Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Alison DeSimone's "The Power of Pastiche"

Alison DeSimone is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she teaches courses in music of the Renaissance and the Baroque, opera history, and specializes in eighteenth-century topics.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Power of Pastiche: Musical Miscellany and the Cultural Identity in Early Eighteenth-Century England, and reported the following:
Fortuitously, opening to page 99 in The Power of Pastiche introduces the reader to the beginning of Chapter 3: “Shaping English Identity in the Songbook Miscellany.” The chapter opens with a short description of a songbook miscellany, a collection of individual pieces of music published together to create a new whole.

This central chapter of my book does, indeed, prove Ford Madox Ford’s theory of the page 99 test. I intended for this chapter—the longest of The Power of Pastiche—to act as the central focus of my study on musical miscellany. This chapter grapples directly with all that is in the title of my book: in focusing on a type of published musical miscellany, it shows how songs mediated English identity in a variety of ways, from gender, to nationality, to politics, to economics.

The Power of Pastiche: Musical Miscellany and Cultural Identity in Early Eighteenth-Century England, grew out of questions that I had while trying to account for the ways in which performers, composers, and audiences influenced the sheer diversity of music available in the first two decades of the eighteenth century. How did audiences receive foreign music in relation to English music? What were audiences actually listening to? How did performers and composers reflect diverse tastes through their performances? Ultimately, I settled on the idea of musical miscellany—the assemblage of hodge-podge musical items into a new whole—as a means of understanding the appreciation of musical variety between about 1700 and 1720.

Chapter 3, revealed on page 99, offers one lens through which I analyze musical miscellany. It focuses on the songbook miscellany, a collection of various songs (and their corresponding texts), that were cobbled together and sold by publishers. These books could include hundreds of different songs. In going through these collections, I observed that their songs covered a wide variety of topics: some focused on love and the relationship between the genders; others made political statements; still others commented upon current events, such as the War of the Spanish Succession or the collapse of the South Sea Bubble. Through these songs, I argue in this chapter, a mutual exchange occurred between songbook and consumer—the songbook miscellanies included a diversity of subjects and tunes in order to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, and consumers might therefore be influenced in their musical tastes and cultural understandings by the contents of these collections. While I am a musicologist, and this is a musical historical study, it is my hope that Chapter 3 will be of particular interdisciplinary interest, especially for those fascinated by literary miscellanies and what they can tell us about those who purchased them.
Learn more about The Power of Pastiche at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue