RSA 2015 (Mar. 26-28), Music in Theory and Practice on the Early Modern English Stage

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Early modern music theory was a complex web of intersecting ideas. Music was thought to be profoundly transformative for its listeners, entering through the ear and affecting the body, mind and spirit in ways that could be beneficial or destructive. It was deployed, too, as a metaphor for cosmic order, social stability and the health of the body and soul. But music was first and foremost a real sound in a real space, and the theatre in this period was unique in its capacity to place ideas about music into dialogue with its practice.

This panel seeks to examine the ways in which these early modern ideas about music intersect with and influence performances of music on the stage and vice versa. How does our understanding of music's metaphorical resonances impact our understanding of the songs performed in the theatre? How might performance conventions complicate ways of thinking about music theory in this period? How are women's musical performances represented on the stage and how might they be complicated by the presence of male actors' bodies and voices? If music has the potential to affect the body and the soul of the listener, what might this mean for an audience as anxious about music's transformative power as the characters on the stage? We welcome proposals for papers that seek to open a dialogue between musical ideas/metaphors and the real music seen and heard on the early modern stage. Please submit abstracts of no more than 150 words along with a title, list of keywords and a brief (300 word max.) C.V. to Andrew Loeb ( by May 26th.