English 190

Research Seminar: Purcell and Handel: Their Art in Setting English Texts to Music

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
10 Spring 2016 Hanson, Kristin
TTh 3:30-5 Note new location: 223 Wheeler Pre-1800 Requirement
British 18th-Century
Research Seminars

Other Readings and Media

A reader containing the texts to be studied as well as secondary readings will be available from University Copy.

Recordings of the music to be studied can be purchased through the Musical Offering or from other sources. These include: John Blow, Venus and Adonis,  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Harmonium Mundi 1999; Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas,  Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Harmonium Mundi, 1994, rereleased 2006; Henry Purcell, King Arthur,  Les Arts Florissants, Erato, 1995; John Blow, Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell, Deller Consort, Harmonium Mundi, 1987; John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera, dir. by Jonathan Miller and John Eliot Gardiner, Image Entertainment, 2000; George Frederick Handel, Acis and Galatea, Dunedin Consort, Linn Records, 2008; George Frederick Handel, Alexander’s Feast.  The Sixteen, Coro, 2005; George Frederick Handel, An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, The King’s Consort, Hyperion, 2004; George Frederick Handel, L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, The King's Consort, Hyperion, 1999; George Frederick Handel, Messiah, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Harmonium Mundi, 2005. 


In the early 1600s, in England Shakespeare was exploring new ways of creating drama through language, with music often playing an important role, but a mostly distinct one.  In those same years, in Italy Monteverdi was exploring new ways of combining language with music to create the new dramatic genre of opera.   By the late 1600s, opera had come to England, too, preceded and followed by various other forms of dramatic vocal music – masques, odes, and oratorios  – in a remarkable set of collaborations between poets and composers.  Poems of Dryden and of Milton, for example, figured especially prominently in musical works of Purcell and Handel. 

These works thus afford beautiful opportunities for extended and detailed comparison of the artistic possibilities of poetry with those of music, for exploration of how the two forms can interact,  and for contextualization of aesthetic ideas from the period that continue to exert influence in our own time.    One area that will be given particular attention in the course will be rhythm, since it takes distinctive forms in poetry and in music, and the combination of the two in textsetting is an art form all its own.   No prior training in either of these areas is required, however. 

The course will include at least one outing to a live performance, the American Bach Soloists' performance of Handel’s setting of Dryden’s ode, Alexander’s Feast.  

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

This section of English 190 satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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