Worth a listen: intergenerational dialogues between performers and performances of Tudor choral music

Eva-Marie May Perissinotto

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis investigates the way performance practices have changed over the twentieth
century within the field of Tudor choral music, particularly among English performers. The
hypothesis was that any change in performing style could be attributed to a change in
emphasis in performance practice values, which would be evident when looking at the way
people described the music. The research was carried out through a direct comparison
between the performance styles of the 1920s and styles today. This was achieved in two
distinct stages. The first research stage employed sources from the former period to ascertain
the characteristics of the performing style. This was achieved both through the analysis of four
recordings from the 1920s, and evaluation of the reception of the recordings conveyed in
contemporaneous reviews. The second research stage involved interviews with leading English
performers of early choral music as a means of generating comparisons between the early
twentieth century performing style and that of today. The interviews were designed to elicit
responses from the interviewees when played the recordings from the 1920s. The
interviewees were then read excerpts from reviews contemporary with the recorded material,
asked to what extent they identified with the terms used by the reviewers, and asked to reflect
on whether the reviews changed their initial assessment of the early performances. In this
way, an intergenerational dialogue was established.
The main finding of this study has been the extent to which the interviewees recognised
elements of the 1920s recordings as having integrity and coherence in their performing
intentions, bearing many elements in common with performing styles today. The original
hypothesis was not upheld by these findings, as all the interviewees could recognise the
musical descriptions in the 1920s reviews, though they would not have immediately applied
them to the recorded performances as they heard them. The study has additional implications
for any musical field which relies on written descriptions to describe an otherwise unknown
musical style, particularly the field of Early Music, as it shows that: 1) the same words can be
applied to very different musical outcomes; and 2) the same musical outcomes can be
interpreted very differently even by people working within the same musical milieu. It is
therefore important, where possible, to favour the use of recordings over written descriptions
when documenting or researching a musical style.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Western Australia
Award date24 Jun 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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