Musicologist Goes ‘Beyond Boundaries’ with New Book, Trans-Atlantic Research
Amanda Eubanks Winkler knows a thing or two about pushing boundaries.
Still basking in the success of her latest edited book, “Beyond Boundaries: Rethinking Music Circulation in Early Modern England” (Indiana University Press, 2017), the musicologist is preparing for a busy year of talks and practice-based research.
Most of Eubanks Winkler’s work revolves around “Performing Restoration Shakespeare,” a three-year, international project that enables artists and scholars to understand how the English Restoration re-imagined the Bard’s plays, and is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (U.K.).
In July, Eubanks Winkler will lead a workshop on a Restoration adaptation of “The Tempest” at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London. This fall, she will facilitate a similar workshop on a Restoration adaptation of “Macbeth” at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., culminating in a professional run of the play at the Folger Theatre. She also will oversee a Restoration Shakespeare summer school at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon (U.K.) in 2019.
Working with Richard Schoch, a theater historian at Queen’s University Belfast (U.K.), Eubanks Winkler is excited about the digital humanities potential of “Performing Restoration Shakespeare.” “We have hours of video footage that we plan to digitally disseminate to a wide audience,” she says. “The work is exciting, but presents many challenges, such as navigating copyright law.”
When not exploring the performance history of Shakespeare’s plays, Eubanks Winkler engages with other kinds of English music and theater. In September, she will participate in a conference in London about “cultures of conservativism” in the United States and Western Europe between the 1970s and 1990s. The invitation is at the behest of Tobias Becker, a noted historian at the German Historical Institute London, who has become acquainted with Eubanks Winkler’s writings on the critical response to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” Her presentation will consider Lloyd Webber’s 1980s musicals in the context of Margaret Thatcher’s arts policies.
In 2018, Eubanks Winkler will travel to Utah State University (USU) to serve as dramaturg and historical consultant for a spring production of the Henry Purcell opera “Dido and Aeneas.”
“‘Dido’ is incomplete, so you need to figure out ways around the missing music, particularly for the dances,” says Eubanks Winkler, who will collaborate with USU musicologist Christopher Scheer, director Dallas Heaton and noted British conductor Nicholas Kraemer. “I also will be in residence, giving talks and working with graduate students.”
All this, and research leave, too.
“I have a lot going on,” says Eubanks Winkler, flirting with understatement. An associate professor of music history and cultures, she specializes in English music and theater from the 17th, 18th and late 20th centuries. Such expertise has led to affiliate appointments in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the Medieval and Renaissance Studies program, while reaffirming A&S’ role as a national leader in the interdisciplinary humanities movement.
“Much of what I do transgresses disciplinary boundaries,” says Eubanks Winkler, who is based in the College of Arts and Sciences. “That’s why I love being in art and music histories; it’s the perfect place for a cultural historian and performance studies scholar like me.”
This ethos permeates “Beyond Boundaries,” a collection of 15 essays that Eubanks Winkler edited with Linda Phyllis Austern and Candace Bailey, musicologists at Northwestern University and North Carolina Central University, respectively. The book reconsiders how music negotiated symbolic and social boundaries in early modern England (c. 1550-1800), a period of artistic and cultural flowering.
“The project began as a series of conversations among several contributors,” says Eubanks Winkler, who joined the Syracuse faculty in 2001. “It became increasingly evident that many of the categories applied to [17th-century] English music-making were anachronistic.”
Eubanks Winkler, Austern, Bailey and their collaborators set about analyzing the circulation of music manuscripts, printed music and broadside ballads. Contributors also considered relationships between musicians’ networks and creative practices and how sounded-music challenged boundaries of various kinds.
The editors discovered that changes in media technologies, architectural space and social institutions (e.g., family, state and church) changed the way music was created, consumed and disseminated.
“Shifts in family structures, educational programs and notions of community turned musical practice into a complex social process, either uniting or dividing people in sometimes unexpected ways,” says Eubanks Winkler, who also contributed an essay.
Her piece “Courtly Connections: Queen Anne, Music and the Public Stage,” examines how, in the early years of Anne’s reign, many court odes (sung encomiums to the monarch) appeared in print and were performed outside the environs of court, bringing a much wider audience into contact with the works’ musical and rhetorical style. Moreover, composers and playwrights used the now-familiar language of the court ode, repurposing it in theatrical music for the London stage.
“These entertainments were designed to garner support for Anne and to assuage fears of the public during difficult times,” Eubanks Winkler says. “Many of the same rhetorical strategies of praise and celebration found in court odes of this period carried over into a more public context, allowing a broader audience to become conversant with the elaborate sound of monarchical praise.”
Such developments eventually paved the way for other musical innovations. The theater, concert hall and music publishing industry all owe their existence to early modern England.
“Taken as a whole, this volume reconsiders assumptions that early modern English musical ‘works’ were reified, or fixed, and belonged exclusively to specific locations, practices or sorts of performance,” Eubanks Winkler continues. “Musical form and structure altered uses and consumerships, as pieces and performances moved among places. Thus, music created new alliances, sometimes against otherwise rigid social or political strictures. Because relationships between the public and private were fluid during this period, the social and professional interactions between musicians of any status were more complicated and varied than conventional labels suggest.”
Eubanks Winkler is an accomplished teacher, researcher and administrator. She is the author of the acclaimed book “O Let Us Howle Some Heavy Note: Music for Witches, the Melancholic and the Mad on the Seventeenth-Century English Stage” (Indiana University Press, 2006); two critical editions of music for the London theater; and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Eubanks Winkler is finishing a book project about performance and pedagogy in early modern England. She earned a Ph.D. in historical musicology from the University of Michigan.