Cross-cultural perspectives on secular vocal performance in early Wales

Christopher MacKlin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There are many historical repertories of interest for which documentary evidence is scant. In such areas traditional models of musicological research, driven by notation, may be of limited use, and there is thus a need to develop alternative formulations for the relationship between the performance, the performer and the text. In this study, textual analysis and ethnographic comparisons of structurally similar performance cultures (namely, classical Greece and Rome and bardic traditions of south-eastern Europe and eastern Africa) are combined to examine one such tradition: the secular music of the bards of medieval and early-modern Wales. Contemporary accounts pertaining to this repertory are characterized by a systematic ambiguity in their description of speech and song, and a selective use of musical notation for instrumental but not vocal figuration. Comparisons with other musical cultures that share this ambiguity lead to the development of a model of performance that accounts for these textual features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-183
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Musical Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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