Songs in Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

I have been asked to compose music for a production of “The Tempest” which will go up in the summer of 2007.

Not being one to let grass grow under my piano’s feet, I’m looking into it already. Lyrics I can find easily; but can anybody point me at any 16th-century musical sources I might look into that would match well with the spirit of Ariel’s singing?

Can I just say, firstly, that I’m horribly excited that music is actually being composed for Ariel’s songs? Most of the productions I’ve seen have just had Ariel sort of breathily chanting his lines, which is lame. It just takes all the magic out of the songs and makes you feel like you’re at a hippie wedding.

I can’t recommend any specific recordings, but I can give the title of book that has a very short chapter on the history of the music with samples of actual sheet music and a link to a page with more links.

I almost did a paper on music in The Tempest once, but I decided I liked the women in The Merchant of Venice better. This is one of the citations that made its way onto my computer.

Kermode, Frank. “The Music of The Tempest.” The Tempest. Ed. Kermode, Frank. Cambridge : Harvard UP, 1958. 156-60.

Okay, as for the websites, there’s this one on English ballads of the sixteenth century. It has links to transcriptions of ballads. Most of the songs are just the lyrics and no music. Some of them, however, have scanned copies of the music, mostly in sixteenth century notation, which differs a little from modern. This page on Thomas Ravenscroft, though, has some transcribed into modern notation. As for which would ideally suit Ariel’s presence, the digging is for you.

I have a book of Shakespearean sheet music: modern notation of period songs as featured in the Bard’s plays. Remind me next time there’s a family get-together and I’ll bring it down for you.

I wouldn’t get overly artsy about them, rather I’d look to English folk music in general. I think the feel of that would suit the play well – but that’s what I’d do. Most of what you’ll find is probably church music, and I don’t think that would be a particularly good model.

Other than that you might try these:

Pretty good overview at Wikipedia, of course:

Some clips:

Couple of pieces you can listen to:

Somebody with recommendations:

Have fun, will you post your results somewhere for us to listen to (soundclick or something?)

Always up for new music.

Lute, flute, and small drum.

Fantastic. I’ll keep it in mind!

I still have no idea if the director wants authentic period music, or something adapted to a particular time frame, but I still would like to see what was done before.