English Music 1885–1945: the Diatonic Tradition

This project takes a new look at familiar repertory and draws together recent research in music theory with the cultural history of English music of the period and its reception history. The most interesting music of the era participated in a programme of tradition building and engaged in sophisticated expressive communication through a system of conventions and idioms that emerged around the idea of English music.

The project

The project takes heed of music theory’s recent turn to matters of convention and schemata, using that approach to confirm the intuitions of most listeners literate in the repertory and its style.

Distinctive idioms and procedures were shared by the leading musicians, the application of that stylistic code being central to the music’s expressive communication. The project thereby models the musical sense-making and semantic understanding of literate listeners.

The primary genres under analysis are choral/orchestral music, orchestral music and solo song.

Composers include Hubert Parry, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Ivor Gurney, Gerald Finzi, John Ireland and William Walton.

Principal Investigator

Outputs and Engagement

  • A monograph is forthcoming with the same title as the project.