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The Intellectual Origins of Musical Canon in Eighteenth-Century England

Author(s): William Weber

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Source: Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp.
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The IntellectualOrigins of Musical
Canon in Eighteenth-CenturyEngland*

rHE ORIGINSAND DEVELOPMENT of musicalcanon are a fundamen-

tal, and very little explored,aspect of Westernmusic history.
Canonhas been so centralto musicalculturein the modernage that
scholarshave takenits hierarchiesas a given and thoughtit inappro-
priateto askwhen or why they arose.The failureto inquireinto this
historyhas helpedreinforcethe musicaljudgments,aestheticdogma,
and social ideologies implicit in the canon, and thereby seriously
distorted many perspectivesof music history. We will come to
understandthe rolesof canonin musicalcultureonly if we arewilling
to question the authority,indeed the historicalinevitability,of the
massive set of traditionsthat has built up around musical classics
during the last three hundredyears. Doing that requiresa balance
among theoreticaland empiricalmethodologies:the subject needs
both new concepts and new sources suitable to treat elements as
varied as repertories,institutions,tastes, ideas, and political struc-

*This paper was given originally at the William Andrews Clark Library at the
University of California, Los Angeles, and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en
Sciences Sociales, Paris. I am indebted to Donald Burrows, Robin Wallace, Susan
Staves, Timothy Webb, Joseph Levine, Beth Lau, Stephen Fleck, and Roger
Lonsdale for criticism.
' For broad discussion of musical canon, see Joseph Kerman, "A Few Canonic
Variations," in Canons, ed. Robert von Hallberg (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1984), 177-96; Katherine Bergeron and Philip V. Bohlman, eds., Disciplining
Music:Musicologyand Its Canons,(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, i992); and
Marcia J. Citron, Genderand the Musical Canon(Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1993). Among works on specific aspects of the problem, see the studies of
editions and repertory in England by Percy Lovell, " 'Ancient' Music in Eighteenth-
Century England," MusicandLetters60 (1979):401-15; and H. Diack Johnstone, "The
Genesis of Boyce's 'CathedralMusic,' " ibid., 56 (1975): 26-40o. Some has been done
on France; see Herbert Schneider, Die Rezeptionder OpernLullys im Frankreicbdes
Ancien Rfgime(Ttitzing: Schneider, 1982); and Philippe Vendrix, Aux orzginesd'une
disciplinebistorique:La Musiqueet son bistoireen Franceaux XVIF et XVIII sidcles(Liege:
University of Liege, I993). On canonic repertories and ideas in nineteenth-century
Germany, see Klaus Kropfinger, "Klassik-Rezeptionin Berlin (1800-30)," in Studien
In a recent work I tracedthe rise of repertoriesof old music in
eighteenth-centuryEngland,arguingthat by the end of the century
they amountedto the first"performed" canonin music.' Here we will
consider the intellectualorigins of musical canon that emerged in
Englandduringthe eighteenthcentury. Two problemswill concern
us. The first is how the musicaland literarycanonswere relatedas
they evolvedin the courseof the century.Did the one growout of the
other, or can we see anothersort of interactionbetweenthem? The
secondproblemis one of intellectualprocess.Whatkindof discourse
developed as the foundationfor performingold works in canonic
terms?How did an epistemologicalprinciple,empiricism,supportthe
valorizationof the individualwork and therebyof canon?

Fundamentalto this subject is the need to distinguish among
differentkindsof musicalcanonas they evolvedin the early modem
period: the scholarly, the pedagogical,and the performed.First,
treatiseson scientificand philosophicalaspectsof music datingfrom
antiquity-music's high theoreticaltradition, earlier taught in the
universities-constituted the most pertinentexampleof a scholarly
canon. While such study affectedpracticesof tuning and tempera-

zur Musikgeschichte
Berlinsimfriien i9. Jahrhundert,ed. Carl Dahlhaus (Regensburg:
Bosse, 1980), 301-79; and Erich Reimer, "Repertoirebildungund Kanonisierung:Zur
Vorgeschichte des Klassikbegriffs(18oo00-1835),"ArchivfiirMusikwissenschaft 43 (1986):
241-6o. J. Peter Burkholder discusses the influence of canon upon the compositional
process in "Museum Pieces: The Historicist Mainstream in Music of the Last
Hundred Years," Journal of Musicology2 (1983): 115-34, and in "The Twentieth
Century and the Orchestra as Museum," in TheOrchestra: Originsand Transformations,
ed. Joan Peyser (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986), 409-33. Joseph
Horowitz analyzes the popularization of the canon in UnderstandingToscanini(New
York: Knopf,
2 William Weber, TheRiseof MusicalClassicsin Eighteenth-Century England:A Study
in Canon,RitualandIdeology(Oxford: Clarendon Press, I have also discussed the
early period of musical canon in "The Contemporaneity of Eighteenth-Century
Musical Taste," The MusicalQuarterly70 (1984): 175-94; "La musiqueanciennein the
Waning of the Ancien Regime," Journal of ModernHistory 56 (1984): 58-88; "The
Eighteenth-Century Origins of the Musical Canon," Journal of the Royal Musical
Association114 (1989): 6-17; and "Lully and the Performance of Old Music in the
Eighteenth Century," in Jean-BaptisteLully: Actes du colloqueSaint-Germain-en-Laye,
HeidelbergI987, ed. Herbert Schneider and J&r6mede la Gorce (Laaber: Laaber
Verlag, 1991), 58I-9o. The problem is also central to my "Wagner, Wagnerism and
Musical Idealism," in Wagnerismin EuropeanCultureand Politics, ed. David C.
and William Weber (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984); and "The Rise of the
Classical Repertoire in Nineteenth-Century Orchestral Concerts," in The Orchestra,
ed. Peyser, 361-86.

ment,musiciansweregenerallynot involvedin it, andits ideasand

methodologies camemorefromwithoutthanfromwithinmusical
culture.Second,the disciplineof writingandperforming musiccan
be termedthe pedagogicalcanon.3Here historicalsensibilitywas
subordinatedto the principleof craft, for in the sixteenthand
seventeenth centuriesthemostimportant senseof a musicalpastwas
embodiedin the compositional practiceof emulatingworks,most
oftenin polyphonicstyle, by the mastercomposersof the previous
generation. Unlikescholarlystudiesonmusic,musicallearningof this
sort bore a limitedrelationshipto largerintellectuallife, and its
dedicationto stylisticallybackward-looking techniquesdistancedit
fromcontemporary taste.Finally,the performedcanoninvolveda
repertoryof old works that had a commonidentity--indeed,a
name--andwerepresented on a conventionalbasis,thoughin varying
combinations in differentplaces.Sucha repertory hadan
intellectualdefinition,its choicesbeing cast in both criticaland
ideologicalterms.A performed canon,beingmorethana collectionof
judgmentsabout individual works or composers,sprangfrom the
bestowalof intellectualauthorityupon them, and that brought
musicalvaluesandsocialexpectations directlyto bearuponperfor-
manceof the music.The boundaries amongthe threetypesof canon
havenotbeenstrictorconstant, however. Discourseoncompositional
practices,for example,shiftedin largepartfromthe pedagogical to
the scholarlyareain the eighteenthandearlynineteenthcenturies.4
A performedcanon-"ancient music"--grew up in a variety of
contexts in eighteenth-centuryEngland. Services and anthems by
Elizabethancomposers had never entirely disappearedfrom the
repertoriesof the Chapel Royal and the musically most serious
cathedralsand colleges. The concertosof ArcangeloCorellipersisted
in local music clubs all aroundthe country. Vocal pieces by Henry
Purcellremainedin use in theaters,concerthalls, andcathedrals.His
Te DeumandJubilatebecame standardrepertoryat annual charity
festivals and establisheda custom that was the basis upon which
Handel'soratorios,odes, and masquesremainedin performanceafter
his death. And worksby a rangeof othercomposerswere performed
at least occasionally--notonly familiarnamessuch as John Blow and

3 Katherine Bergeron discusses the nature of canon as a disciplinary structure in

"Prologue: Disciplining Music," in DiscipliningMusic, ed. Bergeron and Bohlman,
4 For further discussion of these problems, see Citron, Genderand MusicalCanon,
chap. i; and my chapter "The History of Musical Canon," in RethinkingMusic, ed.
Mark Everist and Nicholas Cook (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
William Croft, but also those of much less well known men such as
Emanuele d'Astorga, Domenico Francesco Negri, and Capel Bond.s
Interaction between pedagogy and performance was vital to the
process of canon formation: Corelli's concertos were performed as
well as studied, as had not often been the case for Palestrina's sacred
music. But the most significant development was the regular perfor-
mance of a numerous and diverse set of aging secular and sacred
works, for which no equal can be found in that time or before.

Canonin Musicand Literature

Inquiry into the intellectual roots of "ancient music" raises a

serious historiographical problem. By instinct, humanists of many
kinds turn to broad cultural categories in literature and philosophy to
explain changes in artistic taste; some historians, musical and other-
wise, too often think they see the Enlightenment everywhere in
eighteenth-century musical life.6 There is a great danger of homoge-
nizing the arts historically if we portray a movement sweeping across
the cultural map, changing everything as if with a magic wand. It is
sometimes presumed that reverence for Purcell came from that for
Shakespeare, or that the canonization of Lully grew from that of
Racine or Corneille, even though no research has been done to
support either idea. Commonalities among the arts often prove elusive
when such interpretations are examined closely.7 Let us instead
assume that each of the arts has its own set of traditions, and that each
one interacts with the others in a variety of ways-through competi-
tion or conflict just as often as through mutual creativity or Zeitgeist.
I wish to argue, then, that a performed canon began to arise in
early eighteenth-century England because of a weakening, indeed a
crisis, in its literary counterpart, and that it emerged on its own
ground and on its own terms. The fact that the two canons were
moving in different directions was fundamental: while an emergent
musical one was only now defining itself, the literary one was being
recast in its perimeters and its authority. To be sure, commentary

s See Weber, Riseof MusicalClassics,65, 178, 180-87.

