Written in the form and style of the popular “novel of circulation” (or “it-narrative”), this article examines and provides an experience of the performance practices of eighteenth-century amateur music. It tells the typically complex history of a minor hit, “Come Haste to the Wedding,” a tune that was sung in a 1760s Drury Lane pantomime, rewritten as a rondeau for London publishers, danced as a jig in Irish and Scottish halls, transcribed as a fiddle tune by a captain in the Continental Army, circulated as a flute or guitar melody as far abroad as Calcutta, and collected by a young loyalist in Charleston, South Carolina. I argue that common to all these versions—and among many similar and neglected amateur genres, including sectional variation sets and dance collections—was the practice of desultory reading. The term “desultory” itself comes from the period, and the practice suggested here extrapolates from evidence of readers' experience of approaching literature and periodicals out of order. Many musical texts asked readers to skip between pages and sections, rondeaux chief among them but also instructional treatises. Some of those same treatises, by C. P. E. Bach (1753–62) and Quantz (1752), hint at desultory reading in subtle admonitions. Through a lively engagement with period style, this article outlines a new definition of music reading informed by eighteenth-century language and practical context, a definition attuned to the ocular and physical habits of the era's most plentiful practitioners: domestic performers of domestic music.
How to Read a Rondeau: On Pleasure, Analysis, and the Desultory in Amateur Performance Practice of the Eighteenth Century
EMILY H. GREEN is Associate Professor of Music at George Mason University. Her research interests include the print culture and performance practices of eighteenth-century music, with a recent focus on the repertoires of amateurs and the enslaved. Her publications include Dedicating Music, 1785–1850 (University of Rochester Press, 2019) and the coedited volume Consuming Music: Individuals, Institutions, Communities, 1730–1830 (University of Rochester Press, 2017).
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Emily H. Green; How to Read a Rondeau: On Pleasure, Analysis, and the Desultory in Amateur Performance Practice of the Eighteenth Century. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 June 2020; 73 (2): 267–325. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2020.73.2.267
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