Verse and Voice in Byrd's Song Collections of 1588 and 1589

Verse and Voice in Byrd's Song Collections of 1588 and 1589

Jeremy L. Smith


Boydell Press



First full monograph to focus entirely on the English-language songs set to music by Byrd.
As he grappled with the challenges of composing for various instrumental and vocal ensembles, William Byrd (c. 1540-1623), England's premier Renaissance composer, devoted considerable attention to the poetry and prose of his native language, producing such treasured masterpieces as the hauntingly beautiful "Lulla lullaby"; the infectiously comedic "Though Amarillis dance in green"; and two extraordinarily dramatic Easter anthems. This book, the first full-length study specifically devoted to Byrd's English-texted music, provides a close reading of all of the works he published in the late 1580s, constituting nearly half of his total song output. It delves into the musical, political, literary, and, specifically, the sequential qualities of Byrd's 1588 and 1589 published collections as a whole, revealing, explaining, and interpreting an overall grand narrative, while remaining fully attentive to the particularities of each individual piece. Often deemed "unliterary" and generally considered political only in his approach to Latin texts, which were often of special interest to his fellow Catholics, Byrd was not only an inspired composer who had mastered the challenges of his nation's burgeoning verse, but also one who used his voice in song to foster a more inclusive polity in a time of religious strife.

Jeremy L. Smith is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Colorado Boulder.


January 2016
14 black and white illustrations
337 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music
ISBN: 9781783270828
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC MUS010000, MUS006000
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Table of Contents

Sonets & Pastoralls, I
Sonets & Pastoralls, II
Sonets & Pastoralls, III
Songs of sadnes and pietie
Songs of Three Parts
Songs of Four Parts
Songs of Five Parts
Songs of Six Parts
Selected Bibliography


(U)ntil now there has been no extensive study of what the words set by Byrd in his 1588 and 1589 song collections really mean, that is, "what they are," apart from songs. Smith...offers a brilliant, rich, provocative examination of Byrd's manipulation of his song texts-how he organized them and conveyed hidden meanings and a grand narrative to his Catholic, recusant friends...This superlative study is replete with arcane vocabulary, forests of footnotes, and a definitive display of Smith's control of the literature and the original documents. This demanding book is for scholars with deep knowledge of Byrd. Summing Up: Highly recommended. CHOICE

Author Bio

Associate Professor of Musicology, University of Colorado at Boulder, College of Music

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