Orpheus Unleashed: Creative Interpretations and Renditions of Henry Purcell’s Secular Songs
AffiliationMelbourne Conservatorium of Music
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Leighton Harold Geoffrey Triplow
This practice-led study contributes to interdisciplinary Purcell scholarship with an investigation of the composer’s secular songs for solo voice through the interpretative frameworks of historically informed performance practice and postmodern gender theory. I conduct thorough analyses of pieces in order to analyse and amplify multivalent song texts as well as scrutinise performance choices that have arisen from the interpretation of Purcell’s notation. Through critical self-reflection, I highlight my stylistic influences and text-led treatment of Restoration continuo songs amid a broad vocal repertoire in the portfolio featuring performances spanning the Renaissance to contemporary Australian. Close readings of interpretative connections between poetry and notation serve as the rationale behind my analyses and creative portfolio, culminating in what I perceive as comprehensive and meaningful engagement with this song collection in both theoretical and performative realms. While my vocal craft is grounded in historical enquiry, I also introduce alternative readings of historical issues through consultation with both secondary literature and late seventeenth-century sociocultural discourses to problematise narrative threads and character actions. The more imaginative analyses form associations between scores and broader conceptual topics as the basis for novel—even ‘rebellious’—re-interpretations of poetic themes. Such readings stem from my own practice and thinking as a musician. Purcell’s domestic songs are typically overshadowed by widespread scholarly interest in the composer’s larger theatrical works. This study, therefore, extends and refines the interdisciplinary work featured in tercentennial research associated with Purcell and re-assesses the repertoire through a new categorisation of poetic themes. I seek to assist vocalists in their navigation of this collection by documenting my readings through an autoethnographic lens and call attention to the interpretative freedoms inherent in Purcell’s under-prescriptive notation. From the perspective of a singer, these are the creative interpretations that I ‘unleash’ upon the secular solo songs.
KeywordsHenry Purcell; Secular solo songs; Continuo song; Restoration London; Early Modern England; English Baroque; Interdisciplinary; Practice-led; Vocal performance; Autoethnography; Early music performance; Gender studies; Men and masculinities; Musical analysis; Poetic analysis; Creative interpretation
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