Think’st thou to seduce me then? Impersonating female personas in songs by Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

University dissertation from University of Gothenburg

Abstract: This dissertation is in the field of Artistic Research in Music Interpretation. It is a study of songs with female personas written by Thomas Campion, investigated through performance practice and a critical reading of historical research carried out on the English Renaissance. The study is inspired by gender- and queer theory and looks at the function of the songs within their socio-cultural context. Since the songs seems to have been used and performed in a homosocial society, the study also discusses the possibility of male bonding and same-sex desire as part of the songs’ hidden or overt messages. The dissertation consists of a thesis in two parts, a newly-made transcription from the original lute tablature of the fourteen chosen songs, and a CD-recording, documenting different modes of interpretation, including the following accompaniments for the songs: a clavichord, tuned in meantone, a positive organ tuned in meantone, a modern guitar and a female vocal quartet. Four of the arrangements for female vocal quartet are also included in the transcription appendix. The aim of the dissertation is to find out how the songs worked in their society and what impact their historical function can have on a contemporary musical practice. The aim is also to find hidden layers of the songs and try to make these layers come alive in musical practice today. The act of singing is used as means of inquiry. Part II of the thesis describes how a singer can work with contradicting stories behind the songs in order to make the music come alive. In the transcriptions, discrepancies between earlier editions and Campion’s original music have also been found and corrected.

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