Nature, culture, myth, and the musician in early modern England

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21 Scopus citations


In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, music was often considered an aspect of natural philosophy, the general study of natural and cultural phenomena that had been inherited from classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, but was undergoing rapid metamorphosis into more modern fields of science, technology, and the arts. Against this background, many writers began to invoke machine metaphors and the triumph of cultural products over raw nature and Nature's corollaries in the form of women and animals. Older epistemologies of magic and metaphor, which had also incorporated gendered ideas of artifice, perfection, nature, and creation, informed these emerging ideas. The result on the one hand was a practice of secular musical composition that included sounds from the natural world as feminine novelties to be bounded and improved by stylistic artifice. On the other was a documentary allegorization of music that drew from chronicle history, mythology, natural science, religion, and politics to demonstrate the moral and aesthetic superiority of music and musicians that elevated natural elements into enduring musical artifice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-47
Number of pages47
JournalJournal of the American Musicological Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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