…think alike“, is a saying in English (and is always used with a bit of self-deprecating irony, when used to include oneself!). And so I recently discovered a blog entry by musicologist Dr Leah Broad from the University of Oxford, which succinctly raises and eloquently discusses some of the very questions and themes that we seek to tackle in our DFG research project. In fact, the parallels between her observations – even though focussing on 19th century incidental music – and the introduction to my forthcoming book on contemporary theatre music are striking.
Broad is also puzzled by the mismatch between the „sheer volume of incidental music written in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries“ and the lack of scholarly and artistic interest in this wealth of material: „Why“, she asks, „[has] incidental music received so little attention until now?“
She gives some very plausible answers to this question. In the tradition of musicology and classical concert programming a number of factors work against an appreciation of theatre music: the myths of the autonomy of music and the cult of the „solo genius“, the particularly strong dependence of theatre music on its context, and the challenges it presents to publishing and performance. All this she develops in more detail and I highly recommend reading it in her blog entry „Why incidental music?“ directly.
She summarizes (and I couldn’t agree more):
Prioritising incidental music means questioning many of the values and assumptions that have labelled it as uninteresting, unexciting, and unworthy. It doesn’t just give us new music. It gives us a new way of looking at the music that we already know, of hearing it afresh, and listening to theatre history with new ears. (Leah Broad)
The only thing to add would be to say: an appreciation of theatre music not only opens our ears afresh for theatre history, but equally for the theatre of the present and the future.
I look forward to discussing our mutual interest further at this year’s meeting of the working group Sound, Voice and Music at the TaPRA (Theatre and Performance Research Association) conference in Exeter.