The Advancement of Music in Enlightenment England

The Advancement of Music in Enlightenment England

Benjamin Cooke and the Academy of Ancient Music

Tim Eggington


Boydell Press



Casts new and valuable light on English musical history and on Enlightenment culture more generally.
'This is a book guaranteed to make waves. It skilfully weaves the story of one key musical figure into the story of one key institution, which it then weaves into the general story of music in eighteenth-century England. Anyone reading it will come away with fresh knowledge and perceptions - plus a great urge to hear Cooke's music.' Michael Talbot, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Liverpool and Fellow of the British Academy.

Amidst the cosmopolitan, fashion obsessed concert life of later eighteenth century London there existed a discrete musical counterculture centred round a club known as the Academy of Ancient Music. Now largely forgotten, this enlightened school of musical thinkers sought to further music by proffering an alternative vision based on a high minded intellectual curiosity. Perceiving only ear-tickling ostentation in the showy styles that delighted London audiences, they aspired to raise the status of music as an art of profound expression, informed by its past and founded on universal harmonic principles.
Central to this group of musical thinkers was the modest yet highly accomplished musician-scholar Benjamin Cooke, who both embodied and reflected this counterculture. As organist of Westminster Abbey and conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music for much of the second half of the eighteenth century, Cooke enjoyed prominence in his day as a composer, organist, teacher, and theorist. This book shows how, through his creativity, historicism and theorising, Cooke was instrumental in proffering an Enlightenment-inspired reassessment of musical composition and thinking at the Academy. The picture portrayed counters the current tendency to dismiss eighteenth-century English musicians as conservative and provincial. Casting new and valuable light on English musical history and on Enlightenment culture more generally, this book reveals how the agenda for musical advancement shared by Cooke and his Academy associates foreshadowed key developments that would mould European music of the nineteenth century and after. It includes an extensive bibliography, a detailed overview of the Cooke Collection at the Royal College of Music and a complete list of Cooke's works.

TIM EGGINGTON is College Librarian at Queens' College, Cambridge.


October 2014
14 black and white, 23 line illustrations
319 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Music in Britain, 1600-2000
ISBN: 9781843839064
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

The Academy of Ancient Music: foundation and early years
Cooke: upbringing, education and career
Cooke and the Academy of Ancient Music, 1752 - 1784
Musical discovery in the age of Enlightenment: history, theory and the Academy of Ancient Music
Musical Conjectures (1769)
Cooke's part songs and orchestral anthems
The Morning Hymn and Collins's Ode


This is an important book that deserves to be part of any reading list on the music of the English Enlightenment. MUSICAL TIMES

Tim Eggington has deepened our knowledge about the subject by findings a wide range of sources and raiding major issues regarding musical, aesthetic and social aspects of this unique English institution. MUSIC & LETTERS

In this book Tim Eggington has for the first time provided a detailed and in-depth study of the original Academy of Ancient Music and the work of Benjamin Cooke, and in doing so has addressed a significant gap in the history of eighteenth-century English music. He convincingly shows that the Academy was a major engine of musical creativity, education, erudition and internationalism, and effectively cemented the very idea of an historical musical canon in English minds. This sturdily bound book is surely a valuable contribution to the history of English music. BRIO

This well-written book is a useful addition to scholarship on operatic singers and is recommended to anyone with an interest in Italian opera during the second half of the 18th century. EARLY MUSIC

This is an important book that deserves to be part of any reading list on the music of the English Enlightenment. THE MUSICAL TIMES

A valuable addition to 18th century English music. EARLY MUSIC REVIEW

(Eggington) demonstrates Cooke's innovative references to various old styles with deliberation and taste, and argues that Cooke deserves a prominent position among 18th-century composers. Recommended. CHOICE

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