Musical activity in Jane Austen's England.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In English music it is difficult to find any clearly defined period between Purcell and the beginning of the 20th century. It is necessary to look outside the field of music for some other means of definition and the dates of Jane Austen's birth and death have been chosen for this purpose. Any link between Austen and music is a tenuous one, yet the criticisms and comments in the novels and letters are worth noting providing the limited vision that her writings portray is kept in mind. The main emphasis of this thesis is on a description of the musical activity that occured in rural and urban England and the relationship of this activity to the social attitudes of the various classes of people. Musical activity is discussed in six locational categories: concert rooms, pleasure gardens, miscellaneous premises, home, theatre and church. The period under discussion was for a long time regarded as part of the 'Dark Ages' of English music. There was no really great resident native composer and of the music written by English composers very little is heard today. Yet the amount of musical activity is considerable and much of it worthwhile. The years 1775 to 1817 witnessed the rise of orchestral concerts as we know them today. It was a period that saw the development of the pianoforte as the most widespread domestic instrument and gave English pianoforte makers precedence over all others. The activities of catch and glee clubs and choral societies; the cathedral and parish choirs and the rise of evangelical hymnology; the choral festivals and performances of oratorio all contributed to the establishment of the great English choral tradition which has remained strong and is undoubtedly partly responsible for the 20th century Renaissance of English music. Thus the considerable musical activiiy and development in fields of music other than composition largely compensates for the lack of any great native composer.