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Title: Benjamin Cooke (1734-93), composer and academician : science, ancient authority and the advancement of English music
Author: Eggington, Timothy John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2670 4073
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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As organist of Westminster Abbey and conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music for most of the second half of the eighteenth century, Benjamin Cooke constitutes an important yet now forgotten figure. Extant Cooke manuscripts preserved in the Cooke Collection at the Royal College of Music represent an extensive though hitherto little examined source through which this study is made possible. In Cooke's compositions, musical tastes and theoretical writings may be perceived an all encompassing philosophy according to which not only the materials of music but even elements of musical style are seen to be governed by a priori principles. In this approach may be observed a philosophy consistent with wider eighteenth-century thinking, according to which antiquity and science were viewed as a source of universal and immutable truth. Chapters 1 and 2 of this thesis set out the intellectual background to Cooke's theoretical writings and assess the significance of his unpublished treatise Musical Conjectures. Here we see how Cooke used his learning to resolve musical issues of his day (such as tuning) and to hone critical tools for the assessment of music. Chapter 3 provides a survey of the Cooke Collection. Here Cooke's editing of early music reveals an aspiration to map the musical past in order to establish terms of reference for the present, knowledge which impinged upon his own composing. Chapters 4 and 5 survey a representative sample of Cooke's compositions, culminating with an in-depth examination of two defining works, The Morning Hymn and Collins's Ode. Although these reveal a pronounced debt to music of the previous 200 years, they also exhibit a profound sense of innovation and creativity in style and language. In this we find an aspiration to advance music in a manner consistent with later eighteenth-century imperatives for simplicity, whilst retaining the gravitas and substance inherent in earlier styles.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral