ELEVENTH BIENNIAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BAROQUE MUSIC

Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Abstract

Christopher D.S. Field (University of Edinburgh, UK)

Birchensha’s rules of part-writing

In the 1660s John Birchensha claimed to have developed a system of ‘easy, certain, and perfect Rules’ by means of which ‘not only those, who skilfully can sing or play on some Instrument, may learn to compose but also those, who can neither sing nor play’.  His pupils included Silas Taylor, Thomas Salmon, and (memorably) Samuel Pepys.  But his treatise Syntagma musicae – in which he promised to include ‘directions how to compose artificially and skilfully in a few weeks’ – was never published, despite encouragement from the Royal Society.  Was Birchensha just a quack?  Autograph and other manuscripts of his ‘Rules’ will be compared in order to see what they reveal about his teaching methods.


Last updated on 10 May 2004