For a critique of this tendency, see Derek Beales, Mozartand the
6 Habsburgs:The
StentonLecture1992 (Reading: University of Reading, 1993)-
7 Lawrence Lipking suggests a unity of canonic developments in music, poetry,
and painting in the introduction to The Orderingof the Arts in
England(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), 6-7. On this problem, see my
review essay, "Beyond Zeitgeist:Recent Work in Music History,"
Journal of Modern
History 66 (1994): 32 1-45.

upon music was written by men of letters, and thus had a literary
dimension. But at the same time it stood within the traditions and
intellectual structures specific to musical life, and the nature of critical
discourse differed significantly in the various arts. Recent work on
canon formation has basically taken these points for granted and dealt
with the fields as separate entities.8 Still, the processes of canon
formation in music and literature were neither synonomous nor
autonomous. The two fields evolved within a common culture and
engaged with each other in significant ways. They had a certain
amount in common simply because they both functioned within an
unusually unstable context of ideas and politics such as occurred in
England at the time, and within the burgeoning of the publishing
industry. But the two fields responded to this context differently.
Canonic thinking became more national in literature and more
cosmopolitan in music, and idiosyncratic traditions generally emerged
within the two arts.
In the late date at which it developed a canon of great works, music
contrasted greatly with literature. The cultural authority that existed
for epic poetry, established as early as the library of Alexander the
Great, had no counterpart in music. But the absence of a musical
canon persisted not only because few musical scores remained from
ancient Greece and Rome, but also because musical culture lacked the
intellectual traditions necessary to develop a canon. Theory and
practice stood too far apart in musical culture during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries for such a frameworkto evolve. The speculative
study of music dating back to antiquity--a scholarly canon in its own
right--looked outward toward philosophy and science rather than
inward toward composition, performance, or the practices of poly-
phonic composition. The latter tradition, which served as the core of
musical learning, stood too close to the church and had too limited a
printed literature to be able to forge close links with the intellectual
community. As a result humanistic writings tended to disparage old
works or compositional techniques as scholastic and pedantic.9 In-

Frank Kermode, The Classic:LiteraryImagesof Permanenceand Change(Cam-

bridge: Harvard University Press, 1983); idem, "Survival of the Classic,"
Shakespeare,Spenser,Donne:Renaissance Essays,ed. Kermode (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1971), 164-80; Francis Haskell, Rediscoveriesin Art: SomeAspectsof Taste,
Fashion,and Collectingin Englandand France(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976);
and Canons,ed. Hallberg. For a different point of view, see Murray Krieger, Arts on
theLevel:TheFall of theElite Olbect(Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981).
9 One finds this suggested in "Harmony in an Uproar," a satire on the Academy
of Ancient Music, in the statement that its members bore "Resemblanceto the regular
deed,it wasuncommon to writeaboutspecificpiecesof musicin any
detailpriorto the late eighteenthcentury;primersand theoretical
workswereconcernedchieflywith generalrulesor practices.Both
composition andperformance stoodinsteadwithinanoraltraditionof
criticism--teacherto pupil,or musicianto amateur.'•A canoncould
notarisein a culturalworldwherediscourses wereasdividedasthese
were,andwhereprintedcommentary wasso limited.
Barriersto the formationof musical canon, chiefly the problem that
music had no ancient models, disappeared in England during the
eighteenth century, and musical life acquired new intellectualtools by
which a canon could be formed. For it was change in the fundamental
structure of ideas and discourse by which music was perceived and
defined that made canon formationpossible. There developedearlierand
more widely in England than anywhere else in Europe a manner of
writing about music that was essentially a form of empiricism: the
discussion of actualpieces of music insteadof rules about compositionor
theories about their scientific or philosophicalorigins. Empiricism was
not a world view; rather,it was a linguisticvehicle, a way of thinkingand
writing that each musical and literary culture adapted to its own
particularneeds. The focus of musicalthought changedfrom speculative
ideas and the study of antiquity to musical criticism, aesthetics, and
social commentary upon musical life. The idea of canon, or rather of
ancient music, was an essential element of the new mode of musical
thinking. If the speculativetraditionwas to be abandoned--and we shall
see that it was quite forcefully abandoned--musicalthought would then
need a new foundation, an ultimate intellectual authority, and canon
served that need.
The intellectual implications of performing old music were at first
primarily religious, since the idea of ancient music emerged within the
Anglican Church. The musical traditions of the Chapel Royal and the
cathedrals laid down the social foundations for a learned tradition of
performing Elizabethan music at the end of the seventeenth century.
The Civil War and the Restoration had stimulated a much

Gravity of the Antients ... dress'd up in Cobwebs," found in Otto Erich Deutsch,
Handel:A Documentary Biography(New York: Norton, 1954), 344; and in the statement
by Jean Laurent Le Cerf de la Vieville that fugue had no relationship to taste, in
Comparaisonde la musiqueitalienne et de la musiquefranFaise, in Jacques Bonnet-
Bourdelot, Histoirede la musiqueet de ses efets, 4 vols. (Amsterdam: Le Cane, 1725),
'oOn this problem, see Neal Zaslaw, Mozart'sSymphonies:Context,Performance
Practice,Reception(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 51o- 11;and W. Khippenholz and
H. J. Busch, eds., Musikgedeutetundgewertet:Dokumentezur von
Musik (Kassel: Birenreiter, 1983), 36.

repertoryof old sacredworks and a higherdegreeof self-conscious-

ness towardit than had existed earlier.High-churchOxford Tories
predominatedamongthe leadersof this new taste, most prominently
Henry Aldrich,deanof ChristChurch.They keptalivea repertoryof
sixteenth-centurymadrigalsand catchesfor performancein domestic
contexts, and some composedin these genres;Aldrich, for example,
was highly respectedfor his catches."
While it was commonfor a gentlemanto participatein both the
literaryand musicalworlds, the two fieldsdid not cohabitat all well
in the seventeenthand early eighteenthcenturies.As music became
increasinglypopularin homes, at concerts,and in operahalls, writers
such as Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele in England, and
Francoisde la Mothe-Fenelonand Voltairein France,becameincreas-
ingly hostile to the competitionit posed for them, and deploredthe
low intellectuallevel of musicalculture,perhapswith some justifica-
tion. ' Neoclassicalaestheticscompoundedthe problem,for its belief
in timeless poetic ideals subordinatedmusic to poetry and militated
againsthistoricaldiscussionof the arts. One might indeedarguethat
neoclassicism,and the idea of imitationessentialto it, impededthe
developmentof a canon. Writersin neoclassicalidiomsdid not dwell
upon greatcomposers,from the past or the present,or upon aspects
of musichistorywith muchspecificity.JamesHarrisof Salisbury,for
example, wrote a majorwork on taste from an Aristotelianpoint of
view, but even though he was one of Handel'sleading patrons, he
mentionedfew musiciansand cited the composer'sname only in a
coupleof footnotes.'"It would have been inappropriatefor Harristo
do more than that;the field to which he was addressinghimselfwas
concernedwith the universalsof tasteratherthanits manifestationsin
specificcomposersor pieces.
In The Classic:LiteraryImagesof Permanence and Change,Frank
Kermodedefinesthe authorityheld by the literaryclassicspriorto the
eighteenthcentury as one that stood above time, interpretation,or

" Weber, Rise of Musical Classics,chaps. 2-3. See also Robert S. Shay, "Henry
Purcell and 'Ancient' Music in Restoration London" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of North
Carolina, 1991).
" James Anderson Winn discusses the rivalry in Unsuspected Eloquence:A History
of the RelationsbetweenPoetryand Music (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981),
163-93. Curtis Price shows the primacy of songs in the dramatic theater in Music
the Restoration Theater (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1979), 1o6-9,
237-43, and passim.
'3 James Harris, ThreeTreatises, First concerning Art, theSecondconcerningMusic,
Painting and Poetry, the Third Happiness,
concerning 3d ed. (London: Nourse, 1772), 67n,
anyrelativizing considerations. He callsthedomainof the classicsan
empirein itsownsense,"aperpetuity, a transcendent entity,however
remoteits provinces,howeverextraordinary its temporalvicissi-
tudes."•4The "metropolitan" natureof the classics,as he callsit, set
the canonaboveprovincialframesof discourse,incorporating local
tongueswithinits domain.The readerdid not interpreta classic,far
less considerits meaningswithinhistoricalcontexts;it stoodabove
changeandcouldbe reshapedas allegoryin otherages.
Kermodesees this senseof the classicfalteringbadlyin the late
seventeenthcentury.He tells "howimperialism was reducedto a
weakermyth,Augustanism, whileVirgilwashandedoverfromthe
allegoriststo the philologists."'s
Augustanclassicismis herecharac-
terizedas defensiveaboutthenatureof its authority,andantiquarian
ratherthanallegorical in its methods.The shiftfromthe passionate
rediscoveryof ancientworksto criticalphilologybrought"aculti-
vated taste for the antique"whose exact reproduction of Roman
culture,ratherthan its emulation,meantthat the greatage no longer
possessedthe transcendentquality that it once possessed. To Ker-
mode, Augustanismwas "a secularized,a demythologizedimperial-
ism;or, as Eliot would say, we arenow dealingwith a relative,not an
absoluteclassic";as a result"neoclassicismsucceedsimperialism"--or
rather, it is "a second-orderclassicism."'6
Kermode demonstratesthat the classical tradition in literature
became seriously weakened in its authority at the turn of the
eighteenthcentury,andthathelpsus understandhow a musicalcanon
emerged as a consequence.Humanismhad arrivedin Britainlate,
almost at the time of the Reformation,and in weak forms that
significantlylimited its influence." Neoclassicaldramadid not be-
come as importantin England as it did in France in the time of
Corneilleand Racine;few plays were writtendirectlyupon classical
models(Addison'sCatoof '717 virtuallyendedthatpractice).'8At the
turn of the eighteenthcentury a disillusionmentwith the classical
traditionwas evident in many quarters,and mocking the classics

