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Title: 'In her right hand she bore a trumpet, in her left an olive branch...' :performance space and the early modern female wind player
Authors: Robinson, Sarah Emily
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: References to early modern female wind players are scattered across a wide range of organological, iconographical and musicological scholarship. Normally highlighted as being unusual and in stark opposition to conventional ideals of female behaviour and musical practice of this time, such examples are often reduced to footnotes or side-lined as interesting, but unique instances. To date, no scholar has systematically brought these sources together to examine the continuities, tensions and changes to representations of, attitudes to, and detailed evidence for early modern women playing wind instruments. Among the questions I ask in this thesis are: How did early modern female wind players have access to musical educations, tutors, instruments and repertoire? What were the types of performance spaces in which they could play? Were there any constraints or rulings that stipulated how they were to present their music to private or public audiences? And where possible, I will also ask how female wind players were received by audiences and how the presentation of such unusual skills might have been used to contribute to institutional reputations. Importantly, these examples enable moments of change and stasis in the use of wind instruments to be traced to certain times and places during the early modern period which, in turn, reflect wider social patterns relating to musical developments, as well as changing instrument use and accessibility. This study reframes examples of real women playing wind instruments using the organising principle of performance space. A wide range of evidence from many source types, including documents, pictures, musical notation and literature will be examined in the context of the various social arenas in which women could participate and engage in wind-playing. This includes amateur wind-playing in sixteenth-century courtly culture in France and the Low Countries, as well as domestic spaces in late seventeenth and eighteenth-century England. The employment of women from the families of professional musicians are evident in a variety of examples ranging from mixed-gender spaces such as courts and an Italian academy, to all-female environments, including convents and Venetian conservatories. By drawing these examples together, which extend across Europe and throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, several overarching themes emerge, including the importance of age and male guardianship, as well as the strong connection between wind-playing and singing. A study of this breadth of accumulated evidence, which encompasses musical, geographical, political and cultural nuances, enables a re-examination of the current tendency to regard all wind-playing by women in early modern Europe to have been simply ii unacceptable and apparently ‘forbidden’. Rather, what actually occurred in practice was that wind-playing women occupied a variety of roles as exemplars of genteel courtly manners, as professional musicians, as members of all-female ensembles, and as paragons of domesticated female restraint.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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