester
Lyra-Viol Manuscript (c1660).

Additionally, this document will include two transcriptions, adapted specifically for this lecture-project: Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’s Engelsche Fortuyn (Fortune My Foe) and Onder een Linde Groen (All in a Garden Green) for Viol Consort. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (c1562-1621) was a Dutch composer and organist who was influenced by English composers for virginal like Dr. John Bull (c1562-1628), particularly in regards to the variation forms employed with ballad melodies.

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