Friday, April 8, 2011

Elizabethan Songs; Pop Music's Predeccesors

As of late, I have been working towards adding more scholarly research and critiques to my blog.  With this said, I would like to display some of my findings regarding Elizabethan song and what I see as its influence on pop music.

In John H. Long's book Shakespeare's Use of Music, he analyzes Shakespeare's use of music in many of his most popular plays.  Among the plays that he mentions are The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing.  As a preface to his research, Long describes the use of song in Elizabethan drama.  "The Elizabethan Age, is often referred to as the golden age of English song.  Vocal music pervaded the life of that time to an extent which we hardly realize.  The songs of the period reflect the manners and tastes of all stations of its society and the range of emotions of its people," remarks Long.  This focus on vocal music can especially be seen in works such as The Tempest. In The Tempest, one of the main characters, Ariel, uses vocal music to describe her feelings and situations.  By using these vocal songs, the play becomes more entertaining and unique.  Specifically in The Tempest, music serves as a window into Ariel's personal life.  These songs and analysis help us understand the importance of music in specifically understanding Ariel as a musical character.

Later, Long makes the following observation: "In general, the folk tunes were marked by strong rhythms, simple melodies, and the crudeness often associated with popular art.  They were danced, as well as sung, to a simple instrumental accompaniment"(2).  After reading this statement, one can immediately see the connection between Elizabethan music and pop music.  Like the Elizabethan music Long discusses here, much of today's pop music uses simple melodies, strong rhythms and crudeness to attract the attention of the listener.  Through the use of these musical techniques, today's artists are able to gain a greater audience.

By analyzing Long's research, one can see the connections between Elizabethan Era music and today's pop music.  Inevitably, pop musicians have been inspired by the Elizabethans.  While many pop musicians may not realize this, Shakespeare and his followers should be viewed as some of their greatest influences in composing music that is enticing to the listening public.

Long, John. Shakespeare's Use of Music. Gainesville: UP Florida, 1955. Print.