Written Fragments of an Oral Tradition: "Re-Envisioning" the Seventeenth-Century Division Violin
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Seventeenth-century division violin music is not considered part of the classical canon, but its background as a European art form may make it seem “too Western” for traditional ethnomusicological study. The purpose of this thesis is twofold: first, I outline the historical context, transmission, and performance practice of division violin playing in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Also of interest to me is the way in which we, as musicologists, study oral tradition within the context of a musical culture that no longer exists today. After an exploration of the ideas of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, Walter Ong, Ruth Finnegan, and Slavica Ranković, I discuss the English division violin’s background and transition from a largely oral to a predominantly literate tradition. I demonstrate this change in transmission, composition, and performance practices through examining the second and sixth editions of John Playford’s The Division Violin (1684).