14Kermode,TheClasMic, 28.
Ibid., 49.
Ibid., 67, 72.
17 JosephM. Levine,Humanism andHistory:Originsof Modern EnglishHistoriogra-
pby (Ithaca:CornellUniversityPress, 1987),introductionand chap. i.
i' Glynne Wickham,"Neo-ClassicalDramaand the Reformationin
DramaandIts Influence:
Classical Presented
Essays toH. D. F. Kitto,ed. M. J. Anderson
(London:Methuen, 1965), 155-73-

becamecommon.'9The cult of Shakespeareas it emergedat the start

of the century was militantlyanticlassical,intent on provinghim a
primitive genius unspoilt by ancient learning. These tendencies
workedvery much to music'sbenefit.It meantthat the absenceof a
corpus of music from antiquitybecameincreasinglyless significant
and that a recentorderof taste was not completelyovershadowedby
worksthat had ancientpoints of reference.
The classicaltraditiondid not die, of course;it in fact acquireda
wider popularityas ancientartifactswere broughtto Britainin great
numbers, translationsbecame more common, and gardens were
designed along Romanmodels. But this very widening diluted the
former canonic authorityof ancient example, since it spread such
knowledgeso far beyond the men of letterswho had definedit. "In
England,"as Georg Luck has put it, "therule of classicalorthodoxy
was not at firstoverthrownby a literarymovement;it beganto decline
as the new historicaland archaeologicalinterestin Greeceand Rome
beganto grow.""oWhatlay behindthese changeswas the extraordi-
nary expansionof culturalworlds and industries,most importantof
all the publishingbusiness,duringthe lateseventeenthandeighteenth
centuries. The proliferationof pamphlets, books, and periodicals
encourageda more systematicapproachto the literary canon, for
during this period anthologiesbegan to appear which comprised
worksby the principalauthorsin Englishliterature.Formalrecogni-
tion was now given to English poetry in the universities,and the
canon expandedto includeworksbeforeChauceras well as popular
forms such as balladsand novels, and contractedto removeauthors
whose reputationshad declined."
There arose in classical studies at the turn of the eighteenth
century a new set of methodologies,chiefly philology, that took a
criticalposturetowardthe greatworks, raisingquestionsabouttheir

England:TheDeclineof a
'9 Howard Weinbrot,AugustusCaesarin "Augustan"
Norm(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1978);and idem, TheFormal
Strain:Studiesin AugustanImitationandSatire(Chicago:Universityof ChicagoPress,
2oGeorg Luck, "ScriptorClassicus,"Comparative Literature io (1958):154.
2 There are differentviews
amongliteraryhistoriansas to how majora change
occurredin canonin the late eighteenthcentury.See Kermode,TheClassic; Douglas
LanePatey, "The EighteenthCenturyInventsthe Canon,"Modern LanguageStudies
i8 (1988):17-37;TrevorRoss, "JustWhenDid 'British bardsbegint'Immortalize'?"
Culture,vol. 19, ed. Leslie Ellen Brownand Patricia
in Studiesin Eigbteenth-Century
Craddock(EastLansing,Mich.:CollegiatePress, 1989), 394;andThomasF. Bonnell,
"Booksellingand Canon-Making:The Trade Rivalry over the English Poets,
1776-1783,"in ibid., 53-70.
originsand their meaning--questionsthat the earlier"metropolitan"
approachhad rarely contemplated.Scholarsbegan disclosing texts
and objectsas forgeries,and conflictsamongthem abouthow to treat
the classicsweakenedthe authorityof that tradition.An intellectual
crisis emergedwithin the Quarrelof the Ancientsand the Modems,
a series of intellectualdisputes that ran from 169o into the 1720s.
WilliamTemple openedthe argumentwith his "Essayupon Ancient
and Modem Learning,"an attackupon the questioning,by Thomas
Burnet, of the primacyof ancientmodels in TheSacredTheoryof the
Earth, and by Bernardde Fontenellein De la pluraliti des mondes;
conflictintensifiedin 1699with claimsthatthe EpistlesofPhalaris,long
attributedto a contemporaryof Pythagoras,were forgeriesdone in
the time of the Roman Sophists. It did not matter who won, for
simply disputing the relative accomplishmentsof Ancients and
Modems broughtthe intellectualsovereigntyof antiquityinto ques-
tion." What happenedresemblesthe controversiesthat have sur-
roundedbiblicalscholarshipduringthe last hundredyears or so: in
bothcasescriticaltoolschallengedtime-honoredcertaintiesandset off
a hostile reactionagainsttheir exponents.
The Quarreltookplacewithinthe profoundopeningup of politics
and culturethat occurredin Englandat the end of the seventeenth
century.Stimulatedby the uncertainconstitutionalsettlementof 1689
and the failure of Parliamentto renew press censorshipin 1695,
ideologicaldisputebecamefarmoreextensivethanit wasto be anywhere
in Europefor almosta hundredyears.The outpouringof broadsides,
pamphlets,caricatures,andbooksaffectedreligion,science,the theater,
indeedall areasof publiclife."3Though the Quarrelcut acrossparty
lines, the challengeto canonicauthorityformedpart of an unsteady
politicalclimatethatmademanyfearthatanothercivilwarwas at hand.

on thisproblem,to particularly
estingeffectin "Ancients
andModernsReconsidered," Studies
Eighteenth-Century I5
chaps.6, 7;"TheBattleoftheBooks
andthe Shieldof Achilles,"
Eighteenth Life9 (1984):33-61;andTheBattleof
theBooks: and
History Literaturein theAugustanAge (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
23 An important work defining the political crisis at the turn of the
century is
William Speck's Tory and Whig: The Strugglein the Constituencies,1701-15 (London:
Macmillan, 1970). For its influence on culture, and to a degree on music, see Jeremy
Black and Jerome Gregory, "Anglicanism and the Arts: Religion, Culture and Politics
in the Eighteenth Century," in Culture,Politicsand Societyin Britain,
i66o-i8oo, ed.
Jeremy Black and Jerome Gregory (Manchester:Manchester University Press, I991),
82-109. Party conflicts sometimes influenced canonic identities in this period; see
Ross, "Just When Did 'British bards begin t'Immortalize'?"390.

Whilemusicplayedno partin the Quarrel,the ideaof "ancient
music"musthavecomeaboutasa resultof thedispute.Thetermwas
born in Oxford,the main site of the literarydispute, and was
conductedin largepart by the samepeople;Henry Aldrich,for
example,wasoneof theleadingexponents of ancientexample.24 Each
side contributed to the development of the musicalidea.The main
initialinfluencecamefrom"Ancients" such as Aldrichwho were
reshaping thetraditionof classicalstudy a morepopularmoldthan
it hadtendedto be, partlyto escapethephilologists' attacksandpartly
to attractthe growingpublicfor theirwork.Thus did intellectuals
whowereputtingthe literaryclassicson a newbasisbegindesigning
a canonicframework-though a quitedifferentone--formusic.Then
duringthe 172os the Modemsbeganapplyingtheircriticalmethod-
ologyto the musicalquestionby asking,rudely,why old poemshad
been preservedbut so little old music. Fromthis discoursethere
emergeda wide-ranging andnewlyempirical critiqueof the specula-
tive traditionof musicalstudy.
At the turnof the eighteenthcenturythe word"ancient" could
mean anythingdistinctlyold, thoughfor the most part it was
suggestiveof the timepredatingthe Reformation. But whenit was
usedin referenceto worksof art,a canonicmeaningcameintoplay
thatimpliedartifactsof antiquity,especiallywhenthe greatQuarrel
cameto dominateso muchof literarydiscourse.The musicalterm
initiallyhadtwomeanings.Onewasa logicalextensionof thecanonic
sense of "ancient":referenceto the musicand the musicaltreatisesof
antiquity. Charles Burney and John Hawkins employed the term
consistentlyin this mannerin theirmusic histories.But this meaning
was graduallyreplacedby another:referenceto musicof the sixteenth
and early seventeenthcenturies.This use of "ancient"was a consid-
erable anomoly in the period, since applying the word to admired
works of art from so recent an epoch had no parallelin the other

24 See the conversation between Thomas Hearne of the Bodleian Library and

Arthur Charlett, Master of University College, in TheRemarksand Collections of Thomas

Hearne, I i vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1898), 6:47. Hearne had consulted
Aldrich over Greek musical inscriptions; on another occasion he said that Aldrich
"was admirably versed in ancient Musick" (ibid., 4:381, 6:197)-
2s See the OxfordEnglish Dictionary, 2d. ed., s.v. "ancient"; I am indebted
E. S. C. Weiner of the OED for his advice on this matter. The term was used, though
from the
ironically, for fairly recent ballad writers in A Collectionof oldBallads,corrected

Many of the first known uses of "ancient music" in print were

eminently practical:booksellers began advertising "books, ancient and
modern" in their catalogues, clearly referring to sixteenth-century
scores as "ancient." In 1691, for example, Henry Playford held a sale
of chiefly sixteenth-century prints that his late father had produced in
their publishing house: A Catalogueof AncientandModernMusickBooks
/ Both Vocaland Instrumental/ With SeveralTreatisesaboutthesame,and
Several Musical Instruments.As the term appeared in an increasing
number of places during the next two decades, it took on a normative
rather than objective meaning, suggesting the idea of great works from
the past. James Talbot's manuscript history of music, written in the
I690s, referred in a descriptive way to "Ancient Church Musick" of
the sixteenth century. 6 But Arthur Bedford used the term as a norm
when in his polemical work of I711, The GreatAbuseof Musick, he
called for sixteenth-century church music to be seen as the highest
standard of taste." Thomas Tudway likewise bestowed a form of
authority upon "ancient music" when he put it in the title of the
collection of church music he made for the Harley library in the
1710os. The most prominent public use of the term came in 1731,
when the Academy of Vocal Music in London--a club made up of
learned musicians and amateurs-was renamed the Academy of
Ancient Music.29 In 1776 the term was redefined by the aristocratic
founders of the Concert of Antient Music and the musician Joah Bates
to mean any works more than two decades old; this definition enabled
them to establish a repertory that embraced performing traditions
dating from the start of the century. The strictness with which the
twenty-year rule was applied, and the critical and ideological frame-
work that grew up around the concerts, are suggestive for the concept

bestand mostancientCopiesextant, 2 vols. (London:J. Brotherton, 1726). Robert Shay

cites John Evelyn's reference in 1662 to "antientgrave and solemn wind music" in a
review of Weber, Riseof Musical in
Classics, Notes50 (I993): 541.
26 Christ Church Library, MS 1187,
formerly attributed to Aldrich. Two loose
sheets, unpaginated and untitled, include the word "ancient" in each of the two
different senses: one is an inquiry into "whether Ancient Church Musick was mixed
vocal and instrumental," and the other discusses "keys, ancient and modem." See
Anthony C. Baines, "James Talbot," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and
Musicians18:538; idem, "JamesTalbot's Manuscript," Galpin
SocietyJournal I (1948):
9-26; and his subsequent articles on the papers in GalpinSocietyJournal 1949, 1950,
1952, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1968.
27 Arthur Bedford, TheGreatAbuseofMusick(London:
John Wyatt, I71 ), 181-84.
28 British Library, Hari. MS
7337, fol. i.
29 Weber, Rise of Musical
Classics,57-73; Minutes of the Academy of Ancient
Music, 26 May i73I, British Library, Add. MS 11732.

