Contested scores

July 26, 2018

As author of Some Other Note: The Lost Songs of English Renaissance Comedy (Books, 12 July), I thank John Jowett for the attention his review has drawn to it. I’m sorry he finds shortcomings and wishes that I had provided things that I did not provide, such as accompaniments to the songs and more background.

I should perhaps be satisfied that he finds my reconstructions “far better than nothing”, but I feel the review does not really do justice to the book. Indeed, I do expect a careful reading, which Jowett cautions is necessary to sort out the level of plausibility of the settings. But as the book contains about 600 musical settings, is he saying that half of them are less plausible? A third? In the rest of the cases, is he satisfied that I have identified plausible musical settings for 300 or 400 play songs that did not exist before? Even that seems like a fair number of song settings worthy of the attention of scholars, actors, directors and musicians.

And while Jowett attributes his parting comment about “mere guesswork” to my own critics, a more careful reading would have shown that it did not come from my critics at all. It was a good line, though.

Ross W. Duffin

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