I am a senior lecturer and music historian at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne.

My research interests lie in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English music. I have written on wide-ranging topics, including court music, civic pageantry, ballads and popular song, gender, death songs and elegies, music philosophy, mythology, manuscript miscellanies and early music printing, early mdoenr science and medicine. My book, Music in Elizabethan Court Politics was published with Boydell and Brewer in 2015 and I am co-editor of the collection Music, Myth and Story in Medieval and Early Modern Culture that will be published with Boydell and Brewer in 2019. I also have articles published in Renaissance QuarterlyEarly MusicMusic and Letters, the Journal of the History of Ideas, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, and The Library, and forthcoming in the Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle.

Other web profiles: http://northumbria.academia.edu/KatherineButler

Follow me on Twitter: @ka_butler

I took my undergraduate and masters at The Queen’s College, Oxford, before moving to Royal Holloway, University of London for my PhD. I have also been an Associate Lecturer with the Open University in the South,  a research assistant for the Early Music Online project run by the British Library and Royal Holloway. In 2011-14 I held a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and St John’s College. and from 2014-17 I was a postdoctoral researcher on the the AHRC-funded Tudor Partbooks Project at the Music Faculty of the University of Oxford.

My first book explored the political uses of music at the court of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). I reconstructed the significance of musical performances ranging from grand court pageantry to intimate music-making in the royal household to understand both the importance of music in Elizabeth’s royal image and how performances might be manipulated by courtiers and the nobility for their own ends. An off-shoot of this project also considered how cheaply printed and orally circulated songs for celebrating the Queen’s Accession Day shaped her image among the broader populace, and the extent to which these were official propaganda, opportunistic commercial exploitation, or genuine expressions of affection.

My British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship investigated the changing cultural significance of music in early modern England by examining musical myths and stories. Anecdotal tales about music’s ability to cure tarantula bites, for example, have provided insight into perceptions of music’s effects on body and soul, while Biblical stories such as David driving out Saul’s evil spirit show a shift from demonological to medical diagnoses, and from harmonic to affective (emotional) explanations for music’s powers. The most fascinating aspect of this project, however, has been tracing the impact of empirical and experimental natural philosophy on the Classical tradition and Renaissance Humanist scholarship. Even in the mid-to-late seventeenth century, Royal Society members continued to draw on such tales as inspiration for acoustical experiments, while Classical mythology underpinned their debates on the relative powers of ancient and modern music. Far from simply demystifying, the Society’s musical investigations were the result of a mind-set that amalgamated myth, anecdote, and science.

As part the Tudor Partbooks project I was involved in the digital restoration of the Sadler partbooks. These manuscript are badly corroded by the acidic ink used in their copying, leaving them extremely fragile and virtually illegible and a process of digital reconstruction is restoring them to a readable state.

My particular research contribution was an extensive study of the only complete manuscript source of Protestant service music from the early years of the Elizabeth I’s reign (the ‘Hamond’ partbooks), shed light on liturgical practices and the training of boy choristers in this second phase of the Reformation, as well as music-making in Protestant households. Investigating the paper with printed staves on which these partbooks were copied also led to new information about the early activities of the music printer Thomas East.

My current research interests are twofold: firstly, exploring musical manuscript miscellanies as social documents of how music was circulated, copied, collected and practised in sixteenth-century England; and secondly, understanding the diverse social functions of rounds and catches – polyphonic songs that straddled oral and literate culture – in Tudor society.

2 thoughts on “About

  1. I very much enjoyed your blog, Early Modern English Music. Why no recent posts? I am working on a history book-blog of my own, which can be seen at [one word] theoryofirony.com, then clicking on either the “sample chapter” or “blog” buttons at the top. My Rube Goldberg brain asks with an odd, well-caffeinated kind of logic: Why is there an inverse proportion between the size of the print and the importance of the message? Art. Literature.Military. Science. Religion. I call this eccentric thinking the Theory of Irony and if your busy schedule permits, give a read, leave a comment or create a link. In any event, best of luck with your own endeavors.

    P.S. It concerns Classical, Medieval and Modern eras.

    • Thanks for telling me about your blog. It sounds fascinating so I’ll be sure to take a look. A combination of publication writing, job hunting and even jury service have not left me much time for blogging lately but more posts will be coming soon!

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