of a canon, or repertory, of performed works. Indeed, the term

"classical"had begun to appear by that time and was used in a not
dissimilar musical sense.30
From a strictly musical perspective, the term "ancientmusic" grew
out of the tradition of craft and respect for the master composer. The
values associatedwith musicalcraft, which can be tracedback to the rise
of sacred polyphony in the Middle Ages, became rooted in the Chapel
Royal and the cathedrals. They also became adapted to the public
musical world that began at the end of the seventeenthcentury, in which
court and cathedral composers were active, and in which old works
becamecomponentsof repertories.The notion of craftand the valuingof
excellence in compositionmaintaineda continuity between the past and
the present into which taste for ancient music fit easily. Thus the title of
Tudway's collection:

Ancient and ModernChurchMusick/ from / the Reformation/ to the

Restauration/ of King Charles ye 2nd / A Collection of the Most
Celebrated/ Servicesand Anthems,both Ancientand Modemrn / used in
the Churchof England/ fromthe Reformation/ to the Restaurationof K.
Charles II / composed by the Best Masters/ and collected by Tho.
Tudway, DM / Musick-Professor to the Universityof Cambridge/ AD

The craft tradition and the idea of ancient music took literary form in
eulogies to great composers upon their deaths, most prominent among
them that of Henry Purcell by John Dryden. 3' They and texts for St.
Cecilia's Day provided meeting grounds where musical and literary
notions and images would mingle--a kind of partnership that ended
by about midcentury.

30oWeber, Riseof MusicalClassics,194-95; on ancient music, see Simon McVeigh,

ConcertLifein Londonfrom Mozartto Haydn(Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,
1993), 97-99, 147-51, 226-29. By the end of the century "ancient music" was
sometimes used in a stylistic sense to denote composing in ways reflective of older
practices, most commonly the concerto grosso, as was done by Charles and
Wesley, Matthew Camidge, and John Marsh. See Marsh's brief essay, "A Compar-
ison between the Ancient and Modem Styles of Music," MonthlyMagazine2 (1796):
981-86; or C. L. Cudworth's transcription in "An Essay by John Marsh," Musicand
Letters36 (1955): 155-64-
British Library, Harl. MS 7339, fol. i. Another example of such language-
"Composedby the Best Masters of the last and Present Age"--is found in a
devoted largely to Purcell'sworks; see HarmoniaSacra,or DivineHymnsandDialogues,3d
ed., 2 vols. (London: Pearson, 1726), title page.
32 OrpheusBritannicus:A Collectionof all the choicestSongsfor One, Two and Three
Voices,composedby Mr. HenryPurcell, 2 vols. (London, 1698), preface; HarmoniaSacra
2 :iV-V.
In "ancientmusic"a term had now appearedthat gave a common
identity to old works and bestowed an authorityupon them. By
contrast,the traditionknown as the stileanticosuggesteda composi-
tional practice that did not necessarilyemploy specific works as
models.33The term "ancientmusic" was historicallymuch more
specificandusuallyreferredto actualcollectionsor repertories.While
it grew out of the classicaltraditionin literature,it had a distinctively
musicalmeaningin its focusupon learnedpolyphony.Whatthe term
meant to membersof the Academyis illustratedby their programs,
which presented Masses and motets by Palestrina, anthems and
services by Byrd, and madrigalsby Marenzioand Wilbye. That
anyone would performsuch works in a quasi-publiccontext, with
relatively few stylistic alterations,proves the strength, in fact the
unique development,of the canonicthinkingthat emergedin early
Anothermajorchangein the literarycanonthat occurredaround
the turn of the eighteenthcenturywas the establishmentof modem
classics. England led the way in this area; by 1700 new literary
traditionshad begun to grow up aroundChaucer,Milton, Spenser,
Shakespeare,and Dryden which offeredalternativesto the ancient
classics.Thus WalterJacksonBate:"Theneoclassicalreconsideration
of itself, in Germanyas well as England,almostreplacedthe ancients
with a 'modern,'or near-modern,hero-of-lettersas an exemplarof
what the modem writer could do."34The study of each of these
authorsbecameincreasinglyseparatefromclassicalstudy, though in
some cases was still relatedto it in methodand allusion.
Parallel,and in largepart independent,processesof canonization
tookplacein musicandliterature,eachmadepossibleby the changing
natureof the classicaltradition.The modem classicsin music were
not formedon the model of those in literature;Handel and Purcell

33 Interestingly enough, the stile anticowas much less common in England than in
Italy or Germany: it was in the country where the reuse of old styles was not
practiced that the performance of old pieces returned the earliest. Christoph Wolff,
Der stile anticoin derMusikJ. S. Bachs:Studienzu Bacbs
Spiitwerk(Wiesbaden: Steiner,
1968); K. G. Fellerer, Das PalestrinastilundseineBedeutungin der vokalenKirchenmusik
des i8. Jts. (Augsburg: B. Filser, 1929); Anthony Newcomb, "When the Stile antico
was Young," Trasmissione e Recezepione delleforme de cultura musicale,Bologna, 1987,
Proceedings of the International Musicological Society, Bologna, 1987 (Turin:
Edizione di Turino, i99o). On England, see Robert Shay,
"Henry Purcell and
'Ancient' Music"; and Percy Lovell, "'Ancient' Music in
England" (see n. i above).
34 Walter Jackson Bate, The Burdenof the Past and the EnglishPoet (Cambridge:
Belknap Press, 197o), 79.

were not canonized in the image of Shakespeare. Admittedly, musical

commentators did sometimes like to compare great composers with
great literary figures. Charles Burney, for example, once cited Purcell
as "our musical Shakspeare."3sBut this sort of allusion was superfi-
cial, just as was the relationship of the term "ancient music" to
antiquity. If the canonization of Shakespearecame from an expansion
and reordering of literary models, that of Corelli and Handel marked
the introduction of classics within musical taste.
The novelty of musical classics in the eighteenth century worked
very much to their advantage in public life. The power of ancient and
modern literary classics--the "burden of the past" as Walter Jackson
Bate characterizedit-weighed heavily upon men of letters. Together
they seemed deeply intimidating and thus unsurpassable. But music
was free of such binding tradition and overpowering models; as Bate
suggests, a composer such as Handel did not feel the poet's terrible
insecurity. Creative interplay between new works and the emerging
canon gave musical life a fresh, untroubled mood, allowing past and
present to work closely together. Older and newer works cohabited
easily because for the most part the eighteenth-century musical canon
was a loosely connected set of individual practices that lacked the
academic dogmatism found in the canons of literature or art. During
the 730os,for example, the concertos of Corelli and Handel were
played side by side, each seeming all the greater for it, and the closely
related works in the genre by Francesco Geminiani and Charles
Avison extended the repertory into the style of the galant. Purcell's
songs ("Mad Bess" and "The Genius of England" most commonly)
likewise appeared with the most recently imported Italian opera arias
at benefit concerts.
The cosmopolitan taste of the Academy of Ancient Music-its
balance of Palestrina with Byrd, Marenzio with Weelkes-suggests
another major contrast between the canons in eighteenth-century
music and literature. A national canon emerged early around writers
in English, for Poet's Corner was begun in Westminster Abbey in the
sixteenth century, the monument to Chaucer appearing as early as
I555.36 The cult of Shakespearewas profoundly nativistic and
to reverence for antiquity. While he was derided for a seeming

35 Richard Luckett,
" 'Or Rather our Musical Shakspeare': Charles Burney's
England:Essaysin Memoryof CharlesCudworth,
Purcell," in Musicin Eighteenth-Century
ed. Christopher Hogwood and Richard Luckett (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1983), 59-77.
36 Ross, "Just When Did 'British bards begin t'Immortalize'?"383-98.

ignorance of the classics, that shortcoming gained him favor as ancient

authority weakened.37 In the course of the eighteenth century the
literary canon was reshaped by the addition of many modern British
authors such as as Milton, Dryden, and Addison, and by the
appearance of anthologies that codified canon much more systemati-
cally than had formerly been the case. As Patrick Parrinder suggests,
"In Johnson's time, then, 'literature,' the new nationalistic concep-
tion, was succeeding 'learning,' the international body of knowledge
founded upon the classics."38
Musical life, by contrast, had usually been quite cosmopolitan.
Styles that originated in particular courts or regions would compete
and interact with each other, but one would ultimately predominate
and become the cosmopolitan style in the genre. If anything, musical
taste became increasingly international during the middle and end of
the eighteenth century, focused as it was on Italian vocal music and in
particular opera. Handel, born in Germany, gaining a name (indeed,
a style) in Italy, and settling in England, was naturally seen as
cosmopolitan; his music formed part of an international repertory
defined chiefly by Italian styles. While a few English composers
championed him in nationalistic terms, their point of view did not win
many converts. Charles Avison stated the most common view on the
question when in 1753 he responded to William Hayes's critique of
his recent Essayon MusicalExpression: "Is Mr. Handel an Englishman?Is
his name English?Was his education English?Was he not first educated
in the Italian school? Did he not compose and direct the Italian operas
here many years?"39
We therefore should see canons emerging in music and literature
from a common intellectual process: the fragmentationof the
"metropolitan"literary canon, rooted in antiquity, into increasingly
independent canons, both ancient and modern, in different artistic
fields. The crisis in the literary canon at the turn of the eighteenth
century, found most concretely in the Quarrel of the Ancients and
Moderns, opened the way for musical classics: a canon could now

37 Robert W. Babcock, The Genesisof Shakespeare Idolatry, 1766-1799

reprint, New York: Russell and Russell, 1964); Herbert M. Schueller, ed.,(931i; The
Persistenceof Shakespeare
Idolatry:Essaysin Honorof RobertW. Babcock(Detroit: Wayne
State University Press, 1964).
38 Patrick Parrinder, AuthorsandAuthority:A Studyof EnglishLiteraryCriticismand
Its Relationto Culture, 750-900oo (London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977), 21.
19 Charles Avison, A Replyto the Authorof Remarkson the Essayon MusicalExpres-
sion (London: C. Davis, 1753), 45. The original work was An
Essay on Musical
Expression(London: C. Davis, 1752).

arise without ancientorigins. The two fields changedas part of the

comprehensivetransformationthat took place in the social and
aestheticframeworkof Englishcultureduringthe century. But the
one did not direct the other;they becameequalpartnersin a time of
change, and each went about its own culturalbusiness.
It is alsousefulto considera parallelbetweenthe emergenceof the
musicalcanonand the rise of the novel. Ian Watthas shown that the
novel arose amidst growingdisenchantmentwith the epic and with
classical models for narrativeprose.40The aestheticsof the novel
amountedto a rejectionof universals,thatis, the idealqualitiescentral
to neoclassicalpoetryandtheater;they wereinsteadfoundeduponthe
principlesof realismand specificity,even though novelistsmanipu-
lated the genre in ways that were not at all realistic. Samuel
Richardsonsaw his charactersas individuals,not as universaltypes;
his search for authenticityamountedto a literarynominalismthat
bypassedthe classicaltraditioncompletely.MichaelMcKeonshowed
as well that the novel had origins in the diaries of scientists and
travelers,who attemptedto describethe world about them in all its
aspects.4'Partof the desirefor verisimilitudewas a concernwith the
past of places and their people, and from that a kind of historicity
established itself within the novel. A new journalismprovided a
forum for this kind of writing. Periodicalssuch as the Gentleman's
Magazinesought to providea blend of entertainmentand education
differentfrom the genres of learneddiscourseand much less reliant
upon ancient models. In such a fashion did the growth of the
publishingbusinessandthe readingpublicinfluencethe noveldeeply,
stimulatinga new mannerof thinkingand writingabout society.
A not dissimilarprocesstookplacein musicalwriting.In the novel
and musiccriticismwe find a commonrejectionof universalsand the
union of particularismwith historicity. Interestin old music came
with the abandonmentof poeticideals,derivedfromclassicalmodels,
as the focus of commentaryon the arts. The prefaces Thomas
Tudway wrote for his seven volumes of church music bore little
relationshipto the conventionsof eighteenth-centuryhistoricalwrit-
ing in their concern with musical and religious issues.4" Avison's

Ian Watt, TheRiseof theNovel:Studiesin Defoe,Richardson,andFielding(Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1957).
4' Michael McKeon, TheOriginsof theEnglishb Novel, t6oFo- 740 (Baltimore:Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1987), Ioo-Io5 and passim.
42 See the transcription of almost all of the prefaces in Christopher Hogwood,
"Thomas Tudway's History of Music," in Music in Eigbteenth-Century England, ed.
Hogwood and Luckett, I9-47.

seminalEssayon MusicalExpression of 1752 begins with an aesthetic

problem, the idea of imitation, but quickly moves on to discuss
composers and pieces of music criticallyand to a degreehistorically,
with a specificity that had few parallelsprior to that time. John
Mainwaring'sbiography of Handel of 1760 was likewise a path-
breakingwork, especially in the astute critique of the composer's
music by RobertPrice includedwith it.
Musicalcommentarydevelopedmuch more independentlyof the
literaryworld in Englandthan it did in Franceduringthe eighteenth
century. In Francethe discussionof musicremainedboundfor much
longer to the notion that the "sisterarts"should be devoted to the
search for timeless, poetic ideals. The highly influentialessays on
taste by Jean-BaptisteDubos and CharlesBatteuxstrengthenedthis
principle greatly; for them music--that is, the ideas about music
derivedfromthe Greeks-was rigidlysubordinatedto poetryandhad
no historicalor canonicdimension.43Dubos and Batteuxdominated
aesthetic discussion in Germany as well. A study of instrumental
musicin Germanyarguesthatthe strictadherenceby Germanwriters
to the Frenchideaof imitationinhibitedsympatheticdiscussionof the
earlyclassicalstyle duringthe secondhalfof the century.44Whilethe
essaysof BatteuxandDubos becamewell knownin England,they did
not dominateaestheticdiscoursethere. As Bate suggests, "We are
always remindedthat these values of the 'new classicism'of France
never sat too easily on the English mind."4sIn his biographyof
Handel, John MainwaringcriticizedDubos with hardlya qualm;in
citing Rousseau'ssupportof the primacyof Italianmusiche declared,
"Here I am sensible that I have the Abbe Du Bos directly against
me. "'46

If any one intellectualforce exerted a positive influenceon the
shapingof the musicalcanon, it was empiricism.Empiricismwas a

43 Jean-Baptiste Dubos, Reflexionscritiquessur la podsieet sur la peinture, 3 vols.

(Paris: Durand, 1732-36); Charles Batteux, Les beauxarts riduits a un mimeprincipe
(Paris: Mariette, 1746).
44Bellamy Hosler, ChangingAestheticViews of InstrumentalMusic in Eighteenth-
CenturyGermany(Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1981). Mary Sue Morrow,
now also studying this problem, sees an appreciation of the new
style arising in
writings that were more journalistic than aesthetic.
45 Bate, TheBurdenof the Past, 43.
46 John Mainwaring, Memoirsof theLifeof theLate George FrederickHandel(London:
Dodsley, 1760), 45-46, 63n.

philosophicaldiscipline, an epistemology,a mannerof approaching

reality, of organizingknowledgeand experience;it providedintellec-
tual tools more than specific ideas, and ultimately was a kind of
intellectualtemperament.Its origins in England cannot be located
exclusively in the writings of John Locke, or indeed in any self-
consciousphilosophicalmovement.Instead,followingthe Restoration
of i66o, it grew out of politics, science, religion,the law, and indeed
public affairsgenerally. What happenedwas not that empiricism
changedpeople'sways of thinking,but that it proveduseful to their
particularpurposesin differentareasof life and becamethe central
linguistic vehicle in the rapidly expanding market of books and
periodicalsfor nonspecialists.47
Empiricismprovided a new way of thinking and talking about
music in its own terms. It helped establishtwo principles-that the
ear rather than the eye should be the main instrumentof musical
learning,and that the highest respectshould be bestowedupon the
composer rather than the theorist. These principles were both a
solventthat erodedthe authorityof ancientexampleand a foundation
for new musicaldiscourse.Most important,they establishedclassics
as the ultimateauthorityin musicaltaste. The canonwas essentialto
musicalempiricism;the new mannerof writingon music demanded
its own authority.
Empirical sensibility toward old music turned up in curious,
out-of-the-wayplacesduringthe first half of the eighteenthcentury.
An interestingearlyexampleis a draftof a bookpennedin the 169os
and attributed to James Talbot, Regius Professorof Hebrew at
Oxford.48Talbot seemsto haveaspiredto write a workon musicand
culture very much in the French mold, a genteel discussionof the
mannersandmoresof musicallife in antiquity,pairedwith ideasfrom
that time on the philosophyof music. After writinga fair numberof
pages alongthese lines, however,he gave up and turnedinsteadto a
remarkable,ineffablyempiricalproject,the attemptto recordas many
facts as possible about musical instrumentsthen in use. Talbot
described every instrument he could find, both physically and
acoustically,leavingus a set of figuresthat are unique in their detail
but difficultto interpret.He also wrote bits and pieces about the

47 Kenneth Maclean,John LockeandEnglishLiteratureof theEighteenthCentury(New

Haven: Yale University Press, 1936). Margaret C. Jacob shows the interaction of
politics, religion, and ideas in the period in TheNewtoniansand theEnglibsh
1689-1720 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976), and The CulturalMeaningof the
ScientificRevolution(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988).
48 See n. 26.
musical life of his time, among them taste for "Ancient Church
Musick." In so doing, Talbot helped establish the direction that
British musical thinking would go in the coming century-toward a
break with the ancient tradition of musical theory, a fascination with
the reality of musical activity, and an interest in old music.
We find another musical empiricist in Roger North, the lawyer for
Charles II and James II who fled to Suffolk in i688 to assume the life
of a country gentleman. Like Talbot, North never published any of
his writings, most of which amounted to jottings on harmonic theory
or the state of the musical world. At the beginning of one set of
musings, written in the I72os, North said he would put "observation
and experience" to the purpose of studying "the history of English
Music"-a remarkablething to say in that day and age:

I shallconcludewith a slightresearchintothe historyof EnglishMusick,

as fromouroptickewill someso lookbackon it. Intendingto discoverby
whatclimactericor steppeit hathadvancedfromwhat it was, to what at
presentit is. And sincewe areso boldto embarkupona darkInquest,for
thereis nothinghistoricalthat I know extantwe must be indulgedsome
libertyof guessing,how we comedown to our own times. And no great
harmwill comeof it, fromthe matterconcerningneitherreligionnorthe
State;we shallgive the reasons,by whichwe areinducedto any opinion,
and be it everyone'soption to takeor refuseit. But properobservation
and experiencewill give betterassurance,since a fool in his own home
knowsmore than a wise man out of it.49

The passage is empiricist in its use of such phrases as "proper

observation and experience" and frequent geographical and scientific
The manuscripts of Talbot and North suggest that thoughtful
people were beginning to ask why music had not established classics
as had its counterparts, poetry and philosophy. In some cases this
concern grew out of the critical rethinking of the classics by the
Moderns of the Quarrel, most prominently the Cambridge don
Richard Bentley. In 1724 a London weekly, the UniversalJournal,
published a set of letters that asked a simple but profound question
rarely asked prior to this time: Why had old paintings and poems
always been preserved, but not old music? The answers posed were
empirical in that they tested intellectual practice by historical obser-
vation: "We have doubtless many good Painters now living; must
therefore Rubens, Vandyke,Lilly, and Kneller be forgotten? Must

