Early Modern Listening: Theatre, Music, and Early Modern Conversions

Early Modern Listening
Theatre, Music, and Early Modern Conversions

A Workshop sponsored by the Early Modern Conversions Project and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

June 4 – 5 2014

Rooms 251 and 250
Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Silk Street
London EC2Y 8DT

click to download as pdf

Listening is an active, meaning-making activity. It is a key element of musical and theatrical practice. Actors and musicians not only perform their own parts; they must also pay creative attention to the performances of their fellow artists. Early moderns who listened to works created by artists who were also good listeners could find themselves undergoing radical forms of transformation—converting to authentic Christian faith, sinking precipitously into bestiality. Finally, since listening is a learned practice, it is culturally and historically specific. To understand early modern music, theatre, and conversion, therefore, it is necessary first to understand how early modern people listened.

Participants in the “Early Modern Listening” workshop will initiate different approaches to questions about listening as a performance practice, a focus of concert-going and playgoing, and an instrument of conversion. They will work on Shakespeare’s Tempest as a text that has much to say about the ethics and practices of audition, they will focus on early modern music (including original notation), they will expand their understanding of listening in performance by taking part in actual performances, and they will be able to learn something about what early modern people themselves had to say about the practices and powers of listening.

The workshop will be interdisciplinary. Music and theatre were strongly allied artistic practices in early modern Europe, but the study of these two performing arts has become divided into two fields that often seem unable to speak to each other. Members of the workshop will bring together their expertise in theatre history, musicology, and theatrical and musical performance and will seek to reunite the separated fields of music and theatre by teaching and learning from each other.

Day 1, June 4 – leader for the day: Julie Cumming

setting the stage: Julie Cumming, Helena Gaunt, and Paul Yachnin will each take two or three minutes to outline what they are seeking to learn, what questions they are asking

singing from original notation


listening to Renaissance music Josquin’s Ave Maria and Nicholas Gombert’s setting of Matthew 14

performance spaces and acoustics in early modern Venice, in particular St. Mark’s Basilica, the Piazza, and Palladio’s plague church of the Redentore (Iain Fenlon)

Day 2, June 5, focus on The Tempest – leaders for the day: Paul Hopkins and Paul Yachnin

speaking/listening to Shakespeare in performance (Hopkins)

speaking/listening to the music of Shakespeare¹s poetry (Hopkins and Richard Jackson)

active listening exercises through classical improvisation (Violin (Henry Tong), Viola (Valerie Albrecht) & piano)
– Crossing the boundaries between speaking, acting and singing – in both directions (voice and piano). In der Fremde from Schumann’s Liederkreis, and Schubert’s An Silvia (from Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona) (David Dolan, Norbert Meyn, and co)

session on Tempest – including at least one voice and one movement practitioner. They will work with a group of alumnae actors and/or workshop participants who would need to wear loose clothes, and be prepared to work physically and with bare feet. The student teachers will warm-up the group to be ready to go on stage to speak and embody Shakespeare’s text. They will pay close attention to preparing the participants to be in a state of readiness to listen. There would be 60 mins of practical work followed by 30 mins of questions and discussion (students on the MA Training Actors program)

wrap-up discussion—what did we learn? what are our questions going forward? (first to speak—Julie, Helena, Paul H, Paul Y)

Participants in the Workshop

Early Modern Conversions
Julie Cumming
Iain Fenlon
Paul Hopkins
Paul Yachnin
Leigh Yetter
Carla Zecher

Guildhall School
David Dolan
Helena Gaunt
Richard Jackson
Norbert Meyn
Alessandro Tomossi
Bryony Williams
Jamie Matthewman
Tom Morrison
Leah Muller
Valery Albrect (4th year undergraduate, viola )
Henry Tong (1st year Masters, violinist)