MURAL - Maynooth University Research Archive Library

    ‘To Catch the Song’: Word-Setting, Creative Collaboration, and the Reader-Listener in Handel’s English-Language Works

    Twomey, Cathal (2020) ‘To Catch the Song’: Word-Setting, Creative Collaboration, and the Reader-Listener in Handel’s English-Language Works. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

    Download (17MB) | Preview

    Share your research

    Twitter Facebook LinkedIn GooglePlus Email more...

    Add this article to your Mendeley library


    George Frideric Handel’s English-language works were immensely popular with the eighteenth-century public, and many remain staples of concert repertoire today. Important research exists on the philosophical import of the texts for these works, and on the oratorio-listener as reader, but it focusses on a small part of the composer’s English output, while musico-linguistic analysts have neglected eighteenth-century English music in general. Addressing these understudied areas, the aim of this thesis is two-fold. First, to apply recent models of musico-linguistic analysis to Handel’s English output as a whole, in combination with aesthetic commentary of the period. Secondly, to investigate the dissemination of these libretti as wordbooks without music, published copies independent of musical scores, and other sources offering the text a potential for appreciation parallel to (or separate from) music. When writing texts for Handel, what decisions did poets make regarding verse form, rhyme scheme, and metre? What input did the composer have in this process? How did his music reflect the formal nuances of the finished libretto? Musico-linguistic analysis offers new perspectives on such issues, illuminating the deeply collaborative nature of these works. Furthermore, while Handel’s English word-setting is often criticised for unidiomatic prosody, I explore counterintuitive stressing as a fruitful tension between musical and verbal communication. Handel’s librettists are frequently dismissed as mediocre poets, merely providing frameworks for music. I argue that audiences’ engagement with the published texts of Handel’s English works formed a more integral part of their musical experience than has previously been acknowledged. Through the concept of reader-listenership, I explore the literate nature of eighteenthcentury music-consumption, including the reading of a libretto before and during its performance, of stage directions for a music-drama always intended to be unstaged, and of a poetic text whose formal and semantic implications could conflict with those realized in performance.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: To Catch the Song; Word-Setting; Creative Collaboration; Reader-Listener; Handel; English-Language Works;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > Music
    Item ID: 18025
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2024 16:16
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

      Repository Staff Only(login required)

      View Item Item control page


      Downloads per month over past year

      Origin of downloads