Author: Crownfield, Elizabeth E.
Title: The Intellectual Backgrounds of Morley's Plaine and Easie Introduction
Institution: New York University
Completed: January 2000
I examine three intellectual traditions that influenced this book: written musical theory, non-musical writing in Elizabethan England, and the unwritten practice of teaching, learning, composing, and performing music. Though much of the content derives from the European written tradition, the book's individual features--style, organization, and manner of presentation--reflect instead Morley's unique synthesis of his diverse reading and experience. Morley was interested in portraying music as a living practice and not simply an academic subject, so he rejected many conventions of musical writing and instead adopted other devices designed to appeal to non-musical readers.
Besides Morley's eclecticism in the use of non-musical material there are two other main themes: the tension between improvisation and composition (both in music and elsewhere), and Morley's aesthetic views in their Elizabethan context.
The first of these uncovers rich parallels with areas as diverse as poetry, drama, law, and preaching, all of which had similar debates over spontaneity, premeditation, speaking, and writing. Morley's written dialogue form also carries the same tension, as do many details of his treatment of teaching.
The second is particularly concerned with Morley's term "formality" and its associated ideas. It intersects the improvisation/composition issue because writers often make value judgements based on the closeness or distance to spontaneity.
Keywords: Morley, descant, composition, improvisation, aesthetics, teaching, education, treatise, dialogue, formality
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