Revoicing a 'choice eunuch': the cornett and historical models of vocality

Savan, Jamie (2018) Revoicing a 'choice eunuch': the cornett and historical models of vocality. Early Music, 46 (4). pp. 561-578.

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‘Imitate the human voice’ is a familiar exhortation to instrumentalists in the pedagogical literature of the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1584 Girolamo Dalla Casa stated that the cornett is the most excellent of all wind instruments precisely on account of its ability to imitate the human voice. But what does it mean to imitate the voice in practical terms? To what extent does the ‘vocality’ of the cornett extend beyond a simple comparison of tone quality with that of ‘a boy’s voice’ (Luigi Zenobi, c.1600) or ‘a choice eunuch’ (Roger North, 1676)? This article explores ways in which different models and understandings of vocality inform the literature and pedagogy of instrumental performance practice in the 16th and early 17th centuries. It also explores ways in which techniques connected with vocal music such as solmization and transposition practices are embodied in the design and construction of historical instruments, which often have quite different characteristics to the generic ‘modern’ cornetts more commonly played today.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Early Music following peer review.
Identification Number:
Date: 7 December 2018
Subjects: W300 Music
Divisions: REF UoA Output Collections > REF2021 UoA33: Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies
Depositing User: Jamie Savan
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2018 11:53
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2020 03:00

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