REVIEW Early Theatre 21.1 (2018)
Bill Barclay and David Lindley (eds). Shakespeare, Music and Performance.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Jennifer Moss Waghorn, Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham)
The central — and persuasive — premise of Shakespeare, Music and Performance is the fluidity, flexibility, and potential significance of music as a dramatic element across all aspects of Shakespearean performance research. The book’s aim is to provide a full overview of the history of Shakespearean theatre music in performance, in ‘a long chronological sweep’ from the late sixteenth century through to the twenty-first. This is an immense task, and the breadth of the book’s scope gives rise to evident (and possibly unavoidable) issues of inclusion and exclusion. But the richness of material and methodologies explored by the contributors means that the book still serves as an admirable point of reference, both for readers wishing to approach the topic for the first time and for theatre music researchers keen to focus on specific points in depth.
The book includes seventeen chapters divided into four broadly chronological sections. Each section includes an innovative ‘In Practice’ chapter, providing a contemporary performative counterpoint. Claire van Kampen’s chapter ties together considerations of early modern practice explored throughout the first section, detailing choices behind the music of the 2012 Shakespeare’s Globe productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III. Elizabeth Kenny’s chapter sheds light on similar decisions made for the 2015 Sam Wanamaker Playhouse performance of the Restoration The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island; both chapters engage in detail with the complex question of ‘authenticity’, effectively highlighting the inherent difficulties and potential responses to ‘original practices’ approaches. An interview with composer Stephen Warbeck provides an insightful discussion of the parallels between theatre and film music, engagingly presenting the thinking behind specific instrument choices, the treatment of music alongside spoken words, and the potential and limitations of the different media from the practical perspective of a composer. Carol Chillington Rutter and Jon Trenchard’s discussion of the theatre company Propeller’s approach to Shakespearean music, and the creative rehearsal and performance process of an actor-musician musical director, comprises the fourth ‘In Practice’ chapter, complicating definitions of who makes music in contemporary Shakespearean performance. 206 Book Reviews Early Theatre 21.1
Section 1 places early modern approaches to the functions and significance of music in the context of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and (briefly) Caroline theatre environments, as well as the broader cultural context of the periods. William Lyons’s chapter is one of several to demonstrate the range of potential for theatrical ‘sound worlds’ (15) created by the palette of early modern instruments and performers, and he provides specific details of individual musicians and consort combinations. Simon Smith challenges assumptions about musician placement in early modern indoor theatres being confined to the upper gallery, using a rich range of playtexts to demonstrate the visual as well as aural impact of musicians appearing in various stage locations, and dismantles the belief that musicians in the conventional ‘music room’ would necessarily be separated from the audience by a curtain. Linda Phyllis Austern discusses the ‘polyvalent connections’ (84) between the playhouse environment and the audience’s experiences of early modern London outside the theatre. The chapter uses Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle as a focus, highlighting popular contemporary song references, cultural connotations of particular instrument choices, and broader musical philosophies embedded within the playtext.
Paul Faber and Katherine Hunt continue this consideration of the audience’s experiences outside the theatre informing representations of musical performance within, respectively exploring the cultural backdrop of socially accepted female musicians, and bells as a bridge between sound and music. Both Faber and Hunt evoke Ophelia in Hamlet, applying more abstract considerations of music to their specific resonances in a Shakespearean play. Lucy Munro’s chapter rounds off the pre-Civil War exploration with an examination of music during the often-overlooked 1620s and 30s, discussing the parallel and mutually informed evolutions of indoor and outdoor playhouse music. This shared dialogue is a strong running theme throughout the opening section, considering the variations in musical tone and practical arrangements necessitated by the conditions of the different spaces. This section places Shakespeare within an extremely rich portrait of early modern playhouse history, informing the considerations of the original Early Theatre 21.1 Book Reviews 207 plays, and Val Brodie focuses on a specific nineteenth-century production of Henry V, providing the most detailed musical stylistic analysis in the book, with multiple direct examples of sheet music composed by Kean and Calvert. While each of these three chapters sheds light on the musical world of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there is a palpable imbalance of material compared to the earlier and later periods covered within the book. The engaging insights of these chapters suggest that a much fuller discussion of the diversity and development of approaches to Shakespearean music during this period is needed.