49 British Library, Add. MS 32536, fol. 65r.


Spencer, Milton,ShakespearandAddison be neverread,becausethereare

Writersof a later Date? And must Corelli,Birdand Purcelnever be
sung, because they are Old Stile?"s5The UniversalJournalwas
probablyedited by AmbrosePhilips, a prominentpoet and essayist,
since it featureda series of articles,distinctiveof his thinking, that
questionedthe primacyof ancientmodelsin definingthe pastoraleas
a genre. One can readilyimaginehim asking,as one of the journal's
leadarticlesdid, why posterityhadpreservedthe psalmsof David but
not their music.5'
That the canon developedso much fartherand faster in Britain
than in Francecan be largelyexplainedby differencesin the history
of empiricismin the two countries.In Franceempiricismwas used as
a weaponagainstthe churchand so becamea highly partisanway of
thinking.But in Englandit did not becomeidentifiedstrictlywith the
Whiggeryof JohnLocke;rather,it servedas a mannerof thinkingthat
was useful to a wide variety of groups. England and Scotland
thereforehad a clericalEnlightenmentled by men of the cloth with
broadscientificand literaryinterests.They used empiricismfor their
own purposes to discredit "enthusiastic"religious thinking among
Dissentersand freethinkers.52
Throughout the eighteenth century, from Arthur Bedford to
WilliamJonesof Nayland, clericscontributedsignificantlyto the new
empiricalway of writing about old music as classics. An important
example is the sermon preachedat the Three Choirs Festival in
Herefordin i726 by the ReverendThomas Bisse, chancellorof the
Cathedraland brother of the bishop, Philip Bisse. With scientific
languageanda Lockeanterminology,he definedthe studyof musicin
physiologicalterms,statingthat "thetwo principalorgansor faculties
in the makeof man, seemchieflyframedfor the performance,andfor
the receptionand conveyanceof musickto us." Analyzinghow the
mind controlsa performer'shands, he arguedthat the eye is not the
principalorganof musicalperception:"Whenthe eye would pry into
the secretsof its neighborsensory[the ear],it cannotbe satisfiedwith

50UniversalJournal, 25 July 1724, p. 3-

s' Ibid., 27 May 1724, p. i. I am indebted to D. J. Burrows for discovering
articles, and to Maximilian Novak for his attribution of the editorship to Ambrose
s52 John Pocock sees a very
different Enlightenment in England than in France, in
"Clergy and Commerce: The Conservative Enlightenment in England," L'Etd
lumi: Studistoricisul settecentoeuropeoin onoredi FrancoVenturi,2 vols. (Naples: Jovene,
1985), 1:523-62. See as well Anita Guerrini, "The Tory Newtonians: Gregory,
Pitcairne, and Their Circle," Journal of BritisbStudies25 (1986): 288-311.

seeing."Quite to the contrary,the historyof acousticstold him that

"inthis whole controversyor Enquiry,the originaljudgeandultimate
refereeis the ear."With that he shiftedthe locus of musicallearning
firmlyfromtheoryto practice.Thoughhe complimentedthe laborsof
ancientmusic theorists,he concludedthat musicalexperiencewas to
be ranked"at the top of sensible enjoyments,"above the learned
sciences,becauseit "in some degree[can]be communicatedto all."53
The mastercomposerhere replacedthe theoristat the pinnacleof
intellectualauthorityin musicalculture.Bissetookthe unusualstepof
dedicatinghis sermonto WilliamCroft,the leadingEnglishcomposer
of the ChapelRoyal at the time and a man learnedin music, though
not in literatureor science.In the dedicationBissesketchedout a brief
list of greatchurchmusicians--Tallis,Byrd, Gibbons, Child, Blow,
andPurcell--composerswho he said"wouldreadilyadmitCroftupon
their roll."54It is interesting to see him searching for canonic
vocabularyhere and coming up with the word "roll"to encompass
recentas well as "ancient"composersfrom the sixteenthcentury.
We find a similarlink betweenempiricaland canonicthinkingin
the work of ArthurBedford.As I have arguedelsewhere,Bedford's
critique of musical life was not simply polemics, for it offered a
perceptiveanalysis of how music functionedin his society.55His
empiricismstandsout as well in the music primerhe draftedin 1705
but failed to publish. He advised students to learn music by the
mastersof the sixteenthcenturyandinsistedthatthe word"music"be
definedin termsof custom and physiologicalsense:

Butlet the Wordaccording

to its originalsignification
be takenin what
sense or latitudesoever,it is certainthat Customhathconfin'dit to one
particular science; and, as Horace tells us, we must regulate our Words
and discourseaccordingto Custom:andtherefore,whenwe speakof
Musick, we understandno more than ye science of Sounds, either
Instrumentalor vocal, accordingas they are contriv'dby art upon our
Passions,andto gratifieourSenses.Thisis thecommonmeaningof the
Word,andin thissensealoneit is constantlyus'd.s6

53 Thomas Bisse, Musickthe Delight of the Sons of Men: A SermonPreached

at the
CathedralChurchof Herefordat the AnniversaryMeeting of the ThreeChoirs, Glocester,
Worcester,and Hereford,September 7, 1726 (London: William and John Innys, 1726),
8-9, II, 15, 37-
54 Ibid., 3-4-.
55 Weber, Riseof MusicalClassics,52-54-
56 ArthurBedford,"Observations concerningMusickMadeAnno Domini
or -o6, By the learnedandmy veryworthyFriend,the ReverendMr. Bedford...1705
BritishLibrary,Add. MS 4917. John HawkinsacquiredBedford'smanuscriptand
donatedit to the BritishMuseumin 1778.

The way Bedford uses the word "custom" looks ahead to the
significance David Hume gave it in his 1757 essay Of the Standardof
Taste:taste no longer came from eternal ideals but from the changing
needs of society.
The critique of traditional canons that often accompanied empir-
icism seems actually to have drawn some intellectuals to the fluid,
uncodified idea of ancient music in this period. William Hogarth
harbored a profound suspicion of academic and canonic structures,
especially those that he found in the art academies founded in the
middle of the century. It was natural that he would join the Academy
of Ancient Music, as he did in 1730, since it had not become a
self-interested institution and did not define a rigid canon such as he
thought French influence tended to bring to England in art.57 The
club, made up mostly of musicians from the metropolitan choirs and
the Chapel Royal, had no intellectual pretensions; its members were
part of a craft rather than a professional elite, as Sir Joshua Reynolds
was to conceive the members of the new Royal Academy. Ronald
Paulson argues that Hogarth's critique of canon was rooted in his
empirical way of thinking, an emphasis on "sight and induction from
particular observation."ss
The theoretical study of music came under increasing attack
during the middle of the century. An early example is found in the
preface to a music primer, published in 1745, by the composer and
theater entrepreneur John Frederick Lampe. It is indicative of the
intellectual climate of the time that a practicing musician with few
literary credentials would so confidently scorn theory and exalt
practice. Lampe made an obvious allusion to Locke in a rough-and-
ready set of philosophical observations. He derided the classics of
music theory, written in "the latter age fettered by custom," and he
challenged those who "take everything upon trust, and sacrifice their
Judgement and understanding to the Authority of the Ancients, and
meanly give up the great prerogative of thinking and judging for
themselves." The mathematicalcalculations of tuning systems seemed

57 Minutes of the Academy of Ancient Music, 9 April 1730, British Library,

Add. MS 11732.
58 Ronald Paulson, Hogarth,vol. i, The "Modern MoralSubject,"1697-17732 (New
Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, I991), 334. On his relationships to the
academies, see o04-9, 331-34.

an intellectual dead end to him: "We ought to take all our Rulesfrom
the free operation of Nature," he wrote.59
We can best see how empiricism, music criticism, and canonic
thinking were naturally dependent upon one another in Avison's Essay
on MusicalExpression.The essay initiated a new genre, for it is neither
a primer for learning to read music, nor is it strictly a treatise on
aesthetics, the two main types of printed work that concerned music
in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Charles Burney
stated flatly that this was the first book of musical criticism.6' Several
authors seem to have contributed to sections of the essay; it indeed
reads as if it were the notes from a weekend of stimulating conversa-
tions-unorganized, contradictory, but rich in perception and char-
acterization.6' While it addresses itself to the aesthetic problems of
imitation and expression, it does so by referring with remarkable
specificity to actual composers and works, and the philosophical
discussion in many places functions chiefly to elucidate critical
discussion of the music.
The essay suggests that music criticism needed canon, and that
both tended toward empirical specificity. It sets up loose guidelines
by which to judge composers, derived chiefly from principles of
musical craft, and then delineates four classes of composers by levels
of excellence. The taste is basically conservative, attached to the
practices of the 171os and I72os; most apparent of all is a suspicion of
flashy virtuosic technique. The early masters-Tallis, Palestrina, and
Allegri-are considered as constituting a class of their own, as
emblems of greatness but not as an overarching set of models. The
essay then defines the "first and lowest class" as music "only a fit
Amusement for Children," including that of Locatelli, Alberti, and
Vivaldi, about whom Roger North also had harsh words;61 and
compliments the "middle class"-Hasse, Terradellas, Lampugnani,
and Porpora-for having "more regard for Harmony" despite its
tendency toward the new fashion of repeating phrases excessively.
The "third and highest" class includes chiefly figures of the previous

59J. F. Lampe, TheArt of Music(London: C. Corbett, 1740), 2, 25. Henry Carey

included a eulogy to Lampe among those to Handel, Pepusch, and Geminiani in
Poemsfor SeveralOccasions,3d ed. (London: E. Say,
I729), 9-Io.
Charles Burney, A GeneralHistoryof Musicfrom the EarliestAges to the Present
Period(1789), ed. Frank Mercer, 2 vols. New York: Dover, 1957), 2:7-
(i935; reprint,
61 Norris L. Stephens, "CharlesAvison," in TheNew GroveDictionaryof Musicand
Musicians1:748-5 1. The preface to the 1753 edition states, "So far, our Critic [William
Hayes] has wisely conjectured, it was the Work of a Junto"(p. 4).
6 For North on Vivaldi, see RogerNorth on Music, ed. John Wilson (London:
Novello, 1959), I24, 293.

