Dissertation Index

Author: Gersh, Jason A

Title: Text-Setting in William Byrd's Liber primus sacrarum cantionum quinque vocum (1589): Toward an Analytic Methodology

Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Begun: September 2004

Completed: December 2006


From Fellowes through Kerman, it has become a commonplace that William Byrd was acutely sensitive to text and managed to translate that sensitivity into his musical settings. Within Byrd's 1589 Liber primus sacrarum cantionum quinque vocum, a collection of
Latin sacred songs published in 1589, lies an array of evidence of how he prioritized various musical and extramusical factors in his setting of the texts: (1) rhetorical figures; (2) mode; (3) texture; and (4) sonority. All of these factors fall under the rubric of a
broad notion of "decorum"---the proper words for the functions of the text, and the proper musical setting to illuminate the words and their functions. The prevalence of common text-setting procedures within this collection suggests that Byrd's approach to a given text is "predictable" to a certain extent. Moreover, it suggests that a notion of decorum may lie at the heart of Byrd's intimation in the preface to his 1605 Gradualia that sacred texts have the power to aid the trained mind in setting them to music.

Keywords: English, Renaissance, motets, mode, counterpoint, texture, text painting, deixis, sonority, meditation


Dr. Jason Gersh, 3106 Harpers Crossing, Langhorne, PA 19047, USA, 215-757-1281

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