Section 3 focuses on Shakespearean film music. Peter Holland discusses the parallels between composers William Walton and Dmitri Shostakovich, charting stylistic and cultural contrasts in their work for twentieth-century theatre and film and exploring broader parameters and paradoxes of the role of cinematic Shakespearean music, from ‘film with no music [to] film music with no film’ (195). Ramona Wray provides a wide-ranging overview of music in notable Shakespeare films, combined with more in-depth explorations of individual cinematic soundscapes achieved through motif, genre, and instrument choices, paralleling the approach of earlier chapters by Lyons and van Kampen. The fascinating but all-too-brief foray into film raises unanswered questions about the scope of the book, and there is clear potential here for comparable work on other media including television, radio, digital material, opera, and ballet.
The final section discusses early twenty-first-century uses of music in staged Shakespeare. Adam Hansen takes a similar methodological approach to that demonstrated in the chapters on film, incisively analyzing specific pieces of popular music in Propeller’s Henry V and Artistes Producteurs Associés’s Macbeth to illustrate the inherent politicization of musical references within the texts, especially in the context of plays that are so concerned with national identity. Bill Barclay’s retrospective survey of the 2012 Globe to Globe Festival hosted by Shakespeare’s Globe draws together the recurring themes running throughout the book: original performance space and practical performance considerations, analysis of instrument and performer choices in developing a particular musical identity for each production, and the diversity of associations raised by international performances. The depth and breadth of Barclay’s record of the variety of approaches adopted within a single space and a relatively specific performance brief provides an excellent illustration of and argument for the significance of the impact that theatre music can have on the performance event and its audience.
Given that performed music is the focus of the book, an accompanying CD or online supplement might have added a further illustrative dimension to the descriptions of musical cues, instruments, and performance choices, particularly 208 Book Reviews Early Theatre 21.1 in providing examples of the music discussed in the ‘In Practice’ and Globe to Globe chapters. The quantitative material included in several chapters, however, provides practical information about the logistics of performance and offers fascinating insights into the theatre music in question despite the lack of auditory accompaniment. The table provided with Barclay’s overview, detailing the composer, musician placement, style, instrumentation, and recorded or live nature of the music, is particularly enlightening. It demonstrates the potential for further comparison between the musical choices made by different theatre companies, the motives behind particular choices for each Shakespeare play, and the impact that these decisions had upon audience experiences. The range of itemized material present in the book — including Lyons’s lists of early modern theatre musicians, van Kampen’s details of all music cues from the 2012 productions, and Burden’s table of information on nineteenth-century processions — provides an easily accessible shorthand to useful musical data and an insightful demonstration of the bodies of musical material available for theatrical research.
Shakespeare, Music and Performance is as ambitious in scope as it is broadranging in its methodology. Individually, each chapter provides a fresh angle on or new details of a different corner of the field, many illuminating previously overlooked areas or challenging long-held assumptions. Collectively, the chapters inform and complement each other with a rich diversity of foci, methodologies, and varied voices of authority and experience. As an overview of the field, it falls slightly short; the aim of providing a full chronological portrait of Shakespearean theatre music is not well-served by the balance, particularly in respect of the often-overlooked eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the London-centred focus means that the discussions of contemporary performance lack a broader national, let alone international, reach. Still, the book brings a fundamental element of Shakespearean performance into the spotlight, marshals a formidable body of topics, methodologies, and voices into an engaging whole, and makes its central point effectively: Shakespearean theatre music matters, and Shakespeare, Music and Performance is a very good place to start exploring it.