generationwhose music had foundan artfulbalancebetweenmelody

and polyphony--Vinci, Bononcini,d'Astorga,and Pergolesi.63
The most explicitly literary influence upon canonic thinking
during the middle of the century came from the ideas of the
fourth-centuryRoman writer Longinus. Peter Kivy identified his
influencein Mainwaring'sbiographyof Handeland in RobertPrice's
"Observationson the Worksof GeorgeFrederickHandel"appended
to it.64 The translationof the treatise Peri Hupsousin the mid-
seventeenthcentury had begun a tendency that becamefairly com-
mon in literarythinkinga hundredyears later. Longinianthinking
characterizedthe artistas idiosyncratic,perhapsodd, and it defined
geniusas an unconventionalspirit,seeinga virtuein resistingthe rules
of artor society. Mainwaringdwelt uponHandel'scorpulenceandhis
frequent"melancholicstate";Pricediscussedat length how Handel's
power of invention had led him to ignore musical rules. Calling
Handel"adown-rightprodigy,"Pricestatedthat "thereareno words
capableof conveyingan idea of his character,unless indeed I was to
repeat those which Longinus has employed in his descriptionof
Demosthenes, every part of which is so perfectly applicable to
Handel, that one would almost be persuadedit was intended for
The influenceof both LonginusandPriceappearsin the Gresham
Lecturesgiven by John Potterin 1760. Potterwas an interestingbut
shadowyfigure,a physicianwho in his earlyyearsled a fast-pacedlife
writingsongs(bothlyricsand music)for the theatersandthe pleasure
gardensand publishinga numberof novels.66His introductionto the
lecturescalls for a union of practicaland theoreticalknowledgebased
upon observation,and inveighsagainstthe subordinationof music to
poetry. He devoted much of the book to an exegesis of Price's
"Observations"and in so doing drew even more extensively from
Longinian themes. A genius, Potter claimed, is a man with a
boundless,comprehendingimaginationwho "ashe goes deeperinto

Avison, Essayon MusicalExpression,1753 ed., 41-49.

Peter Kivy, "Mainwaring's Handel: Its Relation to English Aesthetics," this
JOURNAL17 (1964): 170-78.
65 Mainwaring,Memoirs,I22; Robert Price, "Observationson the Works of George
FrederickHandel," in Mainwaring,Memoirs,192-93.
66Jamie Croy Kassler, "John Potter," in The New GroveDictionaryof Music and
Musicians15:161. See also Potter's novels, especially The History of the Adventuresof
Arthur O'Bradley(London: T. Becket, 1771), for interesting depictions of musical

himself, ... will meet with freshmines";as a result, "wemay surely

excuse the smallErrorsand Inaccuraciesoften met with in the works
of a greatGenius."67
But while Longinianideasgrew out of neoclassicalthinking,they
ultimately led away from it. Samuel Monk concludes that "the
generally heterodox tastes of the British public and critics easily
servedto stretchthe boundariesof the sublimefar beyondthe point
which strictly neoclassicaltheory permitted."Longinus,he argued,
"was to become the patron saint of much that is unclassicaland
un-neo-classical,and eventuallyof much that is romantic,in eigh-
teenth-century England."68For that matter, the importance of
Longinianaestheticsin eighteenth-century musicalthinkingmust not
be exaggerated.Though suggestiveof a pre-romanticidea of genius,
they appearedonly occasionallyin musicalcommentaryand were not
fundamentalto the ideaof ancientmusic. Eulogiesto greatcomposers
were rootedinsteadin the traditionalideaof the mastercomposer,to
which Longinianideas might be added. Reviewersof Mainwaring's
book were puzzled by its novel purpose(one called it a "catchpenny
trifle")and deridedits not very elegantstyle.69 While such writersas
Potter, Burney, and Hawkins were men of letters, they did not
approachmusicalissues chiefly in literaryterms. Only in the I820s
did romanticthinkingcontributesignificantlyto the languageof the
musicalcanon in England.

MusicHistoryas Empirical

The developmentof musicalempiricismculminatedin the histo-

ries of John Hawkinsand CharlesBurney,both publishedin I776.70
Writingthe historyof one of the artswas relativelynew, sincethe first
true examplesdate from the sixteenthcentury. The genre became
popularin eighteenth-centuryEngland,and on a generalplane the
historiesof poetry, painting, and music thereforehad somethingin

67 John Potter, Observationson thePresentState of Musicand Musicians(London: C.

Henderson, 1762), 26, 31.
68 Samuel H. Monk, TheSublime:A.Study of Critical Theories in Eighteenth-Century
England(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, I960),
i4-i5, 133.
69 CriticalReview9 (176o): 306-7; and EnglishReview2 (1784): 142.
70 While Hawkins's GeneralHistory of the Scienceand Practice
of Music appeared
complete in that year, Burney's GeneralHistoryofMusicfromtheEarliestAgeswas issued
in one volume in 1776, a second in 1782, and the final two in
I789. The references
here are to the Dover editions of Hawkins in 1963 and of
Burney in 1935/1957-

common.7' As Roger Lonsdale has said of Burney, "His chief

ambitionand achievementwas to be acceptedas a 'man of letters'
rather than as a 'mere musician.',"7' But Burney and Hawkins were
intent upon establishingthe intellectualcredentialsof the music
historianindependentof the historianandthe biographer,and as well
of scientistsactive in music theory. They distancedthemselvesfrom
the literaryworld even thoughthey were necessarilypartof it. They
attemptedto accomplishtheir goal by revivingissues raised in the
Quarrelof the Ancients and Moderns, and by adaptingempirical
principlesto the particularneeds of studyingmusic history.
ins came out of the clerical,antiquariantraditionof Henry Aldrich,
ThomasTudway, andWilliamBoyce.Likethe tastefor ancientmusic,
his musicalcareeremergedoutsidethe mainstreamof secularmusical
life;he dislikeda greatdealof the musicwrittenin his time. Burney,on
the otherhand,hadrootsin the "polite"literaturethathadgrownup at
the turnof thecenturyunderthe secularandgenteelinfluenceof the earl
of Shaftesbury.Earningmuchof his livingby teachingmembersof the
nobility,he wrotefor a largerandless learnedpublicthandid Hawkins
andhadto mindhis musicalmanners.His maincontributionto the idea
of ancientmusicwas to give it a secularand cosmopolitanframework,
indeedto introduceItalianoperainto it.73
Hawkinsand Burneynonethelesshad a greatdeal in commonin
theirsenseof whatmusichistoryshouldbe about.They bothattacked
the traditionof studyingthe music of antiquity;rejectedthe idea of
imitation;and argued that music history, indeed musical learning,
must be made independentof belleslettresand scientifictheory. That
they had such differentrolesin the musicallife of the time--Hawkins
as a virulentcritic of new music, Burneyas a popularizerof ancient
music-suggests how firmlythe new epistemologicalbasesof musical
thoughthad becomeestablished.
Hawkins's history is deeply imbued with an empiricist and
scientificvocabulary.We see this in his title-A General Historyof the
Scienceand Practiceof Music-and in the terms he employed in the
theoreticalPreliminaryDiscourse:"one source of pleasure,""[the]

7' Lipking, The Orderingof the Arts, chaps. 1-3.

72 Roger Lonsdale, Dr. CharlesBurney:A LiteraryBiograpby(Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1965), viii.
7 On Burney, see Lonsdale, Dr. CharlesBurney;and Kerry Grant, Dr. Burney
Historianand Critic(Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1983). On Hawkins, see
Bertram Davis, A Proofof Eminence:TheLifeof SirJohnHawkins(Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1973).

appearance of reason," "the organs of bodily sense," "the faculties of

moral perception," and so on.74 He used the term "science"to define
the study of musical practice as a discipline and thereby afford it
intellectual respectability. While Burney did not call his history
science, his methodology was nonetheless related in some of its
procedures. In gathering notes and manuscripts on his trip to the
Continent in i770, and in his extensive correspondence to obtain
scores, he acted much as did natural historians of the time when they
wrote travel diaries and collected specimens.
While Hawkins and Burney treated the music of antiquity in
detail, they redefined the subject's significance in a new way by
approaching it in historical rather than poetic terms. Hawkins admit-
ted that "the natural tendency of these reflections is to draw on a
comparison of the ancient with modern music," but he quickly
dismissed the use of classical models as a "mistaken notion" that was
simply the overextension of schoolboy exercises. He asked whether
"our reverence for antiquity has not been carried too far both as to
matters of science and morality."75
Burney followed literaryconventionmore closely than Hawkins but
still attacked the tradition of studying the ancients vigorously. When
Thomas Twining, virtually his collaboratorin the book, objected to his
emphasis on ancient subjectsin an early draft, Burney replied in a letter
that he despairedof having to write on "thedarkand unfathomablestuff
concerningGreek modes and Hebrew psalmody. ... Something mustbe
said; but my say will be more to laugh at what others have written." It
may be just as well, he later wrote, that so little Greek or Roman music
survived, since it might have "tiedus down to precedent."76
Both Burney and Hawkins set music apart from poetry, and in so
doing they rejected the idea of imitation as it was conventionally
understood. Burney, in listing his interests at the start of the first
volume--music's "connection with religion; with war; with the stage"
and so on--stated, "I have endeavored to point out the boundaries of
music, and its influence on our passions, its early subservience to
poetry, its setting up a separate interest, and afterwards aiming at
independence."77 In discussing the origins of recitative in early

74John Hawkins, A GeneralHistoryof theScienceandPracticeof Music, 2 vols. (New

York: Dover, 1963), i:xviii-xx, here xx.
75 Ibid.,
76 Burney to Twining, 20 April 1773, Osborn
Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale
University; and Burney's GeneralHistoryof Music i:16. On the relationship between
Burney and Twining, see Lonsdale, Dr. CharlesBurney, 134-88.
77 Burney, GeneralHistoryof Music i: 18.

seventeenth-century opera, he argued that "music thus becoming a

third art of imitation, had soon a language, expression, and images, of
its own, wholly independent of poetry."'"
Hawkins dismissed the idea of imitation outright. In the Prelim-
inary Discourse he blithely contradicted centuries of aesthetic com-
mentary in saying, "We know by experience that there is no necessary
connection between music and poetry; and such as are competent
judges of either, know also that though the powers of each are in some
instances concurrent, each is a separate and distinct language."'79 The
implications of his statements were not lost on the literary commu-
nity. In 1785 a satire told of the efforts by "SirJ. H., Knight" to write
rules for the laureateship by which "music being a much higher and
diviner science than poetry, your Ode must always be adapted to the
music, and not the music to your Ode." Thus "the omission of a line
or two cannot be supposed to make any material difference either in
the poetry or the sense.,"8o
Both Hawkins and Burney sought the victory of musical practice
over theory, and the replacement of timeless ideals by skills and
standards specific to composition and performance. In concluding his
first volume, Burney attacked the scholarly canon while calling for a
new authority to be granted to the emerging performed canon:

To the reputationof a theorist,indeed,longevityis insuredby meansof

books, which becomeobsoletemore slowly than musicalcompositions.
Traditiononly whispers,for a shorttime, the nameandabilitiesof a mere
performer,howeverexquisitethe delightwhichhis talentsaffordedto those
whoheardhim;whereas,a theoryoncecommittedto paperandestablished,
lives, at leastin libraries,as long as the languagein whichit was written.
We arenow not certainthatBoethiuscouldplaya tune, or sing a song;
andyet his nameis recordedin everytreatisewhichsubsequentageshave
producedon the subjectof music. Neither are we sure that Guido and
John de Muriswere greatcomposersor performers,and yet theirnames
are embalmedin a way that will renderthem more durablethan the
mummiesof Egypt. TallisandBird,who wereequallyadmirablein their
musicalproductionsand execution,arenow only knownand reveredby
the curious;and Rameauand Tartini, whose compositionsand perfor-
manceaffordsuchexquisitedelightto theirageandcountry,will soonbe
rememberedonly as theorists.8'

78 Ibid., 2:555-
79 Hawkins, GeneralHistoryof Music i:xxvii. See also i:xx.
so ProbationaryOdesfor the Laureatship:With a PreliminaryDiscourseby Sir J. H.,
Knght (London: J. Ridgway, 1785), 130.
1'Burney, GeneralHistoryof Music i:705.


We havefoundthatthe riseof musicalcanonwas closelyboundup

with a new intellectualframeworkthatformedwithin musicalculture
as a whole during the eighteenth century. Its discourse became
focused upon musicalpracticeratherthan philosophicalor scientific
theory, being devotedto the specificand the historicalratherthan to
the universal. Musical empiricism-journalism, criticism, history,
pedagogy, social commentary-was to be fundamentalto musical
learningandculturein the modernage. In Englandthis literaturewas
canonicfrom the start, for it vested the highest level of authorityin
the music of greatcomposersfromthe past and in the ideaof ancient
music, which it beganto call "classical"music. Most importantof all,
these ideas emergedin close conjunctionwith performedrepertories
of old works, as was not true in othercountriesduringthe eighteenth
Empiricism provided musical culture an epistemologicaltool
ratherthana set of ideas,helpingbothto attackthe ancienttheoretical
traditionand to founda new musicalauthorityupon auralexperience
and historically informed criticism. The neutrality of empirical
thinking,its lackof a comprehensiveintellectualagenda,was the very
reason it played so importanta role in canon formation.The new
mode of musicalthoughtachieveda subtle balancebetweensophisti-
cation and accessibility,and between the technicaland the general;
the canoncommandeda broadpublic but becameestablishedupon a
certain intellectualelitism. As a result, traditionsof musical craft,
which had generallynot been takenseriouslyin neoclassicalaesthet-
ics, now becameintellectuallyrespectable,not only in musicalwriting
but also as a part of English culture generally. The polyphonic
traditionparticularlycame into its own, for amateursas much as
professionals;singing clubs took up both Elizabethanand modem
catches,canons,and madrigalson the modelof the aristocraticCatch
Musicalcanonwas made possiblein eighteenth-centuryEngland
by the crisis in the classicaltraditionthat occurredin the Augustan
period. Now that a canonno longerneededrootsin antiquity,music
was at last ableto buildsucha systemanddid so in its own terms.The
intersectionthat occurredbetweenmusic and literaturewas partof a

See, for example, the Catch Club active in Canterbury during the
discussed in the autobiography of the composer John Marsh, 37 vols., MS 54457,
Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif., vols. 8-i I.

larger reconstitution of canons throughout the arts during the eigh-

teenth century, as the roles of ancient models were redefined, and as
modern classics emerged parallel to the ancients. This did not amount
to a common movement; while the two arts interacted, they ulti-
mately went their separate ways.
Significant developments either in canonic thinking or in repertory
building occurred in Continental countries during the eighteenth
century, but nowhere except in England did both aspects come about
together until after i 8oo. In France, remarkablyextensive repertories
of old works persisted at the Opera and the Concert Spirituel until the
i770s, but only a quite limited intellectual frameworkgrew up around
them, since the country had a weak tradition of learned polyphony,
and since the philosophesopposed the royalist tradition of French
music. Canon formation had a fresh start in Paris in the i82os, as
journalists and essayists directed their attention to the sixteenth-
century music taught at the Conservatoire and to the orchestral and
choral works of Beethoven performed at the Soci6t6 des Concerts.83
In Germany, by contrast, an intellectual framework for canon,
focused upon its pedagogical aspect, emerged much earlier than major
repertories of old music. The depth of the learned tradition in
German sacred music and the vigor of the region's periodical press
generated a strong movement of canonic thinking from the middle of
the eighteenth century on. The literature of pedagogical and theoret-
ical treatises written in the period displayed important historical
dimensions, and the cult for J. S. Bach's learned music at the Prussian
court was welcomed in musical commentary; the Allgemeinemusika-
of its first bound
lischeZeitung put Bach's portrait on the title page
But while operas written by C. H. Graun and J. A. Hasse
in the I740s lasted in Berlin through the 1780s, and Graun's 1755 Der
TodJesuwas performed for over a century, extensive repertoriesof old
works did not develop until music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven
became established at concerts after the turn of the century.s8

83 Weber, "Lamusiqueancienneand the Waning of the Ancien R6gime";and idem,

"Lully and the Performance of Old Music" (see n. 2). Substantial commentary on
music of Lully emerged only in the 177os and 178os, just as it was removed from the
repertory; see, for example, "Nouvelles ... des thC6itreschantants," Almanach
8, pt. 2 (1783): 125-5I; and the libretto of LesTroisAgesde l'Op&a(Paris, 1779), set by
Gretry to a medley of well-known arias from works by Lully, Rameau, and Gluck.
84 Allgemeinemusikaliscbe Zeitung 1 (1798): i.
85 On the repertory of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, see details in n. I above:
Kropfinger, "Klassik-Rezeptionin Berlin," 301-8o; and Reimer, "Repertoirebildung
und Kanonisierung," 241-6o. James Webster discusses their canonization in Haydn's
"Farewell"Symphonyand the Idea of ClassicalStyle (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Interchange between the developing canonic traditions in Britain and
Germany--chiefly interest in the learned music of Bach--began
growing during the 1780s and 1790s.86
The link between empirical and canonic discourse on music
became central to the intellectual framework of musical life through-
out the West during the early nineteenth century. Romantic thinking
added major new aesthetic and ideological dimensions to the musical
canon, but it did not transform fundamentally the empirical discourse
on music that had emerged shortly before it. Modem musical thinking
took on an additive structure by which ideas of different ep-
ochs--craft, empiricism, romanticism, and eventually avant-garde
experimentation-interpenetrated and influenced each other. The
new idea of genius became closely interknit with traditional values of
musical craft and the canonic authority articulated by musical report-
age and criticism. If it was romanticism that most emphatically
shaped our musical minds, it was empiricism of the eighteenth
century that enabled romanticism to take hold, and that may be said
to have nurtured its seminal ideas.

CaliforniaState University,Long Beach


A canon of old musicalworksfirst appearedin public performancein

eighteenth-centuryEngland.Its intellectualoriginscan be tracedto a new

Press, 1991), 335-73. On the operas of Graun and Hasse, see Ludwig Schneider,
GeschichtederOperunddeskoniglichenOpernhauses in Berlin, 2 vols. (Berlin: Duncker und
Humblot, 1852); A. E. Brachvogel, Geschichte deskiiniglichenTheaterszu Berlin, 2 vols.
(Berlin, O. Janke, 1877); and E. E. Helm, Music at the Court of Frederickthe Great
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 196o), 121-42. On the Graun Te Deum, see
Christoph Helmut Mahling, "Zum 'Musikbetrieb'Berlins und seinen institutionen in
der ersten Hiilfte des 19. Jahrhunderts," and Kropfinger, "Klassik-Rezeption in
Berlin," both in Studien zur Musikgeschichte Berlins im friihen i9. Jahrhundert,ed.
Dahlhaus, 30, 48, 301, 313, 320, and Table 2.
An early example can be found in the copy of the Contrapunctus
86 9-1o from Art
ofFugue found among the papers of Benjamin Cooke (1734-3), in the Parry Library,
Royal College of Music, London, MS 824, fol. 12. But knowledge of Bach was quite
limited until German musicians began moving in significant numbers to London in
the last decades of the century; see Nicholas Temperley, "Bach Revival,"in TheNew
GroveDictionaryof Music and Musicians1:883-86. The Hamburg musician A. F. C.
Kollmann, who arrived in London in 1784 as organist and schoolmaster of the Royal
German Chapel in St. James's Palace, published a theoretical volume focused on
works of Bach in 1792; see Michael Kassler, "Augustus Frederic
Kollmann," in TheNew GroveDictionaryof Musicand Musicians10o:162-63;and Hans
Ferdinand Redlich, "Augustus Frederic Christopher Kollmann," in Die Musik in
Geschichteund Gegenwart7:1410o-I .

mode of empirical musical thinking that focused upon musical practice rather
than philosophical or scientific theory. Canonic judgments and repertories
developed as a source of authority within this intellectual framework. While
developments either in canonic thinking or in repertories of old works
appeared in many European countries during the eighteenth century, only in
England did both aspects develop significantly in the period. Although a
general reconstitution of canons was taking place within the arts at the time,
the changes that came about in musical culture took their own particular